>Gen X meets the fourth Century or “Who’s afraid of the Incarnation?”

Posted: 13/08/2009 in book review, douglas coupland, incarnation

I often lament the perceived exclusiveness of “doctrine” and “spirituality” or between “religion” and “relationship.” It is strange to me that because something is traditional or put in religious terms that is no longer relevant to the contemporary, unchurched, and unsaved individual. Two of my favorite books I think show otherwise. The first was written by a poster child of Generation X. The second was written by fourth century saint. One cannot get much farther apart than that.

Douglas Coupland wrote a collection of short stories entitled “Life After God.” These stories speak to the first generation that was raised without religion. Now, they make up much the professional work force. The current generation of 20-somethings is no more raised with religion than the Gen X’s were. I still find many of these stories heart-wrenching and emotional. One of my favorite quotes is “we have religious impulses – we must– and yet into what cracks do these impulses flow in a world without religion?”

Saint Athanasius was a famous saint of the fourth century. His book,” De Incarnatione Verbi Dei” (On the Incarnation of the Word of God) is seminal classic of Christian thought. Athanasius wrote it to expound on and explain the Incarnation against the doctrines of Arius which denied, among other things, the idea that Jesus Christ was both 100% God and 100% human. Clearly, one does not get more “religious” than this. I found this book incredibly easy to read. I find very little except scripture to be as equally inspiring.

Despite their vastly different cultures and times, both of these authors talk about God using the same simile. One uses it to describe those religious impulses with nowhere to flow. The other uses it describe the dramatic immanence of God in the world.

I was wondering what the ceremony itself would be like –it was like wondering about a coronation- of the old king being dead –long live the new king. I was wondering about trumpeters raising their horns, of the crowds-of the world somehow becoming new again in the process.

Life After God

Here is the second quote.

For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word’s indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all. You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honoured, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled…

De Incarnatione

These two passages hardly need further commentary. It is as if Coupland says, “I want God to be like a king. I want him excite and inspire us the same way those mythical just rulers do.” St Athanasius says, “God is like a king. In fact, he is the only just and right king. Through the Incarnation, he lived among us and continues to work in our world to this day.”

It should not be said, I think, that religious doctrines and old tomes aren’t relevant to contemporary culture. The parallels here are far too close. The spiritual experiences of Christians are never far from the doctrines we expound.

Clearly, I have shown my Christian hipster stripes with this blog, but thanks for reading.

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  1. James says:

    >I think the exclusivity that you observe between spirituality is really a function of entropy. I think that things get lost on people when they no longer understand why traditions/liturgy are in place or what they mean. Likewise, when you do not understand a great writer like some of the early church fathers due to translation of the fact that the original writing is in old English, people lose the meaning in these things. When meaning is lost, it moves from 'relational' to 'religeon' and from 'spiritual' to 'doctrine'. This is understandable to some degree, but on the other hand, this happens with the scripture itself. I often wonder if we as a church had done a better job of explaining the meaning of scripture through good exegesis if we would not see more people who identify themselves as christian…

  2. Jin-roh says:

    >"Spritual Entropy"That is a concept that warrents a lot of consideration.Gold star, James.

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