[Present Perfect] Chapter 6: Being Present

What does the Incarnation mean to you?

There are some Christians like Bishop John Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg who want to throw out the belief that Christ is God made flesh. They argue that it is scientifically impossible, unfathomable to modern minds, and all in all not as necessary to the Christian journey as people have previously thought. In the pursuit of academic or scientific credibility, important beliefs and doctrines get thrown out for little reason other than it is “unreasonable”.

If the Incarnation is something that can truly be tossed in the trash, what effect does it have on the Gospel? Boyd reminds us that “the incarnation wasn’t just about what God did once upon a time in Jesus. Because Jesus reveals who God really is, the incarnation tells us something about what God is always doing… God is always embodying himself in the world”. Boyd connects Jesus’ incarnation with our call as Christians to be the Body of Christ. What Christians and the Church do in the world is what Jesus is doing in the world.

For Boyd, we are called to live incarnationally. We are supposed to deny ourselves comfort and status to show others the Body of Christ. Sometimes this is referred to as dying to yourself, but Boyd shifts this so that you dying to yourself is something that you continually do.

Becoming a Christian isn’t something that happens like a flash in the pan, but something that happens and then happens over and over again. There are some caveats to the path that Boyd lays out. Living incarnationally is still very much focused on how you affect the world in the name of the Lord. It is mostly about how you live out the Gospel and not about what God is doing through you.

The exercises at the end of the chapter are particularly moving. I found the “Imagine the Child” and “Imagine the Prequel” difficult, in the best kind of way. Boyd uses Osama Bin Laden as an example of someone to practice this on. When it was announced that Bin Laden had been assassinated, I had a very hard time reconciling the Gospel with the response to the news. I could not shake the fact that Bin Laden was once a child, and despite being dag-nasty evil, probably didn’t deserve to be woken up with a bullet to the brain. I’m still not to a firm place with this issue, but this chapter was very helpful.

As Christians, we are called to radically love and forgive even those who seem impossible to forgive. We forget that it is God who does things through us. The funny thing about this idea of living incarnationally is that it is something that we can do by ourselves. It is because of the living Word, Jesus, his death and Resurrection that we are able to do this.

Now we just need to figure out why…

This post is part of a 7-part series on Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now by Greg Boyd. For other posts in this series, click here.


Zane Dukes is from the eternally radioactive city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is currently a senior in political science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Zane enjoys talking about the complexities of life, including and not limited to Seinfeld, Indiana Jones, and Jeff Goldblum. He likes rowing, snowboarding, Frisbee, and Nyan cat.