Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Incarnational Word Choice

Word selection is one of those odd things -- it can evoke a lot of meaning in ways that are hard to define, and so we often find ourselves having strong reactions to a phrase for reasons that are too instinctual to get at very clearly.  One of these, for me, is the phrase "Christ Event" when used to describe Christ's life, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection. 

Whenever I hear the phrase I have a strong negative reaction towards the speaker or writer, and the closest I can get to explaining why is to say that talking about "the Christ Event" rather than "the incarnation" or some other more traditional phrase suggests to me some sort of distancing from a traditional understanding of what the Incarnation is.

Yet, I'm unable to quantify what I even think is being rejected.  It just feels and sounds wrong.

9 comments:

Theocoid said...

To me, it implies a single point in time as opposed to a lifetime, as if perhaps Christ was only Christ at one moment of His earthly existence, or that He became Christ at some point other than at conception. It almost hints at adoptionism.

geeklady said...

"Christ Event" sounds like something that happened, and not someone.

bearing said...

I am with Theocoid: The main problem is that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is a whole timeline, not an "event."

Darwin said...

If I had to put my finger on it, I think more than anything else it sounds both impersonal and experiential rather than factual. "Christ Event" sounds kind of like it's something a bunch of people experienced, each in their own way, rather than God actually becoming man.

That is not, to my knowledge, how the phrase is meant. But it's how it sounds to me. And I find it a bit harder to brush that impression off given that those who use it already clearly feel they need to use a different phrase than "Incarnation".

Brandon said...

I think it's actually not far from how it is sometimes used, i.e., to contrast with the historical Jesus, directly or indirectly: in such a usage it's a sort of placeholder meaning something like, "whatever it was that led the early church to think that Jesus was Crucified and Risen Christ". Obviously this can be understood orthodoxly, but it doesn't require that it be understood orthodoxly, and, what is more, it seems pretty clearly rigged so it doesn't have to. That's pretty much the reason I don't like it: the Church defines and academia undefines.

Karen E. said...

It reminds me of this, from Flannery O'Connor: "There is no sense of the power of God that could produce the Incarnation and the Resurrection. They are all so busy explaining away the virgin birth and such things, reducing everything to human proportions that in time they lose even the sense of the human itself, what they were aiming to reduce everything to."

Myth said...

Saying 'The Incarnation' implies a major thing. It's not 'an incarnation' like just some thing that happened, it's an acknowledgement of importance. Whereas "The Christ Event" could be seen in the same way as "The event" and doesn't particularly seperate it out from the normal. It's just some thing that happened. It doesn't even tell what happened - like they're trying to explain it all away.

At least, that's what bothers me about the useage.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

I've used the term to refer to the unified events of Christ's Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension--basically the historical time period of Christ on earth. The singularity of the word "event" stresses the unity of each of those moments.

Do you have a preferable term in mind that would capture the whole of those actions? Or do you think it better to name them individually?

Fred said...

Having feelings or reactions is not exactly an objection. I guess it all depends upon whether strange words open us up to a deeper experience, or whether indeed, they're strange precisely to put distance between the Christian experience and daily life. I do recall Pope Benedict using the word event as an invitation to a deeper relationship with Christ in Deus Caritas Est: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."