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.
My question—that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide—was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man … a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?
—Leo Tolstoy (A Confession), channeling his inner Qohelet, Ecclesiastes.
The answer: no, nothing, futility, or, as the book of Ecclesiastes itself puts it, a mere “striving after wind.”
Death is the ultimate “vanitizer.” Nothing escapes its finalizing, universal stamp of “pointless.”
That is apart from resurrection.
Enter Jesus. Welcome, Easter.
Elsewhere I’ve written about this subject–the significance of Christ’s resurrection as inaugurated eschatology, the bursting of the new creation into the midst of this fallen creation in the person of Jesus Christ who is the resurrected new creation “pioneer” of sorts. But, I’m currently reading Ramachandra’s Faiths in Conflict?; and he summarizes this concept quite well. So, I thought I’d share his thoughts here. If it’s worth saying, it’s worth saying more than once and in more than one way by more than one person, right?
Resurrection, for all first-century Jews, was bound up with the hope of the kingdom of God, of God’s vindication of his people Israel before their pagan enemies and the renewal of his disfigured world.
Resurrection, then, was corporate… public, and physical. … The age to come would be a renewed space-time world in which the righteous dead would be given new bodies in order to inhabit a renewed earth. Thus, the resurrection of the dead – the righteous to eternal life and the wicked to destruction – marked the consummation of the human drama. It spelt the triumph of Israel’s God who was also the universal Creator and Judge of all humanity. Resurrection, marked the dawn of a new world order, the final and supreme manifestation of God’s justice, mercy and power in history.
But … the early Christians proclaimed that the resurrection had occurred in Jesus before the day of resurrection for all. … In the resurrection of Jesus, God not only gives a glimpse and pledge of the new creation, but he announces the dawn of that new creation before its promised fulfillment. Here is a foretaste of the future age in the present.
Resurrection [specifically the general resurrection inaugurated in Christ’s resurrection, the “first-fruits” of the general resurrection, to use Pauline language] is a fresh creative act of God in which he displays his faithfulness to his creation by raising it to new life in his presence beyond death and decay. Resurrection, then, is the Creator’s final act of faithfulness to his creation…
“The risen Jesus Christ cannot be discerned within the frame of the old conditions of life which by his resurrection he has transcended, and cannot be understood except within the context of the transformation which it has brought about. . . . The evidence for the resurrection can be handled and tested, appropriately, only within the orbit of its impact.”
“We are not concerned here simply with what is often called ‘the hermeneutical circle’, but with the kind of circle which is posited by an ultimate fact which in the nature of the case cannot be brought within the same circle as other facts, but which stakes out the very grounds upon which experience and knowledge of it are possible.”