Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
November 17th, 2015 by Joel Watts

St. Athanasius on Grace because God is Creator

St. Athanasius’s tome, On the Incarnation, was required reading in my seminary. I have to wonder if we wouldn’t better require it as a catechismal reading, and to require it every so often from older Christians as well. In this, we find remnants of

Icon of St. Athanasius of Alexandria

Icon of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wisdom Christology and a solid notion of theosis.

My personal theology of God as Creator — and everything that comes from that, i.e., grace and judgement — is formed from this short book and this section in particular. Herein is no substitutional atonement, but still harkens back to the recapitulation (the re-creation) of St. Irenaeus — but there is more.

God is Creator. That’s why He secures us. God is Creator. That’s why He loves us.

Moreover, an emperor, although only a man, does not permit regions settled by himself to come under the sway and service of others, nor to desert to them; but he reminds them by letters, and frequently also sends to them through friends, and even, if there is need, he himself comes, making them further ashamed by his presence, merely that they may not serve others, and his work be useless. And shall not God much more spare His own creatures, that they be not made to wander away from Him and serve things that are not?—all the more that such wandering is the cause of their ruin and destruction; and because it was not right for those creatures to perish who once had been partakers of the Image of God.

What, then, must God do? or what else was it right to do, but to renew again the grace by which they had been made after His Image, so that through it men might be able once more to know Him? But how could this have been done except by the coming of the very Image Himself of God, our Saviour Jesus Christ?

For it could not be through men, seeing that they are only made after the Image: nor through angels, for not even they are (God’s) images. Therefore the Word of God came in His own Person, in order that, as He was the Image of the Father, He might be able to re-create the man made after the Image. But this re-creation could not otherwise have taken place unless death and corruption had been entirely abolished. Whence He naturally took a mortal body, in order that in it death might be finally abolished, and that men might be again renewed after the Image. To satisfy this need was the part of no other than the Image of the Father.1

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

  1.  Athanasius of Alexandria, Athanasius: On the Incarnation of the Word of God (trans. T. Herbert Bindley; Second Edition Revised.; London: The Religious Tract Society, 1903), 65–66.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

3 Responses to “St. Athanasius on Grace because God is Creator”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    If Incarnation became required reading, even St. Athanasius’ short tome would be cherry picked. After all, he identified the principal books of the New Testament that are routinely cherry picked to this day!

    • So I’ll cherry-pick him…
      http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/theology/incarnation_st_athanasius.pdf

      I find it interesting that part of Athanasius’s argument is both the destruction of Jerusalem and the seeming lack of prophets and visions among the Jews after John the Baptist. But then he cherry-picks the canon to include Revelation.

      “(40) So the Jews are indulging in fiction, and transferring present time to future. When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them. And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow? On His account only they prophesied continually, until such time as Essential Righteousness has come, Who was made the Ransom for the sins of all. For the same reason Jerusalem stood until the same time, in order that there men might premeditate the types before the Truth was known. So, of course, once the Holy One of holies had come, both vision and prophecy were sealed. And the kingdom of Jerusalem ceased at the same time, because kings were to be anointed among them only until the Holy of holies had been anointed. Moses also prophesies that the kingdom of the Jews shall stand until His time, saying, “A ruler shall not fail from Judah nor a prince from his loins, until the things laid up for him shall come and the Expectation of the nations Himself.”[19] And that is why the Savior Himself was always proclaiming “The law and the prophets prophesied until John.”[ 20] So if there is still king or prophet or vision among the Jews, they do well to deny that Christ is come; but if there is neither king nor vision, and since that time all prophecy has been sealed and city and temple taken, how can they be so irreligious, how can they so flaunt the facts, as to deny Christ Who has brought it all about?”

      At least on this point, I would tend to agree, except the slight overlooked fact of a span of 37 years or more between 33 and 70 AD. And the Essenes camped out in the desert till after 70 AD expecting the Anointed One. And the various visions post 33 AD (Acts, Revelation, etc). But I guess he would say those are Christian, not Jewish. Cherry-picked. But overall, he’s got some interesting points. Just not infallible 🙂

      • Know More Than I Should says

        One primary reason why some of the early Christian writers had revealing insights came from the fact that, unlike their more recent counterparts, they most certainly weren’t in it for the money. Nor were their works second guessed by publishers with a bevy of lawyers looking over some manuscript reader or editor’s shoulder.

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