Author Topic: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement  (Read 9495 times)

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Offline neon_knights

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I know the Orthodox tend to avoid subjects such as justification, and tend to focus on sanctification (theosis), which IMO is a great thing. But do most Orthodoxy completely ignore justification? It's all over scripture that our sins are forgiven and justified by faith.

And of substitutionary atonement? I know that most Orthodox focus on the "Christus Victor" view of atonement, but it is also clearly written in Scripture that Christ was crucified as a ransom.

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time"

I'm a bit confused on this matter. If there is something clearly stated in Scripture that the Orthodox don't teach, then how could the Orthodox be the true Church? I would really appreciate if someone cleared this up for me.

Offline Melodist

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You seem to be describing sin from a purely legal sense. There is much more to sin and our salvation from sin and death than just a judicial state of being. There is more that can be said, but I have to work tonight and need to get some rest so I will give some short answers, and then hopefully will have time to elaborate later on.

I know the Orthodox tend to avoid subjects such as justification, and tend to focus on sanctification (theosis), which IMO is a great thing. But do most Orthodoxy completely ignore justification? It's all over scripture that our sins are forgiven and justified by faith.

The short answer is being baptised into Christ, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, being united together with Him and each other in the breaking of the bread, and confessing our sins so that we may be healed.

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And of substitutionary atonement?

Not in the way most Protestants understand "substitution".

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I know that most Orthodox focus on the "Christus Victor" view of atonement, but it is also clearly written in Scripture that Christ was crucified as a ransom.

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time"

We may have a different understanding of how "ransom" is applied to the cross.

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I'm a bit confused on this matter.

It took me a couple of years to really understand the Orthodox view of what happened on the cross and I'm probably still learning. It's not what I was taught in my Baptist sunday school as a child. While I think have the concept of how to apply words like "substitution", "ransom", "paid the price", etc. I don't know how well I am able to articulate them. Please forgive me if I fail to properly articulate my thoughts.

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If there is something clearly stated in Scripture that the Orthodox don't teach, then how could the Orthodox be the true Church? I would really appreciate if someone cleared this up for me.

I will try to provide more clarification later when I have some time. This is something that may take a little explaining to do and can't be fully summed up in a couple of short sentences.
And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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Offline katherineofdixie

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This is a huge subject and there are many who are much better at explaining this than I, but I would like you to consider two things:
1. the Orthodox understanding of sin as disease, moreso than lawbreaking.
2. sometimes when people say Scripture clearly teaches this, that or the other thing what they really mean is they interpret Scripture as clearly teaching something.
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Offline NicholasMyra

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And of substitutionary atonement? I know that most Orthodox focus on the "Christus Victor" view of atonement, but it is also clearly written in Scripture that Christ was crucified as a ransom.
Substitutionary Atonement, Christus Victor, Ransom, Recapitulation, Moral Exemplar-- these form what you could call the Orthodox atonement view. It seems like many Emergent Protestants enjoy talking about what the EO believe in debates with Reformed traditions, but they often present very limited or polarized caricatures of EO positions.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not, however, part of the EO view.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 04:16:04 PM by NicholasMyra »
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Offline NicholasMyra

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I know the Orthodox tend to avoid subjects such as justification, and tend to focus on sanctification (theosis), which IMO is a great thing. But do most Orthodoxy completely ignore justification? It's all over scripture that our sins are forgiven and justified by faith.
Orthodoxy does not avoid or ignore Justification. Can you define what you mean by Justification? That word means different things to different people.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 04:12:26 PM by NicholasMyra »
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Offline Asteriktos

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It's also important to remember that, for the Orthodox, there isn't generally a sharp distinction or divide between the various concepts of justification and sanctification. The work of Christ happened but once, historically, literally, of course; but for us, salvation is a process in cooperation with God (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:1). With this in mind, it is possible to say: "I was justified and sanctified, I am being justified and sanctified, and I pray that I continue to be justified and sanctified."
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Offline HumbledDaily

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Please anyone correct me if I am wrong:

My understanding (so far) of the Orthodox view is that Christ died and was raised again to conquer death, which is the wages of sin, and that sin is a spiritual illness rather than a debt to be paid.

