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A SPECIAL ASPECT OF ATHANASIAN SOTERIOLOGY PART I ST. ATHANASIUS was on fire with the love of Christ. What he wrote of his friend could be written of him: "... I am confident that you consider knowledge of, and faith in, Him [Christ} more precious than all else." 1 Likewise, he himself could be called what he called this friend, f??????st??, a lover of Christ.2 His love of Christ is the key to his whole life and also to his writings. Christ, the Word Incarnate, occupies the central position in the doctrinal system of this celebrated Doctor of the Church, as all writers on Athanasius observe. It is true, he did not write a Summa of Christology or of theology; however, from his writings we can build up a rather complete system of religious thought in his day. In that system Christ, under one aspect or another, is always in the central place. Whenever we consider the place of Christ in God's plan of the universe, we are, as a matter of fact, asking what the purposes of Christ's existence in this life and in the glorious life are, and also what relation there exists between these various purposes. St. Athanasius treats ex professo the purposes of the Incarnation of the Eternal and Divine Word. True, the chief burden of all his writings is to prove that Christ, and consequently, the Word, is divine; but in proving this he also explains why the Word who is divine and eternal, took unto Himself our human nature. He mentions various purposes of the Incarnation without really philosophizing on the relation between them. In his work Contra Gentes, St. Athanasius refutes hellenistic idolatry: he demonstrates the sinful origin, progress and extravagance of idolatry. To this he opposes the knowledge of the true God, which was given by the Eternal Word from the beginning of creation, and the knowledge of God which could be gotten by 1.Contra Gentes, ?. 1 (P. G., 25, 5 B). 2.Ibid., ?. 47 (P. G., 25, 96 B); De Incarnatione Verbi, n. 1 (P. G., 25, 97 A); n. 56 (25, 196 A). 30 DOMINIC UNGER31 the contemplation of the creation even after man had sinned. In his second work, De Incarnatione Verbi, which is really only a continuation and completion of the first, he deals with the restoration , through the Word Incarnate, of the primitive work of God which had been destroyed by sin. In this work he treats ex professo two main reasons for the Incarnation. From this brief outline of these two works we can see that Athanasius is studying and describing the plan of God in the order of execution, in the historical order: at creation God gave man knowledge of Himself through the Eternal Word; man sinned and lost that knowledge, but God had made provision that man should still be able to know Him through the creation; then in the fullness of time the Word became incarnate in order to restore the power to know God through the Eternal Word. CHRIST OUR SAVIOR We will examine in detail the various purposes of the Incarnation that St. Athanasius proposes. The first one that he discusses is the need of redeeming sinful man. He introduces the subject thus: But to explain these matters [sc, the Incarnation and the divinity of the Word], it will be of service to recall what was said above [i.e., in Contra Gerties'] in order that you may be able to know why the Word of the Father, who [the Word] is so great and so eminent, appeared in a body; and that you will not think that the Savior bore a body as a consequence of his nature; but [that you will know] that He who is by nature incorporeal and the Word, has nevertheless appeared to us in a human body for our salvation because of His Father's goodness and love for man. Besides, in giving this exposition it is proper to speak first of the creation of all things, and of God their Artificer, so that by this method one may rightly perceive that the renewal of creation has been wrought by the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 30-53
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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