I just happened to notice a piece of this on the back of a piece of recycled photocopy paper that my wife was using to scribble some notes this morning, and looked it up on the internet: “The Birth of Jesus Never Saved Anyone” by Marc Kolden of Luther Northwestern Seminary. It is from 1991, so hardly current, but the question is an interesting one: what was the significance of the birth of Jesus in the plan of salvation?
The New Testament does not think salvation or the new birth occurs through Jesus’ actual historical birth or through any sort of birth of Christ in us. The birth of Jesus as such is not redemptive. Redemption for the New Testament writers as well as for the early church involved principally Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our rebirth is not a participation in Christ’s birth but in his death and resurrection.1 The writings of the apostle Paul and of John have been most influential here: insisting that the church is born on the cross, that the Spirit through the word and sacraments make the cross effective in us, and that our witness is to be to Christ crucified and risen….
The birth of Christ in itself never saved anyone, but in the whole career of Jesus—his birth, teachings, deeds, crucifixion, and resurrection—the God of heaven and earth has drawn near to redeem us, and this work is being carried to completion even
His point is fair enough, and I take his point, but I do find it interesting that this is a Lutheran theologian saying this. What would an Orthodox theologian say? It is characteristic of Lutheranism to emphasis the Cross over the Birth of Jesus… Perhaps the question would be clearer if we were to ask whether the INCARNATION “saved anyone”? Although John 1:14 is only one verse in the entire scripture, it does seem to point to a saving significance of the incarnation which must be emphasised in a full doctrine of salvation. The Incarnation was certainly a turning point in the history of God’s dealing with mankind…
Perhaps it is simply the rather bold way that Kolden phrases his statement in order to make his point that niggles. Anyway, over to you.