Who Am I?

On the Incarnation of the Word 7 – Repentance Is Not Enough

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

This phrase leaps out at me every time I read this section of Athanasius’ writing.

nor, secondly, does repentance call men back from what is their nature—it merely stays them from acts of sin.

God can and does call man to repentance. Nobody argues that point. However, I have some sense that repentance may often be seen as the whole point. And it’s not. All it can do is restrain us from further acts of sin and that very imperfectly. That is an important step, to be sure, but it does nothing to heal our nature.

But if, when transgression had once gained a start, men became involved in that corruption which was their nature, and were deprived of the grace which they had, being in the image of God, what further step was needed? or what was required for such grace and such recall, but the Word of God, which had also at the beginning made everything out of nought? For His it was once more both to bring the corruptible to incorruption, and to maintain intact the just claim of the Father upon all. For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father.

The Word alone was able to recreate everything. We do not fundamentally need forgiveness, though forgiveness abounds in Christ for those who turn to him. No, we need freedom from death, a nature not enslaved to the corruption of death. That was and remains an act of such magnitude that only the language of creation, new creation, and recreation can begin to encompass and describe it.

God didn’t become man so that we could be forgiven. God became man so we could be made new.


On the Incarnation of the Word 1 – Creation and Renewal

Posted: August 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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.