Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Was Job Wrong?

So...I've thought a LOT about Job. Like, a lot. And while I think I've thought a lot of right things about it, I've also thought a lot of wrong things.

The most recent example: It's obvious that Job's friends are wrong about God. At the very end, God says to the friends, "“My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." He has them present a sacrifice, and Job must pray for them to be forgiven. They say a LOT of wrong things about God, and in the process they accuse Job - "a blameless and upright man" - of being wicked and sinful, utterly deserving of the tragedies that befall him.

But here's where I'm pretty sure I've gone wrong: I don't think Job has a lot of right knowledge about God either.

I think that the above verse, where God says that the friends "have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has", doesn't mean that Job has been 100% correct in everything that he says about God. And in fact, this is borne out in the fact that this vindication of Job comes on the heels of  four full chapters of God telling Job that Job doesn't really know what he's talking about.

In many important ways, Job's knowledge of God is exactly as wrong as that of his friends. In fact, that's precisely what causes him such distress: His theological system has no room for suffering that is not punishment. Again and again, he proclaims his innocence and protests the injustice of punishment without cause. Implicit in every complaint is his belief that bad things come directly from God as punishment for specific, personal sins: The same false belief that his friends present throughout the book.

Indeed, when Job utters his famous line at the very beginning - "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" - while he does not sin, I don't think he's 100% correct, least, not in what he means. The same goes for what he says in the next chapter: "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” He does not sin, but I don't think that what he believes to be happening is what is actually happening. I don't think that the Lord has taken away, and I don't think that the Lord is sending evil - the text is quite clear that while God is allowing these things to happen, he is not their instigator.

So why is Job not sinning here? What sets him apart from his friends? How does he say anything that's right about God, to cause him to be praised in the last chapter?

It's not about knowledge. It's not about theology. It's about the relationship Job has with his God.

Job's false theology causes him incredible distress, as he searches in vain for a reason for divine punishment. His incorrect ideas about God causes him to bitterly lament that God punishes him without cause. In fact, his false theology almost drives him to despair of his very life.

And in all that suffering, it's his relationship with God that brings him back from the brink. It's the relationship that assures him that God is his redeemer, that God is his friend and ally, and that God will save him in the end. And I think that is what God praises in the end.

I don't know that I have a point here. It was just an interesting thought I had a few days ago. But I think there are a couple takeaways:

-Theology can bring life or death. Incorrect knowledge about God can bring terrible distress and confusion, while correct knowledge will greatly aid in bringing peace and understanding.

-However...relationship can either salve the wounds of poor theology, or nullify and deaden the benefits of good theology. A living relationship with the living God can bring peace, even without understanding, and hope even in the face of despair...but a lack of relationship will render meaningless the greatest theology in the world.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

On Mother's Day

I've written about my dad before, and anyone who knows my family knows that I got my creative bent from him. But I don't think I've written as much about my mom yet, and given Mother's Day, I think now might be a good time to do so.

If my dad taught me how to make and create and work, my mom taught me how to think, how to stretch myself and grow intellectually. She taught me how to explore new ideas, see things from new perspectives, and a whole lot more.

She fed my love of reading from a very early age, and I cannot recall a time I wanted a particular book and did not receive it. And this was not merely a matter of monetary expenditure: Every new book also guaranteed me coming into her office, giggling and insisting that she listen to me read a portion of my new book to her. This would happen multiple times per book, and looking back, I marvel at her patience in listening to out-of-context passages from random books and sharing in my enjoyment of them.

She encouraged me to pursue my interests, but she also insisted that I do my best in things that did NOT interest me. If she knew that I was capable of performing better in a class or subject, she made sure that I did perform better. She held me up to the standard of what she knew I was capable of, and showed me how to push myself even when the rewards are not apparent. At the same time, though, she did not encourage "busy-work", which I appreciate still.

