Monday, December 06, 2004

Reading Athanasius: Why YHWH Redeems

For VBCC’s October schola, we read Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. Ancient theologians are loquacious suckers, often needlessly so. I feel a certain kinship. That aside, I found one of his arguments compelling and possibly fruitful for discussion. Athanasius argues that the salvation of humanity is required for God to maintain his personal honor. In his view, not only are the divine image-bearers sinful and rebellious, but they are descending into nothingness.
…death had them completely under its dominion. For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again (1.4).
Since the Logos brought creation into being as a reflection of Himself, it would dishonor Him to surrender it to nothingness. Further, because sin results in the unraveling of human nature to death, it became necessary to renew and re-create human nature by exchanging places with men and bearing their deaths in his own body (2.7, 9). The Incarnation was necessary for this needful redemption:

The Word of God came in his own person, because it was he alone, the image of the Father, who could re-create man made after the image (3.13).

Athanasius illustrates this as a model posing again for the restoration of a painting. What we couldn’t be in our brokenness and rebellion, Jesus becomes for us, so that we can become like him. May God empower us to be his restored people.

In terms of comprehending the love of God and his dedication to people, this is a powerful idea that understands our help and healing as a matter of God’s honor and consistency with the works he has already purposed to perform. Those of us who have difficulty understanding how or why God would go to any lengths to love, heal and free us can see: God has staked himself on us completely.

More later.

1 comment:

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