THE FALL IS UNDONE
If The Fall has an essence, it is separation. Heaven’s reality is union with God. If life can be defined it is defined in the Christ who draws all things into Himself. If the nature of being can be captured it is ourselves as sons/daughters of God. The nature of God is a loving God, desiring relationship with the sons/daughters of God.
SUBTLTY OF THE KNOWLEDGE TREE
We can live in union with God. Or our life can be lived with a bent to separation. It can be lived in denial of God or in fictions that we adopt to keep God out of our way. Truth can be defined as ‘truth’ that is perverse. Identities can be had that deny our true self. We can embark on ways to God that do not lead to God. We can become captive to a life in God that is a half-life or no life at all. Life in A Christian version of the knowledge of good and evil is life in lies and contradiction.
We have no capacity to determine the nature of God. God reveals the nature of God.
The core of salvation is belonging in Christ. The enterprise of the trinity has achieved our inclusion in the Communion that is God. Jesus is the way to our Father and the explicit representation of our Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father. It is to know truth and to know yourself. As such it is important to worship the Christ of God rather than a partisan construction of Him.
We do not live in separation. We must abandon any kind of religion that insists on undoing a state of separation from God that no longer exists - because we have oneness with God by at-one-ment and incarnation. To live from separation denies the cross and cripples the self. We are one with God because God has become one with us. God is one with us because Christ is in us and with us. We belong in God because the trinity has reached out in Christ to include us in the Communion that is God.
We were made to live in God. In Christ the fall has been undone. Today God lives in us and we live in God.
During the Fourth Century, the Fatherhood of God, the nature of Christ and the fact of our inclusion in God as described in the Nicaean Creed was debated, fought over and established as orthodox Christian Faith. Read ‘orthodox’ as genuine, real and the expression of the truth.
The basis of salvation is not moralism or Christian values. Nor is it Holy Spirit and the gifts. The issue is ‘Are we one with God or are we not?’ The debates of the 4th century were related to this: Has the Fall been undone or are we still living in degrees of separation from God?
Khaled Anatolios writes “We do not have any reliable records to indicate the precise date and exact order of the events that initiated the doctrinal debates of the fourth century. We know that sometime between 318 and 320 a crisis erupted within the Egyptian Church, which quickly spread outwards and eventually enveloped the whole empire in a controversy that was arguably the most significant moment in the development of Christian doctrine. The original parties in the controversy were Arius and Alexander, the former an ascetic and charismatic priest of Alexandria, and the latter Patriarch of Alexandria. At this early stage of the controversy, Arius’s position was associated with the provocative slogan “there was once when the Son was not.” (1)
THE ARIAN CONTROVERSY
This became known as the Arian Controversy. The issue was, ‘Is Jesus Christ one substance with the Father or is He separate from the Father? Arius maintained. ‘He comes into being, by the will of the Father, for the sake of accomplishing God’s act of creating. The divine Trinity therefore is constituted of dissimilar entities.’
The assumption of both these contentions is ‘separation’ which sets up a separatist epistemology and hermeneutic. Such issues are relevant to the non-intellectual Believer and not how many angels can fit on the head of a pin - because if Jesus of Nazareth was not one with God – then we are not. And again, if the trinity is not three persons, one God in perichoresis, then Christ come in our flesh has no content and we are not one with the trinity.
‘Dissimilar’ the persons of the trinity may be, but they are not separate. They are one in the manner described in John 17 which has been called a perichoretic relationship. “While each Person remains in Himself as Father, Son and Spirit, they are, nevertheless, wholly in the others and they are wholly in themselves … The earliest extant use of the noun, Perichoresis, is found in a manuscript that has been attributed to Cyril of Alexandria. It is believed John of Damascus drew this term from Cyril and brought it to prominence as a theological term.” (2)
The fact is this description is not just words but indicative of a reality of being that describes the trinitarian relationship in Godself and God’s relationship to us as Christ in you. It is life in the spirit and what Paul implies in the words ‘Christ our life.’
