Incarnation or Reincarnation?
The “no crying” chubby little thing in the manger, captured with Hallmark brilliance, fails to express the essence of the event that took place in human history two millennia ago. That event profoundly impacts our idea of human identity, about which we hear so many theories two thousand years later. Backed by “deeply researched progressive” laws, we now proudly affirm our right to self-identify, changing or creating our identity by the slightest whim or fantasy.
- Some now claim to be animals. The “otherkin” community, for example, believes they have a non-human or animal soul or ancestry, inherited through the vagaries of reincarnation. This allows them to say: “In the last life I was a cat so it is perfectly normal that I have feline desires in this one.”
- An 18-year-old kid from Buffalo believes he is a wolf and wants to change his name legally from Matthew to “Shiro Themian” so he can “officially” be a wolf. He has friends who believe they are a tiger, a leopard and a raccoon—quite a menagerie!
- A fifty-two-year-old father of seven children now claims he is a six-year-old girl—and who can say he is not?
- Many claim to be the opposite of the sexual biology with which they were born. Men reinvent themselves as drag queens and become television stars.
Where will this vast experiment in self-reinvention take us? It conjures the image of the Mos Eisley cantina on the desert planet Tatooine, from Star Wars: A New Hope. In this unforgettable scene, all kinds of beings—human and mostly inhuman—of bizarre shapes and sizes, engage in strange and incomprehensible social contacts in an eerie prophecy of where we might be going. And where is that? The New Hope will be a society of “diversity,” shorn of any bothersome celebrations of Christmas. Each person celebrates “Winter Holiday” in a self-defined gender, imposing on friends a family of preferred pronouns. This world will not be the much-desired harmonious “one” so much as a cacophonic madhouse of self-obsessed narcissists.
It is indeed a joy to the world that the Bible gives us a magnificent definition of human identity, which is solid and sure. We are “made in God’s image, male and female” (Genesis 1:27), which is the God-ordained basis of human relationships. For this good reason we are not allowed to make images of God from the stuff of this created order (Exodus 20:4), nor may we make images even of ourselves by redefining who we would like to be. Only God is the image-maker, and he made the image of the human being, bestowing it with great significance to reflect who he is. The gift of this image is the gift of human dignity. It is the gift of the baby in the manger in Bethlehem.
The birth of this unique man-child in the little town of Bethlehem long ago brings sanity to humanity, and especially to our time of revolutionary change. The man Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,…[and] in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:15-19). Jesus is the final revelation of God in human form, for two reasons:
- so that fallen human beings can understand in a definitive way who the great God of the universe is, as a God of love and condescension. and,
- so that we could know who we were meant to be. God’s people were predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). In this life, those who are in Christ Jesus become more and more like him and in the future, “just as we have borne the image of the man of dust (the original Adam), we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (the second Adam who came from heaven to save us and who will resurrect us—1 Corinthians 15:49).
The human male baby, born of a woman created in God’s image, is what the Creator gives us at Christmas time. Jesus is the perfect image of who we were meant to be. Thus, we need the incarnation, not reincarnation. We need the final revelation of God in human form, who, bearing our sins, died on the Cross for us and was raised from the dead in newness of life. Instead of eternal reincarnation with the fiction of returning in animal forms, we need the sure hope of resurrection, which is the glorification of our sinful, mortal human bodies, into the likeness of the resurrected Jesus.
Of all the gifts this Christmas, may God’s gift of his Son fill you with great joy!
Dr. Peter Jones is scholar in residence at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif. He is director of truthXchange, a communications center aimed at equipping the Christian community to recognize and effectively respond to the rise of paganism.