And of course, one of the things that has most impacted me was her insistence that of all the colleges in all the world, Biola was the place for me. And when we randomly heard about Torrey at a college fair, holy CRAP was she excited. She was more excited than I was by far...and that was because she understood far better than I did how perfect it was for me. She saw a program seemingly tailor-made for someone like me, and she hounded me and made me see what she saw. And when I was rejected the first time, she refused to let me give up, and forced me to pursue all avenues, calling the office every day until they accepted me (out of sheer annoyance, I'm sure).

I owe a lot to my mom. When I look at the stained glass panels on my bookshelves, I know that I owe them to my dad. But when I look at the books on those bookshelves, and the ideas and thoughts they represent, the discussions and papers and blogs...I know that I owe them to my mom. She is the reason I attended Biola and Torrey, and she is responsible (for good or ill) for who I am because of Torrey.

So...thanks, mom. And happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Death and Life and Nana

At 7:15 this morning, my grandmother Nana died. We knew it was coming: She had been deteriorating for some time, and after breaking her hip a week or so ago, we knew it couldn't be far off. And in the day or two leading up to it, as friends and family offered their support, prayers, and encouragement on Facebook, one comment in particular stood out to me:

"We will all miss her until we see her again."

I don't think I can say it any better than that. Of course I will miss her. I miss her now, and I am sure I will miss her more the next time we head into Shafter and realize that she is not there for us to visit. I will miss her breakfasts, and her amazing waffles and crisp bacon. I will miss her roast chicken dinners, and the days when the Mulligans would gather for family dinner with her and Papa (and I will miss the extra chicken legs and toast that she prepared for me without fail). Nana was the sweetest, kindest grandmother a boy could ask for: The world has not seen her equal, and we will miss her.


Until we see her again. Until we see her, shining like the sun, young and strong and full of life and laughter, in body as well as spirit. And so we are comforted even in our grief.

For we know she serves a Lord who came to destroy the one who held the power of death; We know she serves a Lord who was dead and is alive; We know she serves a Lord who holds the key to Death and Hades and sets the captives free. And we know that all those who believe in that Lord are saved.

And so we know that she is with Him today in Paradise. She does not live on "in our hearts"...such a great soul could hardly reside in such a cramped and fickle place. Nor does she live on merely in our memories: No, her dwelling is far grander than anything we could imagine. She really lives, and she really is there in Paradise.

We will all miss her until we see her again. But we will see her again, and every tear will be wiped away.

And I cannot think of anything more to say.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Man of Blood

"That quietness of his is just a little deadly, like the quiet of a gutted building. It's the result of having laid his mind open to something that broadens the environment just a bit too much. Like polygamy. It wasn't wrong for Abraham, but one can't help feeling that even he lost something by it."
-CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength

I've been thinking a lot about weapons and self-defense, particularly in light of the bravado-filled, antagonistic speech given by Jerry Falwell Jr to the students of Liberty University, urging them to carry concealed guns. And I've arrived at a couple thoughts.

Killing, in and of itself, is not a sin. It can't be, because God actually commands killing in the Old Testament, and God cannot command a sin. The commandment is against murder in particular, and as Chesterton says, "Murder is a spiritual incident. Bloodshed is a physical incident. A surgeon commits bloodshed." All murder is killing, but all killing is not murder: There are instances, such as warfare and self-defense, where killing is just...indeed, there are instances where killing seems to be required of the people of God, at least in the Old Testament.

And yet...there is something about killing - not murder, but killing - that changes a person. Something that makes them...less. And we see this most clearly in the person of David, a man after God's own heart. David desired to build God a temple, a great House...but God told him no. David relates the event: "I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood."

Note that God does not tie David's unworthiness to his adultery with Bathsheba. God does not say that David is unworthy because of his murder of Uriah. God specifically says that David is unworthy because he is a man of war and has shed blood. David won many great victories for Israel, fulfilling God's commandments in battle...but it did not come without a cost. David destroyed the image of God, again and again, shedding blood which is the Lord's, and as a result, he was unfit to build God a temple.

