Sunday, November 22, 2009

Identification

The last blog was focused on the incarnation as an act of divine acceptance of the human race as we are in our profound confusion. Without approving of what happened in Adam, and without being in denial about it, the Lord, in His everlasting commitment to share His abounding life with us, became what we are. Before creation the Father, Son and Spirit dreamed of our adoption. Unto this end the universe and humanity were called into being, and the Lord entered into real relationship with Adam and Eve. Believing the lie of the evil one opened the door for darkness and alienation to enter Adam’s world, ruining all possibility of relationship between Adam and the Lord.

The first response of the Lord was simple acceptance (without approval) of what had happened. Then came His clothing of his terrified creatures. And recall that I said the clothing of Adam and Eve was never about God and some divine need to be appeased. The clothing was about the afflicted and terrorized conscience of Adam and Eve. For there can be no real relationship, and thus no real sharing of life, when fear and hiding dominate Adam’s fallen mind. For John, the incarnation involves the Lord’s acceptance of the fallen world, and it involves a stunning move toward real identification. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” That is to say, the Father’s son not only became human, but so entered into our fallen world as to establish relationship with us as fallen creatures. He entered into Adam’s fallen mind, identifying with the way Adam, and the human race at large, see things.

The sharing of life is the point, which necessitates real relationship, which in turn necessitates that we must find a way into God’s life, or the Lord must find a way to into ours. Acceptance is the first step. Identification is the next. We are capable of neither. So the Lord is his abounding grace, as Irenaeus said nearly 19 centuries ago, became what we are (Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John, the disciple of Jesus).

Identification, like acceptance, does not mean approval. It means that one person so desires to share life with another (which is the trinitarian way of being) that she or he is willing to enter into the other person’s way of thinking, seeing and believing (without necessarily approving of them at all), even into the other’s way of seeing themselves. For John, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” means that the Father’s Son has identified with us in our profound darkness, especially with our grotesque confusion about his Father. There are few words more terrible than “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Yet that is exactly what the Father’s Son did. He entered not only into our world, but into our darkness and dastardly broken way of seeing, believing and thinking, and there he was terribly rejected, exactly as He knew He would be. Think about it. This is not na├»ve divine denial. Jesus and His Father and the Holy Spirit knew what we would do—reject Jesus—and Jesus embraced our rejection, deliberately and astonishingly allowing Himself to be cursed and damned by His own creation. And—and the existence of the universe hangs on this and—in allowing Himself to be cursed by His own creation, He met us in our sickness, and He brought His Father and the Holy Spirit with Him.

So then, the Father, Son and Spirit (and their shared life, love and fellowship) have not only accepted us in our terrible sin, but have so made their way into our craziness that their shared life now dwells in our brazen, wrongheaded rejection. Jesus’ way of seeing and believing and thinking has set up shop inside our darkness. His own relationship with His Father, and His own relationship with the Holy Spirit have—through His enduring of our bitter scorn—pitched their tent inside our hell. Acceptance. Identification. Determined love. Real relationship. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

11 comments:

Doug and Kathy said...

Thank you for this beautiful reflection. I am struck by God's determined love. Can I so love?

Anonymous said...

I do believe this but it is almost too much. I want to believe it but it makes God too good. I fight against him as he takes me into his love. My mind searches for something to hold to that keeps me from being accepted by him. It's too good.
Ron

Great Googly Moogly! said...

"And recall that I said the clothing of Adam and Eve was never about God and some divine need to be appeased. The clothing was about the afflicted and terrorized conscience of Adam and Eve."

Baxter, et al.,

I think I'm beginning to understand the distinction that you (following Torrance) make between God's accepting us based on the condition that we "repent and believe" as opposed to God's alreading accepting us based on the Person and Work of Christ and it is our response to this grace that is "repentance and belief". I'm still working my way through this paradigm shift, so my articulation of this is probably far less than sufficient. And since I haven't discovered yet what the difference or distinction is between "Universal Atonement" and "Universal Salvation", it may take me awhile to appreciate the nuance of this understanding.

Having said that, I do find myself drawn to your view that, "the clothing of Adam and Eve was never about God and some divine need to be appeased", but is there no allusion at all here in this important passage to the fact that blood must be shed for the remission of sins?

I would agree that there may be those in the Church that have gone overboard in some cases by importing a typological understanding of the doctrine of penal subsitutionary atonement theory in the clothing of Adam and Eve with animal skins (as also, in my opinion, many have done with the Cain and Able story regarding their presentation of their offerings before God), but is there no warrant at all to see an allusion to the Work of Christ on the cross in this passage?

If, as I believe, the whole of the OT speaks to the coming of Christ to recover all things in Himself (such that we see His Person and Work in types and shadows throughout redemptive history), then are we not to see a glimpse of the shedding of His own blood in this passage? Doesn't this passage say something about how the Triune God would accomplish His purpose?

Thanks for any and all help here.

Jason

Bford said...

May we not also say that inherent in his "acceptance", God "knew" that Adam and Eve could not stand against the Evil One, and yet, he allowed that exposure for the sake of free will. I wonder why we do not hear more about God's foreknowledge re the Fall? Rather, we hear that he, being outside of time, simply "observed" it.
Bill Ford, Shrewsbury MA

Anonymous said...

