Monday, February 12, 2007

The Condescension of Christ in Hebrews

From Hebrews 3:

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.
3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.
4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later;
6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

I have small children. They're growing, but for now they have little reason to think that they know better than their mom and I. Nevertheless, they often do. One is capable of discerning to some degree the relative intelligence of someone less intelligent. One cannot discern one's own intelligence relative to someone of greater intelligence without some standard because greater intelligence is, by definition, incomprehensible. My children simply cannot conceive all that I can understand.

While not always overt, the condescension of God is prevalent throughout the scriptures and is the underscore in Hebrews. Theologians and teachers of the Bible often focus on the incarnation while ignoring God's condescension both through Christ Jesus and even the Holy Spirit. It's understandable in that we can hardly fathom our cognitive place relative to an eternal Creator. It's one thing to assent to the truth of it, but another thing to apprehend the truth intuitively. I maintain that temporal minds require bivalent logic to function. However, the eternal Creator is absolute and therefore logically univalent. Such would seem simpler to contemplate, but we need contrasting values.

The bivalence in creation arises from the paradoxical fact that an absolute God creates for coexistence that which is not Himself. This paradox is central to the incarnation. But this paradox also outlines the condescension of God, for it is from univalent eternity to bivalent temporality that He condescends. Therefore, my question at this point is this: How intelligent was Jesus as a man? We know He was wise, but let's not confuse godly wisdom with intelligence. The reason is that our intelligence as fallen human beings must be exceptionally limited. Add to that the mentally deficient God has given us to care for. Does God not save mentally handicapped people? If not, then what about the rest of us? Do we presume that we are intelligent enough to be saved? No. I propose that wisdom and intelligence are mutually exclusive, each with their own scales of maturity. Let's also not confuse either with knowledge, although knowledge can contribute to both.

Christ wrote nothing that we have to read today. Nevertheless, the entire New Testament was written about His actions and teachings and the subsequent writings hinging on Christ's actions and teachings could fill libraries. I suggest that He was exceptionally intelligent and this in conjunction with godly wisdom and a base of knowledge inaccessible to fallen people. But we study the things written of what Christ said because Christ said more than He could have written. The genius of the teaching aspect of his ministry is that He has left it up to others to expound on His teaching. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, is packed with enough material for several books. Christ would have delivered it inside of a couple of hours.

12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
15 while it is said,
"TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME."
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?
17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?
19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.

Despite the crowds and disciples that followed Him, I consider that Christ, possessing exceptional intelligence, would have been a lonely man. For the very intelligent, socialization is unrewarding because most others provide very little cognitive stimulation. Christ could not have received anything from people except such wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit as the tears and perfume of the sinful woman on His feet at the end of Luke 7. His penchant for communicating with the Father was akin to the domestic parent or child care worker desperate for adult interaction after hours of only small children to converse with. And these, as I have mentioned, think they are capable of challenging adult authority. In truth, children find security when they know where the boundaries are. But we also challenge God, and this not to feel secure, but because of unbelief. We must know that there are things we do not understand, but we too often think that we understand all there is to understand. Jesus didn't need to challenge the Father. If anyone could breach the boundaries of the law, Christ could - and did. And He did it alone. Who better to be our high priest than one who has experienced the great loneliness of a fallen world? Those of us who are partakers of the Body of Christ, coming together as Christ met with Father, should likewise go out to proclaim the gospel of grace. And often we may be lonely. Nevertheless, we will have fellowship with God.

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