The Jewish Messiah has Come: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius wrote a chapter in On the Incarnation refuting the unbelief of the Jews. In today’s excerpt, we see this mighty Church Father shaking the cage of the unbelieving Jewish nation, calling them to repent of their rejection of Jesus, and to see Him as their long-awaited Messiah.

In love and respect to those practicing post-Messiah Judaism, I stand as one in debt to your fathers, your Scriptures, your nation. It is history’s great irony that I am of the seed of Abraham, and you are not, though you be his children, and I am not. I urge you to drink deeply of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and God of Israel become Man.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

How would you challenge the Jews who reject their Messiah?

Well…

When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them.

And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow? On His account only they prophesied continually, until such time as Essential Righteousness has come, Who was made the Ransom for the sins of all. For the same reason Jerusalem stood until the same time, in order that there men might premeditate the types before the Truth was known. So, of course, once the Holy One of holies had come, both vision and prophecy were sealed. And the kingdom of Jerusalem ceased at the same time, because kings were to be anointed among them only until the Holy of holies had been anointed.

Moses also prophesies that the kingdom of the Jews shall stand until His time, saying, “A ruler shall not fail from Judah nor a prince from his loins, until the things laid up for him shall come and the Expectation of the nations Himself.”

And that is why the Savior Himself was always proclaiming “The law and the prophets prophesied until John.” So if there is still king or prophet or vision among the Jews, they do well to deny that Christ is come; but if there is neither king nor vision, and since that time all prophecy has been sealed and city and temple taken, how can they be so irreligious, how can they so flaunt the facts, as to deny Christ Who has brought it all about?

Again, they see the heathen forsaking idols and setting their hopes through Christ on the God of Israel; why do they yet deny Christ Who after the flesh was born of the root of Jesse and reigns henceforward? Of course, if the heathen were worshipping some other god, and not confessing the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses, then they would do well to argue that God had not come. But if the heathen are honoring the same God Who gave the law to Moses and the promises to Abraham—the God Whose word too the Jews dishonored, why do they not recognize or rather why do they deliberately refuse to see that the Lord of Whom the Scriptures prophesied has shone forth to the world and appeared to it in a bodily form? Scripture declares it repeatedly.

“The Lord God has appeared to us,” and again,

“He sent forth His Word and healed them.” And again,

“It was no ambassador, no angel who saved us, but the Lord Himself.”

The Jews are afflicted like some demented person who sees the earth lit up by the sun, but denies the sun that lights it up! What more is there for their Expected One to do when he comes? To call the heathen? But they are called already. To put an end to prophet and king and vision? But this too has already happened. To expose the God-denying-ness of idols? It is already exposed and condemned. Or to destroy death? It is already destroyed.

What then has not come to pass that the Christ must do? What is there left out or unfulfilled that the Jews should disbelieve so light-heartedly? The plain fact is, as I say, that there is no longer any king or prophet nor Jerusalem nor sacrifice nor vision among them; yet the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God, and the Gentiles, forsaking atheism, are now taking refuge with the God of Abraham through the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Surely, then, it must be plain even to the most shameless that the Christ has come, and that He has enlightened all men everywhere, and given them the true and divine teaching about His Father.

Thus the Jews may be refuted by these and other arguments from the Divine teaching.

His language may not be politically correct, but his arguments are surely potent. Be reconciled with the God of your fathers, Jewish friends. Jesus is Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

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It’s not Right that Humankind Dies: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Human beings are a creature of God – His highest creation in fact, as we are made in His image. Athanasius spends a great deal of energy in his magnum opus On the Incarnation of the Word discussing our relation to God as being made in His image. He sees much of God’s motive in sending His Son to redeem us in the fact that it would not have been proper for His creatures bearing His image to waste away into nothingness because of corruption.

While Athanasius’s categories are underdeveloped, and some of his theology a bit wonky, I can look past that a lot easier (as a fourth-century man), than anyone who in this twenty-first century is still underdeveloped and wonky. Read Athanasius with charity – I post his glorious words every Tuesday. Please subscribe to this blog if you have been blessed by any of these posts.