It is also my understanding that the word "atonement" in Greek means something like "reconciliation." But I'm not sure about the word, "ransom."

"If there is something clearly stated in Scripture that the Orthodox don't teach, then how could the Orthodox be the true Church?"

My personal perspective on this is that sometimes the things we think are "clear" in the Bible are not clear in the way we understand them to be without any context. Even just the translation from one language to another can cause confusion if there is no oral or written tradition to help shed light on the difference. So it's not that the Orthodox don't teach something that is clearly stated in Scripture; it's that there is a different understanding of what is clearly there.
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Offline HumbledDaily

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Ooh, ooh, I just found a great post on this by Fr. Anastasios, where he pasted a Russian Orthodox catechism:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=15630.10;wap2

I get the impression that in Protestant churches, people tend to focus on the world "ransom" in relation to who is seeking it (God), rather in relation to who it is being paid for (fallen man). We tend to associate ransom with something a criminal demands after kidnapping a small child, which might be why so many of us struggle with the idea of atonement from a Protestant perspective.

« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 04:49:23 PM by HumbledDaily »
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Please anyone correct me if I am wrong:

My understanding (so far) of the Orthodox view is that Christ died and was raised again to conquer death, which is the wages of sin, and that sin is a spiritual illness rather than a debt to be paid.

It is also my understanding that the word "atonement" in Greek means something like "reconciliation." But I'm not sure about the word, "ransom."
Indeed. Also, as far as I understand it, the EO also affirms that Christ experienced and suffered for all the sins of the world upon the Cross for the reconciliation of God and Man; but not via some "wrath explosion" inflicted by the Father, as Penal Substitution Atonement proponents often claim.

(However, if wrath is God's consuming presence coming into contact with that which is incompatible with Him, then Christ taking the sins of the world upon himself (distance/ corruption/incompatibility with God) would involve Christ accepting His own wrath (through divine nature) upon human nature, united without division, experienced in one Hypostasis, the Person of Christ who is also the Person of the Logos.)

As you can see, no matter how you phrase it, Orthodox atonement is about ontological change, not imputed punishment labels.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 05:20:47 PM by NicholasMyra »
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Offline Irish Hermit

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What’s At Stake in the Atonement

By Father Stephen

http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2007/09/21/whats-at-stake-in-the-atonement/


Extract:

One of the more common topics both on this blog and on a number of other Orthodox sites are questions about the Atonement. In general the Atonement refers to how it is we understand that Christ reconciled us to God. When we say, “Christ died for our sins,” what does it mean?

The questions of the Orthodox tend to center around the doctrine of the Substitutionary Atonement, which in conservative Evangelical circles is often made a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy. It is referenced in many Christian schools’ statement of faith – required of teachers and students on a par with the Resurrection of Christ.

Questions of the Atonement seem significant from a Protestant direction (in classical terms) based on Reformation debates with Roman Catholics. In those debates Protestants tended to hear Catholics say that there was something that could be added to the “merits” of Christ’s death – something that made His death on the cross less than sufficient. This is an historical argument. Generally Catholics did not mean what Protestants accused them of saying and neither group was interested in finding common ground. The purpose of debate was to prove the other wrong.


Offline Irish Hermit

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2011, 05:32:06 PM »
Have a look at message 8
at
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,33618.msg530988.html#msg530988

"Looking for a good Orthodox book or "theologian" for comparison on the Atonement"

Offline Melodist

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2011, 04:19:29 PM »
For starters, as someone also else mentioned, sin and salvation have many aspects.

Sin is a legal transgression where we break a law given to us by God. Sin is also a condition in which we exist. Sin is slavery to the passions. Sin is darkness that clouds our hearts and minds and causes confusion. Sin is blindness that prevents us from recognizing the reality of things. Sin is leprosy that causes us to disintegrate as we remove ourselves from the One in Whom we live and move and have our being. Sin is being held captive to death and the effects of the sin in ourselves and in the world. Sin is fainling to do what we know to be right. Sin is missing the mark set for us by God.

