Christ Came Down

The simple birth of a baby in an overcrowded village came to mean a great many things:

Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all unanimously teach that our Lord Jesus Christ is to us:

One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man; the Self-same of a rational soul and body; co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead, the Self-same co-essential with us according to the Manhood; like us in all things, sin apart; before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead, but in the last days, the Self-same, for us and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin Theotokos as to the Manhood; One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers hath handed down to us

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59 thoughts on “Christ Came Down

  1. Glory to Christ!

    (Note to self: Add “turn Definition of Chalcedon into a song” to list of things to do when hopelessly bored.)

  2. I think this is a really underemphasized point in dialogue between Mormons and Evangalicals. For Christians, the Incarnation itself is a massive deal, and it does not mean the same thing to Mormons at all.

  3. I don’t claim to know what the incarnation means to Evangelicals (especially those of the variety that claims to speak for all Christians), but it’s kind of a big deal for Mormons:

    8 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

    9 And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

    10 And he said unto me: What desirest thou?

    11 And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.

    12 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

    13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

    14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

    15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

    16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

    17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

    18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

    19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

    20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

    21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

    22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

    23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.

  4. Also, this:

    5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

    6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

    7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

    8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

    9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.

    10 And he shall arise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.

    (Mosiah 3:5-10; previous citation was 1 Nephi 11:8-23)

  5. I understand that the birth of Jesus is extrmeely significant to Mormons. But that’s not the same thing as the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, at all.

    I’m not interested in an argument about whether Jesus is important enough to Mormons or not. But the mere fact of Jesus’s birth in Mormon doctrine does not have the same ramifications as the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity does to orthodox Christians. They are not even comparable in meaning.

  6. No need to be sorry Seth. This is already part of Christmas carols. Try out “Great God of Heaven” or “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” or …

  7. For Christians, the Incarnation itself is a massive deal, and it does not mean the same thing to Mormons at all.

    This is very true.

  8. I don’t claim to know what the incarnation means to Evangelicals (especially those of the variety that claims to speak for all Christians), but it’s kind of a big deal for Mormons:

    1. It’s hardly presumptive to cite the doctrine of hypostatic union as normative for Christians.

    2. If you don’t know “what the incarnation means to Evangelicals” then you are not in a position to talk comparatively about it.

    3. I read the scriptures you cite and I definitely see that they frame Jesus’s birth as a significant event, but it seems to me that it is (a) not significant in an ontologically unique way and (b) only more significant than any other great man’s birth by a matter of degree, i.e., the birth of Jesus is significant to Mormons because Jesus is a significant person, and will eventually Atone for our sins, but the Incarnation itself is not necessarily a theologically significant event.

    God entering into creation changes creation forever.

  9. You ever see the Shawshank Redemption?

    Well…in Jesus…God crawled through the crap of the sewer pipe and broke INTO the prison.

    For our sakes.

  10. I’d say that Kullervo is spot-on, and theoldadam definitely captures something of the bewildering incongruity that stands at the heart of the event and its cosmos-dwarfing magnitude.

  11. “I read the scriptures you cite and I definitely see that they frame Jesus’s birth as a significant event, but it seems to me that it is (a) not significant in an ontologically unique way and (b) only more significant than any other great man’s birth by a matter of degree, i.e., the birth of Jesus is significant to Mormons because Jesus is a significant person, and will eventually Atone for our sins, but the Incarnation itself is not necessarily a theologically significant event.”

    If you believe that Jesus’s birth is important to Mormons only because he was a significant person, then I think you need to reread the passages above again (see especially Mosiah 3:5).

  12. “If you don’t know “what the incarnation means to Evangelicals” then you are not in a position to talk comparatively about it.”

    I have no idea who you are arguing with here. I was trying _not_ to talk comparatively about it.

  13. All of that said, I agree with Kullervo that incarnation means different things to Mormons and Evangelicals. My point is simply that the concept of incarnation (though not termed as such) is not absent from Mormon beliefs.

  14. My point is simply that the concept of incarnation (though not termed as such) is not absent from Mormon beliefs.

    If by “incarnation” you mean, “Jesus was born into a mortal tabernacle” then of course, Mormons believe that. Yes, I know that you believe that Jesus was divine and he was born into a mortal body.

