When I reconnected with Christian spirituality two decades ago, probably the two most influential books in my spiritual development at the time were "Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition" by John Cobb and David Ray Griffin, and "God Has Many Names" by John Hick. (Since then, my thinking has been further influenced by the writings of Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan.) In subsequent years, I somehow managed to discard my copy of the Hick book, but recently I found a copy of it in a used bookstore and have found myself rediscovering how influential it has been in my thinking.
Just in time for Christmas, then, I offer here a comment that he makes in this book about the Christian idea of incarnation:
...it seems to me necessary to look again at the traditional interpretation of Jesus as God incarnate. Such a reconsideration is in any case required today by the realization that the historical Jesus almost certainly did not in fact teach that he was in any sense God; and also by the fact that Christian thought has not yet, despite centuries of learned attempts, been able to give any intelligible content to the idea that a finite human being, genuinely a part of our human race, was also the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient creator of everything other than himself. The proper conclusion to draw, as it seems to me, is that the idea of divine incarnation is a metaphorical (or, in technical theological language, a mythological) idea. When a truth or value is lived out in a human life, it is a natural metaphor to speak of its being incarnated in that life. Jesus lived in full openness to God, responsive to the divine will, transparent to the divine purpose, so that he lived out the divine agape within human history. This was not a matter of his being of the same substance as God the Father, or of his having two complete natures, one human and the other divine. Agape is incarnated in human life whenever someone acts in selfless love, and this occurred in the life of Jesus to a startling and epoch-making degree. Whether he incarnated self-giving love more than anyone else who has ever lived, we cannot know. But we do know that his actual historical influence has been unique in its extent.