Just as sin has many aspects to it, salvation has to correspond to all of those aspects. To look at sin as simply an event in which a law is broken while neglecting all other aspects, will give a narrow and limited view of what salvation really is.
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Offline Melodist

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2011, 05:02:51 PM »
I know the Orthodox tend to avoid subjects such as justification, and tend to focus on sanctification (theosis), which IMO is a great thing. But do most Orthodoxy completely ignore justification? It's all over scripture that our sins are forgiven and justified by faith.

I apologize for the length.

First and foremost, we are justified by Christ on the cross, crucified and risen. That justification is applied to us by participating in Christ's death and resurrection and living in communion with Him. And yes, we believe faith is necessary, but faith alone doesn't accomplish anything unless we act on it out of love.

We are joined to Christ through His death and resurrection and brought into His Body though baptism and chrismation.

Rom 6:3-13
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

It's not just enough to be dead to sin, but we must also be alive to God. This means maintianing communion with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.
We do this by living as members of His Body, trhe Church. This communion is maintained and expressed through our celebration of the Eucharist.

1 Cor 12:12-14
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Cor 10:16-17
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

And just as we have a tendency to return to sin, we can return to the Lord through repentence and confession. Having fallen back down, we must hate our sin, turn from it, and return to God in faith that we will be received back. We do this both privately in prayer and sacramentally in confession be cause we are called to members of the Body.
And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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Offline Melodist

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2011, 05:30:08 PM »
And of substitutionary atonement?

Our view of substitution is that He did take our place on the cross and in death, but not so that we would not endure it, but so that we could have victory over it through Him. Christ did not say to the good thief on the cross "Ok you can get down now, I got it from here", but "This day you will be with me in paradise".

Rom 8:16-17
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Eph 4:4-10
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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Offline Melodist

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2011, 06:01:08 PM »
but it is also clearly written in Scripture that Christ was crucified as a ransom.

A ransom is that which frees someone from slavery and bondage. God was not the one holding us captive, and Christ did not give Himself over to the devil. Christ gave Himself over to death so that being Life Himself, he could give life to those who are bound by death.

Hebrews 2:14-18
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
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Offline Melodist

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2011, 06:11:24 PM »
This might help too. It is a podcast done by Fr Thomas Hopko takling about Holy Friday.

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/great_and_holy_friday
And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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Offline Luca

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2017, 09:24:28 PM »
As a former Baptist, I struggle with understanding the EO view on atonement. While I like Fr. Hapko's explanation of capitulation, and the debt of love, and all of that, the language of the Bible does not seem to support it. Many EO arguments focus on the writings of the saints; but as a former Protestant, I need some sort of Biblical touchstone for any dogma. Everything from Genesis, Isaiah, to Hebrews and many more books of the Bible strongly support the view that Jesus was punished for our sins. I know it doesn't sound nice. And, I've heard common EO retort of "to whom was the ransom paid?" But, it's not for us to judge God or try to make excuses for his plan. Let's face it, as Christians we believe some pretty esoteric and illogical things; why can't God pay ransom to himself? The language of the Bible is clear on this and though there may be some nuances in the Greek language that may provide an opening for the EO position, there is a preponderance of scriptural evidence that is not in line with the EO's belief that Jesus' atonement was mere capitulation (or a recreation of Man). God demonstrates wrath as well as love, and both wrath and love may be the same thing when emanating from God. Orthodoxy loves to speak in dichotomies and mysteries, why not accept this as such? Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. His death made us right with God. That's what the Bible supports.

