By EMMA YEAGER, Eleventh Grade Student
In Dr. Wylie’s Christian Worldview class, Covenant School juniors and seniors have been reading On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (early 4th century). The Incarnation is the core Christian conviction that God put on human flesh and became Immanuel, God with us. In this season of Advent, Athanasius has been preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the King by helping us grasp the wonders of the Incarnation. Until I read On the Incarnation, I tended to see Christmas as primarily about us; the Incarnation shows how much God loves us. Athanasius unequivocally affirms that, but he also helps us see that the Incarnation is chiefly about bringing God His deserved glory. He shows us that, in Christ, God proves himself both merciful and just, both gracious and righteous
In the beginning, in Eden, life was all this new world knew. Death was not feared or even a thought. From the schools of fish moving through the glassy water to the majestic animals roaming the lush grass, life was everywhere. Most importantly, however, were the two human beings who stood among these animals: Adam and Eve. God, the Creator of this paradise, created both of them, and only them, in His image (Gen. 1:27). They were created to reflect His character and partake of His Word. The Word was their source of life (John 1:4). However, to allow for the possibility of real love and trust, God allowed them the choice of good and evil.
Both of our ancestors disobeyed God by choosing to eat from the tree he had forbidden. Adam and Eve’s disobedience would appear to put God in a quagmire. He had said they would die if they ate of the tree; He would be lying and inconsistent if He did not hold them accountable. At the same time, it would be against His good character to allow them to remain in eternal corruption since he had made them “in His image” and given them “a share of the power of His own Word,” that is Christ (p. 52). How could an all-powerful God allow His creations (Adam and Eve) to destroy themselves and the world He created for them? Furthermore, as St. Athanasius puts, it would be “supremely improper” for God’s workmanship in Adam and Eve to be allowed to perish of their own transgression through Satan’s deceit. An all-powerful God should be able to redeem and restore his creation instead of allowing it to fall into corruption, right? Allowing them to die would show limitation and weakness, but allowing them to live would show inconsistency with His law (Gen. 2:17). In the wake of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, the question is inescapable: How could God remain just and consistent but still redeem the beautiful universe He had created?
Athanasius invites us to see that a solution to this predicament would lie in a manger thousands of years later. Because Adam and Eve were created to be partakers of the Word their debt could not be paid except by the very Word of the Father. Jesus is the only One who could redeem the universe He created and the only one “worthy to suffer on behalf of all” (p. 56). The death and resurrection of Christ displays the Father’s justice and mercy (Rom. 3:23-26).
It makes sense that it should be this way, for as Athanasius insightfully ponders, who else but the Creator Himself could restore His creation? By dying, He saved the human race from death and cast our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). By resurrecting, He became our source of life and hope of redemption (1 Cor. 15:22). Only through the sinless, righteous, pure Word of God (Jesus), are humans able to escape the verdict of death (Rom. 8:2).
Death is still a part of the human life, but we do not die condemned (Rom. 8:1). We die to show the omnipotence of our Creator in our resurrection from death through Jesus’ sacrifice. The Incarnation was the final blow to the Enemy. It created the solution to the problem Satan had deviously orchestrated. The Incarnation inaugurates the restoration of God’s creation. He is the One who is ultimately getting the glory, and He is the One whose own Son died to save His creation. A world that began in life will not end in death, but instead will be resurrected to a new life that will be eternal; just as the Creator meant it to be (1 Cor 15:54).