On Discovery Bible Study: A Conversation with John King

This video records a long-form conversation in which John King tells his story as the lead developer of the Discovery Bible Study method (see additional resources below), and I air some of my doubts and concerns about DBS, especially in view of hermeneutical issues that face our shared tradition as members of Churches of Christ.

I believe that most worthwhile conversations need time to unfold—time far in excess of what the popular narrative about our short attention spans and hyper-busy schedules would allow. So I am delighted that John gave me two and a half hours of his time to tell the story in detail and dialogue about important issues.

Still, neither of us has an especially brisk style of speech, so make good use of the playback speed controls!

Additional Resources:

John King

https://johnkking.wordpress.com
https://www.missionfrontiers.org/pdfs/29_King_39.6_1112-2017-7.pdf

DBS

https://www.finalcommand.com/resources (Just complete the form to get access to a variety of free resources from John’s organization)
https://intent.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/DBS.pdf

The Future of Churches of Christ

The future of Churches of Christ is a theological question, full stop.

I’m struck anew by how unconventional, even peculiar, this claim is for the tradition. And that is why it is necessary to assert unequivocally that what happens next will be a response to our vision and experience of who God is. It will be nothing else.

Our preoccupation should not be how to stem the flow of membership bleeding away or how to plant enough churches to offset the loss. Our attention should not be set on preserving a historical identity or discovering a new one. Our commitment should not be to the right practices—of interpretation, discipleship, unity, community, or justice. Our interest should not be surviving or thriving or any other version of being.

Before the even-handed purveyor of nuance pipes up: Yes, these are good and important, some more so, some less. No, these are not mutually exclusive with whatever else I will say. Yes, the dichotomy of theology and practice is false. No, we cannot answer the theological question without mission or identity or commitments. Yes, there is room for more than one idea of how to move forward. No, God save us, there is not a final answer. Also, knock it off. I’m talking about the one thing here. Everything else flows from it. Nothing else means anything apart from it. Call it the heart, the womb, the center, the essential truth, the sine qua non, the yes that we must speak before and after all other words—call it what you like. (Well, don’t call it the foundation. For everyone’s sake, let’s just let that one rest a while.)

I am not interested in answering the question here. I do not offer overtures toward an answer. The constructive work is for other times and places.

Instead, I am voicing my perplexity, my incredulity, at the fact that in the midst of our scramble to reckon with the epochal shift that is sifting Churches of Christ (among others) in the US like wheat, I hear our leaders attempting to answer every question except the one by which we live or die: Who is the God we love and serve? This is a confessional question, but more, it is a theological question. It is the theological question.

My belief is that our tradition is so colossally failing to give an answer in our time because, fundamentally, we presume the answer is already given. We presume it is enough to say, “The God of the Bible” or “The God revealed in Jesus” or “The God we worship and pray to and preach about every Sunday.” Simplicity and superficiality are our bane. We presume the other questions are the ones that really need answers. This presumption is a deadly delusion. It is literally killing us.

Churches of Christ are effectively a-theological, historically as a matter of description and presently as a matter of inheritance. We are predisposed to ignore the force of the theological question. We share no coherent vision or experience of God. Our response to God is broadly, typically, inarticulate.

