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Author Topic: Looking for a good Orthodox book or "theologian" for comparison on the Atonement  (Read 1534 times) Average Rating: 0
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Hrugnir
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« on: February 08, 2011, 11:42:20 AM »

Hey there, OC.net people!
I've been lurking these forums for a while, but realized that this was a perfect time for me to write my first post.
My name is Peter and I've been interested in Orthodox Christianity for at least a year now. I grew up within an Evangelical Lutheran low-church movement within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, and my father is an ordained priest within that church. I am currently a theology student, and as I've studied this, I've come more and more in contact with Orthodoxy, through icons, patristics and Internet blogs. I've also visited Orthodox churches at some points in my life. While I am not exactly looking to become a catechumen right now, I am very interested in your ancient tradition. I have two good friends who are considering or on their way to converting.

I have always been interested in the Orthodox Church's soteriology, and I've also always had an uneasy feeling about the juridical, penal substitionary language within Evangelicalism. While I might be rightly classified as Evangelical on many other issues (I'm sure you'd disagree with where I'm at on ecclesiology, for example), I'm very attracted to the Orthodox way of approaching salvation and atonement.

This brings me to my question. I'm in seminary at the moment, and I am to write an essay in systematic theology. I've decided to write on atonement theology, and I've decided to compare a few theologians. This is my first proper essay, and it's maximum 22 pages, I believe. I will compare an Evangelical Christus Victor proponent (Gregory Boyd), a proponent of Evangelical Penal Substitution, possibly another guy, and then finally I will try to bring an Orthodox perspective into all this.

Of course, part of the difficulty with all this lies in the differences between the Western and Eastern approaches to how to "do" theology. We are far more individualistic, and it's far easier to find individual theologians with their own unique opinions within Protestantism. Compared to this, I understand that Orthodoxy strives to keep its theology in line with what the early Church decided and what the Fathers said. I also know that the criteria for being called a "theologian" are different within the Orthodox Communion. However, even though I know this position, I am restricted by academic considerations. I cannot simply compare John Stott's theology with "Orthodox theology" in an essay of this limited scope. Rather, I think I need to find a limited number of people or books explaining the Orthodox take on the Atonement. While I'm sure you'd happily point me to the Fathers, whom I'm more than happy to go to, I would probably need a lot more time to analyze St. Athanasius' or St. Irenaeus' soteriology through primary sources, than to hear a somewhat contemporary theologian within the Orthodox Church explain their theology to me. I'm sure you can understand my considerations. I'm still a beginner in terms of my knowledge of the Orthodox Church and Patristics, so please be gentle Smiley

Thankful for any answers!

/Peter Berntsson
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 12:12:17 PM by Hrugnir » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2011, 12:24:08 PM »

Are you busy Saturday?

On the Tree of the Cross: The Patristic Doctrine of Atonement
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=29919.0
http://www.princeton.edu/~florov/patristic_symposium.html

Welcome to the forum.  Smiley
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ialmisry
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2011, 12:24:45 PM »

Hey there, OC.net people!
I've been lurking these forums for a while, but realized that this was a perfect time for me to write my first post.
My name is Peter and I've been interested in Orthodox Christianity for at least a year now. I grew up within an Evangelical Lutheran low-church movement within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, and my father is an ordained priest within that church. I am currently a theology student, and as I've studied this, I've come more and more in contact with Orthodoxy, through icons, patristics and Internet blogs. I've also visited Orthodox churches at some points in my life. While I am not exactly looking to become a catechumen right now, I am very interested in your ancient tradition. I have two good friends who are considering or on their way to converting.

I have always been interested in the Orthodox Church's soteriology, and I've also always had an uneasy feeling about the juridical, penal substitionary language within Evangelicalism. While I might be rightly classified as Evangelical on many other issues (I'm sure you'd disagree with where I'm at on ecclesiology, for example), I'm very attracted to the Orthodox way of approaching salvation and atonement.

This brings me to my question. I'm in seminary at the moment, and I am to write an essay in systematic theology. I've decided to write on atonement theology, and I've decided to compare a few theologians. This is my first proper essay, and it's maximum 22 pages, I believe. I will compare an Evangelical Christus Victor proponent (Gregory Boyd), a proponent of Evangelical Penal Substitution, possibly another guy, and then finally I will try to bring an Orthodox perspective into all this.

