On the Incarnation of the Word 1 – Creation and Renewal

There are few works to which I return time and again as I do with Athanasius’ classic, On the Incarnation of the Word. I think sometimes Christians seem to forget just how strange a story the Incarnation actually is or how central it is to our faith. In this series I will reflect on each section of the work in turn. I will quote only segments of each section most weeks, so you might want to read the whole section first yourself in the opening link.

Today we begin with the Introduction. Athanasius is tying this work to his earlier one, Against the Heathen. I want to focus on this theme in particular.

It is, then, proper for us to begin the treatment of this subject by speaking of the creation of the universe, and of God its Artificer, that so it may be duly perceived that the renewal of creation has been the work of the self-same Word that made it at the beginning. For it will appear not inconsonant for the Father to have wrought its salvation in Him by Whose means He made it.

As it was through the Word that all things were created, it is through the Word that all things are made new. Thus Paul writes to Corinth:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

I’ve heard others describe the emphatic nature of Paul’s writing in Greek. Something like, “Anyone in Christ, new creation!” In Revelation, we see at the end the Alpha and Omega on the throne proclaiming, “Behold, I make all things new!” The Incarnation then begins as the story of the creator God entering his creation, becoming part of his creation, in order to save and renew it.

This is important. It sometimes seems to me that Christians often start with the Fall in Genesis 3, not with creation itself in Genesis 1 and 2. Yet the theological gospel of John opens with the declaration that this is a gospel of creation and recreation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

The proclamation of Jesus begins with the proclamation of him not just as lord, but as creator. It is that eternal Word who became flesh and ‘pitched his tents’ (tabernacled) among us.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted August 24, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Love this!

    “Yet the theological gospel of John opens with the declaration that this is a gospel of creation and recreation.”

    That is tweetworthy.

  2. Posted August 24, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Thanks Grace. Seems I’ve been reading your blog for a ages now. I guess I’m still surprised when people actually read my ramblings. John had a great deal to do with the completion of my journey into Christianity. So I love his gospel even as I am often still completely befuddled by it.

  3. Posted August 25, 2009 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Scott, I love the gospel of John too. I’ve only recently discovered Athanasius. I’m hopeful that a book club I attend will choose this for the next discussion series. Although knowing the group, I’m a bit concerned about how they may misconstrue the amazing truths presented.

  4. Posted August 26, 2009 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    For a book club (if I were to do such a thing), I would be partial to this printed copy.

    http://www.amazon.com/Incarnation-Incarnatione-Verbi-Popular-Patristics/dp/0913836400

    I’ve always loved C. S. Lewis’ introduction to it.

    http://silouanthompson.net/library/early-church/on-the-incarnation/introduction/

    I wonder how a group could miscontrue Athanasius?

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