The Incarnation and Nature

When St. Paul spoke of the “New Adam” in Romans, he was not merely referring to a new covenant in a legal/juridical sense but was referring to a new covenant through a new nature, a nature that we can inherit through Christ.

St. Ephrim the Syrian wrote:

“All these changes did the Merciful One make,

Stripping off glory and putting on a body (Philippians 2:5-7);

For He had devised a way to reclothe Adam

In that glory which he had stripped off.

He was wrapped in swaddling clothes,

Corresponding to Adam’s leaves,

He put on clothes

In place of Adam’s skins;

He was baptized for Adam’s sin,

He was embalmed for Adam’s death,

He rose and raised Adam up in His glory.

Blessed is He who descended, put on Adam and ascended!”

What was first meant to be through Adam we can now have through Christ! We can now become a part of God’s entire creative order in the natural sense. We can now become natural! This is a huge help with the very basics of theology and growth in Christ for a number of reasons.

Many times when a Christian makes reference to some thing or some action that is not natural many non-patristic Christians immediately put their guard up, assuming that nature is bad due to the fall in the Garden. This thinking is not within the realm of the new covenant, rather it is without the victory of the incarnation itself and the glory that follows it in the crucifixion and resurrection.

In the everyday complications of life it is hard to make black and white ethical distinctions through the specific legality and even general equity of the Law. But a Christian can much more easily say to themselves’ “this is not natural.”

I would refrain from placing this theology within the more common category of what is known as “natural law,” since that is more of a modern thought from the West. It has generally referred to how all people, even non-believers, have the Law written on their hearts to some extent. I take issue with this modern category of thought since it many times misrepresents New Testament thought. Jeremiah and Hebrews says that God writes His Law on the hearts of the believers, not the non-believers, yet so-called natural law theology rarely makes this important distinction: that people who are in Christ have an entirely different (more powerful) sense of the Law of God.

To be natural is to live in Christ! Living naturally means walking by the Spirit, who is one with the creative order in which we live in. ‘Creative Order’ can be said to be everything that God represents, from the air that we breath to the conversations that we embark on, to the choices that we make. We live not in a spirit-only world but in a world that has both Spirit as well as matter; a world that Christ makes whole through His Incarnation.

“He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen