Loss of Transcendence - Lesson 15

Embodiment and Self-Sacrifice

In this lesson, you will explore the concepts of embodiment and self-sacrifice as they appear in the New Testament, and their implications for Christian theology and practice. You will learn about the significance of Jesus' incarnation, the human body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of self-sacrifice as a Christian virtue. Furthermore, you will engage with theological reflections on embodiment and self-sacrifice and discover practical applications for contemporary Christian living.

James Houston
Loss of Transcendence
Lesson 15
Watching Now
Embodiment and Self-Sacrifice

TH730-15: Embodiment and Self-Sacrifice

I. Introduction to Embodiment and Self-Sacrifice

A. Biblical Context

B. Importance in Christian Theology

II. Embodiment in the New Testament

A. Jesus' Incarnation

B. Human Body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit

C. Implications for Christian Living

III. Self-Sacrifice in the New Testament

A. Jesus' Crucifixion

B. Paul's Teachings on Self-Sacrifice

C. Self-Sacrifice as a Christian Virtue

IV. Theological Implications and Applications

A. Theological Reflections on Embodiment and Self-Sacrifice

B. Practical Applications for Contemporary Christians

  • Explore the loss of transcendence in modernity, examining its historical and philosophical context, defining transcendence and immanence from biblical and historical perspectives, exploring the impact of various movements on theology, and considering responses to the loss of transcendence.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the Greek world's origins of language and culture, the evolution of Greek history and thought, and the differences between Greek and Roman history. By examining the works of Luke as a Roman historian, you will better understand the cosmic and intimate nature of Christian history.
  • The Christian historiographical revolution redefined history as linear and purposeful, contrasting with ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish approaches and profoundly impacting the study and writing of history.
  • In this lesson, you gain a deep understanding of the Dark Ages, the Reformation, and the factors that led to the loss and eventual restoration of transcendence in Christianity.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into the Reformation and Enlightenment's historical contexts, key figures, and events, as well as their impact on society, religion, and the loss of transcendence, ultimately discovering ways to reclaim transcendence in the modern world.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the loss of transcendence in modern society, its consequences, the role of Christianity in addressing the issue, and strategies for engaging with secular culture and promoting spiritual renewal.
  • This lesson teaches you about Radical Christianity, its importance, and how to cultivate it through deepening your relationship with God, prioritizing spiritual growth, and practicing radical love and social justice in a world experiencing a loss of transcendence.
  • Through this lesson, you grasp the factors contributing to the loss of biblical authority and learn strategies to reaffirm its importance in Christianity.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into contemporary biblical criticism, its methodologies, impact on theology, and learn to appreciate its contributions while recognizing its limitations.
  • By examining biblical criticism and its various forms, you gain insight into how Christians can respond thoughtfully, affirming Scripture's authority while engaging with criticisms and maintaining a commitment to truth.
  • By examining the loss of the soul, you'll understand its diminishing importance in modern life and learn to integrate science and spirituality for a holistic, transcendent perspective.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into classical interpretations of the soul and their interaction with Christian theology, while also understanding their modern theological implications.
  • This lesson equips you with a comprehensive understanding of the embodiment of faith, its historical development, theological implications, and practical applications in the Christian life.
  • By studying this lesson on embodiment in community, soul, and culture, you will learn how these concepts impact spiritual formation and shape your understanding of Christian faith and practice.
  • The lesson on embodiment and self-sacrifice offers insights into the New Testament, emphasizing Jesus' incarnation, the human body as the Holy Spirit's temple, and self-sacrifice as a key Christian virtue, while providing theological and practical applications.
  • This lesson equips you to understand the biblical concept of sin, the factors contributing to its loss, and offers practical steps to reintroduce sin in teaching and preaching for a more complete Christian faith.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the cardinal sins and their contemporary significance, learning how to identify and combat them in modern society for personal and spiritual growth.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into C.S. Lewis's critique of the loss of transcendence in modern society, his theological perspectives, and his emphasis on imagination in Christianity.
  • This lesson offers an in-depth analysis of the theological differences between Oxford and Cambridge and their impact on the loss of transcendence in modern theology.
  • What then did Lewis write about in The Abolition of Man? The symbol is that the immediate threat is not the abolition of man, but the abolition that there are men without chests. And he means that being without a chest is living two dimensionally and not three dimensionally. It’s not that you just live in space and time, but that you live with space, time and God or, indeed, space, time and morals. And so really it’s simply to live an amoral life. And you begin to lose your emotional life when you live with amorality.