This became clear to me in a new way as I studied and interacted with colleagues of diverse backgrounds in my PhD program at Fuller Theological Seminary. As I participated in theological discussions, my friends would analyze, critique, and make proposals by employing an interconnected set of established theological assumptions. This not only served the coherence of their work but helped others understand what they were up to. In the same way that a theological publication is usually best understood with reference to the author’s tradition and commitments, another student’s theological heritage was a key reference point for understanding her argument. By contrast, I frequently found myself explaining that my church tradition doesn’t have a specific or well-defined understanding of a particular issue. Perhaps a tendency, a position from Campbell or Milligan or Lipscomb or Whiteside, or a common sermonic refrain, but nothing systematic, nothing definitive, especially for twentieth-century Churches of Christ. For example, in my course on the atonement, it was obvious that my background offered only a sketchy point of departure. What one says about atonement is constrained and compelled by other doctrines, such as Christology, anthropology, and eschatology. Ultimately, the interrelatedness of these topics is what constitutes a coherent theological tradition. The minimalism of doctrine among Churches of Christ, which often retreats to the repetition of biblical phrases, erodes such coherence. There are positive aspects of this minimalism, no doubt. I have a greater degree of freedom to appropriate diverse theological perspectives and to undertake more radical systematic revisions than I observed in many of my colleagues with more robust traditions. For example, it was not controversial among my cohort at Harding School of Theology to appreciate the New Perspective on Paul where it challenges substitutionary atonement, Open Theism where it challenges divine omniscience, Moltmann’s theology of the cross where it challenges divine impassibility, or Brueggemann’s biblical theology where it challenges the unity of Scriptural witness. Any of these might have been difficult to understand or unacceptable in the end for a particular student, but none of them was irreconcilable with the theological tradition, because the tradition is so tenuous in the first place. This freedom is rooted in what my teacher John Mark Hicks has called our “wild democracy,” which I cherish [1. See John Mark Hicks, “I Stayed for the Wild Democracy,” in Why We Stayed: Honesty and Hope in Churches of Christ, ed. Benjamin W. Williams (Los Angeles: Keledei, 2018), 103–20.]. It need not, however, lead to the kind of inarticulacy that cripples us presently.

The theological question demands that we articulate not only what we answer but how and why and what it means for everything else.

No doubt, the guardians of fairness and balance will cry “generalization,” even “overstatement.” To these devastating insights I say, of course our congregational life entails properly theological responses. Top to bottom, first-order theology is at work in the tradition. Our practices just are affirmations and confessions. Unequivocally, however, they are incoherent. They are not ours. They are not the entailments of a shared search for understanding. And, most fatally, they are demonstrably failing to determine our answers to the other questions that so absorb us.

Because I am especially interested in a missional theology, one example that merits attention is the argument of another of my teachers, Stan Granberg. No one is taking the rapid decline of Churches of Christ more seriously, and his research is extremely important. Wineskins, which has recently given the situation appropriate attention, featured an abbreviated version of his substantial article published in Great Commission Research Journal [2. See Stanley E. Granberg, “Three Bold Challenges,” Wineskins 22, no. 7 (2019): http://wineskins.org/2019/07/17/three-bold-challenges-for-churches-of-christ; Stanley E. Granberg, “A Case Study of Growth and Decline: The Churches of Christ, 2006-2016,” Great Commission Research Journal 10, no. 1 (2018): 88–111.]. Urging that planting new churches is the solution to what ails us, Granberg quotes Timothy Keller: “The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city.” The word “crucial” caught my attention. It comes from the Latin word crux, used originally in the phrase instantia crucis (“instance of the cross” or “crucial situation”). Let me avoid a few misunderstandings. One, I am not making an etymological argument. Two, I am not quibbling about word choice. Three, I am not casting aspersions on Granberg’s theology. Rather, because of the seriousness and merit of his argument, I want to reckon with what it represents: a propensity to reach for practical, strategic solutions that underplay the theological dimensions of the question before us. What does the cross teach us about the way forward? What is truly crucial? What does cruciformity look like as churches close at a rate that can only be called fatal? I’m an advocate of “church planting”; I’ve done some myself. But are we really suffering decline because we’re not planting enough new churches? Is the solution really to reallocate money and plant new churches? Or might it be that the problem and the most important answer has more to do with how existing churches—and, inevitably, any that arise from the same anemic theological tradition—live (and die) in relation to God?

Our theological status quo is anathema. The work of theology is imperative. There is a hopeful future for Churches of Christ that way. But if we refuse to speak of God first, if we keep acting as though we can organize, strategize, and financially manage our way forward, our future is hopeless and pointless. If we keep pretending that old answers and good intentions are enough, the tradition is dead already.

I remain hopeful, because the cross is a sign of hope. It is the power of God for renewal and restoration. We must, in faith, persist in the search for an understanding of the God found there. We must speak and act according to its logic. This is the work of theology to which we are presently called.

My First Semester of University Teaching

My first semester of teaching in the hallowed halls of academe is in the rearview, and I’ve caught my breath enough to begin reflecting. It has been a learning experience for all of us!

