Whatcha reading? 6

Khaled Anatolios, in Retrieving Nicaea, on Athanasius against Arius—

One way of retrieving Athanasius’s conception of the trinitarian structuring of divine immediacy in humanity’s sharing in divine life is to follow his usage of the language of “image,” which we have already encountered as central to the conceptual struggle of On the Incarnation. Much insight into the Alexandrian’s theological vision can be gleaned by noting how the language of “image” is used to draw a series of immediate links between God and humanity. Humanity is made according to God’s image, and its entrance into and perseverance in being is constituted through its participation in the divine Image, who is Word, Wisdom, and Son of the Father. The Son, in turn, is the true and perfect Image of the Father, who fully shares the being of the Father in himself and is only thus capable of sharing this being-with-the-Father with creation. The Spirit also is the Image of the Son, sharing the life of the Son in himself and enabling the life of the Son to be shared by creation. Throughout this usage “image” does not so much denote visibility or objective reproduction of a prototype but rather ontological sharing in the prototype. In the case of humanity, however, the being-according-to-the-image is not simply coincident with the entirety of its being, inasmuch as this being is also simultaneously a being-from-nothing. That is why the human being is not simply “image” of God, but “according to the Image.” Human being is thus a movement from nothing into God. When this movement became radically disrupted by sin, the divine Image, whose being is coincident with his sharing the life of the Father, repaired the human image through his own incarnate humanity. He did this by transferring humanity’s movement-from-nothing into himself, such that we now have a new “point of origin” in Christ. The human being’s movement from nothing into God is now accomplished within Christ, who integrates this movement into his own imaging of the Father and the Spirit’s image of himself. The salvific effect of the incarnation is precisely to transfer the potential obstruction of the starting point of nothingness, actualized and intensified by sin, into the free and unobstructed movement of Father, Son, and Spirit, through the new creatureliness of the Incarnate Word. For Athanasius, all this is catastrophically undone as soon as we introduce the notion that Son and Spirit are themselves creatures “from nothing.”

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