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Do you think it’s OK for humanity to die off in their sin and corruption? If the whole race is eliminated, wouldn’t that be what we deserve?

Well…

…what possible profit could it be to God Himself, Who made men, if when made they did not worship Him, but regarded others as their makers?

This would be tantamount to His having made them for others and not for Himself. Even an earthly king, though he is only a man, does not allow lands that he has colonized to pass into other hands or to desert to other rulers, but sends letters and friends and even visits them himself to recall them to their allegiance, rather than allow His work to be undone.

How much more, then, will God be patient and painstaking with His creatures, that they be not led astray from Him to the service of those that are not, and that all the more because such error means for them sheer ruin, and because it is not right that those who had once shared His Image should be destroyed.

Tender words of a warrior-Christian. My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

You Can’t Keep a Good Savior Dead: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Resurrection Sunday is just past, and here we are, almost 2,000 years later still celebrating. What are we celebrating? We rejoice that an obscure carpenter from the middle of nowhere, who was brutally put to death by the Roman government, raised Himself from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. We are celebrating that this obscure carpenter, this peasant man from backwater Galilee was Himself the eternal God in human flesh, and that He somehow managed to put away the enmity between God and rebellious humankind. How did He somehow manage that? He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

A divine exchange.

The innocent, offended party reached out to the seething hatred of humanity, and allowed Himself to become the satisfaction for our sin. The innocent for the guilty.

His life was poured out to death, and death swallowed Him whole. In the belly of death, as it began trying to digest Him (like everyone else who ever died), He instead came back to life, bursting the body of death from the inside. Death could not handle Him, this Jesus of Nazareth. He was more than a carpenter. His resurrection is a glorious mystery only partially understood – yet we know that in some mystical way we share in His resurrection – those of us who have called on Him as Lord and been baptized in His name will in like manner defeat death on the final day of history.

Yes, please.

Our dear uncle from almost 1,700 years ago, Athanasius of Alexandria, has so much gold to share with us newer folk. I post quotes from his magnum opus (On the Incarnation) each Tuesday, and so I hope you are in some way helped in your Christian faith by reading these glorious nuggets of theological contemplation. Let’s see what he has to say about all this I’ve been saying.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

How has death been doing since it met Jesus Christ?

I like this question, kids…

If, then, it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power.

Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.

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.Uncle Athanasius

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? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength.

These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. 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.

My favorite uncle.

This convicts me to not hold this life too tightly, and to not be too afraid to meet the toothless death who is powerless to keep me from my Savior and King.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to share in the resurrection of the just with you (are you trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?).

-Justin

What a Crazy Idea: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius

I was actually a black guy 🙂

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

 

What was the strategy of God in sending His Son as a peasant man?

Well…

…That mystery the Jews [stumble over], the Greeks deride, but we adore; and your own love and devotion to the Word also will be the greater, because in His Manhood He seems so little worth.

For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on Him,

so much the more 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,Christ Crucified and quietly and hiddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognize Him as God.

My favorite uncle.

The divine Son of God became a lowly human in order to blast the elitist sensibilities of the proud. He’s winning over the mockers and unbelievers through His utter poverty and weakness at the cross – counter-intuitive, counter-culture. I love it.

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Why did the Word Appear in (Nasty) Human Flesh? Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

(The Greek mindset of the ancient world thought it impossible that God would ever do something so disgusting as taking on human flesh. They had a corresponding protest against the resurrection of the dead. You could see they might have had some difficulty swallowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!)

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Don’t you think it was kind of… unworthy of the Word of God to become a lowly, gross human man? Why not something greater, like the sun, moon, or stars?

Well,

The answer is this. The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not [reducing] the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.

