Bible/Theology, Environment

The first and original incarnation

March 27, 2014

bigbang‘The incarnation of God did not happen in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. That is just when some of us started taking it seriously. The incarnation actually happened approximately 14.5 billion years ago with a moment we now call “The Big Bang”. That is when God actually decided to materialize and to expose who God is. This alone provides any basis for reverence, universal sacrality, and our attempts to form a spiritual ecology that transcends groups and religions.

Two thousand years ago marked the human incarnation of God in Jesus but before that there was the first and original incarnation through light, water, land, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and “every kind of wild beast”, according to our Judeo-Christian creation story’.

Wow, I’ve just come across this quote from Richard Rohr, the Fransiscan monk (italics his). I’m not going to write a long post about it; I just wanted to put it up for people to see because it has really got me thinking.

Does what Rohr says strike you in any way? What do you think are the implications of seeing the act of creation as the first and original incarnation?

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  • Reply Colin Bell March 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I can see what he’s trying to do, I think, but he’s going too far. Original creation is clearly very important, but it isn’t incarnation: God is not embedded in the universe in the same way he is in Jesus. Nor is the universe made in his image in the same way humanity is. So he’s losing the richness we get through the Old Testament as more and more of God’s nature and character is revealed to us, all the time pointing forward to Christ.

    Also, he’s implying that God is knowable purely from looking at (the non-human) creation, which i don’t think is true (Romans 1:20 refers only to God’s eternal power and divine nature, but that’s only two of his attributes).

    Clearly if he were right, it would be easier to create the “spiritual ecology that transcends groups and religions” but we can’t just harmonise away fundamental differences in religions and philosophies, even if all want us to care for creation in similar ways.

  • Reply Karen Bradley March 28, 2014 at 7:28 am

    There is something representational about creation that reveals God and in that I think the echo of incarnation exists. Lots to think about here – thank you for posting Ruth.

  • Reply evgoldsmith March 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Darling Ruth – this is an interesting thought but I feel Richard Rohr is muddling up revelation with incarnation. All the items he mentions are aspects of God’s revelation of his own character – light, water, land, sun etc. At the heart of the meaning of incarnation is carnis which is the Latin for ‘body’ and it speaks of the time when the eternal Son took upon himself a human body. But this does not detract from the fact that in revelation God shows us something of himself and therefore the whole of creation is special and hallowed because it speaks of God. lovingly Mum

  • Reply Júlio Reis March 29, 2014 at 9:32 am

    The Bible gives us no reason to think creation was incarnation; quite the contrary. Why does the Bible speak of creation as God’s object (e.g. ‘the earth is my foot stool’) if it indeed contained God? Why would Jesus accept worship, if God had denied worship to the moon and stars? etc.—I won’t belabour the point.

    An acquaintance had already pointed out Richard Rohr to me, specifically his ‘Falling Upward’ talk which I heard. There were some very interesting points there, particularly related to the development of one’s identity, but his ‘asides’ are a bit way out of there. You can tell he draws from the Bible but that the Bible is by no means an authority—it’s just one of many ways. He is a universalist, which sounds very post-modern but not very Christian; he says, ‘For me of course, it’s not a matter of if one’s going to be saved, but when’. When asked why did Jesus say, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’, he laughs and replies: ‘Now why do we get so much mileage out of that one?…’ He also says in that talk that Jesus was created at the Big Bang, for which he doesn’t provide any biblical evidence.

    But like I said, those were ’asides’, i.e. things he happened to say that were out of his main point. On the whole that talk was very constructive for me. I will take everything Richard Rohr says with a large pinch of salt, but I will listen to him.

    Back to your question about ‘the implications of seeing the act of creation as the first and original incarnation’, well, I think those would include as Paul said, ‘emptying the cross of Christ of its power’ (1 Co 1:17). If God is physically present in all of creation, then Jesus doesn’t matter that much anymore. Maybe some Middle Eastern tribes called the Jews needed a messiah—so God, the pan-incarnate, decided to give it to them; but if you can understand ‘the deeper and more ancient truth’ (my words) that creation is God’s incarnation, then you see that Jesus isn’t necessary.

    • Reply ruthvalerio March 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      Rohr is certainly a controversial character! A lot of what he says resonates with me, but I agree about taking him with a pinch of salt. See my further comment below 🙂

  • Reply ruthvalerio March 29, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    There’s been an interesting discussion on this on my FB page. One comment summed it up, I think, with saying ‘right idea, wrong word’. That’s a helpful way to look at it and it’s got me thinking if there’s another word we could make up that might sum it up! Incarnation literally means ‘in flesh’ (en carne), and we can’t say that in creation God became flesh in the same way he did when the Son was born as a human being. But in creation God poured himself into physical matter in a way that I think we sometimes miss. We see the created order as something completely separate to the godhead, rather than as something that contains something of Godself within it, albeit in a different way to the incarnation of the Son.

    The Greek for earth/physical matter is ‘ge’, which is a bit boring and I’ve been trying to come up with a suitable word that uses that and maybe expresses what Rohr is trying to say. Any ideas??!

  • Reply ruthvalerio March 30, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    This quote has certainly got people thinking, myself included, which is always a good thing. Here’s a really nice follow-up to our thoughts here:

    • Reply Júlio Reis March 30, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Hmmm… can I say that I agree more with Gerard J Kelly’s interpretation of Richard Rohr’s interpretation of creation(*), than with Rohr himself? And can I say that without sounding like I’m some theologian who’s got all of his issues sorted out? 🙂

      (*) ‘Creation’ here would mean the continuous existence of the universe, not some initial act. Creation as real estate, not an action.

      • Reply ruthvalerio March 31, 2014 at 7:27 am

        yes, I like what Gerard says here, it’s helpful

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