Who Am I?

On the Incarnation of the Word 32 – Whom the Demons Confess

Posted: September 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Athanasius continues to defend the Resurrection in this section by emphasizing that the demons flee from the power of Christ and at his name. And this would not be true if Jesus were dead. Demons do not fear a dead man. He ends this section with a marvelous statement of our faith.

As then demons confess Him, and His works bear Him witness day by day, it must be evident, and let none brazen it out against the truth, both that the Saviour raised His own body, and that He is the true Son of God, being from Him, as from His Father, His own Word, and Wisdom, and Power, Who in ages later took a body for the salvation of all, and taught the world concerning the Father, and brought death to nought, and bestowed incorruption upon all by the promise of the Resurrection, having raised His own body as a first-fruits of this, and having displayed it by the sign of the Cross as a monument of victory over death and its corruption.

Amen and amen. This is what we believe as Christians. This is good news indeed!

An earlier thought by Athanasius in this section sent my mind wandering. I’m going to take a moment to explore that rabbit trail. Athanasius writes the following.

For it is God’s peculiar property at once to be invisible and yet to be known from His works, as has been already stated above.

Athanasius is explaining how we can know the Resurrection from the works that Jesus continues to accomplish even though we do not presently see him in the flesh. However, it recalled to my mind the distinction in Eastern theology between God’s essence and his energies. God cannot be known in his essence. (In truth, we can say the same of other human beings. Every other person is essentially unknowable to us in their inner essence.) But God is known through his energies, through the impact he has in creation, through his actions, and through the power of his presence. We see this in Scripture, of course. And as Christians, we know this to be true. We live within the power and assurance of the energies of God. Those energies are not something created by God. They are not some kind of byproduct. They are God.

Often we call these energies at work in our lives grace. It seems to me that Western Christianity (at least in its Protestant form) has done something almost sacrilegious by reducing the concept of grace to unmerited favor. Yes, of course we have God’s unmerited favor. God is a good God who loves mankind.  Every human being who has ever and will ever live has the utterly unmerited favor and love of God upon them. Scripture assures us of that in both the Old and New Testament. Our God is not some changing deity who one moment looks on us with disfavor and in another with favor. He is a good and constant God who blesses the just and the unjust alike. Certainly we have the unmerited favor and forgiveness of God. The Incarnation and the Cross proved that beyond all doubt.

But that has nothing to do with grace. Those of us who follow Jesus have the presence and power of God acting mystically in and through us. These energies of God are grace. The more we learn to live within the presence and activity of God, the more grace we experience. As Paul prays, we grow in grace. You cannot grow in “unmerited favor”. No, we are growing in union with God. Grace and peace are active, participatory experiences of the life of God. We participate in the life of God and grow in union with him in his energies. Grace is one of the most powerful theological statements of the New Testament. Let’s not neuter it.

On the Incarnation of the Word 31 – Impossible Not To Die, Impossible To Remain Dead

Posted: September 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 31 – Impossible Not To Die, Impossible To Remain Dead

Athanasius continues to defend the Resurrection against those incredulous about it. But I want to focus on the manner in which he develops the core of the argument itself.

For if He took a body to Himself at all, and—in reasonable consistency, as our argument shewed— appropriated it as His own, what was the Lord to do with it? or what should be the end of the body when the Word had once descended upon it? For it could not but die, inasmuch as it was mortal, and to be offered unto death on behalf of all: for which purpose it was that the Saviour fashioned it for Himself. But it was impossible for it to remain dead, because it had been made the temple of life. Whence, while it died as mortal, it came to life again by reason of the Life in it; and of its Resurrection the works are a sign.

Jesus was mortal because he was fully human in every way. He inherited the same consequences of the ancestral sin — death. And thus he could not but die. Being human means bodies. Period. We are an embodied being. There is no place where our bodies stop and the “rest” of us continues in any way that can be defined. Our minds and our spirits affect our bodies. Our bodies and our minds affect our spirits. Our embodied spirituality transforms our minds. Though Jesus remained faithful to God in every way, lived the life of the faithful man — the true man, he was in every other way fully human to the core of his nature. There are traditions in Christianity that make Jesus different from us in his nature in one way of another. When we do that, we destroy the power and beauty of the Incarnation.