    But that’s not what the doctrine of the Incarnation is. The “Incarnation,” like the “Trinity” is the specific, proper name of a specific doctrine of the historic Christian faith, which Mormons do not profess. Do you believe in the hypostatic union? Do you believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man, posessing two natures in one person? No, you don’t. So the concept of Incarnation is totally absent from Mormon beliefs.

  15. If you believe that Jesus’s birth is important to Mormons only because he was a significant person, then I think you need to reread the passages above again (see especially Mosiah 3:5).

    Right, I understand that Mormons think Jesus is super important, that he is the YHWH of the Old Testament, and that he dod the Atonement which is necessary for Salvation and Exaltation and to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I get that.

    But what is inherently significant about his mere birth, to Mormons?

    In orthodox Christianity, if Herod’s meanest soldier had walked in right after the three wise men with a Colt .45 automatic and shot baby Jesus in the head right then and there, the Incarnation would have still changed the very nature of reality, forever. The self-existent eternal Creator would have still entered into and become a part of Creation, and by so doing, he would have still fundamentally changed the ontological nature of that Creation. The Incarnation means that God, a person wholly outside of time, space and creation, with an eternal nature totally unlike anything inside creation, became a part of creation. By the incarnation, God infected creation with his own attributes, which otherwise were not a part of creation at all. That’s what it means by the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    That’s what I am trying to comunicate here and what you (and to be frank, most Mormons) aren’t getting, because you don’t realize what you don’t know.

  16. My point is simply that the concept of incarnation (though not termed as such) is not absent from Mormon beliefs.

    What Mormons do not get is the utter differentness of what traditional Christians think is going on. From an LDS perspective, Jesus birth is not different in essential character than any other birth, except that his body is half pure. It’s a sort of ‘magical’ difference not a stupendously mysterious difference. It can be explained in terms that I can empathize with. I know what it’s like to be human so I half know what it’s like to be half human. Jesus birth is critically important and wonderful and worthy of celebration, but it doesn’t represent an unfathomable connection between God and man. What traditional Christians believe is going on cannot be explained in similar terms. It is absolutely mysterious and awe inspiring when taken seriously.

  17. I think this is a really underemphasized point in dialogue between Mormons and Evangalicals. For Christians, the Incarnation itself is a massive deal, and it does not mean the same thing to Mormons at all.

    Its not massive enough for Evangelicals to bring it up in dialogue with Mormons. It doesn’t seem to be a term they’re interested in using.

    Regardless of that, your real problem with Mormons is they’re not Trinitarians. It doesn’t really matter how many passages I cite from the BoM that make clear the magnitude of the birth of Jesus. That show the Mormon view as significantly more than just another significant event. At the end of the day, its not discussed using Trinitarian language or theology. Its never going to be good enough. End of discussion.

  18. I disagree. I think Evangelicals real problem with Mormons is not their beliefs themselves, but how different Mormon beliefs are. Most of their reactions to Mormons are out of fear to neutralize a threat, not to explain their religion. Just like Mormons, they keep their most poignant explanations of their experiences with God close to their vest. I imagine that they don’t think Mormons will get it without massive amounts of dialogue, so why bother.

  19. I think the Incarnation show how LDS views of Jesus turn traditional theology on its head. Theologically oriented Evangelicals see the differences and attack them. Most others don’t know or care to understand the differences. Mormons minimize or dismiss the differences because the orthodox theology doesn’t matter that much to them and is fundamentally flawed. They want to build on commonalities.

    More and more I see where Evangelicals are coming from in feeling threatened. Evangelicals legitimately worry that their loved-ones who are not fully in awe of the Trinity and the Incarnation may get caught up into a way of thinking that might make that sort of awe impossible to experience.

  20. That show the Mormon view as significantly more than just another significant event.

    Sure, it’s more than “just another significant event” in terms of magnitude. But qualitatively? What makes the birth of Jesus theologically significant in and of itself?

    At the end of the day, its not discussed using Trinitarian language or theology. Its never going to be good enough.

    I agree that the Incarnation and the Trinity are interrelated doctrines and that each adds significant content to the other, but the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation is still coherent on its face without the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. A Oneness Pentecostal or other Modalist, while rejecting the Trinity entirely, can still fully affirm the Incarnation.

