On the singularity of the incarnation...

Is it appropriate to apply the word "incarnation" to mere men? I have been uneasy for some time about the use of the term "incarnational" to our attempts to make Jesus known. I see no warrant from Scripture to apply this term to our evangelism or ministries of mercy.

John Starke over at the Gospel Coalition has written a helpful piece addressing the use of the term "incarnational." He points out two problems with using the term to describe the mission of the church and the ministry of individual Christians:
1. We lose the sense of the incarnation's relation to the doctrine of God.
2. It confuses the incarnation of Jesus as merely being humble or modeling a certain kind of engagement.

Starke sums up by reminding us that the language used to describe the doctrine of Christ is very precious.

If church history teaches us anything, it’s that we are never in the clear of the threat of heresy. Therefore, we should be careful with our language as it relates to the person of Christ. My fear is that when we center our doctrine of Christ’s incarnation on his mission and therefore something we can emulate, the doctrine of Christ’s two natures will become optional and consequentially easily abandoned. The last step may not yet be apparent, but if we assume the deity and humanity of Christ without making it central to his incarnation, then we are only one step away from losing it.

In an email referring to the work I was doing on this article, Hirsch encouraged me to “respect the doctrine itself as well as those who are seeking to be missionally inspired by the model Christ gave us.” I hope I’ve done that. The work many of these pastors and Christian workers are doing is commendable, and their ministries are bearing solid fruit in very difficult places. We should honor such men. But I want to honor the doctrine of the incarnation, as Hirsch encouraged me to do, as well as Christ himself in pressing for language that clearly represents his person and work. In doing so, I think we have good reason to avoid describing our ministries with the term incarnational.
Read the entire article HERE.