  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jacques Ellul's critique of technological society, its consequences, theological implications, and the need for a countercultural response in the face of modern challenges.
  • This lesson guides you in understanding the loss of transcendence, seeking understanding, and retaining hope amidst the challenges of modern society.
  • You gain insight into Jacques Ellul's life, his views on the loss of transcendence, and the influence of his work on theology and society.
  • You will learn about the concept of technique in the modern world, its characteristics, societal effects, and the spiritual implications it holds for faith and transcendence.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the implications of technique on society, its challenges, and ways to respond from a biblical perspective, ultimately aiming to strengthen human connections and reclaim transcendence.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insights into the Psalms' structure, types, role in ancient worship, and their significance in modern Christian life, prayer, and spiritual growth.
  • In this lesson, you will explore the role of domestic involvement in the Psalter, its significance in Ancient Israel's worship, and the impact of the Psalms on the community, values, and beliefs.
  • Gain insights into the connection between biblical eschatology and secularity, understanding key aspects and themes while learning to reclaim the transcendent in eschatology.
  • This lesson offers insight into the theological tensions between immanence and transcendence, their impact on modern theology and worship, and the practical steps for reintegrating them into the Christian life.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the concepts of immanence and transcendence, their effects on theology and culture, and the importance of integrating both for a balanced Christian worldview.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into time and eternity, God's relationship with them, and their impact on human experience and theological concepts such as soteriology, eschatology, and Christian living.
  • Gain insight into Old Testament concepts of time, the role of numbers and patterns, the significance of time in biblical prophecy, and the theological implications concerning God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • This lesson provides insight into the New Testament's complex understanding of time, addressing concepts such as the Kingdom of God, the present age, and eternal life, and offering guidance for Christian living.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into the loss of transcendence in modern society and learn how to recover and foster a transcendent view within your personal faith and church life.

This course on the loss and recovery of transcendence in our contemporary culture is, of course, appropriate for all Christians, but, I think, especially for us here in North America, for the political prominence of a Christian religious culture that we’ve had in North America that makes us all the more exposed to the secularisation of contemporary Christianity. 

Dr. James Houston
Loss of Transcendence
Embodiment and Self-Sacrifice
Lesson Transcript


Speaker 1: Dr Houston, you mentioned in your lecture the embodiment of the faith of the Early Church martyrs, which followed with the embodiment of the ascetic life as another form of expression of faith. Wouldn’t you consider when you contributed to the foundation of Regent College with your focus on the laity, another form of embodiment of the faith by the self-sacrifice of students who leave their professions to study the Word of God at Regent College and to bring back that new understanding out into the workplace to become agents of change, both for themselves with what they bring with them when they leave Regent College?

Dr Houston: That’s a very important question and certainly is contemporary for us to consider. Yes, I’ve often told our students at Regent you have some wonderful professors to teach you there, but the most formative thing that Regent will be for the rest of your life is you took God seriously and, taking God seriously, you made a sacrifice. It was a sacrifice, perhaps, of your career. You’re giving up your job. You’re denying the significance of your profession as coming first in your life. And so the thing that will be of lasting importance is not what you’ve been taught, but the sacrifice that you yourself have made and that nothing is more important for the enrichment of the college than the sacrifice of our students. And so my life is so enriched today as I travel the world to meet with our former students that they’ve never forgotten that phase of self-sacrifice.

