Our cohort has begun new class called “Old Testament Theology.” The readings have already been enjoyable, and I look forward to working through the relationship Christians have to the Old Testament. An interesting conversation was started by one of our cohort students who asked, “Is there any reason why we need to use male language, such as he/him pronouns, in referencing God?” Of course, there were opinions on both sides of the idea. The basic answers for both sides came down to either that 1) we should affirm such language since it is used in the Bible, or 2) we should reject such language as culturally demanded since God is not really a male.
There was a concession made about King Jesus. He was definitely a man and therefore should always be referenced in masculine terminology because his continued humanity as ascended. As our theology professor, Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling, would say, “Jesus has a penis.” This was quickly followed by the statement that the Spirit could, and it seemed implied should, be referenced more in feminine she/her language to widen the Christian conception of God as more inviting or including of women.
Lastly, about King Jesus again, it was said that God had to become male in order to be the Davidic king. The culture of Israel in the first century, in all of its patriarchal and oppressive demands on sex and gender, demanded that Jesus be a male. My immediate synthesis was along the lines of, “Interesting. So, it was Sin who gave Jesus a penis, not the will of God for the incarnation.” Here were some of my further thoughts as I worked through these ideas:
- I take Ephesians 1:9-10 to show that God had always intended for the incarnation to occur even before sin had entered into creation. God became man in order to unite all things to himself in King Jesus. The overcoming of sin and death are a part of the process of life united with God. Redemption reveals the love of God for creation as the separation of Creator and creation was magnified beyond conceivable proportion by the sin.
- I believe that it is also standard Christian belief that through redemption God is restoring humanity to his desired perfection in creation without sin. More than simply a return to the pre-fallen state of humanity, in King Jesus we are actually propelled far beyond simple innocence of sin like in Eden and are brought into the full holy maturity humanity, empowered to rejecting temptation and overcome sin. In this way, the incarnation of King Jesus’ victory over sin and death means we participate in a perfected reality more perfect than that at the beginning of creation. In King Jesus, we are participating in the fullest reality and intention of human existence that God desired for humanity in the begin of creation and will always be in eternity.
- If in the incarnation, as we already know it, we attain the fullness of what God has always intended for humanity. And, if the incarnation would have occurred to unite all things within the eternal life of God with or without the destructive entrance of sin and death. Then, the incarnation of King Jesus, as we know it, was always the intention of God in eternity for humanity. King Jesus, the human male, would have always been the incarnation via the Virgin Mary, of the elect people of Israel, etc.
- The incarnation occurring within a fallen world does not change what God’s work within creation for humanity, rather it reveals the utter depth of his penetrating love and mercy. It is humanity that was affected by sin and death, not God. God was always intending to come to us and invite us into his own eternal life out of love for us. His victory over sin and death, as revealed in the rebellious nature of Israel and the depraved violence of humanity, was a further revealing of his own mercy to meet humanity where they had sunk down to in their own disobedience.
- There is no way for us to develop a theology of what could have been. No chance of us knowing what history would look like if there had there been no sin and death. But theology is able to encourage us in the reality that God had always intended to come to us as he has. Likely, redemption has revealed a level of God’s love that we would not have known about had humanity not needed his mercy to rescue us from ourselves.
In the end, I just don’t think that our sinful and fallen world is the reason God became a male human. I’m not sure if we can pin down the absolute reason why the incarnation is exactly the way that he is, but I’m unconvinced of the idea that Jesus being a man was an accidental or incidental aspect of the incarnation.