As an adjunct professor at Lipscomb University, I taught three courses in the Fall 2019 term—almost a full load for full-time faculty and definitely a full load for an inexperienced professor. Two of those courses were online, so I was figuring out both how to lecture in person and how to facilitate a meaningful online experience. I have no illusions about how much I have to learn in order to become as good as my best teachers were. I have some hope, however, that I did a bit better than my worst teachers! In any case, here’s some of what I’ve begun grappling with in the university environment of our brave (still) new century.

I want to teach! One of the questions that my program at Fuller wisely puts to its PhD students is what they want to do with their degree. Unfortunately, once they have their degree, no few graduates find out that their heart is not really in teaching. Teacher-assistant work and the like is useful for confronting vocational questions early, but the only way to really know whether you want to spend your life in a classroom (and in front of a computer screen!), grading papers and tests, and dealing with student problems is to dive in. After working with college interns in the mission field, I was fairly sure about my direction. This semester has certainly tested my idealism about undergraduate education, but if anything I’m more passionate about teaching my students—or maybe figuring out how to teach my students—than ever. I’m still writing my dissertation, still in the thick of research and writing, and I’m confident that I enjoy that work more than many of my peers. I don’t imagine that I’ll ever stop loving the quest to understand better and articulate more. But I want to teach.

I love the university. My idealism underwent a reality check, but I’m still in love with the ideals of higher education. I do not buy the prominent narrative that every high school graduate should be on a college track, and I believe in the importance of other kinds of vocational training. Still, higher education is a profound good, and its proliferation is one of the great achievements of modernity. Indeed, there is an argument to be made that one of the reasons for contemporary Western social malaise is the failure of the academy to deliver on its promises. Those promises are, nonetheless, the right ones to make. Our culture is overwhelmed by ignorance despite the claim that the problem is too much information, by falsehood despite the fact that we have more widespread access to verifiable data than ever before, and by anti-intellectualism despite (or because of?) the fact that there are more bona fide intellectuals on the planet than ever before. The university is under existential threat for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the unfettered commodification of educational credentials, but I still find great hope in a class full of twenty-somethings who, even at obscene expense, have opted into a years-long process that is ostensibly about learning how to think broadly and deeply.

The university is in massive transition. The situation is complex, but in large part because of the commodification of degree-holding, the American university is undergoing radical upheaval on a cultural level.

On the one hand, it has become a buyer’s market. The typical university’s financial need to recruit and retain paying students weighs against rigorous standards for both acceptance and performance. Anecdotally, this is evident in the unwillingness and/or inability of students to read as much as was once the norm.[1. See the common complaint in, e.g., David Gooblar, “They Haven’t Done the Reading. Again,” Chronicle Vitae, September 24, 2014, https://chroniclevitae.com/news/719-they-haven-t-done-the-reading-again; Keith M. Parsons, “When Students Won’t Read,” HuffPost, March 9, 2015, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/when-students-wont-read_b_6334392; John Warner, “When Students Won’t Do the Reading,” Inside Higher Ed, January 18, 2016, https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/when-students-wont-do-reading; Charlie Wesley, “Do You Assign Enough Reading? Or Too Much?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 13, 2016, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Do-You-Assign-Enough-Reading-/237085; Angela Jenks, “Why Don’t Students Read?” Teaching Tools, Fieldsights, August 19, 2016, https://culanth.org/fieldsights/why-dont-students-read.] In conversations with professors at multiple institutions, I’ve heard the same refrain about “heavy” (meaning, more than minimal) reading loads: students simply will not do them. That notion continues to boggle my mind. Certainly, it should mean that they will not complete reading requirements if they are willing to make a grade that reflects the failure. On the contrary, however, the assumption seems to be that reading requirements should be adjusted to the level that students are willing to complete. Further, professors who assign “too much” reading earn reputations that affect enrollment in their classes. (That is a big problem for professors without tenure!) How can this be? What happened to the university student ensconced in the library, tackling a stack of books, exploring textual horizons unknown—becoming, in a word, a well-read person? The answer: that vision belongs to a seller’s market, a time when what the university offered was the privilege of being rigorously vetted as an educated person, and professors spake “go and read” with authority. Of course, that image was never more than a romantic fancy, but it was shared broadly in the culture nonetheless, and it fired the imaginations of generations of students. As far as I can tell, it does so no longer.

