The Incarnation Critiques Modernity and Fundamentalism

There is something strange about the modernist/fundamentalist split. The two are diametrically opposed, but seem to be strikingly similar at the same time.

Both think the world is made of stuff. One side thinks it contains ‘spiritual’ stuff, the other side thinks there is only material stuff.

My view: Both sides neglect the role of consciousness.

Both sides are in a sense scientistic: they think an accurate description of reality will tell us all that is true. One side thinks science gives us all of the truth. The other side thinks the bible gives us all the truth.

My view: consciousness opens up other realms of knowing.

Both sides see God as a big man in the sky, or in philosophical language as the greatest being among beings. One side thinks this man is real. The other side doesn’t.

My view: God is the source of all being.

Both sides think heaven is a place we go to. One side thinks this place is real. The other side doesn’t.

My view: heaven is better conceptualized as the time when earth will be united with heaven.

Both sides think there is a secular and a religious sphere. One side wants a ‘christian culture,’ the other side wants a ‘secular culture.’

My view: Jesus is Lord of all of creation.

This is of course a very, very crude outline and I doubt that many fundamentalists or modernists would appreciate how I have characterized them. I do however think that this description is broadly accurate and provides a good, low resolution picture of what I want to outline.

What’s striking about both sides their is their dualism, both recognize a multitude of splits: faith and reason, matter and spirit, secular and religious, and so on. Fundamentally, what the modernists and the fundamentalists have in common is that both live in a divided world. They both recognize a split that began at the reformation and culminated in the enlightenment. Reality used to be recognized as a unity of heaven and earth, but the birth of the modern world has set them at odds. The best way to understand the modernist/fundamentalist split is to say that the modernists chose earth and the fundamentalists chose heaven.

To me, this explains a lot.

We can understand the totalitarianism of the 20th century as a modern day tower of babel, an attempt to build a tower to heaven without God.

We can understand the emergence of ‘creation science’ as an attempt to understand scripture in a fundamentally ‘scientistic way.’ A rejection of ‘secular science’ on one hand, and the assumption that it is the only kind of truth on the other.

We can understand the scientism of the new atheists as the epistemology of a worldview that recognizes only the matter of earth, and rejects the consciousness of heaven.

We can understand the emergence of “Christian culture” as the cultural expression of a worldview that sees earth as in the grips of Satan and has God perched on his throne, ruling heaven.

We can understand why both modernists and fundamentalists can line up on the same battle lines to defend “the west” and “modernity” from the godless communists and postmodernists. (More on this in a future post.)

And so on.

The incarnation can point the way out of this muddle. Jesus is not the shining figure of the fundamentalists. Jesus is not the mythical man of the modernists. Jesus is the God-man. He is fully God and fully man. Jesus brings the rule of heaven to earth. He brings the Christian hope of the unity of God and man, the unity of heaven and earth: the hope of a resurrected body, and a renewed earth.

The God-man affirms all of creation and demands it all as His.

The incarnation isn’t just a glorious idea, it is the Christian calling. Christ wasn’t doing miracles just because: he was bringing heaven to earth. We are called to be imitators of Christ: to act out the incarnation. Our earthly bodies give themselves over to the rule of the Holy Spirit from heaven. That’s why Christ followers are the new temple: we are the place (earth) where God dwells (heaven). Empowered by the Spirit, we spread/bring the kingdom of God (heaven) to earth through our Jesus following actions.

What the incarnation means is that heaven and earth are no longer at odds, they have been brought together through the death of Jesus. It is the Christian calling to bring heaven and earth together in our daily lives. The unity begins within the individual, spreads out the community, and grows to cover the whole earth. This is the kingdom of God, the reign of Christ. Christ rules the individual, Christ ruled individuals make up Christ ruled communities. Christ ruled communities spread the reign of Christ throughout the whole earth.

The rule of Christ means the Christians are obedient to Jesus first and secular governments second. There is no pragmatism or compromise, there is pure allegiance to our Lord. (And no he isn’t Justin Trudeau.)

Think that through.

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