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a break from explaining every mystery

14 September 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

So tell me, Christian, how exactly did the eternal Son of God become a man? No, really. How did the infinite God of the Universe stoop to become a real man? He did an all-knowing, all-powerful God wind up as a real baby who needed his diaper changed? How did it come to pass that he needed to learn obedience? Or to speak Aramaic? Did Joseph have to smack toddler Jesus on the hand to keep him from grabbing the razor sharp planer? Or did you think that Jesus instinctively knew not to touch dangerously sharp objects because he was and is God?

The Eternal God became man, really? The Greeks believed that Zeus was a god, and that he turned into a bull to chase women around the Parthenon, right? Isn't that ridiculous? Do you really think the Son of God came down from Heaven and became a cooing, diaper-wetting baby named Jesus? How is it that Christianity's wild claims about the God-man are any different that Zeus' ill-begotten offspring like Hercules?

I'm not trying to disturb you, brother or sister. I'm trying to rock you and me out of the doldrums of an unthinking and less-than-spectacular faith. You believe in a God-man. You believe in a God who is three persons and one being. You believe that your God made worlds and stars out of nothing. His speech flung stars into flight and made the "space" for them to stay in. You believe a Jewish man, born in a little hamlet in the Middle East with a population 300 or so, grew up to conquer death for you.

You believe in the fantastic! When the naturalist comes to you and tut-tuts because you say you believe in a "literal" Adam, and original sin, or sin at all for that matter, don't worry about it. You believe all kinds of things that would offend his little natural mind all sorts of ways -- and it doesn't cause you any trouble. 

I can imagine someone asking me, "Brad, how did your wife come to love you?" I suppose if I were so inclined, I might talk to you about how the brain works, and how certain neurons fired, and I might pontificate about certain chemical reactions that took place at our first meetings and conversations. We might even look at real-time brain scans of people falling in love and say, "Behold the science of love!" But seriously, is that all there is? And would that answer the question of why it was me she loved and not her previous boyfriend? (God forbid!) See, I like that it was magic from God that made my wife desire me. I like to think that it was something other than a mere chemical reaction that made her want to kiss me. If the naturalist wants to say that's all it was, he can go hang for all I care. I know better.

There are lots of things that I don't know that I do not really feel all that compelled to explain. I don't know what it means for there to be nothing before there was something. I don't know how God can be three persons and one being. I don't know how it is that all of God became Jesus. I don't know how it is that toddler Jesus (if we may say this reverently) was potty trained. I don't understand how after the glory got out on the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus managed to pull it all back in.

The catechism doesn't really explain how Jesus became a man. It simply says that 'he took to himself a true body, a reasonable soul, was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and was born of her without sin'. There are more "how did he do that?" questions in the answer than there was in the original question, right? Sometimes, Christian, we ought to relax for bit. We ought to allow ourselves a break from explaining every mystery of God so people can "get it". We ought to sit back and say, "I know these things are true, and that they are lovely, and that they add up to a far, far better and more satisfying explanation for why I am here and what I am supposed to be doing while I'm here, and that's good enough for me."