I discovered an interesting article, Ongoing Incarnation, by Philip Yancy that describes the debate between Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus about this question. It can be dismissed as idle speculation, but it has a lot to do with our perception of Jesus Christ's present role in the universe and ours as His body, His bride, His ambassadors. It can make a huge difference in how we approach the study of His creation and our teaching about it.

Whereas Aquinas viewed the Incarnation as God's remedy for a fallen planet, his contemporary saw much more at stake. For Duns Scotus, the Word becoming flesh as described in the prologue to John's Gospel must surely represent the Creator's primary design, not some kind of afterthought or Plan B. Aquinas pointed to passages emphasizing the Cross as God's redemptive response to a broken relationship. Duns Scotus cited passages from Ephesians and Colossians on the cosmic Christ, in whom all things have their origin, hold together, and move toward consummation.
Did Jesus visit this planet as an accommodation to human failure or as the center point of all creation? Duns Scotus and his school suggested that Incarnation was the underlying motive for Creation, not merely a correction to it. Perhaps God spun off this vast universe for the singular purpose of sharing life and love, intending all along to join its very substance.

Imagining what the world would be like without sin is an important exercise. Would we have cities, cars, schools, doctors who know more about our bodies and how best to care for them (is pain a result of sin or a blessing to communicate the limits of a physical body?), internet, scientists, carpenters, cooks, etc?

If we act like all the "secular" occupations and activities are distractions from the "sacred" activities of meditation, prayer, preaching, witnessing, etc., we discredit the incarnation of Jesus and His original creation. It makes a huge difference to how Christian teachers respond to what they teach in schools. Are Christian school classrooms only an excuse to gather children and young people so we can have "relationships" based on devotions, chapel and Bible classes, or are they places where we worship the Creator and Sustainer of all things, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16-17), as we explore His creation with gratitude and praise? Are public school classrooms occupational locations or unlikely "holy ground" where those with "eyes to see" can lovingly point others to the really important questions of meaning and purpose.

Of course, it is not only our concept of Christmas that may need adjusting. Our idea of heaven may need to be reconsidered as well. After all, our concept of eternity reveals a lot about what we think God is doing here now and what He wants us to do as well. But that will have to wait for another day.

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