And I think today we have to recognise that self-sacrifice takes many shapes. Perhaps the most important shape is that our identity in Christ is more important than our professional identity, that who we are that we relate to in him is far more important than what we do professionally. That’s a major sacrifice in the boomer generation, that we’re denying that source of false identity. But then another sacrifice that many make is that they forfeit their denominations, that their denominational attachment was a loyalty that they never wanted to lose, but they decided that far more important than having a denominational identity [is 00:02:51] to have an identity as a mere Christian. That’s another sacrifice that they make. And so you could go on and see how imaginatively whatever is close and dear to us we give up because there’s a pearl of great price, of greater value than anything that we esteem or hold important. So yes, the essence of being a Christian is living a sacrificial life. How can we be the friends of the crucified if our own natural desires and appetites are not crucified in Christ as well? Are we going to suffer? How else can we be his friend without suffering? So we embody suffering as an expression of our identity with him. So there are many different aspects to it, but thank you for drawing attention to that today.


And so from there perhaps we now can conclude on this whole subject of the loss of transcendence in our culture by considering the complexity and the confusion that Christians have today about do we have souls? Is this a parlance that we’re holding onto any longer or don’t we? And just in the last three years, there have been debates that we had at the University of Biola and it’s a debate that, gently in the background, we’ve had with Fuller Seminary School of Psychology and the debate is on two levels. And the first debate is the whole issue that Dallas Willard once raised and that is psychology a valid Christian discipline. And he said it isn’t. And I agree with him. I think the premises of psychology are not the promises and premises of grace. And the problem that Christians have is if their profession is more important than their faith then, of course, they want to submit to the canons of their profession. And if the canons of the profession of the practice of psychology in California inhibits a Christian from speaking about the soul, what do you do? You want to remain within the practice, but how then can you speak definitively on your impression about what is the nature of the soul? So that’s a controversy that has arisen.

First of all, as I have written in an essay that’s being published this year by Biola as a result of our conference that we had two years ago, or three years ago, to me, all the different disciplines of psychology are like the proverbial five blind men describing an elephant. There’s cognitive psychology, that’s blinkered by seeing things in a hypercognitive way. There is social psychology, that sees things very much more in terms of the contemporary culture. There is child psychology, which is looking in terms of paediatric professional backgrounds starting with Froebel, which is good, but again there are issues that one could question even in that field. There is comparative psychology, when you’re viewing it culturally in different cultures. And on and on you can go with the different branches of psychology. But the blind spot of a professional mindset is that it’s always tunnel vision. You’re never seeing the whole picture. You have to analyse endlessly. And so one of the breakthroughs of being postmodern is that we’ve broken the spell of high cognitive understanding to give more space for the emotions. And that’s good and to understand that, therefore, there’s a much wider picture than that.


Well now, to come to the issue of evangelicals discussing whether we have a soul or not, the origin of this thinking of questioning that goes back to the invention of radar in the early 1930s. And it was Sir Robert [Watson-Watt 00:08:23], who was an [Oxford 00:08:25] physicist, who saved Britain in the Battle of Britain by the invention of radar. His colleagues, and one of them was a friend of mine, that followed on after the war moved from radar to the whole issue of human intelligence and of the use of robots. And so now there’s a whole new issue over if you have a fascination with artificial intelligence and with the robotic, you’ve totally lost all concept of soul. And even Christians who’ve been in this field are somewhat tenuous as to is the language of the soul a good language to have. So that’s where the debate started. And I remember in the early 1970s we were already beginning to struggle with the issue that we’ll talk about later and that is to say of the reductionism of contemporary criticism, or contemporary thinking of things in the world around us.

It’s sad then when Christians, for the sake of upholding their profession, are denying the category of the soul because it’s not in the canons of the professional bodies like the psychiatric professional body in California. So one of the huge dilemmas that the school of psychology in Fuller has that it’s independent of the school of theology. I had on the board, when I was on the board, voted against any separation to schools. Once you start schools, you start tunnel visions. What I urged the founding of psychology at their alternative university was don’t separate the department of theology from the department of psychology, bind them together. It’s a much healthier approach. And then you won’t be so seduced because you’re not really speaking to the professional gallery. You still want to have graduates who are employable in the marketplace, so that’s a tension. And it’s a tension that won’t go away.