The Experience of God

19 07 2007

Halden over at Inhabitatio Dei wrote a very good post over the issue of whether or not Christ’s suffering means God suffers.

I recommend reading it.

My own thoughts on the issue are as follows:

I think there is a psychological aversion in the minds of many well-meaning Christians to the whole concept of the Incarnation. It’s not so much that they consciously deny it, so much as the implications leave a feeling of discomfort and uneasiness, an unsavory taste is left in their mouth. The idea that God truly joins Himself to human nature seems to make us feel that somehow God is lessened in the process.

I disagree, God is not lessened in the process, not even slightly.

My first comment is that the Incarnation doesn’t say that God stops being God in order to become human, but that God assumes humanity. He joins whatever humanity is to whatever He is (which is Deity), thus we speak of the union of Deity and Humanity. This does not affect God on an ontological level, it doesn’t violate His immutability.

More to the point, I disagree because I think a very strong case can be made that the Incarnation was never an “afterthought” in the Divine plan.

I think that may be the first problem we run into, thinking the Incarnation was an idea of God after the fact. St. Irenaeus of Lyons makes a case, in the second century, that the Incarnation had always been part of the plan.

What I think this means is downright radical.

It was always the intention and plan of God to assume flesh, to be joined to humanity. Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies, in my opinion, argues a powerful case.

Without getting into it too much, Irenaeus’ speaks of salvation occurring precisely because of the Incarnation, in the union of God and man Christ “undoes” what Adam “did”. Christ, the Second Adam, reverses the corruption of Adam in His own humanity. But Irenaeus makes another point, that the Incarnation was always intended, even had there never been a Fall, the Logos would have still “tabernacled” with us.

To this end, I believe, it can even be further argued that since all things were “created by Him and for Him,” that the Incarnation was always meant to be. More than that, Adam and Eve were created in the image of God precisely because God the Logos was to share in their humanity, and they in His Deity.

Thus Fall or no Fall, the Incarnation has always been an essential part of God’s purpose for creation. The union of God and man, of the sacred and profane.

What the Orthodox call “theosis“.

To what degree does this relate to the suffering of God in Christ?

I think it may mean that the experience of God’s assumption of human flesh, the act of God’s condescension into our world of human experience, is somehow reciprocally reflected in both God and man. God to man (since man was created in the image of God), and man to God (since God assumed human flesh and nature).

Without venturing too much further, I think it can even be appropriate to say that man experiences precisely because God experiences, that the very act of “experiencing” something, is, itself Divine, and has been reflected in humanity.

Conversely, man’s experience of suffering, of pain, of sorrow, all due to the Fall, is reflected in God because God, in assuming human flesh, enjoins to Himself what it means to be human.






2 responses

19 07 2007

dear Jon

first and formost, let me wellcome you in that virtual, yet real, world of blog-dialogue

second, let me disagree with your understanding of θεωσις/theosis as the union of the sacred and the profane:
as (the great)Gregory of Nyssa says “the divine will became the [raw/original] matter and substance of [all] creatures”; that is there is not literally “ex nihilo” creation (“nihilo” is only for our, as limited beings, own consciousness-epistemology)–so, since everything has as its existential root the divine-uncreated energy, nothing is “profane”.

what the term theosis defines is what Paul (1Cor.15:21-28) calls υποταγη/submission: the transformation-immortalization of human nature (1Cor.15:44-49) via man’s will’s submission to divine will. (Christ himself as a man was an offspring of submission to God’s will (Lk 1:38), and was glorified through it (Mk 14:36).)
so, πρωτοπαθες/first-defiled human will through its union with the divine (life-giving) one gives to man incorruptibility, that is theosis, because “God, in any case, is the incorruptibility” (Gregory of Nyssa again).

all the best for your journey


20 07 2007

My intention in bringing up the concept of “sacred and profane” had to do with profane as “not sacred”.

In God assuming human nature He, THE Sacred, is bringing Himself into union with something other, the profane.

Creator and created meeting together in hypostatic union.

Not profane in the sense of “foul” or “bad”, but profane in the etymological sense, as “outside the sacred”.


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