  21. Nah, you could be a full and proper tritheist (and totally reject any oneness of any kind between God the Father and God the Son) and still affirm the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation.

    The real essential premise of the Incarnation that Mormons reject is the ontological distinction between Creator and Creation.

  22. “I think the Incarnation show how LDS views of Jesus turn traditional theology on its head. Theologically oriented Evangelicals see the differences and attack them. Most others don’t know or care to understand the differences. Mormons minimize or dismiss the differences because the orthodox theology doesn’t matter that much to them and is fundamentally flawed. They want to build on commonalities.”

    What?

    Of course LDS theology turns traditional theology on its head but, Mormons reject orthodox theology because they think it is wrong. Isn’t that why Mormons have a fully mobilized thousands of missionaries to attack orthodox theology?

    I don’t know why Mormons insist on using orthodox christian terminology but, it doesn’t do their reputations for honesty any good. I mean doesn’t it sound in the least bit serious to insist on believing in “the incarnation” when the entire concept of a uniting of the creator with the created is absent from their Christology? That is almost as rich as claiming that Mormons believe in social Trinitarianism.

  23. I mean doesn’t it sound in the least bit serious to insist on believing in “the incarnation” when the entire concept of a uniting of the creator with the created is absent from their Christology?

    I don’t think Mormons are being dishonest with this one; I think they genuinely don’t realize what the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation is about or why the distinctions matter.

  24. Yes. Count me in the boat that doesn’t understand.

    As a Mormon, I believe that the Word was made flesh. I believe that when Mary bore her first child, cradled in her arms was YHWH, the great I AM, the Father and Creator of Heaven and Earth. He was God, but took upon himself mortality and a physical body. So part of the concept of incarnation (of God becoming man, taking upon himself a “tabernacle of clay” – this is _part_ of the concept, is it not?) is a part of Mormon beliefs. That is all I was trying to say.

    But you’re right that I don’t fully understand your view of the Incarnation. I also don’t understand why a tritheist’s view of Incarnation is fundamentally different from a Mormon view. I have been told here several times that it’s different, different, different. I am genuinely interested in understanding your view. Can you help me out?

    PS – I’m sorry if I came across as flippant or troll-esque here. I am genuinely interested in understanding more, and if I can add anything to the conversation, all the better. That said, if you want to see more LDS participants here, you may want to tone it down a bit in how you treat them.

  25. “We can perhaps better understand incarnation (which we, too, have undergone) by the way in which, in our innocent state, we respond to the world around us and to the world of art. Every created thing is a symbol of its creator because it is his handiwork. Everything that we make ourselves has something of ourselves in it. The realization of a thought or a state of mind in a work of art can give us some shadowy idea of what incarnation is. If incarnation makes the struggle harder, it also makes the creative achievement richer and more abundant, more palpable and concrete, more there.”

    http://www.lds.org/ensign/1975/04/atonement-the-only-wholeness?lang=eng&query=incarnation

    I’m not accusing anyone of dishonesty, I’m saying that the LDS (top down driven) insistence on using an existing theological language to convey meanings never intended in the development of that language can be understood as dishonest.

    If it is theologically orthodox inside Mormonism to insist and teach that everyone has undergone an incarnation I find it difficult to understand (1) why a Mormon would use the term “the incarnation” to refer to anything unique to Jesus Christ when incarnation applies to everybody (2) why a Mormon would not want to ensure that their distinctive theology isn’t front and center, and (3) why a Mormon would risk confusing their remarkable belief that everyone underwent an incarnation with the orthodox Christian belief?

  26. Because I don’t think that Mormons really grasp that the orthodox Christian Incarnation is something different than just, Jesus got a body. Much like the Trinity, I don’t think Mormons really understand what the orthodox doctrine here even is, but unlike the Trinity, Mormons also don’t really realize that they believe something different.

  27. @JT

    My brief attempt to summarize what can be very complex differences between LDS view and the traditional doctrine of Incarnation:

    (1) God is defined differently in the LDS view. In Joseph Smith’s view, God is not the ‘creator’ of Jesus or the world in the sense the creeds use. God organized the world, but was not the fundamental cause of all existence. God is a uncreated being inside the universe, not outside it and separate from it. Traditional theology places God outside the universe he created. He is not a being or a thing, but the mysterious source of all things.