Offline xOrthodox4Christx

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2017, 09:44:39 PM »
As a former Baptist, I struggle with understanding the EO view on atonement. While I like Fr. Hapko's explanation of capitulation, and the debt of love, and all of that, the language of the Bible does not seem to support it. Many EO arguments focus on the writings of the saints; but as a former Protestant, I need some sort of Biblical touchstone for any dogma. Everything from Genesis, Isaiah, to Hebrews and many more books of the Bible strongly support the view that Jesus was punished for our sins. I know it doesn't sound nice. And, I've heard common EO retort of "to whom was the ransom paid?" But, it's not for us to judge God or try to make excuses for his plan. Let's face it, as Christians we believe some pretty esoteric and illogical things; why can't God pay ransom to himself? The language of the Bible is clear on this and though there may be some nuances in the Greek language that may provide an opening for the EO position, there is a preponderance of scriptural evidence that is not in line with the EO's belief that Jesus' atonement was mere capitulation (or a recreation of Man). God demonstrates wrath as well as love, and both wrath and love may be the same thing when emanating from God. Orthodoxy loves to speak in dichotomies and mysteries, why not accept this as such? Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. His death made us right with God. That's what the Bible supports.

Because it's stupid and immoral. That's why God cannot sacrifice himself to himself. I don't know what parts of the Bible you're reading quite honestly. Hebrews is as much about the Eucharist, and Jewish Temple worship as it is about Jesus' Crucifixion. Not a single time in Judaism can you find an interpretive tradition that treats the Old Testament's language on ransom and sacrifice in the way that Protestants do. That's just not in the text or tradition.
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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2017, 10:08:39 PM »
I don't know what parts of the Bible you're reading quite honestly.

I don't exactly agree with Luca's conclusions, but I totally get where he's coming from, and recall passages that he's likely thinking of. Orthodox ideas like deification, on the other hand, are only mentioned rarely and obliquely in Scripture ("parkaters of the something something"). Yet Orthodox theology then goes into overdrive and exaggerates the rarely-biblical stuff and minimizes or eliminates the overtly-biblical stuff. I totally get why the disconnect is disconcerting to him.
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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2017, 10:15:28 PM »
Because it's stupid and immoral. That's why God cannot sacrifice himself to himself.

lol
Quote
"What people say when they speak on their own account is repellent and murksome, for their words do not come from the living spring of the Spirit, but are spawned from the morass of their own heart, a bog infested with the leeches, snakes and frogs of desire, delusion and dissipation; the water of their knowledge is evil-smelling, turbid and torpid, sickening to those who drink it and filling them with nausea and disgust."

Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines

Offline xOrthodox4Christx

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #20 on: April 18, 2017, 10:41:31 PM »
Because it's stupid and immoral. That's why God cannot sacrifice himself to himself.

lol

Not talking about the Eucharist, if that's what you're implying. I'm just saying in the context of Atonement theology, it makes no sense to me. I think Eucharistic theology makes perfect sense in that manner of speaking. I don't know what you were going for there though.
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Offline xOrthodox4Christx

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2017, 10:42:30 PM »
I don't know what parts of the Bible you're reading quite honestly.

I don't exactly agree with Luca's conclusions, but I totally get where he's coming from, and recall passages that he's likely thinking of. Orthodox ideas like deification, on the other hand, are only mentioned rarely and obliquely in Scripture ("parkaters of the something something"). Yet Orthodox theology then goes into overdrive and exaggerates the rarely-biblical stuff and minimizes or eliminates the overtly-biblical stuff. I totally get why the disconnect is disconcerting to him.

Yet, instead of trying to understand the Biblical quotations in question, he's importing an understanding that is foreign to them in order to interpret them. I question the wisdom of this.
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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #22 on: April 19, 2017, 12:30:18 PM »
Because it's stupid and immoral. That's why God cannot sacrifice himself to himself.

lol

Not talking about the Eucharist, if that's what you're implying. I'm just saying in the context of Atonement theology, it makes no sense to me. I think Eucharistic theology makes perfect sense in that manner of speaking. I don't know what you were going for there though.

I wouldn't say the Eucharist is something different from what Christ accomplished through his suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.  Would you? 
Quote
"What people say when they speak on their own account is repellent and murksome, for their words do not come from the living spring of the Spirit, but are spawned from the morass of their own heart, a bog infested with the leeches, snakes and frogs of desire, delusion and dissipation; the water of their knowledge is evil-smelling, turbid and torpid, sickening to those who drink it and filling them with nausea and disgust."

Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines

Offline minasoliman

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #23 on: April 19, 2017, 03:20:56 PM »
I don't know what parts of the Bible you're reading quite honestly.

I don't exactly agree with Luca's conclusions, but I totally get where he's coming from, and recall passages that he's likely thinking of. Orthodox ideas like deification, on the other hand, are only mentioned rarely and obliquely in Scripture ("parkaters of the something something"). Yet Orthodox theology then goes into overdrive and exaggerates the rarely-biblical stuff and minimizes or eliminates the overtly-biblical stuff. I totally get why the disconnect is disconcerting to him.

Well, the terminology of deification is not mentioned, at all I think, but like the Holy Trinity, I seem to find it implied all over the place, at LEAST in the New Testament.
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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #24 on: April 19, 2017, 03:33:02 PM »
As a former Baptist, I struggle with understanding the EO view on atonement. While I like Fr. Hapko's explanation of capitulation, and the debt of love, and all of that, the language of the Bible does not seem to support it. Many EO arguments focus on the writings of the saints; but as a former Protestant, I need some sort of Biblical touchstone for any dogma. Everything from Genesis, Isaiah, to Hebrews and many more books of the Bible strongly support the view that Jesus was punished for our sins. I know it doesn't sound nice. And, I've heard common EO retort of "to whom was the ransom paid?" But, it's not for us to judge God or try to make excuses for his plan. Let's face it, as Christians we believe some pretty esoteric and illogical things; why can't God pay ransom to himself? The language of the Bible is clear on this and though there may be some nuances in the Greek language that may provide an opening for the EO position, there is a preponderance of scriptural evidence that is not in line with the EO's belief that Jesus' atonement was mere capitulation (or a recreation of Man). God demonstrates wrath as well as love, and both wrath and love may be the same thing when emanating from God. Orthodoxy loves to speak in dichotomies and mysteries, why not accept this as such? Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. His death made us right with God. That's what the Bible supports.

The issue of ransom is a thorny issue, even within Orthodoxy.  And it's nothing new.  But I think one can break it down quite simply in this way.  "Ransom" is just another way of saying "saving".  So if you're ransoming, it's saving.  So now saving from what?  If you say from the Father, you're saying that the Father is the cause of your problems, and you need to be saved from the Father.  So in a sense, you're saved from the devil, from sins, from death.  Not just that, but also in Christ, we are given a new life, eternal divine life.

So what are we ransomed from?  Pretty much our own vanity and nothingness.  Christ paid the price to bring us out of our own nothingness into the life of the Godhead.  It is an unequal payment.  He gave us infinitely more than what we need or deserve.  He placed Himself in our human lives of death, that we may be placed in the divine life of eternity.  The word "ransom" is an analogy, a tool, not to be taken as some sort of literal exchange with a robber to save us.  Rather the treasures of the ransom is given to us, to empower us to destroy the robber of our lives.

That's how I understand the imagery in the Scriptures.

One final note:  this sacrifice and ransom is offered back to the Father, as a form of gratitude, not as a way to appease His wrath.  We only fear the wrath only after given the chance of this empowerment through the ransom.  That's why we say that the ransom is offered back to the Father, not because He needs it, but as a sign of our love and devotion to His love for us.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 03:33:36 PM by minasoliman »
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Offline Eruvande

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #25 on: April 19, 2017, 03:35:44 PM »
As a former Baptist, I struggle with understanding the EO view on atonement. While I like Fr. Hapko's explanation of capitulation, and the debt of love, and all of that, the language of the Bible does not seem to support it. Many EO arguments focus on the writings of the saints; but as a former Protestant, I need some sort of Biblical touchstone for any dogma. Everything from Genesis, Isaiah, to Hebrews and many more books of the Bible strongly support the view that Jesus was punished for our sins. I know it doesn't sound nice. And, I've heard common EO retort of "to whom was the ransom paid?" But, it's not for us to judge God or try to make excuses for his plan. Let's face it, as Christians we believe some pretty esoteric and illogical things; why can't God pay ransom to himself? The language of the Bible is clear on this and though there may be some nuances in the Greek language that may provide an opening for the EO position, there is a preponderance of scriptural evidence that is not in line with the EO's belief that Jesus' atonement was mere capitulation (or a recreation of Man). God demonstrates wrath as well as love, and both wrath and love may be the same thing when emanating from God. Orthodoxy loves to speak in dichotomies and mysteries, why not accept this as such? Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. His death made us right with God. That's what the Bible supports.

