The following sermon was preached at South City Church on January 1, 2017. It is a Christmas sermon exploring the theme of Christ’s incarnation utilizing the work of the Athanasius (296-373).
Christmas is a time of celebration, a time to celebrate the wonder of the incarnation (the becoming human) of God. But, with this, it is also a time for those dealing with sorrow, for those who suffer.
The world into which Christ was born was, and still is, a world wrecked with tragedy and pain. And we can look back across the course of our own lives, even just the world events of the past week, and know this.
The “Christmas story” itself witnesses to this, as young children are slaughtered at the hands of Herod; and the gospel writer, Matthew, echoes the sin-caused exilic woes — the exile Jesus was born to end, mind you — penned by Jeremiah,
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Jesus himself, as a child, entered into this suffering, as a refugee fleeing to Egypt. And of course, this incarnational participation in our suffering climaxes at the cross, where Christ bears the burden for all who trust in him.
We truly do have a high priest who is able to sympathize.
Christmas is for the sorrowful.
Last night after dinner my grandmother passed away.
We were close. But I think more than anything I’m sad for my grandpa, because he lost his life partner and best friend. He loved her so much. (They were that adorable old couple that’s more in love now than the day they were married.)
Death is an incredible reminder that things are not right in this world. Death is universally typical; but, as a Christian, it is my firm conviction that death is not “normal.” It is an intrusion into God’s good creation, a testimony to and result of humanity’s horrific plunge into deep-seated rebellion against a good God (what we as Christians call sin). And, apart from Christ’s return, it is something we will all face.
As the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes tells us, death seems to stamp the entirety of our lives up until that moment as “pointless.” Whatever was achieved, whatever good was done, whatever meaning was found, whatever joy was had, death puts a (seemingly) permanent end to it all.
But our hope — our only hope from death, the only hope my grandmother has in overcoming death — is the good news about this guy named Jesus, who, as the Bible tells us, is God become a human being for the very purpose that he might take upon himself this human predicament (death), face it square in the face, wrestle it down, and, through his own death on our behalf, deal death itself a deathblow, achieving resurrection-life through his own resurrection.
This is the gospel. This is our anthem as Christians: deliverance from sin and all of its nasty effects (including death) for all who lean wholly on Jesus for their rescue.
1 Cor 15; 1 Thes 4:13-18; 2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14; Rev 21:4.
Jesus of Nazareth … somehow managed to combine with his radical challenges to tradition a strangely conservative attitude to God and to Scripture. (John Stott)
Yes, I love Jesus. He’s so theologically conservative that, in a way, it made him oddly/paradoxically progressive and anti-conservative, i.e., challenging the conservative elite and status quo of his day —
“Don’t you see, your tradition is actually violating God’s word and voiding it out” (Mark 7), as if to say, “You religious conservatives aren’t conservative enough!”
We need more of that today.
Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.
The following is the manuscript-outline notes of a presentation I delivered on September 8th for Dr. David Luy’s ST 8000 The Atonement at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
The full title of this presentation was Synthetic Re-Description of and Critical Engagement with Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement by Gustaf Aulén.
I share this in case anyone might find this edifying or for the chance someone studying Aulén’s work might stumble upon this and find it helpful.
And I dedicate this to my grandfather, who, while I was in the process of writing this, told me to “add some jokes.” I hope I have accomplished that, although I admit the jokes may only be humorous to a very narrow audience.
I. Building Consensus
Gustaf Aulén (1879–1997) was the Bishop of Strängnäs in the Church of Sweden (a Lutheran denomination), was a leading figure in the Lundensian Theology movement, and is probably best known for this work, Christus Victor.
Origin of Christus Victor – The book Christus Victor originated from a series of lectures delivered at the University of Uppsala in Sweden in 1930 (xxi).
Goal – Aulén claims that the aim of this book is to produce an objective historical account without any clandestine apologetic aims (158; cf. xxi). Having read the book, I imagine many of us can’t help but chuckle at such a claim. I myself wonder if he is somewhat disingenuous. But I suppose we’ll have to take Aulén at his word. With that said, if I were to imagine myself in a world where such objective accounts could actually exist, I would argue that Aulén has failed to produce one. His bias is oozing through the text.
Thesis – The thesis that Aulén seeks to prove through this historical account is that the “classic view” of the atonement, in contrast to what he refers to as the “Latin” and “Humanist” views, is the view of the atonement which is “most genuinely Christian” (xxi, 158), evangelical, and catholic (xxvi). It is the truly Christian view because, as his historical count seeks to demonstrate, it is the view found in the New Testament, articulated by the early church fathers, and recovered by the thoroughly evangelical Luther.
Three views [Aulen’s depiction, not mine]: Continue reading