So I’m thinking that this metaphor of “incarnational” Scripture just isn’t being used right. In the last post I spent time dealing with the metaphor that it can be used to respond to two different errors so why spend time focusing on a response to one particular error (a ‘Docetic’ view of Scripture) without addressing the other (an ‘Arian’ view of Scripture). Like I said before, it’s for taking some sort of theological high ground.
For this post, I want to go over some Athanaisus. Athanaisus is The Dude who dealt head on with the Arian controversy and the error of Docetism. If there’s a guy who we look back to and say “yeah, he thought out a lot of stuff on the Incarnation” it would be him. He’s even got a book written back in the day called On The Incarnation, if you can believe it!
Since I’ve read the thing I can give you some broad ideas of how he thinks about the Incarnation but by all means, read it yourself. What’s interesting about reading Athanasius is seeing how much it might overlap into Scripture if we’re getting all wrapped up in using a metaphor to describe our view of Scripture.
Athanasius starts off talking about the importance of the Word. He refers to John 1:1 where it says that the Word was with God and the Word was God. What’s important here is that he looks at the tie of the Creator God with the Revealed God of John and underlines it. He says “This is important to hold on to.”
Why? Well because of three fundamental problems.
The first problem Athanasius identifies isn’t that people are naughty and need to be told how to stop being naughty. It’s not even that bad things happen and God wants to save people from those bad things. God is a good, merciful, loving, creator God who cannot lie and must remain faithful but people, in the first parents of the human race, seriously screwed up by opting for God’s punishment of death.
When we get too accustomed to news of people dying around the world, we wind up not really seeing the horror of what’s going on. God is the God of Life, the very Maker of all things, including People. And People were to be with Him in the beginning in a relationship of love and life. God gave a choice: obey me and live or disobey me and get cut off from life and the first parents broke away, disobeying Him. God, being true to His nature, had to do what he said: they were cut off from Him, handed over to the power of the Devil, and thus, die.
The second fundamental problem that Athanasius identifies is that people, apart from God, couldn’t know Him. They were finite, corporeal, limited in their knowledge, and stuck in the material frame so they couldn’t possibly know the infinite, incorporeal, unlimited in knowledge, and free from all material One God. As such people were dying with no way out from dying.
The third fundamental problem is what People did to the image of God. You see, the Bible says that God decided to make people (both men and women together) in His image. They were supposed to reflect Him to all of creation, functioning as his family and rulers of Creation. But since they disobeyed Him and did what they want they stopped properly representing the Image of God. There was no man they could look to and say “This is what God is like” because of the first two fundamental problems.
Do you think you can identify where Athanasius goes from here?