The issue of ransom is a thorny issue, even within Orthodoxy.  And it's nothing new.  But I think one can break it down quite simply in this way.  "Ransom" is just another way of saying "saving".  So if you're ransoming, it's saving.  So now saving from what?  If you say from the Father, you're saying that the Father is the cause of your problems, and you need to be saved from the Father.  So in a sense, you're saved from the devil, from sins, from death.  Not just that, but also in Christ, we are given a new life, eternal divine life.

So what are we ransomed from?  Pretty much our own vanity and nothingness.  Christ paid the price to bring us out of our own nothingness into the life of the Godhead.  It is an unequal payment.  He gave us infinitely more than what we need or deserve.  He placed Himself in our human lives of death, that we may be placed in the divine life of eternity.  The word "ransom" is an analogy, a tool, not to be taken as some sort of literal exchange with a robber to save us.  Rather the treasures of the ransom is given to us, to empower us to destroy the robber of our lives.

That's how I understand the imagery in the Scriptures.

One final note:  this sacrifice and ransom is offered back to the Father, as a form of gratitude, not as a way to appease His wrath.  We only fear the wrath only after given the chance of this empowerment through the ransom.  That's why we say that the ransom is offered back to the Father, not because He needs it, but as a sign of our love and devotion to His love for us.

Tremendously helpful post. I still haven't got even half a handle on this topic.
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Offline Luca

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #26 on: April 27, 2017, 06:24:44 PM »
The issue of ransom is a thorny issue, even within Orthodoxy.  And it's nothing new.  But I think one can break it down quite simply in this way.  "Ransom" is just another way of saying "saving".  So if you're ransoming, it's saving.  So now saving from what?  If you say from the Father, you're saying that the Father is the cause of your problems, and you need to be saved from the Father.  So in a sense, you're saved from the devil, from sins, from death.  Not just that, but also in Christ, we are given a new life, eternal divine life.

So what are we ransomed from?  Pretty much our own vanity and nothingness.  Christ paid the price to bring us out of our own nothingness into the life of the Godhead.  It is an unequal payment.  He gave us infinitely more than what we need or deserve.  He placed Himself in our human lives of death, that we may be placed in the divine life of eternity.  The word "ransom" is an analogy, a tool, not to be taken as some sort of literal exchange with a robber to save us.  Rather the treasures of the ransom is given to us, to empower us to destroy the robber of our lives.

That's how I understand the imagery in the Scriptures.

One final note:  this sacrifice and ransom is offered back to the Father, as a form of gratitude, not as a way to appease His wrath.  We only fear the wrath only after given the chance of this empowerment through the ransom.  That's why we say that the ransom is offered back to the Father, not because He needs it, but as a sign of our love and devotion to His love for us.

Thanks for the responses! I guess I must be dense because it's been explained to me before. I also appreciate you saying that it's a "thorny" issue because prior to coming to Orthodoxy I thought all Christians accepted the atoning sacrifice view and I have been really surprised to learn it is not the case.

I understand what you're saying about ransom meaning "saving." But just as you say that the ransom cannot be paid to God; I could also argue that the ransom cannot be paid to the person who needs to be saved, as you suggest when you say "So what are we ransomed from?  Pretty much our own vanity and nothingness."

My issue is with the language of "ransom," "debt," "propitiation," "atonement." Why would Paul use this language if he didn't intend it to mean exactly what those words mean? He could have chosen other words, but he chose to use words that suggest Jesus took on our punishment.

Thanks to Melodist for quoting the part of Hebrews I was thinking of:

Hebrews 2:14-18

Paul uses the term "reconciliation for sins."

