Vicarious Humanity: By His Birth We Are Healed
The answer is that it does not, for the simple reason that God is already perfect. One cannot add to perfection. The "addition" of a human nature to the person of Christ does not mean the Son becomes more perfect still. Rather, it is the means by which God makes himself visible to us and shows forth his divine image. So although the Incarnation does not add to God's perfection, it does give us, his creatures, an additional reason to love and delight in him.
Still, Edwards understood that true knowledge of God must go beyond merely looking at God. It must involve acquaintance with God. It is no good thinking we know God from studying books or thinking about him. We might put it like this: Without encountering the admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies laid bare in Christ, fallen humans cannot know and enjoy communion with God any more than someone can know what honey is like by understanding its chemistry but not tasting it.
A Life-Changing Doctrine
In this light, we see that the Incarnation is not a mere prerequisite to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It is part and parcel of the way in which God has chosen to redeem his people.
By God participating in our humanity, we are now, by faith, enabled to participate in his divinity. We can, after all, enjoy the wisdom and goodness and love of God. This is not something we can gain by grasping for it, as did Eve, but something God has graciously done for us. At the same time, the Incarnation helps us literally see what God is like, and gives us a model to imitate as we "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling," for God has taken on human nature truly "to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Phil. 2:12-13).
It is difficult, then, to see the doctrine of the Incarnation as anything other than life-affirming and life-changing. To know that God has made us in the image of Christ, and entered into our lives so that we may enter into his, is to know that we are set apart from other creatures to love, enjoy, and serve him forever.
Oliver D. Crisp is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of several books on the Incarnation.
Copyright © 2012 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Previous articles in Christianity Today's Global Gospel Project include:
A Purpose Driven Cosmos | Jesus Christ embodies the meaning of life, the goal of history, and the pattern of the future. (February 24, 2012)
The Human Prototype | With Jesus, we see what we were created to be. (January 27, 2012)
Learning to Read the Gospel Again | How to address our anxiety about losing the next generation. (December 7, 2011)
Why We Need Jesus | Reason and morality cannot show us a good and gracious God. For that, we need the Incarnation. (December 2, 2011)
Making Disciples Today: Christianity Today's New Global Gospel Project | Introducing the magazine's new five-year teaching venture. (December 2, 2011)