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The Rev. Samuel Edwards: fourth in a series on the Nicene Creed
Prydain ^ | 10/04/2005 | Will

Posted on 10/04/2005 7:00:22 PM PDT by sionnsar

As readers will know, the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama has been preaching a series of sermons on the Nicene Creed. The fourth in that series follows:

Blueprint of Belief: The Nicene Creed

Sermon IV: He came down from heaven

(Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2005)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

“I believe … in one Lord Jesus Christ, … who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven….”

When we say the Creed, we proclaim not just that the Son of God came down from heaven, but that he did so for a reason that is two-fold: (1) “for us men and (2) for our salvation.” He came down to fulfill our humanity by making it possible for us to be united with God. In order to do that, he had to rescue us from the condition of depraved sub-humanity into which we had fallen on account of sin, which made that union impossible.

Each of these aspects counters the tendencies found in forms of what we may call “impaired Christianity.” Liberal Christianity has no problem with the idea that the Incarnation is “for us men.” Such an affirmation does not contradict the tendency of this way of thinking toward universalism (the doctrine that in the end everyone will be saved). It also fits nicely with the usually unrecognized, or at least unspoken, attitude that God’s becoming man is some sort of compliment to “us men.”

However, this kind of impaired Christianity is uncomfortable with the assertion that God’s purpose in sending his Son to be incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary includes “our salvation.” The reason for its discomfort is that while the liberal Christian might admit that there is such a thing as sin, he is reluctant to admit that it can completely separate anyone from the life of God. If he thinks this way, then no matter how he may try to qualify it, he does not really believe we need saving. If your assumption, recognized or not, is that God is eventually going to admit you and everyone else into his fellowship, whether we want it or not, then you do not really believe we need the kind of saving his Son became man to provide, and you won’t be able to say the Creed fully and honestly.

There are others who hold to forms of impaired Christianity that have no trouble at all with the idea that the Incarnation is “for our salvation,” but have some difficulty with the “for us men” part. That is, they have no doubt that we need saving, but have doubts that we can be truly united with God. The most some will do is to acknowledge that “for us men” means– and means no more than – that God treats us as if we were righteous for Christ’s sake. (The technical term for this is “imputation.” It is true insofar as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.) These folks have no concept that we are ever going to be able truly to participate in Christ’s righteousness – to have it soak into and restore us instead of being an only like an outward coating on basically and irretrievably rotten wood. This way of thinking actually places limits on the power of God to transform and restore us right down to the core of our being and so leads to a kind of spirituality (and consequently to a morality) which is stagnated, immature, joyless, and formalistic.

To think that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is all there is to our salvation is to miss much of the ground of Christian joy: It is to fail to recognize that what God intends to do with us is to begin by treating us as if we were worthy for the sake of the worthiness of his Son, but finish by making us genuine and full participants in that worthiness for the sake of the glory of his Son. We are justified that we may be sanctified; we are saved from our sins that we might be real partakers of Christ’s righteousness. As several of the early Fathers of the Church put it, “God became man that man might become God.”

“Salvation” is both the restoring and the intensifying of the capacity for communion with God that we have lost on account of sin. Sin is the deliberate choice of a lesser good over a greater good. It often has been pointed out that the Greek word for it (hamartia) comes from a word that means “to miss the mark” (as in missing an archery target), but sin is more than mere bad aim. Our infection by sin keeps us off the mark, and its effect is that we end up trying to hit the target with bent arrows and warped bows, and we’re most likely aiming at the wrong target anyway. To use another analogy, sin is the effect of our having turned the airplane off course, usually in hope of finding a shorter route to the airport or doing some off-path sightseeing, then finding that all the control surfaces are jammed, forcing us to fly in a circle until we run out of fuel and crash. From this predicament we can be rescued only by outside intervention.

Therefore, “he came down from heaven.” Our Rescuer is from out of this world, not within it. Our rescue is accomplished in this world, but it is not of this world. The Designer and Builder comes on board with the proper tools that only he has and frees the controls that we because of our foolishness have jammed.

He does this, and he continues to do it. In fact, he does it so that he can continue to do it. Therefore, every time a Christian with faith and repentance and the intent to lead a new life receives him in the bread and wine here consecrated, he comes on board, sets things right, and promises to pilot us to a safe landing in the haven for which we are bound.

This sermon is also an antidote to Deism, is it not? God is indeed involved with His creation, and loves mankind so much that He sent His Son to rescue us--as Rev. Edwards points out.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 10/04/2005 7:00:25 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
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Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 10/04/2005 7:02:53 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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