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My Answer

Yesterday I asked a question. Here's what I got for you:

A discussion of Jesus as savior cannot happen without a simultaneous discussion of this savior’s relationship to God. Just as a discussion of salvation in English must be laden with prepositions (what one is saved from, to, for, by, etc.), so must a discussion about salvation in early Christianity be laden with relationships. Preeminent among these is Jesus’ relationship to humanity. Once this has been addressed, the relationships between God and Jesus and God and creation must likewise be examined.

According to Arius, Jesus became the savior by a deliberate choice followed with consistent actions. Jesus was made as equally human as any other being, but assumed the role of savior by defeating demons and was rewarded for it. Therefore, Jesus’ relationship to humanity was intimate and equal. Athanasius thus concludes that Jesus was corruptible and changeable, and his relationship to God is therefore unequal.

Athanasius then sets out to build a theology that adequately presents Jesus as savior because of his divinity (as opposed to his humanity). He explains Jesus’ relationship to humanity by writing, “The Lord should both make haste to help us and appear among humans.” In order to help humans, Jesus became one. Jesus was therefore sent by God, having already been equal with God: “For being Word of the Father, and above all, the Word alone was naturally capable of recreating everything, and suffering on behalf of all and being ambassador for all with the Father.” Such an equal relationship was needed because, “the human race was perishing; the rational person made in God's image was disappearing, and the handiwork of God was in process of dissolution.” God’s creation was not unfolding so that it reflected an incorruptible God. An incorruptible God/human was needed to offer redemption.

For Cyril, by becoming human, Jesus was able to defeat the sin that so easily defeats every human being. Jesus’ death, then, was for all of humanity, that they, too, might be able to commune with God (who was in Jesus). “Sin died in Christ,” and humans are able to relate to God via the resurrection.

For these three writers, (particularly Athanasius), a discussion about a savior soon leads to a discussion of what a savior saves one from, and so starts a long walk back through the course of all human history looking for an explanation. The relationships between Jesus and God and Jesus and humanity reveal the overarching relationship between God and humanity. As a result, because God was seen as creator, Jesus did not just redeem humanity, but also ALL of creation. It is to be inferred from these readings that this was a critical issue in the life of early Christianity. While the new religion was able to offer some sort of redemption to humanity, the important question was how this redemption was available. These three thinkers offered answers to this query that helped shape Alexandrian Christology, providing not just what one is saved from, but how and why it all happens.

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