Of course, part of the difficulty with all this lies in the differences between the Western and Eastern approaches to how to "do" theology. We are far more individualistic, and it's far easier to find individual theologians with their own unique opinions within Protestantism. Compared to this, I understand that Orthodoxy strives to keep its theology in line with what the early Church decided and what the Fathers said. I also know that the criteria for being called a "theologian" are different within the Orthodox Communion. However, even though I know this position, I am restricted by academic considerations. I cannot simply compare John Stott's theology with "Orthodox theology" in an essay of this limited scope. Rather, I think I need to find a limited number of people or books explaining the Orthodox take on the Atonement. While I'm sure you'd happily point me to the Fathers, whom I'm more than happy to go to, I would probably need a lot more time to analyze St. Athanasius' or St. Irenaeus' soteriology through primary sources, than to hear a somewhat contemporary theologian within the Orthodox Church explain their theology to me. I'm sure you can understand my considerations. I'm still a beginner in terms of my knowledge of the Orthodox Church and Patristics, so please be gentle Smiley

Thankful for any answers!

/Peter Berntsson

You might want to look at Met. Anthony:
Quote
In his sotereological conceptions, Metropolitan Anthony held that Orthodox dogmatic views must be entirely rid of the idea of substitutional atonement of Anselm of Canterbury, which was popular in theological schools. Metropolitan Anthony wrote:

We must think that during that night at Gethsemane, the thoughts and feelings of the Godman encompassed all fallen men in their many billions, and wept with loving grief for all of them individually, which, of course, was only possible to the Divine, all-knowing heart. This was our atonement ... We are sure that the terrible sufferings of the Saviour at Gethsemane took place while beholding the sinful life and sinful nature of all human generations and that the words of the Lord "Let this cup pass from me" are not pointed to his upcoming Crucifixion and death, but to this, completely depressing to Him, feeling of profound grief for the sinful human race so beloved by Him.

Thus Metropolitan Anthony considered not Golgotha, but the sufferings in Gethsemane, as central to the Savior's feat of redemption. The bodily sufferings and death on the Cross were necessary so that the faithful would acknowledge the degree of His suffering. This view received criticism from some theologians, including John Meyendorff and Georges Florovsky, with some going as far as to accuse Metropolitan Anthony of Pelagianism. Metropolitan Anthony wrote these views in prison, and when they were criticized, he withdrew them. [1] It is important to note that Metropolitan Anthony did not pioneer this theological view: it appeared in Russian theology in the 19th century as an attempt to counteract Anselmian atonement. Later theologians claimed that Metropolitan Anthony's views were completely Orthodox, but that the way in which he expressed them led some to misinterpret his teaching.
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Anthony_%28Khrapovitsky%29_of_Kiev

Quote
And one more question. It is about Redemption. I know of the attitude of Metr. Antony Khrapovitsky. Some theologians say that this is modernistic attitude. I have respect for this man, God knows.

Quote
Metr Antony was a great patristic figure, not at all a modernist. He simply wanted to restore the Patristic understanding of the Redemption in Russia, where at that time they had completely adopted the Roman Catholic satisfaction theory. Metr Antony wrote his book in prison and did not always express himself so clearly. It is also true that he exaggerated the importance of Gethsemane in the Redemption, in order to cure the then Russian obsession with the Roman Catholic approach. When some ten-fifteen years later, some objected to his views on the Redemption, he withdrew them, seeing that they upset some people, who were attached to the old satisfaction theory. His intentions were completely Orthodox and a careful reading of his Redemption proves that his thoughts were also completely Orthodox..

Metr Antony's views have been very well defended, above all by Fr Justin Popovich. Anyone who reads his views with goodwill, will see this. The only reservation one can have is that Metr Antony sometimes expressed himself in ways that can be misinterpreted by people of ill-will.


And he quotes Fathers, (I have read this long ago and I write this from memory), St Ephraim the Syrian and St Simeon the New Theologian. But, I am not sure. One of my favourite Fathers is St Ignatius Brianchaninov. In his works he speak about redemption, and that Son was on the Cross to redeem people from eternal punishment.

