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Incarnation

A central doctrine of the Christian faith which affirms that God took human form in the body of Christ. In other words, God was 'in-carnated' in human flesh. This doctrine is based on the fundamental paradox that because God was incarnated in Christ, Christ was both fully human and fully God at the same time. Of course, there were rival opinions regarding the exact nature of God's incarnation. For example, some claimed that Christ was not fully embodied by the divine (Arianism), while others claimed that he only had a divine nature (Monophysism). The doctrine of incarnation that is now commonly agreed upon - that Christ was both fully human and fully God - was formalized as the "Nicene Creed" in the 4th century in Nicea.

The doctrine of incarnation is particularly relevant for understanding the relationship between time and eternity, as well as the finite and the infinite. For instance, if Christ fully embodied God, then the infinite can be seen as having immanence in the natural world and human experience. In fact, the doctrine of the incarnation expresses the importance of this immanence, because one's life can be transformed in the finite world through knowledge and experience of the eternal in Christ.

In connection to the doctrine of incarnation, modern scholarship of the Gospels has raised questions about the limits of Christ's knowledge, and how such limits might come to bear on the nature of his divinity. In other words, if Christ was not fully God, as his cry from the cross "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" would suggest, then how is Christ's relationship to God changed? Such questions continue to stimulate discussion among theologians, particularly in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity.

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