Faith: What if Jesus had not incarnated? – Kamloops This Week

Posted: December 17, 2020 at 3:50 am


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Except for this COVID year, there is a lot of excitement around Christmas celebration.

Its celebrated all over the world, not just by Christians but by non-Christians as a cultural festival, providing a significant commercial opportunity.

But the central message of Christmas is the Incarnation, God becoming man.

As John wrote in his gospel: In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was GodThe Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory.

However, the concept of incarnation is not unique to Christianity.

Hinduism, which is a religion as old as mankind, believes in incarnation known as avatar. It means god taking a physical form in the world in a human or animal form (by the way, avatar is now an accepted term in English dictionaries).

The Hindu scripture, Gita, declares that whenever there is decline of good and the up rise of evil, Krishna incarnates himself in the world to destroy the evil and to re-establish the good, in order to save the righteous and to destroy the sinner.

So, the obvious question is: If the concept of incarnation is not unique to Christianity, what are the differences between the incarnation of Jesus and all other incarnations?

Let me suggest a few.

Apart from a couple of significant differences, one is the purpose behind the incarnation. Lord Krishna, explaining the purpose of his incarnation is believed to have said: I incarnate myself in every age to save the righteous and to destroy the sinner.

On the other hand, the Bible gives the purpose of the incarnation of Jesus in this way: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Jesus himself said: For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost. And, in another place, he said: For I have not come to call (save) the righteous, but sinners.

Behind these two opposite purposes there are two distinct and opposite theological concepts.

Hinduism and other religions divide mankind between good and evil. Their thesis is: God helps the good and gives them salvation because they are good. By being good, they have earned their salvation.

On the other hand, according to them, God destroys the evil sinner because by being evil that is what they deserve.

Its interesting that in Hinduism, the evil are always they and the righteous is always I or we, and there is no sense of personal sinfulness or the concept of inherent sin nature.

Whereas according to Christian theology, no one is good enough to meet Gods standard and so no one can save himself by being good.

There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who does good, not even one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:10, 12, 23).

In the Old Testament, prophet Isaiah wrote: The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene. So his own arm worked salvation for him and his own righteousness sustained him, (Isaiah 59:15-16).

Sinful mankind was not able to save itself, so God took it upon Himself to save them and sent His Son to save the sinful world.

The Bible describes God as having compassion on sinners. He is not pleased with their destruction. He wants them to turn to Him and be saved.

The different and opposite purposes of incarnation bring out two opposite concepts of God.

In one, God is the God who judges and destroys the sinner. In the other, God is the God who saves, provides salvation through His love for the sinner.

Of course, the God of the Bible will judge too one day, but He does not delight in it.

Another major difference between the Hindu avatars and the incarnation of Christ is expressed in the plural versus singular of the word avatar, many versus one, and how often it has to take place.

In the same text quoted from Gita, Krishna told his disciple Arjuna: Whenever there is decline of good and up rise of evil, I incarnate myself from age to age, meaning as often as needed incarnation takes place.

The Hindu scriptures list 10 major avatars, but theoretically whenever indicates that there is no limit. It surmises that from time to time evil raises its head again and again which makes another avatar necessary and there is no end in sight.

There is a duality of good and evil, both coexistent and eternal, and hence there is no permanent victory of good over evil.

On the other hand, Jesus was able to accomplish his work once for all and once forever. He does not need to incarnate himself repeatedly.

As the author of the book of Hebrews says: But this priest, after he had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, sat down at the right hand of God, (Hebrews 10:12).

The Bible has a clear answer to the question, what if Jesus had not incarnated?

There would not be any personal encounter with God unless at His whim and pleasure a blackout off and on and a period of permanent triumph of evil over good.

The birth of Christ brought the lustre of hope to this dark world. As someone has aptly said: Sins darkness retreats when Christs light is revealed.

Narayan Mitra is a volunteer Chaplain at Thompson Rivers University.

KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and can be emailed to editor@kamloopsthisweek.com. Please include a very short bio and a photo.

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Faith: What if Jesus had not incarnated? - Kamloops This Week

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December 17th, 2020 at 3:50 am

Posted in Hinduism