Abusing The Incarnation
Chapter 3: ReThink Mission: Incarnational Presence
Concerned About Incarnational Presence
Brisco opens chapter three with a telling statement, and he seeks to mislead the church. Read this quote from Darrell Guder:
“In the incarnation of Jesus, God revealed himself as the One who is with and for his creation. Now, as the Risen Lord sends his Spirit to empower the church, we are called to become God’s people present in the world, with and for the world.”– Darrell Guder
Sounds wonderful right?
I want to state clearly that I do not deny in any way that Jesus was God incarnate. This is clear from early on in biblical history. Consider Genesis 3:14-16 where God tells the serpent, Adam, and Eve about the coming Seed that will dwell among men. Also consider Isaiah 7:10-16 where we are taught about Immanuel, God with Us. These passages are clear. God the Son will come and dwell as deity in the flesh. Christ will be incarnate.
However, I take exception in this opening quote. Guder and subsequently Brisco, laud the idea that somehow because Christ was incarnate we too are then able to live in an incarnational way. As the title of the chapter shows us, Brisco wants to teach us about “Incarnational presence”. Moreover, Brisco calls this the rooting of our lives and the gospel into the places we are already doing life.
The glaring problem with the phrase incarnational presence is that it is thoroughly unbiblical when it comes to mankind. Man cannot incarnate Christ. We are utterly incapable of meeting the most basic definition of what it means biblically.
Brisco counts on his readers being taken in by him and severely down plays the meaning of the word incarnate. He refers to the Latin and says that it means “in the flesh”. This is true. Yet theologically there is more to it.
Blaspheming The Incarnation
Brisco does something with the incarnation of Christ that I nearly tremble to repeat here. Under the section headed The Incarnation he makes this statement:
“The incarnation is God’s ultimate missional participation in creation (John 3:16-17). When God entered into our world in and through the person of Jesus, He came to live among us (eskenosen—literally, “set up a tent”): “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).
Can we look at that for a moment? Brisco quotes the Message bible and downplays exactly what it meant to the Jewish author of the Gospel. Nearly every translation has translated this passage as “dwelt among us”. Moreover, when we understand the historicity of this text we can better grasp exactly what was happening.
Most biblical scholars understand this passage to read “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us.” Brisco completely misrepresents what it meant to set up a tent. Furthermore, for Brisco to use Peterson’s verbiage of “moved into our neighborhood” shows just how sacrilegious he is willing to be.
When John wrote that Christ set-up a tent he was hearkening back to the days of the ancient tabernacle. John was painting a vivid picture for his audience, and that includes us. John wanted them to know that God the Son had come and dwelt among them in a physical body. They would have understood this because of the Tabernacle being the dwelling place of God on earth.
This wasn’t a mere moving into the neighborhood. It was humiliating for Christ. Yet Brisco has an agenda. He wants to contextualize the presence of the Son so he can make a point that scripture never supports.
Brisco picked this passage and the paraphrase, known as the Message, because he is going somewhere.
Sage Scholars Would Never Accept Brisco Neither Should Your Church
As I dwelt on what Brisco was saying by quoting the Message I did some digging. I decided to consult a commentary of a man long since deceased to see if I was misunderstanding the incarnation of Christ. Maybe I was overemphasizing the word tabernacle.
Therefore in turning to that commentary I read this:
“For the word which he employs (eskenosen) is taken from tabernacles. He means nothing else than that Christ discharged on the earth the office which had been appointed to Him; or that he did not merely appear for the single moment, but that he conversed among men until He completed the course of His office.” –John Calvin
This may seem like Calvin is downplaying the Incarnation a bit. However, nothing is further from the truth. Calvin is saying the Incarnation was Christ fulfilling His appointed office.
What was Christ’s appointed office? It was the munus triplex; the three-fold office. He was to be the Prophet, The Priest, and the King. Christ came to execute that office as only He could. Yes we are all part of the priesthood of all believers. Yet that simply means we are no longer in need of an intermediary apart from Christ. The church has long embraced this.
Moreover, only Christ serves in the role of prophet today. There is no longer divine revelation given to man according to Hebrews 1. We are certainly not kings. Since we own Christ as Lord that position can only belong to Him. Again the church has long accepted this.
So what exactly is Brisco planning on doing with his subtle word-play here. He seeks to mislead the church intentionally.
A Brief Word To The Church On Christ Dwelling Amongst Man
There is no way to over state how blasphemous Brisco’s view of Christ dwelling amongst man really is. His overreach in using the Message to describe Christ moving into the neighborhood is untenable and unacceptable. Moreover, for a man who seems to be well educated it is beyond the pale.
Jesus wasn’t merely coming and walking amongst mankind. He was bringing into the presence of man the very Image of God. He told them, the Jews, that in seeing Him they were seeing God.
