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FREE BOOK Ä De Incarnatione Verbi Dei ⚣ A Universally Acknowledged Masterpiece Of Fourth Century Patristic Theology As C S Lewis Observes In His Introduction When I First Opened De Incarnatione I Soon Discovered By A Very Simple Test That I Was Reading A Masterpiece, For Only A Master Mind Could Have Written So Deeply On Such A Subject With Such Classical Simplicity C S Lewis had it right in his introduction to this spiritual classic dating from the 4th century He pointed out how our fear causes us to shy away from reading these classics directly and instead we read commentaries on them and what other people think they mean According to Lewis, It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and delightful to acquire I have found much joy in starting to read these classics myself The truth is there and is to the point The ancient writers didn t include a lot of fluff so these aren t as hard to get through as one would think This book covers the Fall, the purpose of Christ becoming man, His death and resurrection, and how the knowledge of the truth can show the errors of thought amongst Jews and Gentiles of the time and still today Towards the end, he is speaking of the decline of Greek god worship and why that was I know it wasn t as simple as Athanasius made it seem to be, but his point of it being because many who had followed false deities now saw the truth of the Savior made sense In a word, when did the wisdom of the Greeks become foolish, save when the true Wisdom of God revealed Himself on earth I had never thought about the decline in Greek god worship, but that has piqued by interest in studying that. I was pleased to find On the Incarnation remarkably fresh and engaging, still fierce and still passionate too Such is rarely the case with works of theology, particularly when orthodoxy has robbed them even of the novelty of heresy, for dry as dust disquisitions on settled questions often summon our slumber, not our thoughts But this work is an exception, for the intellect, honesty, and force of personality of St Athanasius of Alexandria still blaze like a beacon after than seventeen hundred years.Athanasius was the champion of orthodoxy when orthodoxy was losing, imperiled by the rapid growth of the Arian heresy This heterodox idea, that the Son is somehow a lesser being than the Father, not only spread through the East and converted the barbarians of the West, but also even dangerously appealed to the educated and powerful people of the age In the course of his life of eighty years, Athanasius, a fierce trinitarian, opposed four emperors and many prominent churchmen, and as the result of his theological squabbles was exiled from his bishopric of Alexandria a total of five times Thus he earned the name which will also be the title of his biopic if I ever get the chance to film it Athanasius Contra Mundum Athanasius Against the World .Arianism receives no mention in On the Incarnation, but the passionate Trinitarianism that kept Athanasius fighting all his life is everywhere in evidence His principal concern is to show that the Godhead, in all of its fullness and dynamism, is present in every particle of creation, and most important of all in the person of Jesus Christ Who is The Word He begins his account with the creation, making it clear that the Word which redeems us is also the Word which creates us, and that this same Word prepares our redemption by entering thoroughly into every fiber, every recess of our humanity, so that our corrupted flesh may be thoroughly saved from death and that death itself may die When Athanasius speaks of atonement, though he mentions Christ as ransom, his Christ is even closer to the Christus Victor the champion who tricks Satan by His unmerited death and thus wins from His confounded adversary the freedom of our souls a fitting Christ for a wily old warrior like himself.I have to admit I found the final three chapters proof texts and apologetics directed to the Jews and the Greeks rather less than inspiring, but the first five about fifty pages are compelling enough to read in one sitting This is, after all, a great story, the story of God Incarnate and His fight for our salvation And Athanasius, the accomplished fighter, tells the story well I ll let Athanasius have the last word As when a great king has entered some great city and dwelt in one of the houses in it, such a city is then greatly honoured, and no longer does any enemy or bandit come against it, but it is rather treated with regard because of the king who has taken up residence in one of its houses so also is the case with the King of all For since he has come to our realm and has dwelt in a body similar to ours, now every machination of the enemy against men has ceased and the corruption of death, which formerly had power over them, has been destroyed. Just checking, and yup St Athanasius is still my FAVOURITE Church Father Review originally posted on Vintage Novels Sometime in the 290s was born a child whose stature in the annals of history would far outstrip his physical stature In his day, he was known as The Black Dwarf, and to the heretic Arius, his lifelong nemesis, probably something even less sensitive St Athanasius of Alexandria is known most famously, of course, for standing contra mundum against the world for standing up for the right thing when the whole world was wrong He opposed the Arian heresy which stated that Christ is not truly God, not of the same substance, but rather a creation since a pure spiritual being like God could not possibly, according to Arius, take on diseased flesh It was, as CS Lewis points out in his introduction to On the Incarnation, one of those sensible, synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today It was a religion that agreed with all the best scientific and philosophical minds of the day.But