The Permanence of Christmas, Part 2: Church History
Throughout church history, the best of Christian theology has recognized and affirmed the truth of Jesus’ continuing incarnation—the idea that Jesus didn’t simply make a 33-year cameo in the created world, but rather forever joined our humanity to his divinity and will always be fully God and fully man.
Here’s a sampling with help from Gerrit Scott Dawson’s Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation.
Second-century apologist Justin Martyr is explicit in affirming that after the resurrection Jesus ascended in “the flesh in which He suffered.” Justin also maintains, in opposition to his critics, that flesh in heaven is not impossible (Fragments on the Resurrection, ANF, vol. 1, 9).
The line continues into the third century. Tertullian (about 160–225) writes:
Why Origen Was Condemned
In the 6th century, the renowned philosopher-theologian Origen, who died in 254, was condemned posthumously for implying that “after the resurrection the body of the Lord was ethereal” (The Anathemas Against Origen, NPNF, 2nd series, vol. 14, 10).
Then to the twentieth century. Karl Barth writes that Christ’s humanity is “to all eternity...a clothing which He does not put off. It is his temple which He does not leave. It is the form which He does not lose” (Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV: The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Part 2, 100–101).
Forever the God-Man
From the New Testament until the present, Christian theologians have rightly celebrated that Jesus is forever the God-man. He is glorious not merely in assuming our human nature but in remaining our brother and continuing as the visible “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Without his continuing humanity, there would be no humanity in the Godhead to which we may be joined for all eternity.
We’ll conclude this 3-part series tomorrow with several present-day formulations of the doctrine of Jesus’ continuing incarnation.