As I laboured over my essay on the trinitarian theology of Gregory of Nazianzus this past week, I was struck by the way the early fathers tend to speak of the incarnation in terms of God clothing himself in human flesh.
Of course there’s real truth here. When John 1 tells us that the Word became flesh this is a dramatic and decisive new thing. But the danger is that it suggests that God and humanity are intrinsically opposed — not just as a result of sin.
I’m much happier with this snippet from Soren Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments (at the climax of a parable he’s spun about a king who goes ‘undercover’ to win the love of a peasant woman):
[T]his servant-form is no mere outer garment, like the king’s beggar-cloak, which therefore flutters loosely about him and betrays the king; it is not like the filmy summer-cloak of Socrates, which though woven of nothing yet both conceals and reveals. It is his true form and figure. For this is the unfathomable nature of love, that it desires equality with the beloved, not in jest merely, but in earnest and truth. And it is the omnipotence of the love which is so resolved that it is able to accomplish its purpose…
Dare we even say there’s nothing more like God than to become human — that it’s thoroughly right for God the Son to enter into our situation fully, taking our plight upon Himself and triumphantly exhausting it in His substitutionary death?