    (2) Human beings are defined differently. In Joseph Smith’s view, human spirits are un-created, just like God. In that sense, every human being undergoes this a sort of incarnation, i.e. uncreated spirit be comes one with a body formed by an process organized by God. Embodiment is process of procreation, not creation. Traditional theology makes a very marked distinction between human and God. Man is created in every sense by the will of God outside any reality that humans have access to.

    (3) Jesus is defined differently. In LDS theology, Jesus is a being like God, chosen to fulfill God’s plan because of his perfect nature. Jesus was our ‘brother’ in co-eternal existence, not the ultimate ground of our existence. For Jesus to become human was part of a common process of spirits becoming embodied (incarnated) as a path to further development that God himself had once experienced. Strictly speaking Jesus is not equal with God, he was just the being most like God but not equivalent with God in ,progression. Jesus’ body had a special character because God himself was the father of his human body. (a concept utterly foreign to creedal theology)

    In traditional theology reflected in the post, Jesus’ birth was an astounding event where the uncreated ground of all existence entered into his creation through a human body, yet remained the uncreated ground of all existence. This seeming impossibility that became reality is part of the deep and awesome mystery of the Incarnation.

    To LDS, Jesus’ birth was not this type of unique reality-bending event. esus’ birth is just as essential to the salvation of humanity, but its character was not utterly unique and incomparable in the way that the Incarnation is described. Arguably the creation of Adam was comparable in character and importance to the overall plan.

  28. Thanks Jared! I realize that was a lot to ask for, but your summary was concise, easy to understand, and described the LDS points in a way that I would agree with.

  29. gundek – I’m not sure how closely you looked into the article you quoted, but it is from 1975 and written by the late renowned British poet, author, and Shakespeare scholar, Arthur Henry King. The Cambridge-trained professor served on the British Council and converted to the LDS church late in his life (in his late 50s).

    Dr. King was quite the linguist, and, like most I know, used language liberally and probably cared little for strict barriers on usage. I don’t know what his purposes were in using the term “incarnation,” but as a lifelong Anglican, I am sure he knew what it meant if it is such a ubiquitously understood concept in other Christian faiths.

    In any case, he was not part of the LDS general leadership – just a celebrated scholar who taught at BYU late in his life.

    “If it is theologically orthodox inside Mormonism to insist and teach that everyone has undergone an incarnation . . .”

    It’s not. No worries. And no need to speculate on dishonesty.

  30. I’m not accusing anyone of dishonesty, I’m saying that the LDS (top down driven) insistence on using an existing theological language to convey meanings never intended in the development of that language can be understood as dishonest.

    I don’t think Mormons co-opt many traditional theological terms. Mormons don’t really use the term “Incarnation” in any theologically precise way.

  31. “I don’t think Mormons co-opt many traditional theological terms. Mormons don’t really use the term “Incarnation” in any theologically precise way.”

    You don’t see the contradiction there? The use of theologically precise terms with imprecision isn’t a co-opting of terms?

    I would think that imprecision says just as much about a peoples theology as precision.

  32. The LDS do not have a doctrine of the Incarnation and do not co-opt the term as having a specific meaning in their theology. They have the peculiar belief in the pre-existence of souls which undergo a process of embodiment, they literally take on flesh. Thus the term incarnation literally applies to every soul. However, the term is almost never used in church. This sort of incarnation is nearly synonymous with “birth.”

    “I would think that imprecision says just as much about a peoples theology as precision.” <.i

    I agree. But given the extremely fuzzy knowledge we have about God, and given his incomprehensible ways, an extremely precise language in theology has little chance of being more accurate than imprecise language that points to something indescribable behind the words.

  33. Kullervo said:

    Sure, it’s more than “just another significant event” in terms of magnitude. But qualitatively? What makes the birth of Jesus theologically significant in and of itself?

    Just to be clear, I’m not rejecting your primary argument; to simplify,I agree that the the creator/creation distinction is a key difference between Mormonism and traditional Christianity.

