Athanasius On the Restoration of the Image of God

In his celebrated treatise On the Incarnation, Athanasius presents the person and work of Christ in a manner that has shaped Christian theology for centuries. This paper explores how Athanasius viewed the restoration of the image of God in Christ as the unique accomplishment of the cross and irrefutable public evidence of the truth of the Christian gospel. On the Incarnation must be read as the second volume of a two-part work. In the first volume Against the Gentiles, Athanasius exposes the folly of idolatry and consequent effect of a defaced image of God. A disfigured image in humanity increasingly conforms with a pattern of conduct corresponding to demons. In the second volume On the Incarnation, Athanasius proposes that the Word of God came, being the image of the Father, in order that “the human being in the image might be recreated” (Inc. 13). Such a restoration can only be accomplished by Christ. Like a great work of art that has been damaged and can only be restored by the return of the original subject, Athanasius beautifully explains “in the same way the all-holy Son of the Father, being the Image of the Father, came to our place to renew the human being made according to himself” (Inc. 14). As his treatise develops, Athanasius argues that the transformed lives of those who have believed offer compelling evidence of the restored image of God in humanity and confirm Christ’s divinity and power. Christ alone “has throughout the inhabited world persuaded whole churches full of human beings” (Inc. 47). Athanasius concludes that a restored humanity in the image of God “is the proof of the Savior’s divinity, that what human beings were unable to learn among idols, they have learned from him” (Inc. 52).

5 thoughts on “Athanasius On the Restoration of the Image of God”

  1. A good paper, yet is another
    A good paper, yet is another one at the level of “re-reading” rather than technical scholarship. That is not a bad thing, they can’t all be arcane spinoffs from PhD dissertations

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  2. suggest for general program
    interesting, but does not specify scholarly approach or engagement; better fit for general program

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  3. the expansive Athanasius
    The above reviewer recognizes the limitation of technicality, as the theology is summarized rather than precisely explained. The theology of Athanasius is likely accurate, but it spans from atonement to image to restoration in salvation–an expanse in Athanasius. However, the result is a well-rounded and complete effect. Engagement with scholarship is not evidenced.

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