One of the words that I use a lot, but probably need to retire because it is so esoteric, is “incarnational.” I got it because I have grown up in Circle of Hope. One of our main mantras is that Jesus is best revealed incarnationally. Translated without the Christianese? It means that the Gospel is best delivered personally. That is my main saying when I talk to someone about Circle of Hope. The story of the Gospels, these four biographies of Jesus that are in the Bible, is about Jesus, God himself, coming to earth in human form, in the flesh (literally incarnationallity), to relate to us, to know us. He came in his own body to save our bodies from death. He came to conquer death and save us from perishing, as John 3:16 says (the “perish” part of that memory verse seems to be so often overlooked, right?).
Paul would go on to continue with the incarnational, or body, theme. He calls the church that formed after Christ’s resurrection and ascension the body of Christ. We are now the incarnational presence of Jesus on earth and we have a big responsibility. We need to act like Jesus himself did and share the Gospel personally, not propositionally. Our Cell Plan has a whole section about how big of a deal this is for us. Allow me to share it:
Believing enables belonging
· Gospel information is presented
· Hearers are called to make a decision about Jesus
· If an affirmative decision is made, the person is welcomed into the church.
· Then friendship is extended to the person
· The convert is trained for service in ministry by being separated from their oikos.
· A disciple is trained in the brain
· The church focuses on how many people have made confessions of faith
Belonging enables believing
· A genuine, spiritual friendship between a Christian and a non-follower is built.
· The non-follower sees authentic faith and ministry lived openly and participates in it.
· The gospel is naturally present in word and deed within the friendship and cultures meet respectfully.
· Inclusion in the love and life of the church precedes conversion to Jesus.
· The church celebrates the conversion of their friend and honors their mission in their oikos.
· A disciple experiences apprentice-ship.
· The church focuses on transfor-mation and relies on God to cause growth.
You may have seen something similar before—often it is called “relational evangelism.” “Incarnational” is something of a buzz word these days among the new, hip Christian subculture. But it is saying something more than offering a strategy for how to include people into the body. It is saying something about how important our bodies are.
When my cell was talking about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator the other day, I was reminded at how intuitive I am. People have told me that I tend to make decisions and react based on my gut—one of my mentors quoted Paul in telling me that, “your God is not your belly.” Part of the problem with that tendency though is that I’m not so in touch with my body and I don’t particularly get out there physically very much. I enjoy riding my bike, but if you want to go on a hike or camping, it’ll feel more like a chore for me. I’ll do it for love, but not for enjoyment. But I’m well-acquainted with my need to get into my own body because bodies are so important to our movement and our faith.
I was again reminded of this when my friend Nate posted this article form Gizmodo on Facebook: When Superintelligent AI Arrives, Will Religions Try to Convert It? My first answer: “You need a body, not just a mind.” Our faith isn’t just about figuring our principles, nor is it reserved for the superintelligent. We aren’t just assenting to some cerebral truth that needs to be processed, we are entering into a greater experience that involves our whole beings.
Nate asked me about the disembodied experience: what if your consciousness was uploaded into a machine? Well, even then, you are more than your consciousness. Those schooled in psychodynamic theory have long held this belief—it is a rare day with Freud and Paul agree so obviously!
What if the AI had a body, then, Holly asked? Well, even if one’s mind is housed in a body, it is much different than the total fullness of the human being, created in the Image of God. We have the potential to be saved because of how we are ordered, and how we are made in God’s image.
This is a revolutionary idea because we are so often dehumanized by the state, while it props itself and the corporations that fund it as beings too, full with “human rights.” Because we need bodies to be saved, I resist the notion that a nation-state or a corporation (or a political movement or party, mind you) can be “Christian.” Who assigns me my human rights then, is the one who created me. It is the one to whom I am related. The one who gives me my human, no, my God-given rights, is Jesus.
The body is really important to the believer, and though the mind is part of us, so is strength, heart, and soul, even. Our life in Christ is one whole cloth and it isn’t particularly biased toward what is reasonable, emotional, spiritual, or physical. That kind of dichotomous thought is incomplete. There is much more to your conversion than simple cognitive agreement, and there is much more to you than your brain, as wondrous as it is.