The Personalist Project

If you were God, and you wanted to rescue the human race from sin and death, how would you go about it?

If you saw murder and lies and blame-mongering springing up and snowballing from the very beginnings of history, would you bide your time for thousands of years, gradually revealing yourself and your teachings, and then arrange an incarnation? When the time finally came, would you start out as a two-celled organism and spend nine more long months quietly bonding with your Mama, while things on the outside got worse and worse?

Would you bother being born into a particular culture, speaking a certain language with a certain accent?

Once you'd finally gotten started, would you devote thirty years to inconspicuous manual labor, never letting on who you were, content to be known as "the carpenter's son"? Would you choose an era when most people were illiterate--no printing press, no telephone, no satellite communications, no Twitter? Would you plan the Sermon on the Mount without publicizing it as a Facebook Event first? Would you neglect to even write a single book?

And would you then befriend twelve unpromising-looking guys and begin making your way--on foot!--around a tiny sliver of land, only to walk open-eyed into mortal danger and cut it all short three years later? Would you coordinate your plan with the free will of every well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning klutz you met along the way?

How inefficient can you get?

Take it all in all, God clearly doesn't look on these things the way we do. What, then, was the tradeoff? For the sake of what, exactly, did He reject a more professional approach to advertising the salvation product and maximizing His market share by expert branding and promotion?

It comes down--surprise, surprise!--to His insistence on treating persons like persons. His name shall be called Emmanuel, it says: God with us. He became a human person, He didn't disguise Himself as one. He was conceived, if not in the usual way, in a way that set Him on a trajectory to live a life like ours from the very beginning, so that we would truly have "something in common." He depended on His mother's body and his foster-father's good will for nine months and beyond, developing His personality (if that makes theological sense) in the midst of everyday life with His people. He fostered real friendships with his disciples, too: even though He had a particular mission for them, He didn't think of them as employees in His marketing department.

And think of this: if He hadn't taken so long, billions fewer of us would have had the chance to come into existence. He could, as He said, have raised up children of Abraham or anyone else out of the stones, but instead allowed us to grow into an enormous family over the course of millennia.

Not the way it would have occurred to us to arrange things.

Then again, it's a good thing it wasn't up to us.

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Comments (2)

Sam Roeble

#1, Jan 6, 2017 12:39pm

Great piece.  But have you considered "Hark the Herald Angel's Sing"'s contribution? 

"Late in time, behold him come/offspring of the Virigin's Womb"

BXVI calls the "fullness of time" in his Jesus of Nazareth the precise moment in history when the Roman Empire spanned the globe with one common language and Caesar Augustus' world census.  It is hard to argue that the world was not "ready" at this point in time--although, am I misunderstanding you here?

Devra Torres

#2, Jan 6, 2017 1:07pm

No, you're right--I just mean, for someone from today, for whom it's impossible to imagine no phone, no internet, no marketing! I don't doubt that it really was the fullness of time, nor that even we can see why that time made sense! 

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