On the Incarnation by Athanasius

What the Book Is About

Obviously, On the Incarnation is about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, whom Athanasius consistently refers to as “the Word of God.” This short book is divided into nine chapters. The first three chapters deal with creation and the fall of humanity into sin, and specifically with the dilemma human sinfulness created for God. What is God supposed to do now that his prize creation, the ones upon whom he placed his image, have disobeyed his single command, thereby inviting sin and death into the world? Athanasius puts the problem this way:

It was unworthy of the goodness of God that creatures made by Him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon man by the devil; and it was supremely unfitting that the work of God in mankind should disappear, either through their own negligence or through the deceit of evil spirits. - On the Incarnation, p. 32

In other words, God is too good to allow the devil, through his deception, to destroy humanity and make them nothing (in the same way that both evil and darkness are nothing, the absence of goodness and light, respectively). His goodness cannot allow evil to win. What, then, is he to do? 

Defining the Humanity of Others at thesometimespreacher.com

In September, 2015, an effort was made through social media to challenge the stigma of abortion through the use of the hashtag #shoutyourabortion. Women who had had an abortion were encouraged to speak out, be proud, and reject the stigma of guilt and shame placed on them by society. I confess that the brazenness of many of these abortion supporters makes me angry. But I believe in the slow play of the kingdom of God. I believe that one day, at the resurrection, these women will meet the person they chose to terminate. I sincerely hope and pray that on that day they can embrace, be reconciled together through Christ, enjoy fellowship with one another in the eternal, healing new creation of God. For it is only then and there that all manner of things shall be well.


Humans have a long, sad history of deciding who is and isn’t fully human.
But in the meantime, a debate rages in our culture over abortion, a debate that seems to be full of rhetoric and vitriol, but too often void of coherent argument. Just read the tweets. (However, this article by Frederica Mathewes-Green is excellent.) We are entrenched in our positions, and there is little hope that any of us might give ground willingly.

During this year’s Super Bowl, Doritos aired an ad of an unborn child with an unusually advanced appetite for their delicious chips. This ad was criticized in a tweet by NARAL, an organization committed to advocating for abortion rights, as “humanizing fetuses.” (Their exact words.) Defining the humanity of the fetus really is the heart of the abortion debate, though it is still shocking to see it put so bluntly, as though “humanizing fetuses” were either objectionable, immoral, or unnatural.

The Emotional Spectrum of Change

The church where I now pastor made an important decision not long ago that resulted in significant organizational change. Sensing God leading them in a new and radical direction, they voted to join forces with a church plant in the area, and together these two bodies formed one new church, which is now Hope Church in Westerville, Ohio. As we walked through this process together, it became clear to me that there is a wide variety of emotional responses to significant changes in life. I called this The Emotional Spectrum of Change.


Knowing where we are in the process of change will help us to understand how to respond to those powerful emotions.
Whenever we make a major decision in our lives that results in substantial change, we go through an emotional process before, during, and especially after the choice has been made. These emotions are often magnified when the change in question is deeply personal, like making a major adjustment in your church organization.

For most Christians, the local church to which we belong has a rich and vital role in our lives. Not only is our soul nourished there through worship each Sunday, but many of our closest friends are there. Church is more than something to which we belong; church is something we are. The community with whom we gather to worship and follow Jesus is one of the most important things in our lives. So when we experience change in this area, we often feel the effects of that change on a deeply personal and emotional level.

I believe that it is immensely helpful to be able to identify where we are, emotionally, with whatever change we may be experiencing. Knowing where we are in the emotional process of change, as individuals or families, will help us to understand how to respond to these feelings. God expects us to live wisely, to respond well, and to understand ourselves relative to both our circumstances and our emotional conditions. With that, I would like to introduce you to The Emotional Spectrum of Change.

Old Testament Laws

Have you ever read through the Old Testament laws in places like Leviticus and Deuteronomy and thought, “Do I really have to do all this? What happens if I break one of these commands? Or, more likely, what happens when I break nearly all of them?” There are over 600 Old Testament laws, many of which seem outdated, even silly, to modern people. For example, Leviticus 19:19 says plainly, “Do not wear clothing woven of two different kinds of material.” Does this mean that it’s a sin to wear a cotton/poly blend tee? Or, perhaps more disturbing to people like me who love shrimp, Leviticus 11:12 says, “Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.” What role do these Old Testament laws play in our Christian faith today?

One common way of answering this question is to divide the Old Testament laws into categories. There are moral laws, ritual laws, or civil laws. When we break it up this way, it’s easy to deduce that only the moral laws are still binding. But what would Moses think of this categorization? Is it faithful to the original text to place these commands into distinct categories? I don’t believe that it is.


When God has set a law in place, only God can revise or revoke it.
The better way to answer the question of the relevance of Old Testament laws is by applying this principle: Revisions to the binding nature of Old Testament laws must be made through revelation. Revelation guides revision. When God has set a law in place, only God can revise or revoke it. Just as the original law was issued through an act of divine revelation, so the repeal of that law must be a similar act of divine revelation. In other words, it’s not up to us to decide what does and does not still apply; it’s up to God.

So, then, what has God said about Old Testament laws? Quite a lot, actually.

The Beauty of the Infinite by David Bentley Hart

What the Book Is About

The Beauty of the Infinite is a treatise on the aesthetics of Christian theology, a defense, as it were, of Christianity’s “rhetoric of peace” over against the rhetorical violence of modernity and postmodernity. The main idea of David Bentley Hart’s masterpiece (and it is, in my opinion, a masterpiece) could be stated like this:

The rhetoric of God is Jesus Christ, offered as pure gift. As gift, Christ is infinite peace. As both gift and the rhetoric of peace, Christ is beauty, the magnificent demonstration of the self-giving love of the Trinity which crosses all boundaries, even the boundary of death.


The Triune God is “the God who ‘others’ himself within himself and contains and surrenders otherness as infinite music, infinite discourse.”
In Hart’s own words, the book demonstrates “that one may speak, within the Christian tradition, of a rhetoric of peace, of a practice of rhetoric that is peaceful, because rhetoric and beauty are both already narrated by Christian thought as peace, obedient to a particular understanding of the infinite: beauty is prior to sublimity [tragic beauty] and infinity surpasses totality [the power of world systems]. Moreover, the concrete form of Christian rhetoric – Christ, the Father’s supreme rhetoric, his Word – appears within the terms of this Christian narrative of the infinite as the very form of peace, the infinite gesture of a love that simply exceeds the gesture of every violence brought against it, the real and visible beauty whose historical and aesthetic particularity invites response and variation and whose effect can inhabit time not simply as negation but as a practicable style of existence.” (413)
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