The Manger and the Cross

We Can See Love Real and in the Flesh

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt 1:20-21 NLT

The manger and the cross are not far removed. We tend to picture the Nativity as a pastorally-pleasing, sweet scene with admiring parents and grateful shepherds. We tend to view Golgotha as a horrid, ugly hill surrounded by hate-filled rejectors of the glorious majesty of God. Of course, truth exists in both these images, but often we fail to recognize that the Cross was planted in Bethlehem.

A Savior was born that day to die for our sins–the shadow of the Cross falls over the baby Jesus as he rests in the manger. Our kinsman redeemer, our sin-bearer, our ransom, our sacrificial Lamb was born that day in Bethlehem. The Cross and the manger meet in Bethlehem-Jesus is born to die for your sins and mine.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

Leo the Great cited in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 31.

In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because he does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man’s pride, violence, and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity.

Pope Benedict XVI, “St. Francis’ Role in Christmas,” Dec. 23, 2009.

The whole life of Christ was a continuall Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continuall act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.

John Donne, “Christmas Sermon,” Dec 25, 1626

Leave a Comment

Christus Victor


Recapitulating the Enemy

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Christus Victor, Christ is Victorious, was the favorite expression of the Ancient Church. Why? The world, the flesh, sin , death, and the devil were defeated by Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. Christus Victor is the declaration that Christ undid Adam’s tragic choice of sin. Jesus has taken back this fallen world for the Father’s glory by defeating Satan’s grip on humankind. Christus Victor means that this fallen world is now retaken from Satan’s domain, redeemed, and brought under Christ’s Lordship. Therefore, God the Father is summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:15-20).

Adam came forth from innocence and was tempted by Satan bringing sin and death into the world through disobedience at that awesome tree (Rom. 5:15). By contrast, Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, stood fast against Satan’s wiles, and was victorious over sin through obedience to God by hanging on that cursed tree. Christ passed through every phase of our lives-redeeming birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and even death-so that we might be set apart unto him as lights to the world. Every aspect of the life of Christ was lived in order to undo the work of Satan. The temptation in the wilderness is Christ passing the ultimate test of temptation when Adam and Israel had failed to obey God’s commands. Jesus’ finished work on Calvary’s Hill defeated death, sin and Satan and his resurrection was the ultimate declaration of that victory.

According to the theory of recapitulation (the Christus Victor view of the atonement), Christ’s shed blood on the cross was the ransom paid that brought about our release from Satan’s captivity. God the Father used the deception of Jesus being God incarnate in human flesh to trick Satan. Satan did not know that Jesus was God. In exchange for sin-trapped humankind, the devil took Jesus as ransom payment. Unwittingly, Satan was deceived for he did not know that Jesus would triumph by overthrowing sin and death.

Without equivocation, I affirm Jesus defeat of Satan’s power over believers’ lives, but the theory of recapitulation leaves much to be desired. The theory gives Satan more power than he has, makes Christ death on the Cross a transaction with the devil, and the Lord’s defeat of Satan is described in terms of deception and trickery [John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 112.]

However, the strength of the Christus Victor understanding is that the doctrine of the incarnation is stressed along with the death of Christ in the overall atoning work of Jesus in conquering sin and defeating the devil.

At the risk of oversimplification, the theme of Christ as bringer of victory can be compared with a child who has been kidnapped. In such a  case, the object of the parent’s anger will be directed not toward the child, but rather it is the kidnappers who must be dealt with . . . . As a result of the Fall, they became the captives of the kidnappers: sin, death, and the devil . . . . Christ came to do battle with humanity’s enemies and thus open the way for us to return to our rightful home.

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, Vol. I, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 149.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is himself.

Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon (2nd century AD – c. 202)

The missing link in Western theology is a deep appreciation for the incarnation and subsequent Christus Victor theme of how God incarnate won a victory over sin and death. . . . Christus Victor was the primary atonement view of the early church fathers (this view does not in any way deny the sacrifice of Christ).

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 170.