Because, on the other hand, many students are simply trying to get done as quickly as possible. Given how much students are paying for education, how much debt encumbers their early adulthood, and how quickly they need to move on to gainful employment, many are more interested in getting a degree than an education—and in this regard, I pass no judgment. Still, I lament the implications. The trajectory of online education is bound to this reality. And the online learning experience, which every career professor I’ve spoken with regarding online modalities discusses with resignation or disgust, so appeals to students because they are far more interested in getting the work done in the most efficient way possible. I do not say that students are generally ignorant of the educational advantages that in-the-flesh courses afford but that many are more motivated by the utility of online courses for checking boxes and jumping through hoops on the way to a career that pays bills. This new reality will only solidify in coming decades, so the work before us must be to align online modalities with the very best of the Western tradition of higher education. I resolve not to complain but to face this work soberly and hopefully, even if nostalgia has a role to play.

Giving bad grades is uncomfortable. My wife, my children, and my close friends might be surprised to hear that I don’t enjoy giving unvarnished critical feedback, but the truth is that, for me, that process depends absolutely on a relational context that is impossible to establish with students in the span of a semester, especially in an online forum. I’m confident that my students would not accuse me of being an easy grader, but grading was not easy. Despite my belief in the importance of critique for growth in any aspect of life and the veritable sanctity of truth in educational assessment, I found it difficult to tell students they had underperformed. I found myself scrutinizing my grading as I entered final grades, asking myself what the low grades really represented. The most important help in this regard is the students who did well in every respect. In the end, I gave a lot of well-earned As. Still, all sorts of questions about systemic disadvantages and particular circumstances inevitably arise. Those other grades made me wonder whether I did everything possible to help students succeed. I doubt that question will go away soon.

Communication is the name of the game. Most of my mistakes this first semester were about communication—not of content but of expectations, of how to succeed, and of what matters most. Of course, communication is a two-way street, but for my part, I learned a lot about how students experience the syllabus and how they hear instructions.

It’s about process more than content. Similarly, it is evident that most undergraduates are still learning how to learn. Perhaps it is strange for someone like me, who feels the reduction of reading standards so keenly, to admit that content is not king. And perhaps, if I’m totally transparent, I actually mean that it’s about process as much as content. My unavoidable conclusion, however, is that the more pressing issue at this level is capacity for content, so it matters little that the reading is carefully curated, the lectures are substantive, and the material is important if students cannot really process it at the pace that a course demands.

There is nothing better than watching students get it. It is the joy of teaching. The light comes on, and there is no way a student will ever see the world the same way again. A piece of the puzzle falls into place, and the picture gets a little easier to glimpse. A pathway into new territory opens up, and the possibilities demand deeper study. An old paradigm breaks, and the need to replace it becomes urgent. Assumptions come into view. Information obtains meaning. Interpretation becomes conscious and then skillful. This is why I love education.


Notes

Mission Journal Archive

Mission, a journal associated with Churches of Christ that was published from 1967 to 1988, has been fully digitized by Mac Ice and the team at Abilene Christian University Special Collections.

I wrote about Mission a couple of years ago when the project began, and Missio Dei published a few other articles about the journal at that time:

As the archive page indicates, I also interviewed some key figures in Mission‘s history in order to glean insights about its development, and Missio Dei Foundation published Bob Turner’s Mission: An Oral History.

In terms of both its representation of a transitional era and its persistent timeliness, the historical significance of Mission for Churches of Christ theology is difficult to overstate. Tolle lege!

The Move, the Diss., the Book

I’ve been pretty well off the radar for a while—not that anyone would accuse me of being a regular blogger. Reason #1 is our recent move to Murfreesboro, TN. Later this month I begin teaching as an adjunct professor in Lipscomb University’s College of Bible and Ministry.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I’ll be teaching two online courses and one on-campus course for the Fall semester: the Story of Israel, Biblical Ethics, and a third TBD course.

