Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, Chapter 5, “The Resurrection”

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26. After accomplishing the “salvation of the world” through his death on the cross, He did not allow his body to “linger” in the grave but raised it up on the third day, “impassible and incorruptible, the pledge and token of His victory.” He could have risen sooner, but this might have cast doubt on the reality of his death. He could have waited longer, but some might have forgotten, and so doubted that it was the same body as died on the cross. Rather, with news of his death “still ringing in [people’s] ears” he arose in the same body, showing his power over death.

27. Prior to Christ’s resurrection, “even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all who believe on Christ tread it underfoot as nothing.” “Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot as he now is, the passers-by jeer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Saviour on the cross. It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, “O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is thy sting?”

28. As additional proof of Christ’s victory over death, Athanasius points to martyrs, even boys and girls, who did not fear the approach of death because of faith in the cross of Christ. Athanasius challenges the unbeliever “to embrace the faith of Christ” and “come to His teaching.” When he does this, “he will see how impotent death is and how completely conquered.”

29. Because of “the soujourn of the Saviour and the death and resurrection of His body,” Christ has become the “Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power.” His disciples’ lack of fear of death stands as a daily “monument” attesting to his resurrection. “Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to end.”

30. As additional proof of the resurrection, Athanasius points to those “all over the world” who are accepting the Faith and becoming obedient to Christ’s teaching. Athanasius’s logic runs as follows, “Dead men cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energise others belong only to the living.” Repentant sinners, the advance of the Gospel– “This is the work of One Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.”

31. Athanasius then challenges that, “those who disbelieve in the resurrection have no support in facts, if their gods and evil spirits do not drive away the supposedly dead Christ.” Rather than drive Him away, they “become dead at Christ’s presence.” This is to say that multitudes are turning from pagan religions to Christ when he is preached to them. “Shall we call Christ dead, Who effects all this?” “No room for doubt remains, therefore, concerning the resurrection of His body.”

32. While this argument may not convince some, it is consistent with the fact that the invisible God is known by his works. To reject necessarily this kind of argument, Athanasius argues, would require one also to reject the laws of nature [which are also invisible, but have a clearly visible ‘effect’ in the world]. “[I]t is manifest, then, and let none presume to doubt it, that the Saviour has raised His own body, and that He is very Son of God, having His being from God as from a Father, Whose Word and Wisdom and Whose Power He is.” 

 

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2 comments on “Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, Chapter 5, “The Resurrection”

  1. Marvelously and meticulously crafted in a inarguably magnificent structure of truth and reason. I cannot help but feel that there is a dimension missing to your structure. Your truth and reason lies flat upon the page without life and without feeling. A marvel of logic that I would never attenpt to disagree as it is truth down to the last period. I for one intend to reference your work in my own writing. You express truth so eloquently, yet only in two dimensions. You mentioned in your opening introduction that part of the reason God was incarnate was out of love. However within your infaliblly logical dissertation you include little or no mention of this crucial aspect of the reason for Christ to become man. So crucial is this aspect that it is the reason for the reason. It is man’s sinful arrogance that assumes that we are our own excuse for being. After all we are such a wonderous creation why not save us? In actuality we are far less that woderous enough to be worthy of saving and part of the mystery that is God is understanding His love as the motivation behind Christ’s sacrifice. Without this the incarnation becomes moot regardless of how true your logic and reason is. Why create us if we are to become corrupted to the point of irresistible destruction? Why not re-create a more perfect less corruptable man without the need for a sacrifice of such large proportions? Free will is the key. It is the one aspect of our creation that offers to God the glory that He deserves. Without it we are nothing special enough to warrant any sacrifice. Love is the remainder of that key. Without His love we are not worthy saving and beyond that our own capacity for love, to know love of God, to love each other is the whole point to have free will. It is that spark of love within us all that emulates God “He created man in His own image” No other part of our nature mirrors God other than the free will to know and express love. No other human trait can even be compared to God. Love is that part of God that is given to us to make us the glorious creation described in Genesis. Our free choice to explore other parts of existence apart from God gives rise to our inevitable death as well as the cloudy misperceptions of God’s presence we all experience despite how strongly we know that God is everpresent everywhere and always. Only after we understand this does the remainder of your infalible logic makes any sense. So without any complaint I merely offer a larger dimension to the reason for God incaranate that iss missing from your report. To put it mildly it is all about the love “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” 1 Corinthians 13:2

    • bwilkins82 says:

      Hi Dreamweaver,

      Thank you for your thoughts. One thing that I want to say is that these particular posts are merely trying to condense and summarize what Athanasius wrote in his book On the Incarnation. More than anything they are “notes,” and that is why they do come off two-dimensional.

      I agree with you that God did not have to save man. One of the weaknesses of Athanasius’s argument, IMO, is that he spends far too much time trying to argue that God had to save man. I disagree with that. God could have left us to his judgement, and he would’ve still been a good God. He didn’t save out of any necessary reason, but because of his own free will choice to be gracious and merciful to sinners. In that sense, I agree with you that free-will is the key, but it is God’s free-will. His choice to show grace to us in Christ, instead of condemnation. As he shows saving grace to us, we turn our corrupted wills back to him and to his glory and enjoy the redemptive benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s my two $.02 Thanks for stopping by!

      -Brandon

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