Quote
Metr Antony never denied this. He merely pointed out that the whole of Christ's life, His Incarnation, as an act of mercy, was redemptive. The high point of it was of course the Cross.


What do You think about that? I think about the opinion of Metr. Antony and what is the right attitude. What is the right teaching of the Church about the Redemption? Many people now speak about the influence of "Latin theology" and speak that this was strong in Orthodoxy in the 18th and 19th centuries when lived the great Ignatius. I don't know what to think. I am not daring to say that St Ignatius was wrong. Do you know where I can find on the internet a book by some Church Father who speak about this problem?

Quote
St Ignatius was fully Orthodox, though of course he too expressed himself in the language of the time - as we all do.


Some years ago I wrote a long article on this subject of Metr Antony and the Redemption in Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition. I think it is on the website. It may help you
[/size]

Quote
Lastly, what is the clear Orthodox teaching on the so-called atonement? There are very many viewpoints, it seems, among the Fathers: I particularly found suspect or even heretical(?) Dr Kalomiros's 1980 'River of Fire' address at the Orthodox Youth Conference in July 1980. An example is his attempt to argue that dikaiosune is a 'translation' of the original Hebrew tsedhakhah-a clear error among others, for he accepts that that the LXX postdates the current Massoretic OT.

You may have answered this question elsewhere but I urgently need clarification of the Orthodox teaching on this crucial means to our salvation.

V. Lossky suggests (?) that the Incarnation was the Son of God's 'einai' (i.e. being as we are), His obedience from birth to death and the trampling of Hades His bringing us 'eu einai' (salvation of our fallen nature) and His resurrection His bringing to us our 'aien einai' (our deification in Him). Is this a correct understanding?

Jonathan
Quote
I am not sure if I am answering your question, but I would put an answer very simply: Here we are talking about the Redemption ( I am not keen on the word atonement). Christ redeemed us through all the sufferings of His life, His Incarnation, from conception, birth, the flight into Egypt, childhood, His baptism, the tempting by satan, the three years of public preaching and persecution, his hunger and thirst, Gethsemane, followed by the high point, which was the Crucifixion, the fruit of which was the Resurrection, followed by the Ascension (which took our human natire into paradise) and Pentecost (whoch opened the path of deification – theosis). Why did He do this – out of Love and Compassion for mankind.

All scholastic and feudal theories of satisfaction, and Kalomiros, like other very conservative writers (and conservative by no means signifies traditional) is prone to these Roman Catholic errors, do not explain adequately the Redemption – indeed, they even seem heretical.

Fr Andrew
[/size]
http://www.orthodoxengland.org.uk/qa3.htm

Richard Swinburn's first part of his tetrology on Christian doctrine is entitled "Responsibility and Atonement" (1989), but I haven't read it so can't comment on it.

Btw, are you by chance from Småland?

I used to be Lutheran, and remember asking the pastor to explain how good Christ institute the Last Supper before the sacrifice had been made.
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2011, 12:25:23 PM »

I am, and also, I live in Sweden Wink
Thanks!
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2011, 12:36:56 PM »

Thanks for the reply, ialmisry! If Fr. Anthony Khrapovitsky is so radical within Orthodoxy, I'm not sure if he's the ideal representative of the "Orthodox" perspective on Redemption/Atonement in my small essay.

I'm from Halmstad, Halland originally, but I'm currently studying in Uppsala, which is the archdiocese of the Church of Sweden. I'm not sure if I understood your question about the Last Supper, though Tongue

If you didn't know this, the Church of Sweden is far more "Catholic" in much of its liturgy and art than I think it is in the US and many other countries. We also claim to have Apostolic Succession, and use the word "präst" ("priest"), and have maintained an Episcopal structure of the Church..
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 12:54:54 PM by Hrugnir » Logged
ialmisry
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2011, 12:56:27 PM »

Thanks for the reply, ialmisry! If Fr. Anthony Khrapovitsky is so radical within Orthodoxy, I'm not sure if he's the ideal representative of the "Orthodox" perspective on Redemption/Atonement in my small essay.

I'm from Halmstad, Halland originally, but I'm currently studying in Uppsala, which is the archdiocese of the Church of Sweden. I'm not sure if I understood your question about the Last Supper, though Tongue
What the question was, or why I brought it up?

