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Marty on the Incarnation

Some years ago in The Lutheran, Martin Marty wrote a series of articles called "Words for Today." This is from his item on the Incarnation:

The Incarnation.  Not easy.  So we start with the simple part of the term - *the,* as in *The* Incarnation.

That little word matters less when dealing with other doctrines. Creation keeps on going without it.  So does justification.  With "Incarnation," however, we insist on the *The.*

Why?  Because religious people - especially in our time - have a temptation to make the happening of God that is Jesus into an everyday occurrence.  To the people some call New Agers, for instance, you and I and our inner self or inner child are incarnations of God or energy or whatever.

These other faiths allow for many incarnations.  In the Nicene Creed, Christians affirm a one time happening....

When 'carn' shows up in the dictionary, it usually signals the wild, messy, ungodly things.  Carnage: the slaughter of flesh.
Carnal: the lust of the flesh.

The Incarnation tells us God is involved with *carn*, with the wild and messy but not ungodly things that go with our flesh, our bodily natures.

The term 'The Incarnation' was designed to rule out two notions that haunted believers.  First, it rules out the idea that God being God cannot take on the wild and messy conditions of the human race.

The other idea the term *The Incarnation* protects is dear to believers: This 'very God of very God' - incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary, "the word made flesh" - is one of us.

When we suffer, we know that God identifies with us, having suffered in our *carn*, our flesh.  When we are tempted, we take strength from knowing that so was the "true God from true God" incarnate in Jesus.  When we die, among the tears are God's tears. When good things happen to us, we rejoice knowing that God rejoices with us.