Furthermore, His incarnation was more profound than that. As I stated before, the tabernacle was God’s dwelling place amongst Israel. It was the very presence of God’s holiness amongst His people. Having been cleansed the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies alone. The others would wait and listen for the sound of the bells on his robes. If God struck him dead the bells would stop ringing and he would be pulled out by the rope tied to his ankle.
This is the God who came and tabernacled amongst man. Jesus was the very earthly embodiment of God’s holiness on earth. It was this reality that caused the temple curtain to be torn in two when He died. There was no need for the temple- a tabernacle- any longer. Moreover, this shows us just how impossible it is for us to have an incarnational presence on earth.
I cannot incarnate Christ because He has gone on to dwell in heaven. We cannot incarnate the very Holiness of God because there is still sin that rages within me. I may have no fear of condemnation because I am in Christ, but I still could not bear up under the burning fire of His Holiness while still in the flesh.
Defining Incarnational Mission Into Mush
Read what Brisco says here in an attempt to define incarnational mission for the church:
“Now it is important to recognize that the incarnation of Jesus was a special, unrepeatable event. Further, as we enter into the world of others, we certainly cannot take on another’s identity in the fully integrated way that Jesus did. But we can make a distinction between the Incarnation with a capital “I” and incarnational ministry.”
Brisco recognizes that he is dangerous territory here and he is looking to misdirect the church. Moreover, did you catch the subtly of the statement? This is not what Jesus was doing when He was Incarnate. Calvin clearly would not accept that position.
Furthermore, what Brisco should be talking about at this point is the Three-fold office of Christ. Instead what he wants to do is take the exclusive incarnation from Jesus and give it to us. Worse still, he wants to make it seem like that was what Scripture intends for us to understand.
Watch what Brisco does here:
“Obviously, there is nothing wrong with inviting believers to model their lives after the life of Jesus. The apostles encouraged Christians to imitate Christ as a way of identifying with Him. Both Peter and Paul insisted that Jesus is to be the model for Christian living. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” – 1 Peter 2:21 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).”
Brisco rips these passages from their context to make it seem as if Scripture is teaching incarnational missions. The intent of 1 Peter 2:21-25 isn’t incarnational missions. It is about suffering for the sake of righteousness. The 1 Corinthians 1:11 reference is misdirection as well.
Brisco plays fast and loose with versus knowing the church won’t be Berean.
We Still Haven’t Defined Incarnational Presence
Brisco attempts to give a definition of incarnational presence by quoting Missiologist (whatever that may be) Michael Frost:
“Second, those of us who wish to emulate Jesus should be aware of his equally humble willingness to empty himself and make himself nothing for the sake of God’s redemptive purposes (Philippians 2:6-7a). . . . To embrace an incarnational ministry, then, involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others.”
Please note that Brisco has yet to define what it means to have an incarnational presence. Moreover, what he has done repeatedly is assert a doctrine that cannot be defined or defended from Scripture.
I also need to point out that when Frost (and thereby Brisco), says “involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others,” they are missing the truth of what missions truly are. Thus far we’ve seen little reference to an actual definition of what missions are. Missions are about the preaching of the Gospel. Furthermore, even though the word “gospel” has been used, we have yet to see Brisco define what the Gospel is.
Moreover, if we can learn anything of Brisco from his associations we will see that the definition of gospel is skewed. Brisco and his compatriots, such as Frost, are all religious leftists with a very progressive view of the church and The Word of God.
These affiliations and connections expose an agenda. The more that he writes the more Brisco exposes himself. There is a deeply seated revulsion for the Gospel revealed in Brisco. I do not take joy in saying this in the least, but it is imperative that we see it. Moreover, it is imperative that it is exposed for the good of the Church.
In my research it became clear to me that Brisco is masking something. I spent quite some time trying to ascertain what was so unsettling. The surface issues are easy to spot. However, there is something that is lurking just below the surface and it was bothering me immensely.
Here is what finally hit me. Brisco is pointing us from the proclamation of the Gospel to the idea that we are to live the Gospel. This is more than mere foolishness, it is utter wickedness. In a forthcoming article unrelated to this series I address this thought that has become so prevalent today. This isn’t just a merely misguided but okay mentality. It is utter blasphemy.
Furthermore, Brisco doesn’t want people to just live out the Gospel. He wants them to practice social justice. This has been evident from the start of the book. His entire end is not the advancement of the gospel but an advancement of a progressive agenda.
Any local church engaging in a study of this book has two fates. Both lead to death. Either the body is already dead or is dying. So much so it is in a desperate state trying to grab at any straw it can in an effort to draw breath into its being. Or, it will implement ReThink and it will die the death of compromise. These are the only two fates for such a body.
All that is left for the believer who takes part in such a study is to repent. Turn away from worldly compromise, and seek instruction from sound elders. To fail do so is to show that you possess itching ears and long to have your foolish heart and mind placated.
Soli Deo Gloria!