Let me address the obvious: it’s a little crazy to move across the country for an adjunct faculty position. (In academia, adjunct means part-time, paid per class.) It was time to get away from the cost of living in Pasadena, however, and, after almost seven years in Peru and another four in California, it was time to be closer to family. We landed in Murfreesboro because rent is more affordable here than in Nashville, and it’s exactly half way between LU and “the farm” (what we call my in-laws’ place, because it’s an angus beef farm…). The added bonus is that I’m able to do on-campus courses and get more involved in the school.


All the while, the dissertation writing continues. I’ve completed a draft of one chapter and part of two more. My outline is seven chapters plus the intro. and conclusion, but my mentors were pretty sure it would get reduced in the end. It turns out, not only do I outline long, I also draft long. So the whole process will be one of writing and reducing. Fuller’s dissertation guidelines stipulate a maximum of 100,000 words. Let’s just say I won’t have trouble maxing out.

Perhaps you’re wondering what my dissertation topic is. Here’s the working title: The Hermeneutics of Participation: Missional Interpretation of Scripture and Readerly Formation. That doesn’t mean much by itself, of course, but, apart from my mentors, everyone who has read my thesis statement seems to go cross-eyed and change the subject, so I’ll (try to) avoid jargon. Here’s the gist:

There is an interdisciplinary project among biblical scholars and theologians known as Theological Interpretation of Scripture. It advocates an approach to reading the Bible that sees the church’s theological commitments as making a positive, even essential, contribution to the interpretive process.

This is, in large part, an alternative to the viewpoint that has been dominant in modernity, even in seminaries and schools of theology, which assumes that theological commitments (traditions, doctrines, etc.) function only as biases, prejudices, agendas, and so forth that corrupt the interpretation of what the biblical text “really meant” historically.

In contrast, Theological Interpretation of Scripture assumes, like other critical perspectives, that commitments allow us to see what we cannot in their absence. An important dimension of this discussion is about how theological commitments function to give us “eyes to see” Scripture, and one of the key claims is that our commitments are lived out in practices that shape us as readers. In the church, some core practices are quite obvious: prayer, worship, communion, liturgy, and fellowship. The idea is that participation in these practices shapes us into better readers, readers more capable of interpreting faithfully, wisely, spiritually, and so on.

In some ways, this seems obvious, especially from the church’s standpoint. For example, we normally expect prayerful, worshipful, mature church leaders to be wiser interpreters of Scripture. At the same time, it is also easy to see how such a perspective could be labeled “biased.” For example, we expect readers who come to the Bible from a tradition often to find confirmation of their traditional conclusions and to be resistant to nontraditional interpretations. Postmodernity has occasioned new ways of thinking about these dynamics, however, and Theological Interpretation is part of that shift.

In any case, what the Theological Interpretation of Scripture literature largely lacks is an understanding of mission as one of the church’s essential formative practices. For the same reason that missional church literature has needed to make the argument that the whole church is called to participate in God’s mission—namely, the virtually universal assumption that mission is not the whole church’s calling—the advocates of Theological Interpretation regularly overlook mission. My argument starts from the assumption that “participation in God’s mission” represents a normal and normative set of church commitments and practices and should, therefore, be understood as an indispensable dimension of the church’s interpretive formation. The argument I’m writing is limited to a theological explanation of why it is the case that participation in God’s mission is vitally formative for readers of Scripture.


In other news, the book I’ve been co-authoring for a number of years with my former professors Mark Powell and John Mark Hicks has finally gone to the publisher. Its title is Discipleship in Community: A Theological Vision for Churches of Christ. I’m not sure exactly when, but it is slated for a 2020 release. It’s written for a wide audience, and it includes some insightful response chapters. I’m eager to see what sort of conversation it sparks and, above all, whether it proves helpful to congregations grappling with the what it means to be a part of the Churches of Christ stream of the Restoration tradition going forward.

In Memoriam Don Haymes

Because truth is hard to come by.

