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Jens Zimmermann: Incarnational Humanism

In Zimmermann’s explanation, God became man so that man may attain godlikeness as foundation of western culture (p. 163). Character formation, dignity, freedom, rights, language, and faith-reason are part of this participatory ontology; divine truth invites humanity to participate in the divine light. Christological personalism, combined with platonic idealism, brings about the vision of true humanism, and in that sense, renaissance’s project is not a quest for conceiving immanence that is devoid of transcendence or a secularizing self-creation (p. 188). One may read Zimmermann’s book as a bold declaration that anti-humanistic streams of thought could not continue its march triumphantly, albeit that some readers then and now still read western, continental philosophy and history in that anti-Christian secularist frame of reference. Zimmermann’s broad review however shows that the vision of the anti-Christian humanists were but partial and incomplete, and thus, humanists could not realize their vision when they remove the roots to their growing plant.

Transcendence and immanence meet as God’s presence in the world and in the church.

Zimmermann did not write for renewal folks in mind. Nonetheless, Zimmermann’s institution has actively sponsored researches and conferences on aspects of renewal Christian studies, for instance, with funding to his colleague, Michael Wilkinson’s sociological study of transitional movements of Canadian Pentecostalism. More importantly, Pentecostals who embrace the manifold manifestations of the many tongues of the Spirit, also witness to the manifold works of God the Creator both in the Church and in the world, would concur with the value of recovering a participatory and sacramental ontology for conceiving God-world relations. The inbreaking Spirit, who not only blows where it wills, but who also sees the world as parish for divine grace and transformation, would have recognized no limits to what the Abba through Christ has accomplished on the resurrection; the ascent to the Father’s right hand is a declaration that not only death has lost its stint on creation, but that through Christ, the redemption of the world awaits a glorious unfolding. The presentation of the sacramentality of the church in the redemption of all creation in chapter six would also offer some value for those interested to construct a more vigorous Pentecostal sacramentality.

Also, with this book, those who tend to conceive life in dualistic categories of temporal and eternal may have to rethink their terms of reference. Here, Zimmermann shows that Foucault has terribly misread the Christian journey as that of “rushing through [this] life toward the next” (p. 182). God’s presence permeates the world. Therefore, the temporal life is not unimportant when compared to the eschatological life to come. Dualistic categories of sacred and secular, inherited from Platonic theory of forms, would not adequately explain the incarnational model that Christ has inaugurated. And along the same lines, readers would then have to ask themselves if they would have to revise a dichotomized view of reality: sacred vs. secular, temporal vs. eternal, and other dualisms, especially if they embrace the incarnational ministry of Christ, who have came to bridge barriers and cross boundaries.

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Category: In Depth

About the Author: Timothy Teck Ngern Lim, M.Div. (BGST, Singapore), Ph.D. (Regent University), is a Visiting Lecturer for London School of Theology and Research Tutor for King's Evangelical Divinity School (London). He is on the advisory board of One in Christ (Turvey) and area book review editor for Evangelical Review of Society & Politics. He is an evangelical theologian ordained as a Teaching Elder with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has published in ecclesiology, ecumenical theology, and interdisciplinarity. A recent monograph published entitled Ecclesial Recognition with Hegelian Philosophy, Social Psychology, and Continental Political Theory: An Interdisciplinary Proposal (Brill, 2017).

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