February 3rd, 2006


Snow Melts. Athanasius Writes. And a Polemic!

Snow keeps falling through the city only to decide that it would rather stay in the clouds; it’s two inches and then indecision.

They say it will get colder soon.

I finished St. Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation” yesterday. What impressed me was not a host of new ideas and insights (for Athanasius is quoted and contrasted in so many modern theological writings), but the fact that this classic and brilliant work came so long ago. It is the gospel. It is evangelical in ways that seem so common-sense and useful. It hasn’t aged. In fact, it seems to be more filled with the gospel than many treatise and tracts that are being published today.

“Athanasius against the world,” goes the famous quote. St. Athanasius is famed for solely defending the doctrine of the trinity when the Roman Emperor and the popular elite began to view Christ as less than divine. Though by all accounts a loving and gentle man, he used quite a few bar-room tactics in several volatile conflicts throughout the controversy. Some things should be fought for. I suppose that it is all much more beautiful and noble in hindsight.

At any rate, a quote: “…He [Christ] neither endured the death of John who was beheaded, nor was He sawn asunder, like Isaiah: even in death He preserved His body whole and undivided, so that there should be no excuse hereafter for those who would divide the Church.” –Athanasius


A polemic:

Spending eleven months in this Lutheran Volunteer Corps has brought up a reoccurring question. And it is not an insignificant question by any means. It is a question of which gospel is being preached, thus it is a question of great importance. Why did Christ come? Why did He live and teach and die? Why did He burst forth from the grave anew?

The answer that I so often find myself hearing in many settings is that Christ came to change the society that He lived in, and furthermore to change the societies of all people thereafter.

I disagree. As tempting as it is to get caught up in societal change – which in and of itself is neither good nor bad – it does not paint a true picture of Christ. It is, to use the words of Paul, the preaching of “another gospel.”

For Christ did not come to change a society. Christ came to change all people in all societies at all times and in every condition. A scriptural mind cannot find a basis for believing that He died for universal suffrage, or for clean-water, or for the end of racism – no matter how wonderful these things may be. Scripture speaks a different story. He died to end death. He died that He might rise again, granting eternal life to body and soul. He died that our old man might die with Him. He died to take away the sins of the world. He died for our freedom from the enemy and all his minions. He died to show His Divine love. He died to show us just how evil we are – a world wicked enough to kill Love itself. He died that His body and blood might be given to us and for us. He died to purchase His Church.

He did not endure the cross, the tomb and the very depths of hell for Republican majorities; nor for universal healthcare; nor for the spreading of democracy throughout His ancient homeland.

He died that death may die and that life might reign anew.