    In LDS theology, though, the theological significance comes through what Nephi called the condescension of God. Yes, in many ways Jesus is/was like us, but there was also a crucial difference. He was God (or a God, if you prefer) before his mortal birth. That isn’t true of any of the rest of us. He was the creator and all that entails, not merely someone (like the rest of us) with the potential of godhood. And in some mystical way, it was only because of that condescension, his willingness to become mortal again, that he could bring about the Atonement.

    Is the LDS view of the Incarnation the same as the traditional Christian view of the Incarnation. I agree the answer to that question is no. But that doesn’t mean our belief in God becoming human is of little theological significance either.

  34. But that doesn’t mean our belief in God becoming human is of little theological significance either.

    Right, but it’s only uniquely significant because of the Atonement.

  35. “The LDS do not have a doctrine of the Incarnation and do not co-opt the term as having a specific meaning in their theology.”

    I’m not sure if I buy that. For instance Jeffrey Holland lists the incarnation as one of the…

    “central doctrines and singularly most distinguishing characteristics of all Christianity the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the physical Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ”

    Leading to the question, if Mormons don’t have a doctrine of the incarnation, what doctrine is he talking about?

    I suspect that Kullervo is correct and that Mr. Holland has little idea of the historic doctrine of the incarnation.

  36. He just thinks it’s Jesus’s birthday. Which is significant because Jesus is significant, and the Atonement, &c. But it is not an operative event in Mormon theology.

  37. I guess I just think it’s pretty obvious that Mormons view the incarnation differently.

    And I fail to see the usefulness of a thread who’s only function and purpose is to tut-tut about how unfortunate that is.

  38. Don’t worry Seth I don’t hold it against you for tut-tutting those abominable creeds, like the Definition Chalcedon.

  39. You know Gundeck, whenever you are bored, you can go through this entire blog and count the number of times I brought that up without first having someone on your side trashing my church.

    I’ll wait as long as it takes for you to work the percentages out.

  40. “Hmmm….

    No, I just don’t see it working as a Christmas carol. Sorry.”

    That’s one.

    Of course theological disagreement isn’t always trashing but, if it makes you feel better.

  41. I find that your canon of scripture can be helpful in matters like this…

    I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

    As I understand it the first vision comes 1,369 years after the Definition of Chalcedon.

  42. All religions have their founding issues with each other.

    I fail to see what any of that has to do with my objections to the general tone of a blog posts, or series of blog posts.

  43. The blog post is an excerpt from the Definition of Chalcedon so it find the general tone objectionable just remember that it wasn’t written with Mormons in mind.

    If you find my basic premise that much of the theological conflict between Mormons and Christians comes from the Mormon redefinition of theological terms objectionable I’m not sure what to do for you.

    Much of the first 500 years of the Christian Church was spent defining a language that is used in theology. Mormons have adopted a good portion of this language and apply it to their own unique theology. This creates confusion in any interfaith dialog. I think many American evangelicals and Mormons ignore what their interlocutors actually teach as doctrine and instead debate a caricature of theology based on undefined terms.

    Early Church history teaches us the importance of a commonly understood theological language. In my honest view this site with a few regular commenters, from various backgrounds, goes a long way in creating a language that can be used to discuss theological differences.

    Frankly I don’t see how pointing out that Mormonism’s doctrine of incarnation bears no resemblance to the historic and catholic doctrine of incarnation can be understood as objectionable. I think if you are being honest the general tone of this blog, even in areas of distinct disagreement, far surpasses just about any site where interfaith dialog has continued for years. It has also been my experience on this site that when people cross a line in discussions most people are willing to step back

    I understand that you are an internet apologist and I imagine that there are anti’s and critics behind every link but if you look at this site, the fact that a week long discussion of Mormon and Christian beliefs on the incarnation can be had after your quip about Christmas carols should make you reexamine your general assessment about the tone.

  44. I’m really at a loss how a tut-tut attitude can be gleaned by the content of this post. It wasn’t at all my intention.

  45. No Tim, I don’t think the original post had that tone.

    It’s just how the discussions here play out. The Evangelicals tut-tut, the ex-Mormons offer support, the token liberal Mormon or two sheepishly says he’s sorry about this or that, and occasionally a few hardline conservative Mormons come raging on here and are (rightfully) laughed off the forum.