However, Jesus was also — in his body — Life itself, the divine Logos, the Word. And as the temple of the Logos, that which creates and sustains all life, it was also impossible for him to remain dead. We follow an embodied and a living Lord. It’s important to remember and live within that reality.

6 Months Gluten Free!

Posted: September 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Personal | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

This marks my first six months on a gluten free diet (or within a couple of weeks of six months, anyway). Since I got the results of my blood tests today during my appointment with my gastroenterologist, it seemed like a good time to post a status update.

I had great results! One test (I’m not sure what it measures) went from >160 to <1:10, which the doctor tells me is a dramatic improvement. Of the two TTG auto-antibody tests, one went from almost 100 to 2.8. The other went from almost 40 to 10.3 and was the only test that was still a little out of the normal range.

My doctor told me that I’m obviously complying with the diet, that what we’re doing as a family is working, and to keep doing it. He’s going to have the tests reworked annually to monitor my progress. He was a bit impressed at the rate of improvement. He mentioned that everyone has ‘cheater’ days on a medical diet. I actually don’t. While it’s very hard to be certain you have completely avoided gluten in all situations, I have never yet consciously eaten anything I knew to contain gluten. Any gluten I’ve consumed has been accidental. However, my wife and I have worked hard to avoid such accidents. It’s nice to see those efforts pay off.

For whatever reason, I’m less prone than perhaps some people are to ‘cheat’ once I have actually decided to do something. A friend once told me that most people aren’t like me. They don’t decide something and then do it. Or something to that effect. I didn’t and don’t exactly understand his comment, but perhaps my lack of ‘cheating days’ fits in there somewhere.

I was worried that I was missing something somewhere and that my blood work would not show significant improvement. Changing to be gluten free has not been the easiest thing I’ve ever done. While it takes significantly less willpower than quitting smoking did, eating gluten free is much more complicated. There is so much to check and it’s so easy to make a mistake, misjudge a restaurant or product, or even end up with a contaminated product. I was extremely relieved at the results today.

And, a couple of weeks ago, my HDL (good cholesterol) tested high enough to be in the normal range for the first time since they started testing it some years ago. So I’ve really had two good blood tests in a row.

It seems I really am getting better. 😀

On the Incarnation of the Word 30 – Christ Is Himself The Life

Posted: September 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 30 – Christ Is Himself The Life

Athanasius next emphasizes the power of the Resurrection.

For now that the Saviour works so great things among men, and day by day is invisibly persuading so great a multitude from every side, both from them that dwell in Greece and in foreign lands, to come over to His faith, and all to obey His teaching, will any one still hold his mind in doubt whether a Resurrection has been accomplished by the Saviour, and whether Christ is alive, or rather is Himself the Life?

Jesus is not merely alive. He is Life. And this is seen in his power to change men and exert authority over all creation.

Or how, if he is no longer active (for this is proper to one dead), does he stay from their activity those who are active and alive, so that the adulterer no longer commits adultery, and the murderer murders no more, nor is the inflicter of wrong any longer grasping, and the profane is henceforth religious? Or how, if He be not risen but is dead, does He drive away, and pursue, and cast down those false gods said by the unbelievers to be alive, and the demons they worship? For where Christ is named, and His faith, there all idolatry is deposed and all imposture of evil spirits is exposed, and any spirit is unable to endure even the name, nay even on barely hearing it flies and disappears. But this work is not that of one dead, but of one that lives–and especially of God. In particular, it would be ridiculous to say that while the spirits cast out by Him and the idols brought to nought are alive, He who chases them away, and by His power prevents their even appearing, yea, and is being confessed by them all to be Son of God, is dead.

On the Incarnation of the Word 29 – We Live in the Daylight of the Cross

Posted: September 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 29 – We Live in the Daylight of the Cross

In this section, Athanasius continues to hammer the strength and perpiscuity of Christ’s defeat of death on the Cross.

