Feast of Saint Athanasius

Athanasius (Bishop of Alexandria – d. May 2, 373)

Things I like about Athanasius:

– His stand on the Deity of Jesus
– His helpful cannon list…
– His following (2?) quote(s) (to see the source – click the above icon):

“We were made “in the likeness of God.” But in course of time that image has become obscured, like a face on a very old portrait, dimmed with dust and dirt.

When a portrait is spoiled, the only way to renew it is for the subject to come back to the studio and sit for the artist all over again. That is why Christ came–to make it possible for the divine image in man to be recreated. We were made in God’s likeness; we are remade in the likeness of his Son.

To bring about this re-creation, Christ still comes to men and lives among them. In a special way he comes to his Church, his “body”, to show us what the “image of God” is really like.

What a responsibility the Church has, to be Christ’s “body,” showing him to those who are unwilling or unable to see him in providence, or in creation! Through the Word of God lived out in the Body of Christ they can come to the Father, and themselves be made again “in the likeness of God.”

Things I strongly dislike about Athanasius:

Wikipedia lists the following criticism (as Wikipedia changes due to open source, the following is the content at 11 AM EST on 2006 May 2 Tuesday):

The tactics of Athanasius, while often downplayed by church historians, were a significant factor in his success. He did not hesitate to back up his theological views with the use of force. In Alexandria, he assembled an “ecclesiastical mafia” that could instigate a riot in the city if needed. It was an arrangement “built up and perpetuated by violence.” (Barnes, 230). Along with the standard method of excommunication he used beatings, intimidation, kidnapping and imprisonment to silence his theological opponents. Unsurprisingly, these tactics caused widespread distrust and led him to being tried many times for “bribery, theft, extortion, sacrilege, treason and murder. (Rubenstein, 6) While the charges rarely stuck, his reputation was a major factor in his multiple exiles from Alexandria.

He justified these tactics with the argument that he was saving all future Christians from hell. Athanasius stubbornly refused to compromise his theological views by stating, “What is at stake is not just a theological theory but people’s salvation.” (Olson, 172). In this assertion that violence was justified in defense of theology and the church, Athanasius, some hold, laid the foundation for theological concepts such as just war and the inquisition. He played a clear role in making constantinian shift a part of the theology of the church.


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