I've been reading Abp Royster's The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, and he says of this passage:

"The Greek term hilaskesthai, translated "to make reconciliation," is related to hilasterion, as in Romans 3:25, where it is translated "propitiation"... In other places in the New Testament (for example, Romans 5:10; II Corinthians 5:18), "reconcile" and "reconciliation" translate forms of katallasso and katallage, apparently meaning "reconcile" without any notion of sacrifice." (p 43)

So why is the word propitiation just ignored? (And so we're clear "propitiation" means to appease the wrath of God. So translation is an issue, but many translators used that word and I simply cannot say I know more than they.)

Also, is it unacceptable for an Orthodox Christian to believe in substitutionary atonement? If so to what degree is it unacceptable (i.e. something to bring up at confession or something that would result in excommunication?)

Many Thanks,
Luca


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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2017, 05:01:38 PM »
Dear Luca,

Sorry for the delay brother!  Very good questions, some of which I struggled with myself.

The way in which "propitiation" is used in the context of Hebrews is not by "appeasement of an angry God", but rather to make right by the use of divine power!  While for pagans it is appeasement, Paul uses the same word to flip it on its head.  See how it is explained:

"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

Since we are flesh and blood, Christ became what we are and died, but flipped death on its head, restoring life to our mortal flesh, and destroying the fear that gripped us into slavery of the flesh.  See what St. Paul continues saying:

"He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

Propitiation, instead of an appeasement by an action of a created being to appease an angry God, is flipped on its side, an action by the uncreated taking on the flesh and experience of humanity to aid an ailing creation, bringing that creation in unity with the loving God.

We experience divine aid and power through human temptations, suffering, and death in Christ, which are salvific and has the full revelation of God the Father in our lives.  It's a sacrifice of love, not an appeasement.  We don't do something to please God, but God was compassionate to come to us first in His Son.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2017, 05:04:59 PM by minasoliman »
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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #28 on: April 30, 2017, 11:42:42 PM »
I don't know what parts of the Bible you're reading quite honestly.

I don't exactly agree with Luca's conclusions, but I totally get where he's coming from, and recall passages that he's likely thinking of. Orthodox ideas like deification, on the other hand, are only mentioned rarely and obliquely in Scripture ("parkaters of the something something"). Yet Orthodox theology then goes into overdrive and exaggerates the rarely-biblical stuff and minimizes or eliminates the overtly-biblical stuff. I totally get why the disconnect is disconcerting to him.

Well, the terminology of deification is not mentioned, at all I think, but like the Holy Trinity, I seem to find it implied all over the place, at LEAST in the New Testament.

This is something I'd love to see explored some time, but obviously not on this thread (different topic). Here I'll leave it at just acknowledging that I think you're making a good point.
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Offline Luca

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Re: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement
« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2017, 08:56:48 PM »
Dear Luca,

Sorry for the delay brother!  Very good questions, some of which I struggled with myself.

The way in which "propitiation" is used in the context of Hebrews is not by "appeasement of an angry God", but rather to make right by the use of divine power!  While for pagans it is appeasement, Paul uses the same word to flip it on its head.  See how it is explained:

"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

Since we are flesh and blood, Christ became what we are and died, but flipped death on its head, restoring life to our mortal flesh, and destroying the fear that gripped us into slavery of the flesh.  See what St. Paul continues saying:

"He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

Propitiation, instead of an appeasement by an action of a created being to appease an angry God, is flipped on its side, an action by the uncreated taking on the flesh and experience of humanity to aid an ailing creation, bringing that creation in unity with the loving God.

We experience divine aid and power through human temptations, suffering, and death in Christ, which are salvific and has the full revelation of God the Father in our lives.  It's a sacrifice of love, not an appeasement.  We don't do something to please God, but God was compassionate to come to us first in His Son.

That's really interesting. I've read those verses before, but I guess I didn't really analyze them. To me it seems you might be saying that the meaning of "propitiation" is different when it is used to describe Christ's/God's actions versus when man or "pagans" as you put it propitiated the wrath of the gods. When God propitiates, he is righting a wrong; when man does it,  he is making appeasements?

Thanks!