Now if by the sign of the Cross, and by faith in Christ, death is trampled down, it must be evident before the tribunal of truth that it is none other than Christ Himself that has displayed trophies and triumphs over death, and made him lose all his strength. And if, while previously death was strong, and for that reason terrible, now after the sojourn of the Saviour and the death and Resurrection of His body it is despised, it must be evident that death has been brought to nought and conquered by the very Christ that ascended the Cross. For as, if after night-time the sun rises, and the whole region of earth is illumined by him, it is at any rate not open to doubt that it is the sun who has revealed his light everywhere, that has also driven away the dark and given light to all things; so, now that death has come into contempt, and been trodden under foot, from the time when the Saviour’s saving manifestation in the flesh and His death on the Cross took place, it must be quite plain that it is the very Saviour that also appeared in the body, Who has brought death to nought, and Who displays the signs of victory over him day by day in His own disciples.

And again, the strength of Christ’s victory can be seen by the despite in which Christ’s people hold death.

For when one sees men, weak by nature, leaping forward to death, and not fearing its corruption nor frightened of the descent into Hades, but with eager soul challenging it; and not flinching from torture, but on the contrary, for Christ’s sake electing to rush upon death in preference to life upon earth, or even if one be an eye-witness of men and females and young children rushing and leaping upon death for the sake of Christ’s religion; who is so silly, or who is so incredulous, or who so maimed in his mind, as not to see and infer that Christ, to Whom the people witness, Himself supplies and gives to each the victory over death, depriving him of all his power in each one of them that hold His faith and bear the sign of the Cross. For he that sees the serpent trodden under foot, especially knowing his former fierceness no longer doubts that he is dead and has quite lost his strength, unless he is perverted in mind and has not even his bodily senses sound. For who that sees a lion, either, made sport of by children, fails to see that he is either dead or has lost all his power? Just as, then, it is possible to see with the eyes the truth of all this, so, now that death is made sport of and despised by believers in Christ let none any longer doubt, nor any prove incredulous, of death having been brought to nought by Christ, and the corruption of death destroyed and stayed.

Sprouts Farmers Market

Posted: September 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: | Comments Off on Sprouts Farmers Market

Several weeks ago a Sprouts Farmers Market opened in Round Rock just up the highway from us. On Saturday of their grand opening weekend, they were offering a “bag of goodies” to the first couple of hundred shoppers. So I got up early and went to stand in line. It was definitely worth it. I got a full bag of all sorts of products, many of which were gluten free. And it included hair and bath products my wife has enjoyed trying.

Compared to many people in other parts of the country, especially rural areas, I already had a wealth of stores that are very celiac friendly. However, Sprouts now gives us a very nice store with extensive options that is much closer than either Whole Foods or Central Market. Further, they often have excellent sales on the healthier meat we buy and their produce is great!

Business Travel with Celiac

Posted: September 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Week before last marked the first business trip I had to make since I was diagnosed with celiac disease last April. Fortunately, my job doesn’t require that I travel very often. I’ve never been very fond of business travel and it’s even more of a pain now. This trip was to Ogden, UT. Ogden does not exactly have a surfeit of the national restaurant chains with established gluten free menu options. Further, there were a number of coworkers with me on this trip and we were sharing a single suburban. They all know I have celiac, so that’s not a problem. Nevertheless, eating out together would have required both the lengthy conversation with a waiter and/or manager and would have either severely restricted the places they could eat or would have left me sitting at some places that offered little safe for me to eat.

So I decided to skip the whole eating out thing. I stayed at the Comfort Suites, which provided a small refrigerator and microwave in the room. I packed one of the smallest George Foreman grills so I could easily grill some chicken breasts (seasoned with Tabasco) and gluten free sausage — both of which you can find in just about any grocery store. I saw that there was a Super Walmart near the Comfort Suites, so I visited a local Super Walmart to prepare a menu plan and shopping list. Walmart is hardly my first (or even tenth) choice for grocery shopping. However, they do tend to have similar items stocked in every location, so it seemed like a safe bet. I also packed my insulated lunch box, so I could fix and keep cool my own lunch each day in the office in Ogden.

The week went pretty well and mostly according to plan. The first day, by the time we got to Ogden, checked in, and I had gone shopping, unpacked, and put everything away, I had gone some twelve hours with nothing but a Kind bar and a Larabar. I wasn’t in the mood to cook something to eat and clean up. But I did it nonetheless. I didn’t really get involved in any of the socializing, since what there was mostly revolved around lunches and dinners. But that’s OK. I enjoy being around people, but I’m fine being alone as well.

