Tag: athanasius

The Incarnation: The Whole City is Honored

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 honored…

– from Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word of God

…Like the presence of the Olympics honors a country.

In one sense, this is what the incarnation of Jesus Christ means for the world. In one moment, humanity is both affirmed and indicted. Indicted, because God took on flesh for man’s sin. But affirmed for the same reason – God took on flesh for man’s sin. He ‘took on flesh’ and ‘tabernacled among us’ (John 1:14).

In that great act, while not overlooking the ugliness of sin and its curse, God affirms that he has a purpose for his creation. He honors it by dwelling in its midst as a man. There is no higher theology, and there is no higher honor for this world than this: ‘

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see!
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel!’

We dishonor the incarnation by downplaying the honor of God’s creation – the world and all that dwells therein, for God Himself dwelled therein. And we dishonor the incarnation by overlooking sin, for sin necessitated it.

The Doing of That in a Day, Which May Ordinarily Take a Thousand Years

I’m trying to compile some of my favorite George MacDonald quotes from C.S. Lewis’ anthology. That’s all I intended this to be, but then I began to think of quotes I read elsewhere that were related. Why not write them down in one place?

On Miracles:

Think of Jesus’ words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’ (John 5:19).

The Father said, That is a stone. The Son would not say, That is a loaf. No one creative fiat shall contradict another. The Father and the Son are of one mind. The Lord could hunger, could starve, but would not change into another thing what His Father had made one thing. There was no such change in the feeding of the multitudes. The fish and the bread were fish and bread before…There was in these miracles, I think in all, only a hastening of appearances: the doing of that in a day, which may ordinarily take a thousand years, for with God time is not what it is with us…Indeed, the wonder of the growing corn is to me greater than the wonder of feeding the thousands. It is easier to understand the creative power going forth at once – immediately – than through the countless, the lovely, the seemingly forsaken wonders of the cornfield (George MacDonald Anthology, pp. 12-13).

To this add C.S. Lewis’ thoughts, building off of MacDonald:

God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn the water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see…But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.

He continues,

God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase, and men, according to the fashion of their age, say… ‘It is the laws of Nature.’ The close-up, the translation, of this annual wonder working is the feeding of the five thousand. Bread is not made there of nothing. Bread is not made of stones, as the Devil once suggested to Our Lord in vain. A little bread is made into much bread. The Son will do what He sees the Father do…When He fed the thousands he multiplied the fish as well as the bread. Look in every bay and almost every river. This swarming, pulsating fecundity shows He is still at work.

Finally, he applies this principle to the Virgin Birth:

This time He was creating not simply a man, but the man who was to be Himself: the only true man. The process which leads to the spermatozoon has carried down with it through the centuries much undesirable silt; the life which reaches us by that normal route is tainted. To avoid that taint, to give humanity a fresh start, He once short-circuited the process…For what He did once without a human father, He does always even when He uses a human father as His instrument. For the human father in ordinary generation is only a carrier, sometimes an unwilling carrier, always the last in a long line of carriers, of life that comes from the supreme life (Essay on Miracles, from God in the Dock).

So then, for Lewis and MacDonald, miracles are God speeding up, or (to use Lewis’ words) ‘short-circuiting’ the process. In Jesus’ miracles he was effectively hitting ‘fast forward.’ He was breaking the speed limit of the so-called ‘laws of nature.’

As to the purpose of such miracles, Lewis cites a quote by Athanasius from On the Incarnation:

Our Lord took a body like to ours and lived as a man in order that those who had refused to recognize Him in His superintendence and captaincy of the whole universe might come to recognize from the works He did here below in the body that what dwelled in this body was the Word of God.

Pure gold from MacDonald and Lewis.

But add to this Martin Luther’s take on Psalm 147:12-14 (which says):

  • Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! 13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. 14 He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat.

In his vocation man does works which effect the well-being of others; for so God has made all offices. Through this work in man’s offices, God’s creative work goes forward, and that creative work is love, a profusion of good gifts. With persons as his “hands” or “coworkers,” God gives his gifts through the earthly vocations, toward man’s life on earth (food through farmers, fishermen and hunters; external peace through princes, judges, and orderly powers; knowledge and education through teachers and parents, etc., etc.). Through the preacher’s vocation, God gives the forgiveness of sins. Thus love comes from God, flowing down to human beings on earth through all vocations, through both spiritual and earthly governments.

When we pray that God would give us our daily bread, he does so through the means of human agency, the same goes for many other areas. All of life is, therefore, a miracle in some sense. But the workings of natural and human agency are so common that God must short-circuit the process to shake us out of our unbelief and monotony – and this is what we deem as a true miracle.