Our belief in the Incarnation of Jesus is very relevant to how we understand him and how we incorporate him into our lives. When the author of the series I am posting entitles it The Incarnation of Jesus and the Body of Christ, he is referring to the body that Christ occupied on this earth, as well as the body of Christ that is today comprised of those who are followers of him. How does our belief on the Incarnation affect how we interact corporately as the Body of Christ? Do not overlook the fact that the two are tied together very intimately.
First, let us think a bit about what we have been taught about the Incarnation. We have, most of us, received teaching that Jesus was incubated in Mary, but was not of her. All this in spite of the many scriptures that point us to the truth that he was a man who was of the seed of Abraham, our brother, our kinsman redeemer. To be right plain about it, Mary was made pregnant by God. This seems fantastical to some people, but there is a common belief that in the Old Testament times, as the Bible says in Genesis 6:1,2 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they [were] fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. I believe that it is commonly understood that the sons of God were the fallen angels, and they began to mate with humans. If it was possible for the fallen angels to mate with human women and produce offspring, how much more plausible that God would do such a thing? However, it seems that it has been in someone’s best interest to try to teach that this was not possible, or that God would not stoop to such a thing. Mary was the genetic mother of Jesus. I believe the scriptures are abundantly clear on that point.
I believe that one of the reasons that Menno Simons was so strong in his teaching of the Incarnation was because he came out of the Catholic Church where he saw an inappropriate veneration of Mary and an incorrect teaching of the Incarnation, so that he veered completely (and incorrectly) in the opposite direction. This lead him to teach at great length on the matter, and in so doing he developed what he believed was a highly intellectual approach to the matter. He delved rather deeply into his ideas of procreation and based his thesis upon this incorrect view, and forgot to remember the scriptures. This should be a lesson to us about the harm in sectarianism and the divisions in religions. These things are all set in place to deceive us, and if we begin to recognize these divisions and base our beliefs on simply being different from others whom we believe to be wrong, we can go astray quite quickly. Furthermore, in the days of the Inquisition, people were put to death for the reason that they would not agree with the Catholic Church and their ideas of the Incarnation. In fact the Cathars were a sect who were actually what is known as the Gnostics, and they took the complete opposite view, that all matter is evil and therefore Christ could not have been human because to have taken on human flesh would have required that he be evil. This too was an incorrect belief. However, the Holdemans proudly proclaim this sect in their lineage, and I believe the connection goes back to this time. Menno Simons identified with the Gnostics/Cathars in disputing the Roman Catholic view of the Incarnation of Christ. Here is a link to some information that might be interesting. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/heretics.html So let us be clear about this one thing; it is always a bad idea to simply have a knee-jerk reaction to things we think are wrong, and therefore take an opposite and perhaps incorrect view.
I would like to say this about the whole matter; The Holdemans dispute that they are Gnostic or Docetist in their view of Christ, because they do believe he was more than just a phantom. Yet they do not seem to understand the heresy that is actually threaded throughout their entire teaching, and the origins of it. I will leave that alone for now, as it might be a study for another time, if one has time and energy for it, but rather, I want to discuss more about the present day teachings.
Today it is required of a man who is being ordained into the ministry to affirm that he does in fact concur with the teaching of the church on the matter of the Incarnation. He is in a back room with a group of ministers, he has already been elected by what is claimed to be the popular vote, he is feeling holy and called of God, and whether or not he has given himself to a study of the matter, he must agree with the church’s stand on it before they can proceed with the ordination ceremony, or at least, so I have been told. If anyone has information contrary to this, you are welcome to come forward with it. So here the young man will agree to believe and teach what the church believes and teaches, often without really understanding for himself what it is. After all, who wants to turn back at this point?
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if I were to find out that many of them have privately had their doubts, but continued to teach something they didn’t even properly understand themselves. The interesting thing here is that this teaching seems to be important, but if you were to poll the members themselves, you would find a very large number of them who would say “I don’t know for sure what the church believes on that, and why does it really matter anyway?” I find this very disturbing. The Bible teaches us that it is very important. Consider these verses: 1 John 4:2, 3 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
This can prove to be rather interesting. If, in trying to have a conversation with someone about it, you point out this verse, they can sidestep by saying, “welllll I believe he came in the flesh…..yes, he had flesh, he wasn’t an apparition.” But yet, what is John really saying here? He is making it very very important that we believe the correct thing about the flesh of Christ. We must believe that he was born of Mary, he was of the seed of Abraham, and he is our brother. We are now joint heirs with him of the riches of glory. When we distance ourselves from him and view him as something different from us, we begin to view the Body of Christ on earth in the same way. We do not really feel related, we do not really feel a part. We belive it is something mystical and other than what it really is. We do not expect it to feel us in our sufferings, to be patient and kind with us, but rather we sometimes shrink back in fear, we do not really believe that we are a part of it. We may say we do, but the experience that we live out says otherwise. When we allow ministers to lord it over us, when we think they are more important than we are, that there is something mystical and powerful about them and that they are above mistakes, then we are seeing this thing being worked out in us.
Is it possible that a false belief in the Incarnation is essential to the reigns of power in a One True Visible Church type setting? Is the point upon which it pivots? I find that men such as Chris and Andrew who have come here to tell their stories are open to understanding the bible in a way that is different from what they have been taught. I see in them a humility and a type of courage that is not seen in the members of the church. In the church I see “men” cowering in fear, allowing themselves to be bullied, and eventually pulling a blanket up over their heads and deciding that just getting along will be good enough. How much of this is tied to an incorrect view of the Incarnation? I believe a good deal of it is.
And furthermore! Not only should real men stand up and say that they will believe what the Bible teaches, no matter the cost, but they should also read the stories of Andrew and Chris and they should stand up and say “NO MORE! We’ve been duped! We’ve been lied to! We’ve been had! These men tell stories of having been manipulated, bullied and sexually offended by the leaders of the church. This is so wrong that I should think a great cry would go up. How can any man sit and say nothing when it is brought to their attention in this manner? Men! Brothers! Think of the times you have been bullied by the ministers, and you have shoved your questions back down and gone along for the sake of retaining your membership and your position. If you have read this series on the Incarnation, and you are beginning to be convinced within yourself that there is more here that needs to be investigated, and you remain quiet out of fear, then you are in a very dangerous position indeed. Will you suffer for the cause of Christ? Will you give up all? Your home, your money, your career, your prestige, your position? Your friends? If not, then you are not worthy to be called a follower of Christ!