“Would Christmas have come even if we had not sinned?” That’s the question asked in Philip Yancey’s January 2008 Christianity Today column “Ongoing Incarnation.”
He recounts the debate over whether the incarnation was God’s “primary design” (attributed to Duns Scotus) or “Plan B” (attributed to Aquinas*).
“Did Jesus visit this planet as an accommodation to human failure or as the center point of all creation?” I would answer that “Yes!”
There are two things that can be said about this debate. The first is that it is clearly moot. We did fall, so asking whether Christ would have come anyway strikes me as a waste of energy, though you can argue that understanding the Incarnation better is worth any amount of energy.
The second thing to be said, though, is that this debate comes terribly close to diminishing God.
We’re presented with two choices – that Jesus came to correct our situation or that Jesus was always going to come anyway. The truth is that Jesus was always going to come correct our situation.
God was not surprised by the fall. The cross was not His last minute scheme to rescue us. The fall was seen before the beginning of time. Christ’s sacrifice was an integral part of creation from the beginning. He chose to create us knowing He would have to die for us. To claim any less calls into question God’s omniscience and obscures the full picture of His grace.
Yancey encourages modern Christians to embrace Duns Scotus’ “Doctrine of the Absolute Primacy of Christ in the Universe.” And some of what he shares sounds like good stuff: “Those who root their identity in Christ have a holy mission to reclaim territory that has been spoiled.” Amen!
But while Duns Scotus (not to mention Aquinas) may have something important to teach 21st Century Christians, we shouldn’t let ourselves get caught by the notion that God’s plan for creation ever excluded the cross.
* I haven't read that much Aquinas, but I'm skeptical about him seeing the Incarnation, or the cross, as any kind of "plan B," but that's beside the point right now. I do wish Yancey had cited some sources.
Ephesians 1: Creation and Calvary
Ephesians 1: We Get to Know How it Ends!