it was wrong, and Athanasius dedicated his life to fighting it Even after the victory at the Council of Nicaea, Arianism died hard and Athanasius continued to be periodically exiled from his home, persecuted, hunted, and assaulted for his unpopular stand He never gave in He fought the good fight till his death, sometime in his 70s.But before all this happened, an earnest, devout, and irrepressibly optimistic teenager wrote a book length letter to his friend Macarius explaining the Christian faith That book became a theological classic and one of the great books of Western Civilisation.Unlike many of the great books of Western Civilisation, On the Incarnation is quite short and pithy, explaining the whys behind many of the doctrines of Christianity, but most importantly, why Christ had to come in the flesh, truly God, truly Man, to die and rise again It explains exactly why this was the only thing that could have worked this was the only sacrifice that would both pay for our sins and redeem us from Hell In addition the book discusses other aspects of redemption, and contains quite a bit of apologetic material.For it is a fact that the unbelievers pour scorn on Him, so much the does He make His Godhead evident The things which they, as men, rule out as impossible, He plainly shows to be possible that which they deride as unfitting, His goodness makes most fit and things which these wiseacres laugh at as human He by His inherent might declares divine 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 recognize Him as God On the Incarnation differs from other great books in another important way The author s youthfulness, high spirits, and vim come off the page at you Athanasius lived during exciting times, when in just over two brief centuries the Christian faith had swept the Roman world Just a few years later, the new emperor Constantine himself was to convert to Christianity and decriminalise it for the first time, meaning that you no longer faced death and dismemberment just for being a Christian Christianity was not made the official religion of the Empire for several years, by Theodosius of the Eastern Empire.The young Athanasius s enthusiasm reflects the high spirits of the exciting first two centuries of Christendom Not jaded, as so many Christians today seem to be, by the sheer back breaking difficulty of spreading the good news of the kingdom of heaven, Athanasius happily proclaims the death of idols, the end of the reign of demons, and the death of death itself When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Savior s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ s sake, rather than to remain in this present life If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realize that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross When did people begin to abandon the worship of idols, unless it were since the very Word of God came among men When have oracles ceased and become void of meaning, among the Greeks and everywhere, except since the Savior has revealed Himself on earth When did those whom the poets call gods and heroes begin to be adjudged as mere mortals, except when the Lord took the spoils of death and preserved incorruptible the body He had taken, raising it from among the dead Or when did the deceitfulness and madness of demons fall under contempt, save when the Word, the Power of God, the Master of all these as well, condescended on account of the weakness of mankind and appeared on earth When did the practice and theory of magic begin to be spurned under foot, if not at the manifestation of the Divine Word to men In a word, when did the wisdom of the Greeks become foolish, save when the true Wisdom of God revealed Himself on earth In old times the whole world and every place in it was led astray by the worship of idols, and men thought the idols were the only gods that were But now all over the world men are forsaking the fear of idols and taking refuge with Christ and by worshipping Him as God they come through Him to know the Father also, Whom formerly they did not know The amazing thing, over, is this The objects of worship formerly were varied and countless each place had its own idol and the so called god of one place could not pass over to another in order to persuade the people there to worship him, but was barely reverenced even by his own Indeed no Nobody worshipped his neighbor s god, but every man had his own idol and thought that it was lord of all But now Christ alone is worshipped, as One and the Same among all peoples everywhere and what the feebleness of idols could not do, namely, convince even those dwelling close at hand, He has effected He has persuaded not only those close at hand, but literally the entire world to worship one and the same Lord and through Him the Father.These excerpts are lengthy, but I did so want to introduce you to the irrepressible Athanasius But wait, you may be saying Athanasius was writing three centuries after the birth of Christ Here we are, two millenia later, and Athanasius s optimism seems ill founded Look at the world It s a mess The Church seems to be doing nothing about what really matters But slow down a bit Athanasius didn t live during a perfect time in world history either During his lifetime the great Arian controversy nearly shipwrecked the entire Faith He stood almost alone against heresy When he wrote On the Incarnation, Christians were still being fed to lions, and no end in sight By the time he died fifty years later, he d spent half his life in hiding, away from the Arians who were trying to discredit and silence him.You see, Athanasius s optimism was not based upon some mistaken idea that everything was just fine It wasn t, and he knew that it wasn t But he knew Who he believed in He knew the power of his King, and he had the eyes of faith to look around the world and see the wonderful things that