Andy Crouch is really smart.  He’s written one of the most important books on evangelicals relationship to culture in the last 20 years.  And he’s always doing interesting things.

So I’m not surprised to hear him wax eloquent on a topic of some interest around here of late, namely the meaning of embodiment.  But before I weigh in, allow me to ask you, dear reader:  Does truth come in a body?

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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  1. Before watching the video, I would say, “Verily, verily!” If Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” and He is truly two natures in one person, ie., God in human flesh taken from the Virgin according to the Chalcedonian definition of the Incarnation, then Truth not only came in a body, He IS a body still. The Incarnation was not a disposable event that got left behind at the Ascension, it is an eternal verity and the very basis of our salvation. Now… on to the video. I’m really hoping there’s not some latent Arianism or Nestorianism lurking in it. :)

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  2. S-P,

    My question: does ALL truth come in a body? Which truth? And what does it mean that TRUTH comes in a body? I’m not persuaded that we should have expansive epistemologies based on John 14:6…which is what I worry about in Crouch’s point when he critiques the many forms of epistemology that he thinks the Incarnation cuts against.

    Matt

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  3. Ah…THAT is a BIG question, and I’m not sure the com box will hold the answer any more than our rational minds can contain the mystery of the Incarnation of God. But, I never let that stop me from shooting from the cranial hip before so….

    ALL truth? Like 2×2=4? Phoenix is the capital of Arizona? No, obviously not. I think the issue is the difference between “propositional truth ABOUT God, Christian dogma/philosophy” and “experiential truth” and the possibility of the verification of either objectively, yes? In one VERY important sense I would say that yes, ALL truth that has to do with our existential existence, the definition of the nature of God, man and all creation and the nature of the union and “salvation” of creation in and by God did come “in a body”. The person of Jesus Christ IS the definition of all those things. The EXPLICATIONS of the definition can be regarded as “truth” insofar as they are correct, but then we have the conundrum: how do we know what explication is correct? I think this is where the Christian East leans more toward the “experience of God”… “a theologian is one who prays” as some saint said: The person of Christ is known “noetically”, that is, not through reason but by illumination through union with the person of Christ through the mysteries/sacraments of the Church and through the laying aside of sin and the praxis of virtue (the imitation of Christ who is perfect human). The propositions/dogmas are not merely rational exegeses of NT scripture, but are the product of the human experience of (Andy: relationship with) the Incarnate God. Propositionally, if God is NOT incarnate, did not have human flesh, a human will, a human nature and soul then that union and experience of Christ is impossible (St. Gregory: What is not assumed is not healed). It is because Christ IS truth that we can become “truth”, if you will… have true “integrity” (be fully integrated with all creation and God as Christ is through our union with Him.) Where this “logically goes” of course, is toward a sacramental theology of creation: How do we experience God in flesh/matter? If God is incarnate, then what does that mean for experiencing God through OUR incarnated being, ie., our bodies and not merely our rational minds? And further down the line: Eucharistic theology: can God communicate Himself materially through sacrament because of the Incarnation and our bodily union with Him? HUGE question and I’d venture to say more ramifications that even Andy might be imagining (of course he only had 2 minutes here… maybe he has thought about all that too.)

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  4. First of all, such a necessarily incarnate definition of truth would seem to exclude the Father and the Spirit. Unlike John 14:6, the equally Johannine statement “God is love” does seem to support an expansive epistemology based on trinitarian deity. Crouch observes that a body cannot come to be without love and relationship; but as the perichoretic love of the Trinity shows us, bodies are not necessary for love and relationship, nor do love and relationship necessarily produce bodies.

    Secondly, even if Crouch’s point were limited specifically to human apprehension of (or experience of, or relationship with) Truth — i.e., that it is through the embodied Jesus — Crouch’s point doesn’t seem justified by the rest of the Johannine text.

    If truth is necessarily embodied, then was Jesus (and John) being self-contradictory when he referred to the “Spirit of truth”, who is also personal? This is not just a semantic point but a practical one since, if truth is only embodied, physical proximity is very relevant to accessing it.

