Mysterious Wonder: Herman Bavinck on the Incarnation

Nothing elicits mysterious wonder like the incarnation of Christ. Christians celebrate Christmas because God became flesh. And nothing will blow your mind like thinking about how the eternal takes the form of the temporal; how the creator takes the form of the creature; how the divine becomes human. Only the incarnation explains these tensions. And while it is tremendously good news, it is also gloriously mysterious. But incomprehensibility does not equate impossibility.

The God-man, Jesus Christ, is the only hope for fallen sinners to have a relationship with a flawless God. But how are we to comprehend one man possessing two natures? And though having two natures, how are we to understand that he always acted as one person. For it was Jesus who died on the cross, not strictly his human nature.

Because of the mystery surrounding the incarnation, it is a satisfying practice to meditate on this theological truth. I always find it helpful to learn from theologians of the past. How have men who have thought deeper than me understood the incarnation? Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck offers thoughts on the mystery and wonder of the incarnation.

I rejoice in the mysterious wonder of the incarnation of Christ. A god who I can perfectly understand with my own faculties is not a god worthy of my worship. But while the God of the Bible has clearly revealed himself to a certain extent, there is true mystery in him, no more so than in the incarnation. 

Have your meditations on the coming of Christ this Advent season led you into incomprehensible delight? I pray Bavinck’s thoughts fan a flame of desire for the mystery of the coming of the God-man this Christmas season.

It is completely incomprehensible to us how God can reveal himself and to some extent make himself known in created beings: eternity in time, immensity in space, infinity in the finite, immutability in change, being in becoming, the all, as it were, in that which is nothing. This mystery cannot be comprehended; it can only be gratefully acknowledged. But mystery and self-contradiction are not synonymous.

— Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:49

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

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