I have a few friends on Facebook who are VERY pro-gun. I know how gun-makers market their creating a scenario where you get to be the hero, where you can gun down the bad guys invading your home or shooting up a mall. Indeed, I've seen many people who seem to wish for such an event to occur, so that they would have the excuse to pull their weapon and stop it! Sadly, I've even seen this attitude from professing Christians.

Is warfare wrong? No. Should Christians participate in the military? The Bible certainly does not prohibit it. But it seems inescapable that we are not meant to be people of war. We are not meant to shed the blood of the image of God. And when we do, it fundamentally changes who we are for the worse. The hands soaked in blood cannot build God's temple, cannot serve him in the way that clean hands can. Killing is sometimes a necessity: it is never something to be desired, or fantasized about, or sought after with aggressive posturing and vain bravado.

Monday, November 30, 2015

On the Incarnation, Chapter 2: The Divine Dilemma and its Solution

In my first post, I think I restricted myself too much to a simple "cliff notes" reading of the chapter. I'm going to be trying to weave more of my own reflections in, make more connections stuff like that. Black text is summary, red text is commentary. We'll see how it goes.

A-Cakes kicks off this chapter with possibly my favorite passage in the entire book.

"Man, who was created in God's image and in his possession of reason reflected the very Word Himself, was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone. The law of death , which followed from the Transgression, prevailed upon us, and from it there was no escape.

Note again ACM's way of relating this as an event, as a story with characters and rising action and conflict. There is drama in the way Athanasius relates our sorry plight. Man is not merely "suffering the effects of a sinful nature" is disappearing, and as a result, the work of God is being undone. His language of the law of death prevailing upon us conjures the image of an encroaching army from which there is no escape. 

We have reached the point of catastrophe: Is mankind really to be lost? Is God's work truly going to be undone?

He continues. "The thing that was happening was in truth both monstrous and unfitting. It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption. It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil."

There's a LOT here. First off, note how he describes this state of affairs. There is the sense that God is in some way responsible for the natural law of death; or at least, that God could in some way mitigate that penalty. In this sense, mankind's death is understandable, and could even be understood as the "good" result of God's justice. And I've heard many, many times in church that God could have simply left mankind to die, and that wouldn't have have had any impact on His justice or goodness. 

However, that is certainly NOT how ACM primarily understands the Fall and the resulting death of mankind. A-Cakes has NO hesitation in declaring it simply "monstrous and unfitting". It is monstrous that mankind should be neglected and perish, and it is unfitting for God to allow it to happen. Indeed, Athanasius goes further in this than ANY modern evangelical would dare go. Athanasius insists that it would be "unworthy" of God to let mankind go without a fight. "Such indifference to the ruin of His own work before His very eyes would argue not goodness in God but limitation, and that far more than if He had never created men at all."

Athanasius concludes: "It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself."

Modern evangelicalism often (either intentionally or unintentionally) draws a distinction between what God must do and what God chooses to do. God must punish sin; God chooses to show love and grace. A-Bro, however, admits no such distinction. God's goodness and love literally does not allow him to ignore mankind's plight. In essence, A-Cakes seems to be arguing that God could not ignore mankind and remain God.

Having established that God must do something, ACM turns his attention to the nature of that something. What, exactly, is God to do in the face of mankind's immanent destruction? He brings up repentance as a possible solution, but rejects it. Repentance would indeed do the trick as regards future sin...but would do nothing to fix the corruption that had taken root in mankind. Moreover, God must remain true, and He had told Adam that death would follow the transgression.

He asks: "What--or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as was required? Who, save the Word of God Himself, Who also in the beginning had made all things out of nothing?" Nothing but God Himself, no one but the Creator, can re-create man and reconcile man with the Father.  "For He alone, being Word of the Father and above all, was in consequence both able to recreate all, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be an ambassador for all with the Father."

