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Enjoying Christ with the Church Fathers

Dan Hames is a Masters student in early church fathers ("Patristics") at Oxford University. We've just had seven hours of training with him.

Church history for a team involved in evangelism among students? You bet. Church history, and historical theology, are vital disciplines to stop us swallowing the assumptions of our age, to keep us humble and to help us see Christ more clearly.

We spent time with the mostly heroic
Justin Martyr and Ireneus, with Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria and their opponents Arius, Diodore, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius.

Of huge importance was considering the importance of the incarnation - for "the unassumed is the unhealed" so it is necessary that the Son took on Flesh, and in healing us he brings us to participate in the divine nature! This stands in great contrast to those in the early centuries of the church who bought into a separation between God and man, to ideas of God being unaffected, to non-Christ-centred approaches to the Scripture.

It's been a refreshing couple of days that has whetted my appetite to study this period further.

Taste this, from the Lenten Triodion read in some Eastern churches on Good Friday:
"Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross. He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery. He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ. Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection" 

Or, from the Letter to Diognetus:
"He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Saviour who is able to save even those things which it was formerly impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honour, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food"
Or, from Cyril:
"And he wears our nature, refashioning it to his own Life. And he himself is also in us, for we have all become partakers of him, and have him in ourselves through the Spirit. For this reason we have become 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4), and are reckoned as sons, and so too we have in ourselves the Father himself through the Son." 
Some recommended further reading (sadly, all a bit expensive!)
Don Fairbairn: Grace and Christology
John McGuckin: Saint Cyril (Free online via Google Books)
Alexander Roberts: The Ante Nicene Fathers
Any one want to bless me with £100 of books??!


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