As a fellow blogger responder I would like to jump back in here. Jason, are you referring to the shedding of blood that took place when the animal was slaughtered for the clothing to hide Adam and Eve's nakedness? Seems like I have heard that used before as a shadow of Christ's blood being shed, but we'll have to ask someone else is this correct thinking. Also, if Christ's symbolism is anywhere in this passage would someone please reveal it to us.

And Bill Ford your question of God's foreknowledge comes up all the time with me and I don't have a good productive response.

Ron

Doug said...

Jason,
If you haven't already read them, the posts by Martin Davis in his blogg 'God for us' are well worth reading - actually, I'm probably understating it there - they are excellent in my opinion and complement (add another dimension to) what Baxter is bringing out. Best to go back to Martin's very first post & then work forward as they build on each other.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Ron and Doug. I've been busy the past week, so I haven't been able to respond to anything for a while. Yes Ron, that's what I'm talking about. We know from the typology of the sacrificial system (and subsequent reassertion in the NT especially Hebrews) that the shedding of blood was necessary for the remission of sin. This of course, as with everything in the Scripture, has found its fulfillment in Jesus.

Let me explain.

Since eschatology comes before anything else, including Soteriology, we must understand that everything revealed in the Scripture has something to do with God’s eternal purpose for and within His creation. Eschatology is the foundation upon and the driving force, so-to-speak, of God's revelation and His acts in history. Eschatology is not simply the study of “last things”. Eschatology is the purpose of God from the beginning; and the Scripture is simply (though profoundly) the record of that purpose being worked out in redemptive history. Eschatology begins at the beginning (well, even before the beginning in the eternal desire of the Godhead). And we know that God’s purpose is the “summing up of all things in Christ”. So, as the NT teaches and Christ Himself proclaims, all the Scripture (the OT at this time) is about Him. Everything is about Him—the Grand Story from Genesis to Revelation and all the mini-stories that make up this grand story.

So, since this mini-story within the grand story of redemption must somehow speak of Christ, we are expected to consider how this is so. Right away God tells us that though “death” (alienation through enmity) has come to Creation and has corrupted humanity through “man”, “life” is promised to be restored in the “seed of the Woman”. It’s in this context that we see the clothing of Adam and Eve (humanity). So, aren’t we to consider the shedding of the animals blood to be integral in this story as it (this story) speaks of Christ in His Person and His Work?

If so, then the question can be asked (not answered here in this context, but progressively throughout redemptive history as revealed in the Scripture): what is the meaning and significance of Christ having to “shed his blood”? And this is where we may be getting into the issue of the “nature of the atonement” (which is not the issue in this post, of course, but everything is related to Christ so at some point this becomes crucial. I’m reading McLeod-Campbell’s work in this area at the moment).

Anyway, this is what I’m talking about here. Does this make sense, Ron?

With regard to Bford’s comment, I would say that since the Godhead has purposed that all of creation has its destiny in Christ, then somehow God “purposed” and “ordained” the events in the beginning (as He does all things) in order to fulfill His goal of summing up all things in Christ. Our pastor says it this way: The entirety of the creation—including man—finds its destiny in the restoration and renewal that are the fruits of Jesus’ redeeming work…and…all of God’s activity in history is oriented toward the accomplishment of His eternal plan of redemption. The Father’s redemptive work in His Son (through the Spirit) is the context within which all divine revelation is set. Jesus Christ is the goal and end point of all things; all of history from the beginning to the end of the age finds its true meaning in Him. (from “Speak, Lord: Learning to Listen to the Bible). And I think he follows the Torrance brothers here very closely.

Hope this helps explain my thinking here.

Jason

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jason, what you are saying makes good sense. I can tell it's true and it overwhelms by the love of God being revealed in that situation. God clothed Adam and Eve by the shedding of the blood of the animals, and He clothes us by the shedding of His blood. Hiding our nakedness.

I have tried reading McLeod-Campbell and understood some but did not take the time to get into him that much. I would love to understand the nature of the atonement more fully.
Ron

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Ron.

McLeod-Campbell can be a difficult read at the beginning because of the way he writes, but once you get used to how he forms his thoughts he's not as difficult to follow. Early on I had to re-read sentances and paragraphs to try to keep his thought together in my own mind, but as I said, after a while I got used to him.

I'm really enjoying his book on the atonement (and J.B. Torrance's "introduction" was great, as is his audio I'm listening to). M-C's interaction with post-Calvin "Calvinists" (e.g. Owen and Edwards and Chalmers) is very interesting. I've only recently begun this work, but I'm always excited to get home after work to begin reading it again. I find myself drawn to what he's saying, but there a number of questions that need to be answered (which I'm sure he'll get to as I continue through it).

Thanks again for the good vibes!

Jason

Doug said...

Hi Jason,
you've mentioned a couple of times an audio by JB Torrance. Did you download it and, if so, from where? Otherwise could you tell me where you got it from - thanks in anticipation.
Doug.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Doug,

I downloaded a series of 4 lectures (6 audio messages) from Perichoresis.org by J.B. Torrance called "Prayer and the Triune God of Grace". I'm into the 6th and final message right now. These lectures cover a lot of ground (not simply prayer specific) and I've enjoyed every one of them. In fact, when I'm done I'll probably listen to them all again. I wish I could find more from him. I like his history lesson on "Federal Theology"--very, very interesting.

Jason