The Incarnation: A Worldview

by Rick Shrader

G. K. Chesterton said, ‘‘The incredible thing about miracles is that they happen!’’ The incredible thing about the incarnation is that it happened! God became a man and walked among us! This fact, along with its corollary of Christ’s resurrection, together form the basis of the Christian life view i.e. the person and work of Jesus Christ. If either miracle is not true and did not happen, Christianity is reduced to an interesting philosophy.

The world, the flesh and the Devil are at war with the truth of the incarnation. Their success hinges on its failure and their defeat hinges on its triumph. Christians who trivialize the miraculous have not helped our cause. In our age of spiritual mediocrity, finding a parking place close to the mall entrance is praised as a miracle akin to crossing the Red Sea. Praying that God will cure Aunt Rosie’s cold is as serious as raising Lazarus from the dead. Without realizing it, we have made the wallpaper in the house more important than the foundation under the house.   The writer of Hebrews begins the most copious argument for Christianity ever written by saying, ‘‘God . . . hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son.’’ The incarnation thus becomes the cornerstone of all we hold dear in faith.  Jurgen Moltmann, a German theologian, once said that “The Bible is a book of God’s promises.  At the center is the incarnate promise of God in Christ.”

There is a law of non-contradiction (that a statement and its opposite cannot both be true) at work in this world view. Either the incarnation is false and the Bible, Christianity and morality are a sham, or the incarnation is true and cries to all, ‘‘Come, let us adore Him.’’ Ravi Zacharias said, ‘‘It is more reasonable to say that all religions we know are wrong than to assert that all are right.’’ The incarnation is Christianity’s claim to uniqueness. If it happened, humanism and naturalism are blind guides in a multicolored world and all other religions are charlatans.  That is not a popular religious viewpoint in our eclectic society.  It is seen as religious bigotry to say that one belief is true and all others are false.  But if the incarnation is true, common sense can lead to no other conclusion.

How do we explain a miracle like the incarnation? We cannot. We can only observe whether it happened. Believing that it did, in the light of overwhelming evidence, is not feckless faith. Francis Schaeffer gave the following illustration. Suppose you leave a room with two glasses of water on a table. Glass A has two ounces of water in it and glass B is empty. When you return, glass A is empty and glass B has four ounces of water in it. You are faced with a problem that has only a partial explanation. Whether the contents of glass A were poured into glass B is debatable but what is beyond debate is that all of the water in glass B could not have come from glass A. The additional two ounces had to come from elsewhere. The world without Christianity can explain two ounces of water in glass B, it cannot explain the origin of the other two ounces of water.

Humanly, we can explain a mother, a baby and a humble birth. Only by faith can we explain a virgin conception of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus asked Peter who he believed he was, Peter responded, ‘‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’’ Jesus blessed Peter and said, ‘‘Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’’ Some things can only be explained by believing what God has revealed to mankind. To refuse this source of information is to remain willingly in the dark. John wrote, ‘‘In him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.’’

The implications of the truth of Christ’s incarnation are myriad. If it is true, there is a God in heaven who transcends any earthly limitation. Like the sun, you may not be able to look at Him, as Chesterton says, but without Him you cannot look at anything else. If He exists, heaven and hell exist and if so, perhaps we will live in one eternally. Zacharias says, ‘‘Life nudges us in our consciences, with its still small voice, that justice must be done, if not in this world, then in the world to come. Hence, the question rages in our hearts, whether death ends that possibility for justice or guarantees it.’’ The incarnation is that megaphone in the world’s ear.

It is no surprise that a society such as ours, with its lack of restraint and moral moorings, its insatiable appetite for the bizarre, and its insentient murder of the unborn, would bristle with conviction at the sight of a nativity scene. While in Russia during Christmas two years ago, the first sign I saw of a nation pulling itself out of atheism, was the sprouting of nativity scenes even on government property. The same Christmas in America found lawsuits filed against the government for having such reminders of the incarnation in the sight of sinners. ‘‘And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’’

Christmas, along with Easter, must be kept prominent in our churches as beacons of the true life view. We may have only passing interest in July 4, Labor Day and Thanksgiving, but the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ is our business in this world. The incredible thing about those miracles, and the power behind our message, is that they happened!