The Incarnation: ‘The Unassumed is the Unhealed’

‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ (John 1:14)

Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. This is the wondrous truth of the Incarnation. And, seeing as it’s December, I have a very good excuse to write about it a few times. So, what I want to do is this: I want to look at the truth of the Incarnation through some really important sayings from the early church that so well sum up biblical truth that they’re still being handed down today. The technical word for these is theologoumena. A theologoumenon is a short, piffy theological statement that sums up an important point of doctrine in a memorable sentence. They’re sort of like the Tweets that have kept on being retweeted for centuries upon centuries. (Actually, techinically, at least one of the expressions we’ll look at is dogma and not theologoumena, but that’s a technical distinction for another place.)

So today, for our first handed-down saying from the ancient church, let’s meet Gregory Nazianzus, who said:

‘The Unassumed is the Unhealed’

Gregory of Nazianzus coined this phrase when writing to protect his flock against false teachers who denied that Jesus had a human soul or mind. Gregory’s argument was this: the whole of our humanity fell in Adam, and so the whole of our humanity needs to be saved. If Christ had only taken on part of our humanity, then only part of our humanity could be saved. So, if any aspect of our humanity was not assumed by Christ in the Incarnation, then it couldn’t be healed by Him in salvation. And so the false teachers who claimed that Jesus didn’t have a human soul or a human mind, and so that He hadn’t taken on our full humanity, ‘begrudge us our entire salvation.’

Gregory, you see, realised that the Incarnation isn’t some sort of speculative, abstract doctrine. No, not at all! The Incarnation is a very practical doctrine, because, as Gregory of Nazianzus saw, the Incarnation is so intimately connected to our salvation.

If Christ had only assumed a body, if He had not taken to himself a true human soul with a true human mind and emotions, then salvation would only be for the body and there would be no salvation for our souls. But thanks be to God that the Lord Jesus Christ has assumed full humanity so that we may know a full salvation.