I did pick up a nasty upper respiratory bug (not the flu) that hit me not too long after I got home. That was no fun, and seems to be one of the little joys of traveling. But the trip was productive and I ate safely the whole week. I did put the mixed fruit (mostly melon) and the greek yogurt I bought under the little freezer compartment in the mini-frig after I had some for breakfast the first morning. The next day it was frozen solid. I was sad about that. 🙁 But otherwise the menu worked out perfectly!

On the Incarnation of the Word 28 – Test the Claim of Victory Over Death

Posted: September 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments »

In his next section, Athanasius exhorts those who do not believe the claims of Christ’s victory over death to become Christian and see for themselves. It strikes me that this perspective on what it means to be Christian stands somewhat at odds with the present Western view. See for yourself.

But just as he who has got the asbestos knows that fire has no burning power over it, and as he who would see the tyrant bound goes over to the empire of his conqueror, so too let him who is incredulous about the victory over death receive the faith of Christ, and pass over to His teaching, and he shall see the weakness of death, and the triumph over it. For many who were formerly incredulous and scoffers have afterwards believed and so despised death as even to become martyrs for Christ Himself.

Become Christian (rather than whatever else you presently might be) and then you will believe in the same way that someone will believe that asbestos protects you from fire after testing it. The experience proves the point and many of the martyrs experienced exactly that. There are many stories of those putting the martyrs to death converting themselves in the middle of the process. They went from persecutor to Christian to martyr in the space sometimes of moments.

Become Christian and then you will believe. I think I experienced some of that myself.

On the Incarnation of the Word 27 – Our Contempt For Death

Posted: September 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 27 – Our Contempt For Death

In this section of his treatise, Athanasius writes of the proof of death’s destruction in the contempt with which Christians view death.

For that death is destroyed, and that the Cross is become the victory over it, and that it has no more power but is verily dead, this is no small proof, or rather an evident warrant, that it is despised by all Christ’s disciples, and that they all take the aggressive against it and no longer fear it; but by the sign of the Cross and by faith in Christ tread it down as dead.

Death is not just defeated. Death is destroyed. Athanasius powerfully presents our case.

And a proof of this is, that before men believe Christ, they see in death an object of terror, and play the coward before him. But when they are gone over to Christ’s faith and teaching, their contempt for death is so great that they even eagerly rush upon it, and become witnesses for the Resurrection the Saviour has accomplished against it. For while still tender in years they make haste to die, and not men only, but women also, exercise themselves by bodily discipline against it. So weak has he become, that even women who were formerly deceived by him, now mock at him as dead and paralyzed. For as when a tyrant has been defeated by a real king, and bound hand and foot, then all that pass by laugh him to scorn, buffeting and reviling him, no longer fearing his fury and barbarity, because of the king who has conquered him; so also, death having been conquered and exposed by the Saviour on the Cross, and bound hand and foot, all they who are in Christ, as they pass by, trample on him, and witnessing to Christ scoff at death, jesting at him, and saying what has been written against him of old: “O death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting.”

Death has no dominion over us. I think sometimes we forget, but that’s our true reality.

On the Incarnation of the Word 26 – Raised in Three Days

Posted: September 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 26 – Raised in Three Days

Athanasius next explores why the Resurrection was on the third day. He points out that if Jesus had more quickly risen, people may very well have questioned whether he had really died or not. Similarly, if he had stayed in the grave too long, people might have questioned if it was really the same body, the same person. He ends with this vibrant declaration.

but while the word was still echoing in their ears and their eyes were still expectant and their mind in suspense, and while those who had slain Him were still living on earth, and were on the spot and could witness to the death of the Lord’s body, the Son of God Himself, after an interval of three days, shewed His body, once dead, immortal and incorruptible; and it was made manifest to all that it was not from any natural weakness of the Word that dwelt in it that the body had died, but in order that in it death might be done away by the power of the Saviour.

The Word died not from any weakness, but rather so death might be done away with in his body.