On The Incarnation (1:3a) The Eternal Fountainhead

Such are the notions which men put forward. But the impiety of their foolish talk is plainly declared by the divine teaching of the Christian faith. From it we know that, because there is Mind behind the universe, it did not originate itself; because God is infinite, not finite, it was not made from pre-existent matter, but out of nothing and out of non-existence absolute and utter God brought it into being through the Word. He says as much in Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; (Gen. i. 1) and again through that most helpful book The Shepherd, “Believe thou first and foremost that there is One God Who created and arranged all things and brought them out of non-existence into being.” (The Shepherd of Hermas, Book II. I) Paul also indicates the same thing when he says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which we see now did not come into being out of things which had previously appeared.”(Heb. xi. 3) For God is good—or rather, of all goodness He is Fountainhead, and it is impossible for one who is good to be mean or grudging about anything. Grudging existence to none therefore, He made all things out of nothing through His own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ and of all these His earthly creatures He reserved especial mercy for the race of men.

What we see around us every day has meaning. Today I am looking out of my window to a glorious day of snow reflecting sun. There is a crisp vitality outside and a coziness inside. When the snow melts, the ground sops up the excess. If you can wait three months until things start greening up, you will see that the excess was not wasted at all. If you think about it, that’s the way of things. Excess (or abundance) delights us yet it is never wasted. It brings forth something else: new life. We can’t create new life; we don’t know enough. That knowledge is hidden from us. But we can replicate this natural process and help the elements bring about new life. We cannot make a tree, but we can arrange natural things so that a tree can be made.

Athanasius marvels at the hilarity of a human, who is unable to make anything from scratch yet imagines he or she can figure out how all things came into existence. He calls this “the impiety of their foolish talk.”

What we have revealed to us through the teaching of the Christian faith is something we could never think up on our own: a completely transcendent God who created “ex nihilo” (out of nothing). We don’t have a natural conception of this as Athanasius’ pointed out in the last chapter. We tend to some up with simplistic explanations like sloppy gloppy splotchy randomness or pre-existent matter. The idea of “ex nihilo” is difficult for us to wrap our minds around even after it’s revealed. But Athanasius quotes some biblical passages which clearly state this. The Bible clearly reveals that God created matter and didn’t simply re-arrange it. This is important to the concept of God becoming incarnate in Jesus. Matter is not some foreign entity to God; He created it, He has control over it and He knows how it works.

For God is good—or rather, of all goodness He is Fountainhead, and it is impossible for one who is good to be mean or grudging about anything. Grudging existence to none therefore, He made all things out of nothing through His own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ and of all these His earthly creatures He reserved especial mercy for the race of men.

This idea that God is not only good, but the Fountainhead of all goodness is probably the most important thing to know about God. Yes, omnipotence, omniscience, etc. are important things to know about God, but if a God who is omniscient and omnipotent isn’t omnibenevolent, we would probably be better off not knowing this God. Such a God would be able to create a universe but not sustain it. Such a God could create a lower existence but be unable to infuse it with His glory and beauty. To know that the God who created this world is GOOD will teach us that exploring His creation which is sustained and infused by Him is a noble and worthwhile pursuit. There is meaning and joy to be found in His creation. Where it isn’t found, we can safely assume that the Fall of humanity has rendered that part of God’s good creation corrupt, for there are other free wills at work in this world. Yet as Paul tells us in Romans 1, God has made Himself known in His creation so that no one is without excuse. So God is to be known via creation. The Incarnation is the apex of natural revelation.

Then Athanasius goes one step further. If God is good, He is not mean or grudging. God is not stingy. He does not have a mean spirit. God is generous and merciful. As believers, we should do our best to emulate God and not be mean-spirited or stingy. If we are mean-spirited and we claim to know God, we are liars and self-deluded. We may delude ourselves into thinking that we are a cut above regular or nominal Christians. Instead of serving and making ourselves available to those we deem beneath us, we judge and condemn, against the very teachings of Christ Himself. Surely we would do well to not take ourselves so seriously. We are recipients of God’s love, mercy and grace and we should not hoard these things. The more we hoard God’s grace, the less of it there is in our lives. But the more we give away of God’s love, mercy, joy and grace; the more of it we find. That’s how God’s economy works: the more we give away, the more there is. The more we keep for ourselves, the less there is. This is how things work when a generous, good Creator makes the cosmos.

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~ by shardsofeternity on December 3, 2011.

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