Incarnational: A Fad?

It’s strange to hear the words “incarnational” and “fad” together during this time of celebrating the incarnational birth of the Son. And I wasn’t going to post anymore on “incarnational” and the missional church on this blog after the last post. But then Mark Van Steenwyk, on his excellent blog, quotes this piece from N.T. Wright (from a recent CT Article What Is This Word?) on the fad of incarnational theology. It kind of sums up the debate I was seeking to carry out this past month on this blog. Here’s the quote:

There is a fad in some quarters about a “theology of incarnation,” meaning that our task is to discern what God is doing in the world and to do it with him. But that is only half the truth, and the wrong half to start with. John’s theology of the Incarnation is about God’s Word coming as light into darkness, as a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces, as a fresh word of judgment and mercy. You might as well say that an incarnational missiology is about discovering what God is saying no to today and finding out how to say it with him. That was the lesson Barth and Bonhoeffer had to teach in Germany in the 1930s, and it’s all too relevant as today’s world becomes simultaneously more liberal and more totalitarian. This Christmas, get real, get Johannine, and listen again to the strange words spoken by the Word made flesh.

For those reacting to evangelical fundamentalism like myself and many other emerging church types, this may sound sectarian, fundamentalist. Mark claims it may be Anabaptist in vision. Of course Barth and Bonhoeffer were none of these. In my posts below I was arguing against those who would reduce the gathering to a secondary function in the incarnational view of church and mission. Ironically, for me, N T Wright is close to doing the opposite here. Wright is close to going to the opposite extreme: reducing to “non-redemptive” all activity in the world that is not involved with the mission/witness of Christ in the church. Yet I believe either a Barthian primacy of the incoming Word (N T Wright?), or a Radical Anabaptist primacy of the faithful community (withdrawing from the world to maintain faithfulness), is inadequate on its own to address the church’s “sentness” into the world. Neither is adequate for where we must go as “missional church.” This is why many times I am blessed to turn to John Howard Yoder, a Radical Anabaptist who did his Ph.D. with Barth in Basil. He holds together the a.) radical Anabaptist vision together with b.) the Barthian radicalness of the inbreaking Word, with c.) the missional presense and aggressive posture of the “community for the world ,” better than anyone else I know!

What’s your take on N.T. Wright? and “incarnational”?

Peace … on Christmas

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