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Author Topic: Orthodox views on faith justification and substitutionary atonement  (Read 4737 times) Average Rating: 0
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neon_knights
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« on: May 09, 2011, 03:09:58 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.

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.
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2011, 03:40:14 PM »

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.

Quote
And of substitutionary atonement?

Not in the way most Protestants understand "substitution".

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2011, 04:07:07 PM »

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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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2011, 04:11:02 PM »

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 » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2011, 04:12:08 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.
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 » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2011, 04:17:36 PM »

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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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2011, 04:28:35 PM »

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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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2011, 04:43:34 PM »

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 » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2011, 04:54:48 PM »

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 » Logged

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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

"You are philosophical innovators. As for me, I follow the Fathers." -Every heresiarch ever
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2011, 05:26:22 PM »

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.

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« 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"
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« 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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« 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.
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« 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.)
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« 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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« 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
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