Humanity and the Incarnation

Christ in Glory

Christ in Glory

Most of us misunderstand the Incarnation, because we have a faulty understanding of humanity, of what it means to be human. When we misunderstand the meaning of humanity, we don’t know what it means for God to become not only of us, but consubstantial with us according to His humanity, while remaining consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit according to his divinity.

Archimandrite Justin Popovich, in a Christmas sermon entitled “Perfect God and Perfect Man”, writes of the Incarnation.

God is born on earth, and moreover He is born as a man: perfect God and perfect man–the unique God-man. And He has forever remained as the God-man both on earth and in heaven. Indeed, the God-man is the first perfect man on earth. Perfect man? Yes, because only in the God-man is man without sin, without evil, without death, totally filled with God, and thereby with all divine perfections.

 The God-man has demonstrated and proved this most convincingly: man is only a true man when he is completely united with God, and in everything and every way completely lives in God, thinks in God, feels in God, acts in God, is virtuous in God, is immortal in God, is eternal in God. Only and solely in God is man a man, a true man, a perfect man, a man in whom all the fullness of the Godhead lives.

For what purpose did God take upon himself the form of a servant? For what reason was He made in the likeness of our humanity? If we accept the western idea of substitutionary atonement, then God need not be consubstantial with us. In fact, the western idea of original sin, and the necessity that Christ be born without the guilt of original sin, means that the Christ could not have been “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”, nor could He have been “in all points tempted like as we are” (Heb 4:15). If humanity is contaminated by Original Sin, and if the Christ was born without Original Sin, then the humanity of Christ was something other than our humanity, and therefore Christ cannot be consubstantial with us according to His humanity.

Gregory of Nazianzus, in his Epistle 101 against the Apollinarians, describes the problem for us.

For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole.

Do you see the problem? If Christ was not fully one of us, if He did not assume the entirety of our human nature, then Christ’s work on the cross was for nothing, and we are still in our sins.

(To be continued)