were happening For wonderful things were happening The world has never been as dark and dreadful, even now, as it was in the centuries before Christ And Athanasius had seen with his own eyes that depraved, corrupt, and deadened world come to life in the power of Christ He knew that God was perfectly capable of cleaning up the mess that remained.Read this book And, just for a while, look at our own world through the eyes of Athanasius Look at the wonderful things that have happened since his time The advances in science, learning, and industry Look at the wonderful things that are happening right now the missionary efforts in all corners of the world, the new Bible translations, the power of the Gospel at work Then fight the long victory just like Athanasius did. Lewis s Preface Introduction available here also appears in God in the Dock under the title On the Reading of Old Books title given by Walter Hooper I read this short preface on June 12, 2018, but I had heard much of it already I teach Lewis s preface in ENGL 102.Lewis s Preface9 Humility can lead you astray if you think that you re not smart enough to read old books Older books firsthand knowledge are often better and delightful than modern books about old books secondhand knowledge.10 conversation metaphor you understand a current conversation better if you know how it started Baxter s mere Christianity 10 11 we re better able to correct a current age s outlook if we are familiar with other outlooks old books help us be less blind keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds by reading old books 11 English studies led to reading Christian classics bc those guys were influencers 12 13 be encouraged that Xns have much in common, despite all the divisions amusing experience of quoting someone Bunyan and having others labeling you as something else Catholic 13 viaduct metaphor13 14 offensive line from the Athanasian Creed not written by Athanasius it s about deserters, not those who have never heard cf Heb 6 1 8 Behr s IntroductionSt Athanasius the Great of Alexandria17 lived c 299 373 young deacon at Council of Nicaea 325 exiled five times17 18 met Antony ascetic Desert Father and wrote his biography Life of Antony 18 written to by Basil the Great written about by Gregory of Nazianzus canonized less than a decade after his death Council of Constantinople in 381 19 On the Incarnation is basically Nicene theologyAgainst the Gentiles20 On the Incarnation is the second part of a two part treatise Against the Gentiles is the first part the first work sets up the problem that the second resolves teachers are helpful, but not necessary in understanding the Scriptures21 the one who ascended the cross saved the universe healed creation the cross vanquished demonic activity22 idolatry was rampant before Christ, but now the power of the cross fills the world possibly written in the 330s while in exile mentions not having books readily available maybe written c 318 22 23 possibly responding to Eusebius s imperialist triumphalism by ascribing all credit to Christ not Constantine 24 God s transcendence makes neither his presence in creation nor the creaturely apprehension of him impossible26 being made in the image of God includes rationality human mental orientation should be directed godward transcendent contemplation , but it was twisted inward incurvatus in se to want the body26 27 this asceticism isn t aimed at the body per se, but at body idolatry28 nakedness in the garden described as lacking the garment of contemplating divine things original purpose was to transcend the body, but man directed attention toward the body and sense perception29 history of idolatry and human perversity order and harmony of creation indicate one creator30 creation can t be separated from Christ s saving work30 31 creation was ex nihilo and requires God s constant sustaining not two separate actions by the Word 32 33 humans become divine by participation Christ is divine in himself Nicaea On the Incarnation34 earlier discussion of idolatry in first work sets up second work mentions Jews and Greeks Gentiles from the outset see later headings in the work 35 most famous passage he was incarnate that we might be made god 36 contra one commentator who thinks Athanasius ignores the atonement, both works serve as an apology for the cross not much space dedicated to the nativity story incarnation also refers to the church those who constitute the body of Christ those in whom Christ now works 36 37 first divine dilemma sections 2 10 What should God do in response to the fall 1 He appears weak if he allows his creation meant for incorruptibility and life to be corrupted and die 2 he appears inconsistent if he does not require death, which he had threatened resolution is for the Word of God to take a human body and put it to death37 second divine dilemma sections 11 19 is the same issue, but with regard to knowledge embodied humans had chosen the body, as opposed to God, who is a spirit see p 26 God chose to use a body to recapture human attention affection Christ makes his divinity known by divine works done in his human body37 two analyses for the rationale of the incarnation the first focuses on the death of Christ, and the second focuses on the way Christ makes himself know through his body38 sections 20 32 cover Christ s death why on a cross creation s witness and resurrection evident in Christian courage in facing death sections 33 40 refute the Jews from the OT sections 41 55 refute the Gentiles from creation and effects of Christ s work 38 conclusion reminds Christians of Christ s humility and exaltation cf WSC, Qs 23 28 we too will be exalted one dayThe Life of Antony39 Antony s asceticism isn t a rejection of the body according to Behr Athanasius it s a struggle with the devil and an appropriation of Christ s victory through the body success is attributed to Christ alone40 