First, quickly note that Athanasius takes the whole "new creation" thing seriously. Humanity does need merely need to be "fixed"...we must be recreated, and the only one fit to do that is the one who created us and stamped us with His image in the first place.

Second, it would be easy here to simply slot Athanasius into the standard "Penal Substitutionary Atonement" mold that we here in the West have grown accustomed to. However, I am not at all sure that is the correct move. First off, there is simply no sense in which God is angry with mankind, no sense in which he demands punishment. Second, Athanasius again and again pits God and His desire for rescue, against the powers of death and the devil. We are not being rescued from "God's wrath" or divine punishment...we are being rescued from a hostile foreign power, which has gained control over us through the deceptions of Satan.

The crucial point, in fact, is this: Athanasius is concerned NOT with punishment that needs to be dealt out, but with corruption that needs to be healed.

Having established the necessity that God Himself be our Savior, A-Cakes moves on: "For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are." The Word has never been "apart" from creation...He fills it moment by moment. But it is time for something new, as the Word "entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us."

The Word sees our sad state. He sees our death, our corruption, our sin. He sees our wickedness mounting up against us. "All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery."

I can't recall ever hearing this kind of language in an evangelical church. We don't want to say that some outside event can have this kind of "control", so to speak, over God, But ACM again has no hesitation in saying that the Word is "unable to endure" the disappearance of His people. 

And so the Word comes down and takes "a human body even as our own." Here A-Cakes clarifies that He did not merely seem to take a body or "appear" as though he had done so..."No, He took our body."

Then there's a bit that I'm honestly not wild about, how "He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin...untainted by intercourse with man." This is one area where I believe Athanasius is simply wrong. I do not think that a virgin is in any way more "spotless" or "stainless" or "untainted" than any lawfully married woman who is faithful to her husband

So why does the Word come in "a body like our own"? "Because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death." Therefore "He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, when He had fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men."

Corruption cannot be gotten rid of except through death. The Word is immortal and therefore can't die. So the Word takes a body that CAN die, so that the body "might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection."

Initially, Athanasius seems to be going out of his way NOT to say that "God died" or "the Word died." Instead, it's "he surrendered his body to death" and "surrendering to death the body which he had taken." Honestly, this makes me uncomfortable...I think it may demonstrate an unease to fully embrace that which is indeed folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. However, Athanasius does at least once affirm that it is "His death", demonstrating that at least on some level, he can assent that the Word did indeed experience death. 

Part of his argument seems to be that death "emptied its clip" into Christ, as it were...that death expended all it's death-ness in an attempt to kill the unkillable, and now "it was thereafter voided of its power for men."

A-Bro continues, stating that due to "the solidarity of mankind", the Incarnation effects the defeat of death and corruption for all mankind. The he gives a pretty epic illustration:

"You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honoured, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled, and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be."

A couple things: First, again note the way that Athanasius uses story to relate theology. Second, A-Cakes is not super concerned with how these things are happening. He does not see the need to explore why one body suffering death - even if that body belongs to the immortal Word - voids death for everyone. He does not question why the Word dwelling in one body amidst the many has foiled the designs of the enemy. That is just the way things are.

Thirdly, this is (I believe) the first explicit reference to "the designs of the enemy against mankind." He just casually brings it up. The Fall is not merely an unfortunate accident, nor is the result of the is part of a plan, designed by something or someone hostile to both God and humanity. 

The rest of the chapter is largely recap and wrap-up. "For by the sacrifice of His own body He did two things: He put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and he made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection. By man death has gained its power over men; by the Word made Man death has been destroyed and life raised up anew."

Overall, this chapter is a LOT more action-packed than the previous one. Although Athanasius uses a lot of repetition, he constantly comes up with new ways to say what he wants to say, covering just about every angle. Big picture thoughts:

-Athanasius never pads his assessment of the state of mankind with appeals to God's justice or righteousness. He never allows God the possibility of ignoring mankind and allowing us to fall to Death. In fact, he expressly denies that God could do that.

