Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Why you should read Athanasius

For a church history subject I had to read Athanasius' On the Incarnation of the Word, but I don't think it is a good thing that only church history students get to read him. Yes he possibly was quite a violent man, and his phrase "God became man so that men might become gods" may sound strange to some (although Luther also used that phrase), but I want to encourage you to read On the Incarnation of the Word  for the following reasons:

1. Athanasius is Solid
Athansius pretty much set what we consider orthodox. On the Incarnation of the Word is a massive defence for Jesus becoming man, while also still being God. He answers man questions like why Jesus had to come as a man, why couldn't God had revealed Himself to man as a different object (perhaps in the sky - modern say they will not believe unless the word "Repent" (in English of cause) appears in the sky)? Why did Jesus have to die and why did he die in the way that He did? Why wait three days in the tomb? Why not one or a month? How was God ruling the universe and also limited to a body? How does Jesus' death help humanity at all? Why do the Jews and Gentiles not believe Jesus was God?

An interesting question for all the 21st century evangelicals to ask themselves after reading this is: What did Athanasius have to say about penal substitution atonement?

2. C.S. Lewis endorsed this book
C. S. Lewis was quite a smart guy. He said it is good to read books from different generations, as each generation has it's own blind side (books written in the future will do the same thing, its just that we don't have access to them yet). Also contemporary books are still on trial. The ones that last a long time are the good ones.

3. Athanasius is easy to read
Lewis was struck by how easy Athanasius was to read, despite him dealing with some complex issues. Lewis puts this down as a mark of genius. Whatever you put it down to, it can only work in your favour.

4. The book is short
On the Incarnation of the Word as a PDF is 46 pages. You can read this in one or two sittings.

5. It is Free 
Due to him been dead for a while (since 373 AD), his stuff is out of copyright and their are a few online English translations floating around. The Christian Classical Ethereal Library has the book in HTML, PDF, mp3 and plain text formats for free. You have to pay for an ePub version :(

6. Reading Athanasius makes you sound smart 
Although this isn't a noble reason to read Athanasius, but if you mention to someone that you were reading some Athanasius they will for some reason think you are smart. Chances are that they don't know On the Incarnation of the Word is less than 50 pages and is easy to read.

So go ahead and give him a go - and if you do let me know what you think of him.


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