Comments (4)

The Church Fathers and Scripture

A Patristic Reading of Scripture

Last week, Robert Lewis Wilken gave an excellent speech at Wheaton College on the Church Fathers’ method for interpreting Scripture. His talk was given at the inauguration of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies. David Neff reports:

Wilken made several key points about the Fathers’ nonliteral and image-laden reading of the Bible.

1. The New Testament authors clearly applied Old Testament texts in ways that departed seriously from the plain, surface meaning of the text. When Paul cites Psalm 19 in Romans 10 (“their voice is gone out into all the world”), he applies the Psalmist’s statement about the heavens to the preaching of the apostles. This runs against the plain meaning, said Wilken.

2. The books of Scripture do not bear their own significance. They must be united to something greater, which is Christ. Thus Paul interprets the creation of man and woman as a great mystery, which is Christ and the church; and he interprets the water-giving rock in the Sinai desert as Christ.

3. Typically, such creative renderings of the Bible are focused on the Old Testament. That is because the Old Testament text signifies Christ, but the New Testament text does not signify another Christ. It requires no allegory or analogy to reveal the Incarnate Word.

4. The Fathers also understood the interpretation of Scripture to require the reader’s participation in the spiritual reality of the text. Thus it is not enough to say that Christ was crucified. We must also say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and thus also I am raised with Christ.

HT: Christian History Blog

Leave a Comment

Why Do You Turn Your Face Away?

The Face of God

“Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”;your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger. You are my help; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior! Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in.

Psa. 27:8-10 (NAB)

Why do you turn your face away? We think that God has turned his face away from us when we find ourselves suffering, so that shadows overwhelm our feelings and stop our eyes from seeing the brilliance of the truth. All the same, if God touches our intellect and chooses to become present to our minds then we will be certain that nothing can lead us into darkness.

A man’s face shines out more than the rest of his body and it is by the face that we perceive strangers and recognise our friends. How much more, then, is the face of God able to bring illumination to whoever he looks at!

The apostle Paul has something important to say about this, as about so many other things. He is a true interpreter of Christ for us, bringing him to our understanding through well-chosen words and images. He says: It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ. We have heard where Christ shines in us: he is the eternal brilliant illumination of souls, whom the Father sent into the world so that his face should shine on us and permit us to contemplate eternal and heavenly truths – we who had been plunged in earthly darkness.

What shall I say about Christ, when even the apostle Peter said to the man who had been lame from birth Look upon us? The cripple looked at Peter and found light by the grace of faith: unless he had faithfully believed he could not have received healing.

When there was so much glory to be seen among the Apostles, Zachaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree because he was small and weak and could not see the Lord through the crowd. He saw Christ and he found light. He saw Christ and instead of robbing others of their goods he began to give away his own.

Why do you turn your face away? Let us read it thus: even if you do turn your face away from us, Lord, its light is still imprinted upon us. We hold it in our hearts and our innermost feelings are transformed by its light.

For if you truly turn your face away, Lord, no-one can survive.

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Explanations of the Psalms

HT: Universalis

Leave a Comment

Mary in the Mind of the Early Church Fathers

My communion is the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.), a convergence movement denomination that attracts clergy and lay people from various Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox backgrounds. We love one another and have as a common goal the knowledge and love of Christ. However, our different backgrounds bring differing perspectives about various theological truths. Mainly truths and issues that have been debated since the Reformation. (Please note that the Historic Church has been in substantial agreement on major doctrines like the Trinity since its beginning.) Therefore, when I attended seminary at Beeson Divinity School, I choose essay topics that would examine these various “problems.” One of my goals in studying at this fine institution was to research and examine these “controversial” theological questions: questions that came up during our many clergy gatherings and friendly poolside debates. One such discussion involved the Blessed Virgin Mary: Was she sinless? Was she assumed into heaven? Did she contribute to our salvation? Was she a model of the church?

My essay, “What Did the Church Fathers Believe About the Blessed Virgin Mary?”, examines these questions in light of the literature of the first six hundred years of church history. I tackle these questions and attempt to draw conclusions about the Patristic period’s understanding of Mary: Did they believe the same as present day Evangelicals, or Roman Catholics, or did the Fathers hold to a different understanding that neither group possesses? Check out my essay and conclude for yourself.

