On the Incarnation of the Word 3 – Man in the Image of God

In the third section of his treatise, Athanasius emphasizes that God created everything through the Word and that he does not begrudge existence to any of it. That’s important to always keep in mind. Yes, God created and sustains everything from moment to moment. But that contingency is not a matter of concern. The uncreated God does not begrudge the existence of creation.

For God is good, or rather is essentially the source of goodness: nor could one that is good be niggardly of anything: whence, grudging existence to none, He has made all things out of nothing by His own Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. And among these, having taken especial pity, above all things on earth, upon the race of men, and having perceived its inability, by virtue of the condition of its origin, to continue in one stay, He gave them a further gift, and He did not barely create man, as He did all the irrational creatures on the earth, but made them after His own image, giving them a portion even of the power of His own Word; so that having as it were a kind of reflexion of the Word, and being made rational, they might be able to abide ever in blessedness, living the true life which belongs to the saints in paradise.

Mankind was alone created in the image or as the eikon of the uncreated God. Mankind is not an afterthought, not an accident, not unwanted. Man is created to proclaim God into creation. It’s a different sort of story of creation and man’s place within it.

Athanasius wraps up this section with an important point. Man was not created in a state of absolute perfection from which we fell and to which we are being restored. Rather, man was created immature, with the potential to choose God and life and grow in communion with God and the potential to turn from God instead; to seek non-existence and find the corruption of death.

There is no going back to the garden. Instead we’re moving forward to something new.

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