A FALSE CHRIST
The vision of Arius and his fellow travellers was that Jesus Christ was separate and inferior to God, that members of the trinity were separate from each other and in a hierarchical relationship – in other words separation is intrinsic to God as is hierarchy.
But the trinity is not a hierarchy, Father is not the monarch, Jesus is not inferior to Father and Holy Spirit is not inferior to any. All are God. This Communion that is God is one of belonging and togetherness in which each member is part of each other yet fully themselves. The trinitarian communion is the archetype of all Christian community. This is why we are not able to do community by ‘doing community’ unless this communion is in us and becoming us by incarnation.
The Niceane Creed implies that the trinity is not a hierarchy and that belonging and not separation is the nature of God.
“Athanasius first doctrinal treatise.. [was] on the Incarnation (ca. 328–335). [HE] clearly defends the full divinity of the Word who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Only one who fully shares in the reality of the Father can save us from ignorance, corruptibility, and death, which are the fruits of human sinfulness. Integral to the apologetic argument of the work is a triumphalist strain that points to the holiness and peace of the Church as concrete evidence that the crucified Christ is risen and active.” This should not be seen as drawing a long bow but a natural effect of the Communion that is the trinity being present by incarnation in the community that is the church. (3)
As is seen in the Trump phenomenon, one can get a huge following by selling lies. Athanasius was exiled five times over the issue of Jesus Christ being one substance with God, rather than a separated or lesser being. Political pressure was exerted by state authorities, in the hope that the bishops would depose Athanasius and accept a doctrinal formula antithetical to the Nicene doctrine of Christ as one substance with God. Since earliest times there has been a relentless effort to castrate us our our fullness in Christ. In the 4th century it was Arianism.
In more recent times it has been the replacement of the power of the incarnation with pragmatism, moralism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Healing and signs are great and can be part of the ministry of Christ as our life. But they are not the gospel and on their own are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom Jesus began is always rooted in the IT IS FINISHED ending of Adam’s separation. It starts with the union with the fullness of God that began at the cross, was certified by the resurrection and multiplied at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit. We are not ministers of the new covenant when our ministry is all about ‘signs’ but dismissive of the incarnation. The main sign in the post cross age is Christ come in our flesh.
“Athanasius died on 2 May 373. Having attained to the episcopal throne of Alexandria as a young man approximately 30 years old, he had spent 17 of his 46 years as a bishop in exile. With the triumph of Nicene theology at the Council of Constantinople, Athanasius would be looked upon henceforth as a standard of orthodoxy.” (4) It is not too much to say that we may need to look to him again as an exemplar of the apostles doctrine in order to leave behind the ‘mixture’ that sets us free from stultification and ensures the progress of the Kingdom Jesus began.
AFFRONTED BY TRUTH
Khaled Anatolios observes “It is striking, for example, that a typical modern complaint about Athanasius lays special stress on his intransigence, his undeniable aura of being sure of himself and his position.” (5)
The implication is that Athanasius could have been more relativistic, less absolutist, more pluralistic in his truth-telling and more gracious in his attack on ‘cunningly devised fables’ and ‘doctrines of demons.’
OFFENCE OF THE CROSS
People who rail against those who speak with authority and not as the scribes like Stephen the martyr, can take offence when they are unable to refute ‘the spirit by which he spoke’ (Acts 6.10). This is the certainty and authority that is ours in union with God rather than some union in a christian version of the knowledge of good and evil.
AFFRONTED BY UN-GOSPELS
“We find Athanasius to be manifestly shaken by the observation that the “Arian heresy” has deceived many Christians who have either adopted it or seemingly concede that it is a permissible interpretation of the Christian faith, while he is quite convinced that the denial of the full divinity of the Son simply deconstructs the whole edifice of Christian faith.” (6) He was right to be shocked about this. Any gospel that assumes separation rather than belonging did not come from God. Faith communities that maintain themselves in the separation of the law and the alienation of Adam are not a permissible pluralist perspective. They are another gospel that binds people in a dulled spirit and a stultified life.
(1) ATHANASIUS: The Early Church Fathers.
Khaled Anatolios, Routledge, New York, 2004