The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age, Second Edition

In this groundbreaking work, John Hick refutes the traditional Christian understanding of Jesus of Nazareth. According to Hick, Jesus did not teach what was to become the orthodox understanding of him: that he was God incarnate who became human to die for the sins of the world. Further, the traditional dogma of Jesus’ two natures–human and divine–cannot be explained satisfactorily, and worse, it has been used to justify great human evils. Thus, the divine incarnation, he explains, is best understood metaphorically. Nevertheless, he concludes that Christians can still understand Jesus as Lord and the one who has made God real to us. This second edition includes new chapters on the Christologies of Anglican theologian John Macquarrie and Catholic theologian Roger Haight, SJ.

Review & Commentary

  • tom gillooly

    I agree with Hicks and others that Jesus did not teach he was God incarnate and that the human/divine dogma is problematic – especially given the way incarnation has been understood. However divine incarnation (Divinity in Humanity) in Jesus and its possibility in humanity is not simply metaphor. If we accept that God is Love and that the most “human” among us are those that love or live lives of compassionate concern towards others then it appears that one becomes and is most Human to the degree that they Love. Another way to say this is that one becomes and is Human if and only if they incarnate Divinity: Love becomes flesh in them.

    Jesus was recognized as a man in whom God Lived, as the Man who by living a life (and death) of compassionate concern enable Divinity to become Flesh/Present in his world.

    Divinity in Humanity is our possibility – our only possibility – and Hope is for the ‘day’ when God is All in all, when Divinity fully resides in Humanity. In that “moment” it is on earth as it is in Heaven because they are One.

  • tom gillooly

    I just read, learned from and greatly enjoyed John Hick’s book on the Metaphor of God Incarnate. Great writer, profound thinker and I was sad to learn he had died just a few months ago. He also devoted a chapter to John Macquarrie one of my favorite theologians. John Hick is now a favorite.

    I am not tied to Nicaea/Chalcedon (pre-existence) or theism and understand that all “God” language is our understanding of the Real. However I allow that incarnation is more than incarnating the divine purpose for human life, more than a love that reflects the divine love (Hick).

    I allow that there is a greater intimacy with the Real/Being than this language seems to indicate: so called human love, such as evident in the life of Jesus (and other figures through history), is Divinity. All love is Being present/incarnate in Humanity to complete Creation. Love is Humanity doing/being what Divinity/Being Is. We become Human by doing Divinity (embodiment), we become Human by being Love. Such openness is also obedience as we make important in our lives what is important to God.

    A friend told me his favorite quote for understanding God: God is the Dance, we are the dancers. But if you have ever seen a little kid dancing at a wedding it is apparent that at some point there is only Dancing. So too if God is Love and we are the lovers – at some point there is only Loving. There is Oneness.

    God/Reality/Divinity/Being is something to do, something to Be. This is the intimacy of man in God (and I always experience myself as created.)