Divine Becoming: Rethinking Jesus and Incarnation

Divine Becoming: Rethinking Jesus and Incarnation

Divine Becoming: Rethinking Jesus and Incarnation

Divine Becoming: Rethinking Jesus and Incarnation


The universally human element of Jesus' incarnation

Despite the feverish pace of publishing in historical Jesus studies, biblical scholars and theologians have not notably progressed in addressing the meaning and significance of the figure of Jesus in ways credible for contemporary persons.

In this creative and insightful work, Burns seeks to understand the significance of Jesus and his incarnation through the category of participation. The central theological claims in the traditional concept of incarnation are anchored and illumined by Jesus' particular ability for empathy, sympathy, attunement, and entrainment. This notion, derived from the psychological research of Daniel Stern, allows Burns to show that incarnation - the capacity to participate in the life of others - is present not only in Jesus but to some extent in all people and in all religions. It further illumines features of God's trinitarian life and our lifelong journey into God (deification).


Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord
teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in
manhood, truly God and truly man.


The problem of how to understand the figure of Jesus has plagued Christianity from the outset. It is one of history’s great ironies that controversy over Jesus’ identity has at times flared so intensely that the foundations of the faith were threatened. In fact, contention over the divinity and humanity of Jesus during the early centuries made Christianity seem unfaithful to Jesus’ message. The formative years (especially the fourth century) were turbulent times when believers and theologians literally took christological debate to the streets. Exile, excommunication, imprisonment, riots, church burnings, military maneuvers, political machinations, covert operations aimed at discrediting prominent bishops, even beatings and torture: all were employed by devout Christians campaigning over what was to become the orthodox Christian interpretation of the incarnation, formalized at Chalcedon in 451 C.E. It is an embarrassment to the faith that so much violence was employed in working out the doctrine of God incarnate.

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