With Christmas only four days away, I fear that many so-called “Calvinists” inadvertently limit the joy, comfort, and grandeur of the celebration by inadvertently limiting the scope of the Incarnation itself. Christmas is not just for the elect. The event to be celebrated brings with it a message of redemption to any and all who will hear and believe. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). The very nature of the Incarnation itself assures us of the universal right to forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who would hear and believe the Gospel of our Lord’s birth, death, and resurrection. And this should be of great comfort, not only to the believer’s own fearful heart, but to all of God’s image bearing creatures: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
This message is encapsulated in (probably) the most famous and oft quoted passage, John 3:16: “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In it, we see the motivation for the great Christmas event (God’s love), the event itself (God gave), and the universal nature of the message it proclaims (whoever).
While reading Joshua Torrey’s A Lying Spirit over the weekend, I began to ponder again Gregory of Nyssa’s view of the Incarnation and Atonement. The fit is quite natural, both considering “holy deception” (as Torrey calls it)—the former explaining and justifying, the latter applying to the cloaking of God in flesh.
Torrey reviews many examples of deception in the Bible, from God employing a lying spirit to deceive a wicked king, to Rahab’s concealment of the Hebrew spies in the City of Jericho, to Solomon’s baby splitting ruse, in each case quoting the approval God and the commendation of Biblical authors. The book itself is set against the backdrop of Project Veritas’s recent public outing of Planned Parenthood’s wicked and disgusting practices. Deception was plainly used in gaining access to the facilities and employees, earning their confidence and gathering information. The question is, were these methods Biblically justifiable? Torrey answers, “yes.” He bases this not only on many in-kind Biblical examples, but in particular on the apparent narrative theme of deception used to despoil the Deceiver, all in order to save life, subvert the forces of injustice, and further God’s own historical redemptive program.
But of most interest to me, relative to Gregory of Nyssa, is Torrey’s observation that,