Thursday, October 29, 2009

In the first part of On the Incarnation of the Word, Athanasius likens the redemption of the Word to the creation of mankind ex nihilo. In the first place, mankind was called out of nothing by the "Presence and loving-kindness of the Word" and existence itself was upheld by the "contemplation of God." The sin of our first parents then severed the Presence of the Word from all human life and mankind began to slouch back to its natural state of death, that is non-existence. For Athanasius, there's no proper sense of understanding human beings in and of themselves. "God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption," but apart from bearing the image of God corruption (or non-being) is all that is left for us.

For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back to what is not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption. For man is by nature mortal, inasmuch as he is made out of what is not. [Emphasis mine]
I also noticed something similar to this in reading the first part of Augustine's Tractates on the Gospel of John. I think he might be on to the same idea:
Give good heed to what follows, brethren, "All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made", so as not to imagine that "nothing" is something. For many, wrongly understanding "without Him was nothing made", are wont to fancy that "nothing" is something. Sin, indeed, was not made by Him; and it is plain that sin is nothing, and men become nothing when they sin.


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