Moreover, nothing in creation had erred from the path of God’s purpose for it, save only man. Sun, moon, heaven, stars, water, air, none of these had swerved from their order, but, knowing the Word as their Maker and their King, remained as they were made.

Men alone having rejected what is good, have invented nothings instead of the truth, and have ascribed the honor due to God and the knowledge concerning Him to demons and men in the form of stones. Obviously the Divine goodness could not overlook so grave a matter as this. But men could not recognize Him as ordering and ruling creation as a whole. So what does He do? He takes to Himself for instrument a part of the whole, namely a human body, and enters into that. Thus He ensured that men should recognize Him in the part who could not do so in the whole, and that those who could not lift their eyes to His unseen power might recognize and behold Him in the likeness of themselves.

For, being men, they would naturally learn to know His Father more quickly and directly by means of a body that corresponded to their own and by the Divine works done through it; for by comparing His works with their own they would judge His to be not human but Divine. And if, as they say, it were unsuitable for the Word to reveal Himself through bodily acts, it would be equally so for Him to do so through the works of the universe. His being in creation does not mean that He shares its nature; on the contrary, all created things partake of His power.

Similarly, though He used the body as His instrument, He shared nothing of its defect, but rather sanctified it by His indwelling. Does not even Plato, of whom the Greeks think so much, say that the Author of the Universe, seeing it storm-tossed and in danger of sinking into the state of dissolution, takes his seat at the helm of the Life-force of the universe, and comes to the rescue and puts everything right? What, then, is there incredible in our saying that, mankind having gone astray, the Word descended upon it and was manifest as man, so that by His intrinsic goodness and His steersmanship He might save it from the storm?

That was Greco-Roman wrestling right there, and our Uncle just pinned Plato for the count.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

 

 

Even the Idolatrous Egyptians are Being Converted! Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

 

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

You live(d) in Egypt, right?

Yes, kids, and the sunsets in Alexandria were glorious.

OK… well we were wondering, dear Uncle: what message finally got through to the Egyptian people to turn their hearts and minds away from the false gods of their ancestors?

Well…

Does Scripture tell of anyone who was pierced in hands and feet or hung upon a tree at all, and by means of a cross perfected his sacrifice for the salvation of all? It was not Abraham, for he died in his bed, as did also Isaac and Jacob. Moses and Aaron died in the mountain, and David ended his days in his house, without anybody having plotted against him. Certainly he had been sought by Saul, but he was preserved unharmed.

Again Isaiah was sawn asunder, but he was not hung on a tree. Jeremiah was shamefully used, but he did not die under condemnation. Ezekiel suffered, but he did so, not on behalf of the people, but only to signify to them what was going to happen. Moreover, all these even when they suffered were but men, like other men; but He Whom the Scriptures declare to suffer on behalf of all is called not merely man but Life of all, although in point of fact He did share our human nature.

“You shall see your Life hanging before your eyes,”

they say, and

“Who shall declare of what lineage He comes?”

With all the saints we can trace their descent from the beginning, and see exactly how each came to be; but the Divine Word maintains that we cannot declare the lineage of Him Who is the Life. Who is it, then, of Whom Holy Writ (Scripture) thus speaks? Who is there so great that even the prophets foretell of Him such mighty things? There is indeed no one in the Scriptures at all, save the common Savior of all, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He it is that proceeded from a virgin, and appeared as man on earth, He it is Whose earthly lineage cannot be declared, because He alone derives His body from no human father, but from a virgin alone.

We can trace the paternal descent of David and Moses and of all the patriarchs. But with the Savior we cannot do so, for it was He Himself Who caused the star to announce His bodily birth, and it was fitting that the Word, when He came down from heaven, should have His sign in heaven too, and fitting that the King of creation on His coming forth should be visibly recognized by all the world.

He was actually born in Judea, yet men from Persia came to worship Him. He it is Who won victory from His demon foes and trophies from the idolaters even before His bodily appearing—namely, all the heathen who from every region have abjured the tradition of their fathers and the false worship of idols and are now placing their hope in Christ and transferring their allegiance to Him.