-God does not seem primarily concerned with justice and punishment. God is primarily concerned with curing the corruption of mankind, so that humanity can once again be immortal and imperishable with God, as God had originally intended. 

-Athanasius is only concerned with the "mechanics" of the Incarnation and its effects in broadest sense. Some might see this as hand-waving or simplistic, but I think it just reflects a different attitude towards theology: God says that some things work in a certain way, and that's enough. 

-Finally, Athanasius does not consider this issue forensically, as an abstract issue. Indeed, one gets the feeling that Athanasius would object to any attempt to so treat the issue. Because it is not abstract...the Fall, corruption, death, and the Incarnation are things which have to do not with ideas and theories, but with flesh and blood. 

He concludes with a teaser: "This then, is the first cause of the Saviour's becoming Man. There are, however, other things which show how wholly fitting is His blessed presence in our midst; and these we must now go on to consider." More on that next time, and be sure to comment and let me know what you think!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

On the Incarnation, Chapter 1: Creation and the Fall

Athanasius begins his work with an immediate reference to the ground laid in a prior work, Contra Gentes ("Against the Heathens"), and how he "briefly indicated that the Word of the Father is Himself divine," continuing to expound on the role of Christ in the creation and sustaining of all that is.

Athanasius (hereafter A-Cakes, A-Man, A-Bro, Contra Mundum, ACM, or other) spends a mere sentence on this. His main goal is to "take a step further in the faith of our holy religion, and consider also the Word's becoming Man and His divine Appearing in our midst." This is, of course, the topic of the work...both the reason for and the nature of this divine Appearance. What is entailed in the Incarnation, and why was it necessary?

And his first thought is the inversion of expectations and nature that the Incarnation entails. As unbelievers scorn Christ, "the more does He make His Godhead evident." He takes the impossible and surpasses it; He makes fit the unfit; He takes that which is human and declares it divine. And the result? "Thus by what seems his utter poverty and weakness on the cross He overturns the pomp and parade of idols, and quietly and hiddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognise Him as God."

That is the first of ACM's observations on the nature of the Incarnation, but it is far from the last. But before delving more into what the Incarnation is, A-Bro pauses, because before understanding what it is, we must understand WHY it is. "He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men." And then he explains that we will begin with creation and with the Creator, for before we understand anything else, we must understand one crucial fact: "The renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning."

This is HUGE for A-Cakes. If I remember rightly, he spends a very large chunk of his work building on this observation, because it's very important to him that "there is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation." ACM sees a logical and personal continuation through creation and renewal: it is the same Agent who accomplishes both. 

Following that, Athanasius proceeds to argue for creation as told in the Bible. Since his audience consisted entirely of theists, not atheists, his arguments are quite different from how we would go about introducing creationism today! But through those arguments, one central point emerges: That God is a creator, not merely a craftsman. He creates out of nothing, rather than shaping pre-existent matter. That creation is accomplished "through His own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ," and one of the focal points of that creation is mankind. And upon mankind, the Creator bestowed "especial mercy"..."namely, the impress of His own Image, a share in the reasonable being of the very Word Himself."

The goal of this special mercy is that mankind might live in paradise forever. However, A-Man states that"the will of man could turn either way," and therefore that God made this grace conditional: "If they went astray and became vile, throwing away their birthright of beauty, they would come under the natural law of death, and live no longer in paradise, but, dying outside of it, continue in death and in corruption."

Two things immediately strike me here. The first is that A-Bro goes out of his way to establish libertarian free will in the Garden: "The will of man could turn either way." This emphasis on free will, and real choices, is extremely common in the Church Fathers, and is a thorn in the side of Calvinists who wonder why their doctrine has no adherents in the early Church. And the second is that God isn't sentencing mankind to death: By sinning, we place ourselves under "the natural law of death." It is no more a "punishment" then being burned when you touch the stove is a punishment. 

