Thursday, June 3, 2010

Christology: On Athanasius's On the Incarnation

For me, the essential part of this was Athanasius’s describing the original imageo dei as a sharing in Christ’s own being, and the way this hangs together with Christ’s restoring/decorrupting the fallen image through the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.

With Athanasius, because a fundamental part of our identity is sharing in Christ, and because we all share that, and because it is exactly what Jesus Christ carried through death into new life, there is actually a ‘mechanism’ for how the atonement might have worked. This makes the most sense of atonement out of anything I’ve read so far, which admittedly isn’t much. It’s also very Pauline, and I wonder where and how exactly that got dropped out of our modern understandings of incarnation and creation.

It also speaks of a fundamental connection and intimacy between creation and Creator that I feel is sorely missed or misunderstood. We are capable, after all, of putting God into the ‘dilemma’ that provokes the incarnation in the first place. That “man...was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone” is a profound and radical statement about God, creation, and our place and power within it. So that while Athanasius does clearly think far more thoroughly of divinity within Christology, the humanity of Christ, and of us all, is of utmost importance to the divine.

I do think it might be good to remember that this is not primarily, I think, an evangelic or even apologetic tract so much as it is a delineation of one side of an inner-Christian dialogue and a defense of the oncoming orthodox Christological positions; that is, I think Athanasius’s probably assumed that his readers would be Christians in some sense, and that he could write about the incarnation to them assuming more common ground than he might have otherwise. That might account for some of the zealous tone.

My own question for Athanasius is this: the good news presented here is primarily from John and Paul; I would be very interested to know how the message of the Kingdom, that which the Word came to say, which so dominates the other gospels,would work in an Anselmian understanding of incarnation.

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