I loved Uppsala, especially the mead in the horn. Tongue, the Cathedra and Gamla Uppsala

Still Götaland. Still a fellow Goth.

My favorite would be Lossky, but he seems to take on the dogma of justification more than atonement.  If that falls within your essay:
Orthodox theology: an introduction By Vladimir Lossky
http://books.google.com/books?id=xL1Vn_LLJ3sC&pg=PA111&lpg=PA111&dq=Lossky+Atonement&source=bl&ots=gc6XrFAPo_&sig=h8d6RGAYXLCblBNFkKwaAhq04XM&hl=en&ei=2nNRTYePNYa0lQf1oLmxCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false
In the image and likeness of God By Vladimir Lossky, John H. Erickson, Thomas E. Bird
http://books.google.com/books?id=oVBF4cNLZkQC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=atonement&f=false
The mystical theology of the Eastern Church By Vladimir Lossky
http://books.google.com/books?id=dxqvWwPSCSwC&pg=PA151&dq=Lossky+figures+of+the+physical+order&hl=en&ei=LHVRTZOKOsL6lwf6ksngCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Btw, as the CoS is the only Lutheran one to claim apostolic succession, what is your ecclesiology?
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2011, 03:14:14 PM »

Both. I didn't understand your question fully, and hence I didn't get why you brought it up Tongue

Uppsala is a beautiful city! I live pretty close to Gamla Uppsala, actually.
Do you have Swedish roots or something like that?

Thanks for the Lossky tip! I'll check him out Smiley I have a book with essays from various theologians on the Atonement ("Stricken By God?"), among which Kharalambos Anstall represents the Orthodox perspective.

One of my friends is actually writing his essay on our view of Apostolic Succession - it's pretty confused. What is clear is that there was some kind of continuity from our Catholic bishops to our Lutheran Bishops. Ecclesiology is not really my area, though. I couldn't say what Apostolic Succession means to our church, really, I just know there's a whole group of people who treasure it, and that our Archbishop Nathan Söderblom travelled around the world giving it to other churches in the '30s or so...
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2011, 03:59:01 PM »

Hmm...

While I am still interested in reading books on this, I'm realizing the scope, purpose and time/size restrictions of this essay might be too small for me to be able to bring in the immensity of Eastern theology, as much as I'd want to do so. I would probably just slaughter Orthodox theology in the attempt. So I might restrict myself to mostly Western theologians for now, even though they explore the same motifs and themes as the Fathers have done.
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2011, 04:17:08 PM »

There is an interesting essay "Salvation By Christ: A Response to Credenda /
Agenda on Orthodoxy's Teaching of Theosis and the Doctrine of Salvation
,"
by Carmen Fragapane.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/frag_salv.aspx

Carmen Fragapane writes:

"...In EH Jones writes that in Orthodoxy "discussions of substitutionary
atonement and propitiation are virtually absent from their published
explanations of salvation.
 

[It is absent from Bishop Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Church]

"... the notion that redemption should be rigidly interpreted in one
particular way is itself foreign to early Christian thought: "The seven
ecumenical councils avoided defining salvation through any [one model]
alone. No universal Christian consensus demands that one view of salvation
includes or excludes all others" .

J.N.D. Kelly further explains:

"Scholars have often despaired of discovering any single unifying
thought in the Patristic teaching about the redemption. These various theories,
however, despite appearances, should not be regarded as in fact mutually
incompatible. They were all of them attempts to elucidate the same great
truth from different angles; their superficial divergences are often due to
the different Biblical images from which they started, and there is no
logical reason why, carefully stated, they should not be regarded as
complimentary". And this is precisely what we find in Orthodoxy: "While
insisting in this way upon the unity of Christ's saving economy, the
Orthodox Church has never formally endorsed any particular theory of
atonement. The Greek Fathers, following the New Testament, employ a rich
variety of images to describe what the Savior has done for us. These models
are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, each needs to be balanced by
the others. Five models stand out in particular: teacher, sacrifice, ransom,
victory and participation" ..."