What Did the Church Fathers Believe About the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Rev. Canon Glenn E. Davis


No subject stirs passionate emotion between members of the Roman Catholic Church and adherents of Evangelical Protestantism then a discussion about Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Recently, this theological controversy was brought to the forefront again by an article featured in Newsweek magazine. This essay pointed out the vast amount of lay support in the Roman Catholic Church for declaring Mary co-Redemptrix and co-Mediatrix with the Lord Jesus Christ:

This week a large box shipped from California and addressed to “His Holiness, John Paul II” will arrive at the Vatican. The shipping label lists a dozen countries–from every continent but Antarctica–plus a number, 40,383, indicating the quantity of signatures inside. Each signature is attached to a petition asking the pope to exercise the power of papal infallibility to proclaim a new dogma of the Roman Catholic faith: that the Virgin Mary is “Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate for the People of God.[1]

The Evangelical world was aghast for it had hoped that the Roman Catholic Church was moderating its position about Mary. Recent ecumenical dialogues with the Roman Catholic theologians had resulted in warm and responsive discussions; Evangelicals looked forward to continued rapprochement. However, Evangelicals were not only grieved that Mary would be elevated to a redeemer status, but also that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility could be invoked in order to establish Mary as a co-Redemptrix and co-Mediatrix with Christ. The mere mention of the concept of infallible Papal authority renewed many old theological anxieties for Evangelicals: tensions, debates, and antagonisms of the Reformation period were renewed. The reaction was immediate and strong from the Billy Graham founded magazine, Christianity Today.

The possibility, however remote, of the pope’s responding to the grassroots groundswell by giving Mary titles that blur the New Testament’s clear vision of Jesus’ unique role in our salvation endangers this uncompromising achievement of clarity [the Evangelicals and Catholics Together Joint Statement on Salvation]. All of which prompts us to say, Don’t. Don’t give to Mary that which belongs to Jesus. Do keep on the road established at Vatican II. [2]

The Roman Catholic Church already has such an official high view of Mary that many Evangelicals feel such that a belief diminishes the centrality of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church presents Mary as the ever-virgin, sinless handmaid, and heavenly intercessor. Rome encourages the faithful in their devotion to Mary:

Mary is the perfect Orans (prayer), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.[3]

This statement, and others like it, upset many Evangelicals fearing that the Roman Catholic understanding of Mary distracts from the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross, his unique mediatorial position, and his ministry of heavenly intercession. Therefore, the question needs to be asked, “What did the Fathers of the Church believe about Mary, the Mother of Jesus? Did they lay the groundwork for present Roman Catholic doctrine? On the other hand, did the Fathers simply affirm what modern Evangelicals believe today? The purpose of this essay is to answer that question.

[1] Kenneth L. Woodward, “Mary: A Growing Movement in the Roman Catholic Church Wants the Pope to Proclaim a New, Controversial Dogma: That Mary is a Co-Redeemer. Will He Do It, Maybe in Time for the Millennium? Should He?” Newsweek, July 25, 1997 [article-on-line].

[2] David Neff, “Let Mary Be: Why the Pope Shouldn’t Give Mary that which Belongs to Her Son.” Christianity Today, Vol.41, No.14 (December 8, 1997), 14.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church web site, ( 2679.

Read the entire document on Scribd: Mariology in the Early Church

Comments (2)

Christ’s Glorious Deeds

Welcome to the Glorious Deeds of Christ blog. This blog begins today for the purpose of magnifying our blessed Lord Jesus Christ and his great work on the Cross. The poet and early church father, Prudentius, wrote



Give me, page, my quill

that I may sing

a sweet and tuneful song

of the glorious deeds of Christ.

He alone shall be my Muse’s theme,

Him alone shall my lyre praise.

“Hymn for All Hours, “

Prudentius (348-415?)



Complete poem found here.


My quill, my page, my song, and my lyre will be this blog. I pray that everything written here will display the beauty, greatness, magnificence and glory found in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Leave a Comment