The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing, and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father.

He it is Who was crucified with the sun and moon as witnesses; and by His death salvation has come to all men, and all creation has been redeemed. He is the Life of all, and He it is Who like a sheep gave up His own body to death, His life for ours and our salvation.

Ancient gospel, ancient Savior, same gospel for us, same Savior who saves Egyptians also saves all… The universal Word of Life!

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Denial of the Resurrection vs. Reality: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Uncle AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

We found someone who says Jesus didn’t truly rise from the dead with His same body that He died on this cross. His name is Marcus Borg, and he seems to be a popular, intelligent theologian. Marcus Borg

Let me see what he said about the matter, kids.

OK, here:

Because of the common meaning of “physical/bodily” in modern English, I do not think the resurrection of Jesus means this. Physical/ bodily means fleshly, molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular existence.

But the risen Jesus is not in this sense a physical/bodily reality. The resurrection stories in the New Testament make that clear. The risen Jesus appears in a locked room (John 20). He journeys with two of his followers for a couple of hours and is not recognized – and when he is recognized, he vanishes (Luke 24). He appears in both Jerusalem (Luke and John) and Galilee (Matthew and John). He appears to Stephen in his dying moments (Acts 7). He appears to Paul in or near Damascus as a brilliant light (Acts 9). He appears to the author of Revelation on an island off the coast of Turkey in the late 90s of the first century (Rev. 1).

These texts are not about Jesus being restored to his previous life as a physical being. If such events happen, they are resuscitations: resuscitated persons resume the finite physical life they had before, and will die again someday. Whatever affirming the resurrection of Jesus means, it does not mean this.

Moreover, what would it mean to say that the risen Jesus is a physical/bodily reality? That he continues to be a molecular, protoplasmic, corpuscular being existing somewhere? Does that make any sense? How can the risen and living Jesus be all around us and with us, present everywhere, if he is bodily and physical?

So Uncle Ath, what do you say to Dr. Borg?

Well, let me come at it like this:

Fitting indeed, then, and wholly consonant was the death on the cross for us; and we can see how reasonable it was, and why it is that the salvation of the world could be accomplished in no other way. Even on the cross He did not hide Himself from sight; rather, He made all creation witness to the presence of its Maker. Then, having once let it be seen that it was truly dead, He did not allow that temple of His body to linger long, but forthwith on the third day raised it up, impassable and incorruptible, the pledge and token of His victory.

It was, of course, within His power thus to have raised His body and displayed it as alive directly after death. But the all-wise Savior did not do this, lest some should deny that it had really or completely died. Besides this, had the interval between His death and resurrection been but two days, the glory of His incorruption might not have appeared. He waited one whole day to show that His body was really dead, and then on the third day showed it incorruptible to all. The interval was no longer, lest people should have forgotten about it and grown doubtful whether it were in truth the same body.

No, while the affair was still ringing in their ears and their eyes were still straining and their minds in turmoil, and while those who had put Him to death were still on the spot and themselves witnessing to the fact of it, the Son of God after three days showed His once dead body immortal and incorruptible; and it was evident to all that it was from no natural weakness that the body which the Word indwelt had died, but in order that in it by the Savior’s power death might be done away.

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, 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 those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.

But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead. There is proof of this too; for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior’s resurrection from it. Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing robbed of all its strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot the passers-by sneer 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 Savior 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?”

Who are you going to side with? A 20th century speculation artist who lives in posh academic comfort, or a fourth-century, hardscrabble father of the faith who could see back in history just a few generations to the people who actually knew and walked with, and died in witness to the bodily, risen Jesus Christ? I hear Marcus Borg is a perfect gentleman, and I know he is very intelligent. Yet here is an example of one having become wise in his own eyes – yet he has become a fool – missing the most plain reality in human history: Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

Thanks for those gracious words, Uncle Athanasius.

Grace to all those who love the Lord Jesus,

-Justin