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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2011, 04:20:45 PM »

Välkommen, Peter! Good to see more Scandinavians in here. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2011, 07:09:17 PM »

Alpo: Tack så mycket Smiley

Irish Hermit: That's what I thought. However, it seems Orthodox theologians have been very interested in explaining what Orthodoxy does NOT teach about Christ's death. The most clear example of what most claim to be absent from the Fathers is the Reformed penal substitutionary atonement view, emphasizing propitiation of sin and Christ as the recipient of God's wrath due to his retributive justice.
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« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2011, 08:07:50 PM »

I am quite keen, as is Peter, to hear if anybody knows of contemporary Orthodox theologians who have written on the atonement.

From Fr Stephen in England....

"Orthodox questions about Substitionary Atonement language and imagery are a worthy discussion for Protestants. It is the voice of Christian Tradition, rooted in the Fathers that calls for carefulness when speaking of God and circumspection when asserting something as dogma. Orthodoxy is no stranger to dogma and holds it in the highest regard (you can’t imagine), but just so, it questions a dogma when it "cannot find it within its own two-thousand year history of councils and canons. Those questions should give pause to any Christian of good will"

http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2007/09/21/whats-at-stake-in-the-atonement/
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2011, 12:59:21 AM »

Both. I didn't understand your question fully, and hence I didn't get why you brought it up Tongue
I never did get how we could receive the atonement in the Lord's Supper when the Last Supper instituted it befrore the sacrifice was offered. Not that I agonized over it or it gnawed at me, but it was there in the background unanswered.  When I embrace Orthodoxy, of course, this, like all other questions, fell away answered.

A couple years ago I came across my copy of the Book of Concord, I found myself flipping through it saying to myself "I used to believe THAT?"  But the connection between the atonment and the Lrod's Supper was a question even when I believed the BoC and was quite content with the Lutheran Confession.


Uppsala is a beautiful city! I live pretty close to Gamla Uppsala, actually.
I'm into history, orgins etc., so for me Uppsala was of more insterest than Stockholm, and Gamla Uppsala even more.

Do you have Swedish roots or something like that?
My great grandfather comes from here I believe:

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ljuders_kyrka
AFAIK I'm the only descendant who has made it back to Sweden.  I didn't get to the town when I was in Sweden (my family seems to have confused Kronobergs län with Kronborgs Slott: the older branch informed me of the error recently).

Thanks for the Lossky tip! I'll check him out Smiley I have a book with essays from various theologians on the Atonement ("Stricken By God?"), among which Kharalambos Anstall represents the Orthodox perspective.

One of my friends is actually writing his essay on our view of Apostolic Succession - it's pretty confused. What is clear is that there was some kind of continuity from our Catholic bishops to our Lutheran Bishops. Ecclesiology is not really my area, though. I couldn't say what Apostolic Succession means to our church, really, I just know there's a whole group of people who treasure it, and that our Archbishop Nathan Söderblom travelled around the world giving it to other churches in the '30s or so...
Evidently not in this neck of the woods: when they formed the ELCA I recall that the visiting Archbishop of Sweden wouldn't take part in the installation over the issue.

Yeah, it seems confused, but then to be fair the Anglicans are confused too.  I'd be interested in seeing your friends explanation.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2011, 01:00:54 AM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2011, 04:12:45 AM »

Hmm... I don't think the connections between the Lord's Supper and the Atonement are that strongly connected in 21st century Lutheranism. But then again, the Book of Concord is more like a dated, disregarded text of ages past for many people today. I'd put myself in that position, but that's because I've become more sceptical to many of the inventions of the West in general and the Reformation in particular. That doesn't mean that I believe converting to Orthodoxy is the only option, however. I find it somehow counter-intuitive to leave the individualistic theology of the West and join Orthodoxy based on my personal theological quest to find the perfect church. There has to be other reasons for doing so.

But yeah, some high-church people among Lutherans in the US (I forget if it was ELCA or Missouri Synod) asked my teacher to read the Words of Institution in the Eucharist, so that they could finally partake of REAL Eucharist... Hehe.
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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2011, 06:08:51 PM »

I'd read St. Athanasius, "On the Incarnation of the Word of God." Cut straight to the Fathers--IMO, it's more reliable than modern theological books.

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« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2011, 12:49:35 AM »

Though geared to a more popular level, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's lecture "Salvation in Christ:  An Orthodox View" is an excellent overview.
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