St. Athanasius on Salvation and Peace-Making

From On the Incarnation:

“Who, then, is it that has done this, or who is he that has united in peace those who hated each other, if not the beloved Son of the Father, the common Savior of all, Jesus Christ, who in his love submitted to all things for our salvation? For even from of old it had been prophesied concerning the peace ushered in by him, the scriptures saying, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn any more to wage war” (Isa 2.4). And such a thing is not unbelievable, inasmuch as even now the barbarians who have an innate savagery of manners, while they still sacrifice to their idols, rage against one another and cannot bear to remain without a sword for a single hour, but when they hear the teaching of Christ they immediately turn to farming instead of war, and instead of arming their hands with swords stretch them out in prayer, and, in a word, instead of fighting amongst themselves, henceforth they arm themselves against the devil and the demons, subduing them with sobriety and virtue of soul. That is, on the one hand, the proof of the Savior’s divinity, that what human beings were unable to learn among idols, they have learned from him, and, one the other hand, no small refutation of the weakness and nothingness of the demons and idols. The demons, knowing their weakness, because of this formerly set human beings at war with each other, lest if they ceased from mutual strife, they should turn to battle against demons. Indeed, those who become disciples of Christ, instead of fighting against each other, stand arrayed against the demons by their lives and deeds of virtue, putting them to flight and mocking their prince, the devil, so that, in their youth they are temperate, in temptations they endure, in toils they persevere, when insulted they forbear, and deprivations they disregard, and, what is most wonderful is that they scorn even death and become martyrs for Christ.”

This is the kind of paragraph that is worth reading and praying over. 

2 thoughts on “St. Athanasius on Salvation and Peace-Making

  1. It’s hard to imagine a modern evangelical or conservative pastor speaking about peace in this way and using Isaiah in this manner. At least, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I think we are generally ignorant of what early church Fathers had to say on the matter (with the caveat that they also often didn’t see things eye to eye). But, lacking that historical context, discussion of the peace ushered in by Christ is often buried or relegated to individual relationships.

    One also wonders what Athanasius’ views on the Roman military were. I know at this time Christianity was the state religon, was it not? Athanasius also ran afoul of some emperors, but I think those had mostly to do with the fact that they were pro-Arian and Athanasius was a staunch trinitarian of the Nicene creed “homoousian” view. Mike, do you know if he wrote things specifically about the role of Rome’s military?


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