Was the Incarnation necessary?

From: Robert Schneider (rjschn39@bellsouth.net)
Date: Tue Jul 02 2002 - 15:40:17 EDT

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    Dear Colleagues,

         I am writing an essay on the development of the historic theology of =
    creation, and it will highlight the role of the Word of God in creation. =
      In my readings on the topic, the question of whether the Incarnation =
    was simply a response to the bondage of sin into which humankind fell, =
    or whether it was part of God's overall intentions for humankind from =
    the beginning.

         Often, in popular theology, one reads or hears that the Incarnation =
    was necessitated because of Adam's sin. This was a belief that I =
    commonly held. There is an early tradition, however, that the =
    Incarnation was not simply a response to sin. Maximus the Confessor (d. =
    662) "espoused the idea that Christ was the goal of creation, and that =
    the Word would have become incarnate even if there had been no sin." A =
    not unsimilar notion appears in the writings of Rupert of Deutz (d. =
    1142) in the West. It is the medieval Franciscan theologians, =
    especially Bonaventure and Dun Scotus, in whose works this notion =
    particularly appears. The Scotian view is summed up by theologian =
    Zachary Hayes, OFM: "The cosmos without Christ would somehow be =
    incomplete. ...the Word became flesh not because humans had sinned but =
    rather because God wished to share the mystery of the divine life and =
    love and beauty as fully as possible with a creature. And that is the =
    primary meaning of the mystery of Christ. In this sense, then, God's =
    aim in creating is so that Christ may come to be. The conclusion, then, =
    is that with or without sin, the incarnation is God's initial aim in =
    creating, and would have taken place even if sin had never entered the =
    picture. But when sin does become a factor, the modality of the =
    incarnation changes. Because of sin, we see the actual incarnation =
    taking place in the mode of a suffering, crucified and glorified Christ. =
      That is, the incarnation takes place in such a way as to overcome the =
    humanly constructed obstacles to achieving God's first aim: the sharing =
    of divine life and love with creation" (The Gift of Being, p. 105).

         My question to you who are knowledgeable in reformed and evangelical =
    theology is this: Does a similar notion about the incarnation occur in =
    any of the writings of reformers like Luther or Calvin, or in any =
    influential reformed/evangelical thinkers, say, from the 17th cent. =
    onward (e.g., Edwards, Wesley)? I would be grateful for any references =
    to thinkers that also saw the incarnation as predestined primarily for =
    divine fellowship with the creation and only secondarily, or not =
    originally, for redemption.

    Bob Schneider

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