I didn’t know Don, but he was a legendary provocateur among my tribe and therefore a hero to me. Here’s to more sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Below are his portrait of one moment in the history of Churches of Christ and an article titled “The Silence of the Scholars” that is quintessentially Don.

The Church of Christ Establishment

The Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom (d. AD 407), Archbishop of Constantinople, is widely acknowledged as one of the church’s greatest preachers.[1. See https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-John-Chrysostom, https://www.theopedia.com/john-chrysostom, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/pastorsandpreachers/john-chrysostom.html] Among Eastern Orthodox churches and various other Christian traditions, this sermon is traditionally read on Easter morning.[2. This translation is from the Fordham University Internet Medieval Source Book. See also Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, and Wesleyan-Holiness usages.]


Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? 
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour, 
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour, 
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour, 
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour, 
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, 
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, 
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! 
First and last alike receive your reward; 
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, 
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, 
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; 
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God. 
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!


Notes

Irenaeus, On the Apostolic Preaching 33–34

For Good Friday

[From St. Irenaeus of Lyons, On the Apostolic Preaching, Popular Patristics Series 17, trans. John Behr (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997).]

And the transgression which occurred through the tree was undone by the obedience of the tree—which [was shown when] the Son of Man, obeying God, was nailed to the tree, destroying the knowledge of evil, and introducing and providing the knowledge of good: and evil is to disobey God, just as to obey God is good. And this is why the Word says by the prophet Isaias, foretelling the thing<s> that would come to pass—for this reason were they prophets: because they related things to come—so, in this way the Word says by him that, “I am not disobedient and do not contradict; I placed my back to the scourging, and <my> cheeks to the blows, and my face I did not turn from the shame of [the] spittle.” So, by means of the obedience by which He obeyed unto death, hanging upon the tree, He undid the old disobedience occasioned by the tree.

And since He is the Word of God Almighty, who invisibly pervades <…> the whole creation, and encompasses (συνέχω) its length, breadth, height and depth—for by the Word of God everything is administered—so too was the Son of God crucified in these [fourfold dimensions], having been imprinted in the form of the cross in everything; for it <was> necessary for Him, becoming visible, to make manifest His <form of the cross> <in> everything, that He might demonstrate, by His visible form [on the cross], His activity which is on the <in>visible [level], for it is He who illumines the ‘heights’, that is, the things in heaven, and holds the ‘deeps’, which is beneath the earth, and stretches the ‘length’ from the East to the West, and who navigates the ‘breadth’ <of> the northern and southern regions, inviting the dispersed from all sides to the knowledge of the Father.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 24

For Thursday of Holy Week

[From Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, On the Incarnation, Greek Original and English Translation, Popular Patristics Series 44a, trans. John Behr (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011.]

. . . The Life of all, our Lord and Savior Christ, did not contrive death for his own body, lest he should appear fearful of some other death, but he accepted and endured on the cross that inflicted by others, especially by enemies, which they reckoned fearful and ignominious and shameful, in order that this being destroyed, he might himself be believed to be Life, and the power of death might be completely annihilated. So Something wonderful and marvelous happened: that ignominious death which they thought to inflict, this was the trophy of his victory over death. . . .

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 19

For Wednesday of Holy Week

[From Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, On the Incarnation, Greek Original and English Translation, Popular Patristics Series 44a, trans. John Behr (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011.]

It seemed good to the Savior to do all these things, so that, since human beings did not know his providence in all things nor understand his divinity through his creation, if they looked up on account of his works done through the body they might gain a notion through him of the knowledge of the Father, understanding by analogy, as I said before, his providence over all from that regarding the parts. For who seeing his authority against demons, or who seeing the demons confessing that he is himself their Lord, would still have any doubt in mind whether this one is the Son and the Wisdom and Power of God? For neither did he make creation itself be silent, but what is most wonderful, even at his death, or rather at the very trophy over death, I mean the cross, all creation confessed that he who was made known and suffered in the body was not simply a human being but Son of God and Savior of all. For the sun turned back and the earth shook and the mountains were rent, and all were awed. These things showed the Christ on the cross to be God and the whole of creation to be his servant, witnessing in fear the advent [parousia] of the Master. In this way, then, the God Word showed himself to human beings by his works. . . .