This “must read” Christian classic is perfect reading for advent season. Writing in the 4th century, Athanasius, one of the greatest thinkers of the early church, argues why the Son of God became human (i.e., the incarnation) — namely to rescue us from our corruption and raise us to restoration with the risen Christ.
The following sermon was preached at South City Church on December 17, 2017. In anticipation of Christmas, it explores the theme of Christ’s incarnation, based out of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
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
The following was originally formulated in partial fulfillment for the requirements of an independent study course on Reformed Baptist heritage for completion of the M.Div. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, November 2014.
Steve Walton states that Jesus’ ascension “expresses the Christian conviction that Jesus now reigns over the universe” (59) and “The ascension of Jesus … provides the apostles with a visual demonstration of the truth of Jesus’ exalted status” (60).
In addition to these summary-type statements, he provides 7 significant theological implications of the ascension.
(1) The ascension implies that Jesus now reigns alongside God in heaven, and thus it is appropriate to call him *“Lord” as well as “Messiah” (Acts 2:36). The (singular) cloud (Acts 1:9) echoes the one in Luke 21:27 on which the *Son of Man comes to God (cf. Dan 7:13), clearly placing Jesus alongside Israel’s God. Thus Jesus, still human, is to be *worshiped (Lk 24:52) alongside Yahweh, and the portrait of Israel’s God expands (Johnson). Psalm 110 (esp. Ps 110:1, 4) was a key biblical passage that was interpreted (following Jesus’ own lead [Mk 12:35–37]) concerning Jesus, who is thus to be understood as having been enthroned at God’s right hand as coruler (e.g., Rom 8:34; Heb 10:12–13).
(2) The ascension presages Jesus’ return to earth from heaven (Acts 1:11; cf. Heb 9:28). That return will be the time of cosmic renewal and restoration promised in Scripture (Acts 3:20–21) and of *judgment (Acts 17:31). The cloud—a key marker of Jesus’ departure (Acts 1:9)—became an emblem of Jesus’ return in early Christian writing (e.g., 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 1:7; 14:14–16). Paul picks up Psalm 110:1 as testimony that the time will come when God will place Jesus’ enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:25–26). The ascension is “the advance notice of the end” (Robinson, cited in Zwiep, 196).