And with this, ACM brings us back to the main event: "The former subject is relevant to the latter for this reason: It was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us."

Note the story-telling here. Athanasius is not merely teaching theology...he is reciting a saga, an epic, a fantasy...a fantasy that, joy of joys, is actually true. Christ is not merely "made Incarnate," and the Incarnation is not broken down into sterile forensic terms. The Word comes down, as a result of our sin calling out to Him and causing Him to show forth his love for us. Indeed, He makes haste to come to our aid!

God created us to "remain in incorruption." Honestly, we screwed that up pretty quick. Mankind had come under the law of death...indeed, "they were in the process of becoming corrupted entirely, and death had them entirely under its dominion."

And how was this happening? "The transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good."

A-Cakes begins to wrap up this train of thought with a recap. We were created by the Word and given "His own life by the grace of the Word." Since we were created beings, we were naturally subject to death and decay; However, through our "union with the Word," "the presence of the Word with them shielded them even from natural corruption." But when we forsook that union and departed from the word, we became victims of corruption even greater than what was natural, "because it was the penalty of which God had forewarned them for transgressing the commandment." A-Bro ends the chapter by detailing the descent of man, his ever-increasing wickedness, and his thirst for sin.

With the word "penalty," Athanasius brings in the first hint of "punishment". However, again, there is the strong sense of natural consequences. God did not make Adam subject to death: Adam did that. God did not give Adam over to corruption: Adam did that, too. We are sustained by proximity to the Word our the extent that we depart from the Word, we become more corrupt and less...well, just less. Proximity to God equals existence...distance from God equals non-being and negation. 

Anyway, we're just getting started here, folks. Athanasius is just setting the stage here, but in chapter 2 he really begins picking up steam. I'll likely be collecting feedback regarding the format of these posts, so if you have thoughts on how this blog-through could be done better, just let me know in the comments!

See Part 2 here. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Amateurs and Ancient Books - Athanasius and Cyril

"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books...The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. he feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator."

This is how CS Lewis opens his introduction to "On the Incarnation" by Saint Athanasius, one such "ancient book" that Lewis thinks people should read more of. And one HUGE reason for reading those ancient books is to "put the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective." "We all," Lewis says, "need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

Speaking of Athanasius in particular, Lewis writes that Athanasius "stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, 'whole and undefiled,' when it looked as if all the civilized world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius--into one of those 'sensible' synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away."

Athanasius contra mundum. Athanasius against the world. He fought for the Incarnation, for very God becoming very man, and his writing is for everyone who calls themself Christian, for everyone who wishes to continue to grow in faith and understanding of the One who saves us.

So as we enter the Christmas season, I can think of no better use of my blog than a meditation on On the Incarnation, as well as a later work by St. Cyril, On the Unity of Christ. This is merely the introduction, hastily typed at a time when both Anna and Wesley are asleep. I hope to do a sort of chapter-by-chapter thing over the next four weeks, and I anticipate that it will be quite fun,

I read both Athanasius and Cyril during my Freshman year at Biola, and in fact Cyril was the subject of my second paper (which was terrible and I hate it) as well as my third (which, if I do say so myself, was pretty good!). In fact, I was somewhat unique among the Plato family, preferring Cyril to Athanasius: I was absolutely blown away by Cyril's intricate Christology, while the more "story-driven" style of Athanasius seemed to fall a little flat.

However, reading even the first couple of pages of Athanasius reminds me of his true greatness, and I see so much that I had merely passed over before. And I think that it is good and right to have read them one after another, in quick succession: The Gospel is not merely an amazing story, and it is not merely a thing of bare fact, of theory and philosophy. It is an amazing story that gets more amazing the deeper you go, the more you think about it: It is a puzzle that provides at one and the same time the satisfaction of having finished a piece, and the anticipation of more to be puzzled out.

Part 1

Part 2