spent 20 years in a deserted fortress41 he emerged stable and detached free from emotions 42 monks and monasteries victory over the world , the flesh, and the devil 43 44 The body is not only involved in salvation, but is the locus of salvation, for it is the dwelling place of the Lord 44 Christian asceticism is a mixture of human effort and divine grace grace alone makes human effort fruitful Athanasius s Life of Antony is a narrative exposition of his theology The numbers below are section numbers 1 moving on from the discussion of the Gentile error of idolatry mention of Jews and Greeks Gentiles see later headings incarnation and crucifixion were only apparent degradations start with creation makes sense, since re creation salvation was accomplished by the one who created it in the first place the one who made matter became matter to save matter The Divine Dilemma regarding Life and Death2 three positions on the creation of the world Epicureans point irrationally in opposition to clear facts and order of the world to spontaneity chance no providence Plato says deity used preexisting matter Gnostic heretics say a lesser demiurge created the dirty matter David Lyle Jeffrey mentions this passage here.3 appeals to Scriptural including Shepherd of Hermas accounts of creation assumes Paul wrote Hebrews two gifts being created in the first place, and being made in God s image story of promise incorruption and threat corruption 4 starts with origin of humans because that s what the Incarnation is about saving humans, made by the one who would save them story of the fall and emphasis on incorruption vs corruption reference to the Book of Wisdom reference to Ps 81 82 6 75 humans chose corruption, so corruption death reigned Athanasius shows how exceedingly corrupt the whole world became, including individuals, groups jointly , cities, and nations showing the great need for a savior 6 humans could have escap ed their natural state by the grace of participation in the Word, had they remained good cf Ps 8 5, Heb 1 and 2 co heir language in Rom 8 17 bride bridegroom imagery in Rev 19 7 Augustine s City of God 12.22 Milton s PL 5.469 503 corruption death was obliterating the human race cf Lewis s WoG either we become god like or we become nightmares tension between absurd and improper the absurdity appears in the apparent inconsistency regarding God s decree that man would die upon sinning, and yet man didn t die immediately or obviously the impropriety appears in the fact that God created humans and yet they are corrupted and dying God seems weak if he allows his creation to be destroyed deceit of the devil demons emphasis on God s goodness7 issue of absurdity again God threatened death for disobedience, but death did not come immediately demanding our repentance wouldn t have restored creation plus, corruption had already set in only the God Word was able to recreate the universe by suffer ing on behalf of all Christ put on corruptibility and death for us 8 absurdity and impropriety again the body was Christ s instrument to make God known to us his body took on all of death the power of the law corruption of humanity was totally spent on Christ, and so undone for us we were turned toward corruption, and Christ s incarnation death resurrection turned us back9 Christ s body participates in the Word that s how he s capable to take on death for us all and remain incorruptible himself and make corruption cease we are clothed with incorruptibility analogy of a king who dwells in a house brings honor to the whole city, and enemies don t attack the city because of the king s residence in a single house so Christ s having a body repels the enemy from other bodies the King of all enters our realm cf here Christ s body completed death and prevented the dissolution of the human race10 king analogy again fitting that the one who made humans should become human to save humans Heb 2 10 fitting that, since death came through humans, through the God Word God human came the dissolution of death his gracious advent The Divine Dilemma regarding Knowledge and Ignorance11 it seems profitless to create rational humans made in the image of their creator who they cannot know their creator like irrational animals the Father s image is the Son, through whom we know the Father, which leads to a happy blessed life humans turned from God by worshipping created idols and demons calling them gods pursuit of magic and astrology12 being made in the image of God made us sufficient to know the Father through the God Word, but humans were inclined not to recognize their creator besides nature though which we can know the creator , God sent the law and the prophets to make himself known sent to the Jews, but sent for the whole world blinded by pleasures and demonic deceit, humans became and irrational13 dilemma What was God to do let humans be ignorant of him If yes, then what was the point of creating humans in the image of God and with the capacity for knowing him How is God glorified when humans don t revere him but rather other things as maker and if no, then how would God restore that knowledge king analogy again pursues subjects God chose to renew recreate the in the image capacity to know him which we had lost by sending us the Image of the Father Christ 14 analogy of an image on wood being effaced by dirt but the owner returns to restore the image doesn t destroy the entire piece of wood the knowledge of God couldn t be restored by a regular human what s warped can t fix itself or creation it wasn t enough to keep us from falling the first time demonic deceit mentioned again humanity s gaze was downward, not upward God used the works of the body Christ s actions as the God Word to teach humans about the Father15 God, as a good teacher, condescends to help us simple folks understand we were sunk in an abyss with our eyes downward, focusing on things