We’ve had a nourishing season in the Renovaré Book Club so far, feasting our way through Trevor Hudson’s Beyond Loneliness, Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved, and Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary. Our remaining book this year (which we will introduce on May 1st and begin reading in earnest on May 8th) is On the Incarnation, the fourth-century masterwork on the divinity of Christ from St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

Our facilitator for On the Incarnation is Renovaré’s president, Chris Hall. Chris (who has written several books on patristic theology and practice) has a wonderful way of bridging us back to the early centuries of the church, and his delight in the church fathers (coupled with his deep love for the God they served) is seriously contagious.

Reading Athanasius, you may be surprised by the ways an Egyptian bishop, battling heresies in the fourth century, can lead us deeper into the wonder and beauty of the Trinity—teaching our hearts to love God more. As C.S. Lewis observes in his Preface to the book:

He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

When I first opened his De Incarnatione I soon discovered by a very simple test that I was reading a masterpiece. I knew very little Christian Greek except that of the New Testament and I had expected difficulties. To my astonishment I found it almost as easy as Xenophon; and only a master mind could, in the fourth century, have written so deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity. Every page I read confirmed this impression. His approach to the Miracles is badly needed today, for it is the final answer to those who object to them as “arbitrary and meaningless violations of the laws of Nature.” They are here shown to be rather the re-telling in capital letters of the same message which Nature writes in her crabbed cursive hand; the very operations one would expect of Him who was so full of life that when He wished to die He had to “borrow death from others.” The whole book, indeed, is a picture of the Tree of Life—a sappy and golden book, full of buoyancy and confidence. We cannot, I admit, appropriate all its confidence today. We cannot point to the high virtue of Christian living and the gay, almost mocking courage of Christian martyrdom, as a proof of our doctrines with quite that assurance which Athanasius takes as a matter of course. But whoever may be to blame for that it is not Athanasius.

So, if you haven’t already joined the Book Club this year, consider jumping in now for Athanasius. You’ll come on an eight-week journey through On the Incarnation (and you’ll also have access to all the resources for the earlier books of the season.) We’d love to see you in the Club! 

Nathan Foster chatted with Chris Hall about Athanasius and On the Incarnation in this week’s podcast. You can download or stream it here.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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