    Crouch draws attention to the fact that Jesus was resurrected physically and is still embodied. If Jesus’ continued physical status proves Truth’s embodiment, then his post-Ascension physical remoteness is highly problematic for anyone hoping to access, apprehend, experience or have a relationship with Truth.

    This is precisely what the disciples anticipated and Jesus addressed when he promised to send, in his absence, “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father.” This Father is equally unembodied, and according to the East — not the West which Crouch blames for an abstract view of truth — is the exclusive origin of the Spirit of truth.

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  5. Hi Nobody, A couple of quick thoughts before I have to head off to work. I don’t know Andy Crouch’s work other than the small snip here, so I don’t know where he goes with his thought. You bring up a couple interesting points about the Trinity etc. ISTM that rather than exclude the Father and the Spirit, this actually explicates the Trinitarian existence: Jesus is the perfect image of the Father, incarnate by the Holy Spirit and Mary and who bears witness to the Son (who is “all truth”) both before and after His ascension. I think the issue is not “does truth pre-exist, or is it eternal”, but how is Truth ultimately revealed and made manifest to the human person? Apart from the existence of the created order and human beings with whom God desires a relationship, there is no need for a “revelation” of Truth, it “Is”. Hence, our human need for “epistemology”.

    Your second point “If Jesus’ continued physical status proves Truth’s embodiment, then his post-Ascension physical remoteness is highly problematic for anyone hoping to access, apprehend, experience or have a relationship with Truth” is also one worthy of a book. This is PRECISELY the point of a sacramental theology: The physical presence of Christ is indeed accessible, apprehendable and able to be experienced through our human flesh and all of its faculties, not just our “minds”. Without hope that we are left with mere “rationalism”, that the apprehension of God is accessible only in a “spiritual manner”, ie., a nebulous intellectual or emotional sense that is either supported by logic/reason or solipsistic feelings which is the bane of epistemology. Gotta run!

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  6. Pardon my naivety, but isn’t the embodiment truth what Christianity is all about? However, to restrict truth (with a capital T, as Francis Schaeffer used to say) to creation is to deny, in my opinion, ex-nihilo creation, and the pivotal role that God, the invisible, self-existent, source of all creation, has in determining what is truth. We must be careful not to confuse true with Truth. Evil is true, but not Truth. Truth, however, is embodied by necessity for us to experience and/or comprehend, in my opinion. To shout out 10 Commandment into a void of nothingness is ludicrous; so, it is only through embodiment that we are able to appropriate all Truth. Truth is, therefore, relational within the Trinity and by necessary extension to and through creation.

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  7. 7.Pardon my naivety, but isn’t the embodiment of truth what Christianity is all about? However, to restrict truth (with a capital T, as Francis Schaeffer used to say) to creation is to deny, in my opinion, ex-nihilo creation, and the pivotal role that God, the invisible, self-existent, source of all creation, has in determining what truth is. We must be careful not to confuse true with Truth. Evil is true, but not Truth. Truth, however, is embodied by necessity for us to experience and/or comprehend, in my opinion. To shout out 10 Commandment into a void of nothingness is ludicrous; so, it is only through embodiment that we are able to appropriate all Truth. Truth is, therefore, relational within the Trinity and by necessary extension to and through creation.

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  8. I have been for a long time intrigued with the idea of engaging in a discussion of “The Theology of Jesus of Nazareth,” with the starting point as, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

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  9. Jim,

    I’m going to tip my hand here, but I’m pretty skittish about overly expansive notions of Jesus as the “truth.” I’d argue–and this gets into the conversation you raise in #9–that ‘truth’ in John is specifically related to the OT covenant…

    Matt

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  10. One comment, here: ‘The truth” in John is on parallel with “The Way” and “The Life”; so, how do the later two correlate with “the true” in relation to the OT covenant?

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  11. Jim,

    That’s a good question. I think that they do have correlations, but I’ll have to think a bit more about that. Really, that’s a great, great question.

    matt

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