created and perceptible so God took on a body and draws our perception by his bodily actions his works outshine those of any human and surpass anything we might be predisposed toward creation, human beings, demons, dead heroes in poetry 16 language of Eph 3 17 19 breadth, length, height, and depth applied to Christ s works above creation, below incarnation, depths hell, breadth world sacrifice couldn t have been immediate, or else he would have been invisible no one would have seen his works through his body, which make him known as no mere human, but rather the king of the universe 17 being in a body did not mean that he was not elsewhere normal humans do not control move things other than their bodies, but the Word of God was not bound to his body his presence in a body sanctified the body18 Christ ate and drank he had a real not illusory body his power over demons and all sickness, his virgin birth, and his power over nature water into wine, calming sea, feeding 5,000 his works in the body show that he is divine19 if creation wasn t enough, then Christ s works in the body make his divinity known creation confessed his divinity at the crucifixion next section concerns Christ s death The first sections are concerned with Christ s creation, nativity, and life The next section has to do with his death and resurrection So the basic structure of the book is the life of Christ The Death of Christ and the Resurrection of the Body20 summary Savior needed to be incorruptible image restorer needed to be the Image of the Father life giver needed to be immortal teacher needed to be the Word not worried about repetition yes, the virgin birth made Christ a unique human, but his death proved that he was actually human his body simultaneously took the death for all and destroyed death corruption21 For as seeds sown in the ground, we do not perish when we are dissolved, but as sown we shall arise again, death having been destroyed by the grace of the Savior why couldn t Christ have died some other way instead of being crucified bc dying from sickness would have been unfitting for the one who healed sickness preventing his own death would nullify the whole point of the incarnation, and it would prevent the resurrection too22 fleeing from the Jews would have been unfitting hewaited for death to destroy it he came to complete humanity s death, not his own resurrection is a trophy of victory over death it s also a pledge of our future resurrection able unwilling vs unable willing23 death resurrection needed to be public with witnesses who could then be bold Pharisees forced some who had witnessed the resurrection to keep silent if res had been private, far fewer would have spoken about it 24 why not have had a glorious death instead of an ignominious one it would have seemed that Christ was powerful only over an easy death that he had contrived for himself wrestler analogy he fought whichever champion the enemies chose ignominious death became a trophy his body was undivided, unlike Isaiah or John the Baptist church should not be divided 25 previous comments are for outsiders if an insider lover of knowledge, not a lover of contention asks why the death had to be crucifixion, the answer is that he became a curse Gal 3 13 by hanging on a tree Deut 21 23 hands stretched out gathering both Jews and Gentiles devil demons controlled the lower airs and prevented our ascension, but the cross was raised up into the lower airs and purified it and reopened the gates for us to ascend26 why wait 3 days instead of rising immediately on the same day some might have said that Christ had not actually died obscuring the glory of Christ s power over corruption why not wait a longer time people would forget the details of the death27 it s clear that death has no power, because people fear death before believing in Christ, but afterward they mock death similar to how people mock a defeated and bound tyrant only the devil remains dead28 something about children practicing dying just as those with asbestos know they cannot burn, and just as those who see the tyrant bound know that he has lost power, so also those who see the courage of martyrs who mock death know that death no longer has any power C S Lewis s Preface to Paradise Lost mentions the mocking courage of Christian martyrdom p 15 29 just as the sun rises and dispels darkness, so Christ was raised up, and it s clear that he destroyed death Christians leap toward deathwith an eager spirit only those who are maimed perverted in mind can t understand this just as, when we see a snake trampled or a lion disturbed, we understand that the snake lion is powerless dead, so we understand that when people no longer fear death, it is Christ who destroyed death s power30 those with mental sight understand the argument death is dead because Christ has risen but the visible facts are even clearer if Christ were dead, would so many people be denying their ancestors religion and turning from adultery, murder, injustice, and impiety, and would demons flee and idolatry cease clearly the works of Christ prove that he has risen31 works of Christ include drawing to piety, persuading to virtue, teaching about immorality, leading to a desire for heavenly things, revealing the knowledge of the Father, inspiring power against death, showing himself to each, and purging away the godlessness of idols by the sign of the cross all magic ceases, all witchcraft is brought to naught, all idols are deserted and abandoned, all irrational desire ceases the works are a proof of the resurrection 32 it s natural not to see the invisible God, but it s difficult to deny his works even blind people can feel the work heat of the sun only the lame in mind can deny the power of others who believe even the demons confess what the impious deny demons flee at the name of Christ repetition of the works of ChristSee the rest of the review here.