    That just seems to be how it plays out here most of the time, and it just depresses me.

    Maybe I’m just too jaded at this point, and I shouldn’t be wading in here if I don’t have the right attitude.

  46. But yes, I have been realizing for some time I’m not the same commenter I was even three years ago. I’m not sure how that changes what I should be doing here.

  47. Yeah it’s too bad the conservative Mormons don’t stay longer. They always spice it up.

    This does not represent the official opinion of the LDS church.

  48. Gundek raises an interesting point. Does this blog have a better track record than The World Table? (God rest its soul).

  49. I’d like to echo that vote of confidence in the fruitfulness of this blog as a forum for solid LDS-Evangelical dialogue. It generally does so quite well, with a relative minimum of inflammatory rhetoric. Now that I’ve been getting my LDS-Evangelical dialogue blog up and running again this month, I hope to foster even half the same.

    I think it’s also important to ruminate for a while on what Gundek points out about terminology development in interfaith dialogue. Throughout centuries and even millennia, what we might call mainstream Christianity has indeed developed a set of terminology to refer to agreed-upon internal ideas. Often this terminology has been developed in dialogue with other significant philosophical perspectives of the era. In the past several centuries in particular, continued changes in the world have led to that terminology becoming sometimes slippery. Hence, I can’t always blame the early Latter-day Saints for, intentionally or unintentionally, co-opting terminology the way that they did. But it still is an obstacle to renewed dialogue, because we bring to the table our own distinctive (overlapping, at times, but not always to the degree we might naturally assume) lexicons.

    As has been hashed out already in this thread, historic Christianity and its use of the term “Incarnation” has inherently carried a host of assumptions about the Creator/creation distinction, about species-difference between deity and humanity, about divine transcendence, and – in the Chalcedonian tradition – about certain basic ranges of use for technical jargon like hypostasis, prosopon, physis, ousia, and so forth. These are part and parcel of the continued historic Christian tradition of use of “Incarnation” from earliest days until now. But seldom are most American Christians able to articulate these theological distinctions, even though most (I hope) have some manner of implicit belief in them. But our communication is impoverished until we recover an awareness of the shifts that took place, and thus why the different traditions instinctively react to the term with different ranges of cognitive and emotional feedback.

    It is easy to see how the term “Incarnation” came to function quite differently in LDS circles. For instance: Is it really, when we get down to matters of technical precision, accurate within a traditional (or perhaps even non-traditional) LDS theology to say that the ‘incarnation’ is a case of “God becoming human”? Certainly, a case of a God entering into the next natural phase of the development of his inherent species, which is humanity/divinity. But even the borrowing of traditional Christian phraseology like “God becoming human” might disguise unstated traditional LDS assumptions about the lack of species-distinction involved, unless the phrase is unpacked more explicitly.

    I’ll be the first to admit, though hopefully without any tut-tutting, that I believe that this difference of perspective is a detriment to the LDS tradition: I believe that the traditional conception is a more beautiful and breathtaking way of looking at the matter, as well as truer to a worldview that more naturally develops out of the scriptural materials. I don’t begrudge my LDS friends their pleas to differ, of course. For our LDS commenters here: What would you say are some of the most beautiful elements of the LDS doctrine of incarnation?

  50. I was dismayed to read Rick Warren in Time explain the significance of Christmas almost entirely in terms of the significance of Easter.

    Dismayed, but I hope not surprised.

    What would you say are some of the most beautiful elements of the LDS doctrine of incarnation?

    JB, I’m not sure this answers your question, but though Mormons do not have a developed theology of incarnation, they do have a literally earth altering account of the birth of the Son of God in the Book of Mormon (often quoted around this time of year). And even if you believe this to be 19th C. fiction, it still serves as a powerful commentary on the magnitude of the event – in and of itself. So, the most powerful message of the Mormon birth narrative (the condescension of God?) for me is the added witness of its effect on the four corners of the earth.

    Of course, this is only one way that the BoM informs a Mormonism obsessed with Christ.

  51. “If you had to choose between a Jesus whose body is eternal and a Jesus whose divinity is trivial (as in many modern theological portraits), I hope it would be an easy choice.”

    Chalcedon says we don’t have to make this choice because we have Christ who is “perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity”.

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