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« on: June 24, 2011, 11:20:11 AM »

I listened to a Protestant pastor speak the other day, and give an outline of the message of the "gospel".

To paraphrase,

God can't let sin go unpunished, so he punished Jesus instead of us. If you believe that Jesus died as a punishment for your sins and you trust in His blood, then you spend eternity in heaven after you die.

More was said than that, he started with God creating everything good, and talked about the fall, moved on to the ten commandments and how we've all sinned, how we're "saved" by trusting in God's punishment of Jesus, we do nothing, etc. Of all the points that I found myself in disagreement with him, I found this one point to be greatly disturbing more than anything else -

There was no mention of the resurrection. At all. Not once, not even a passing comment in reference to it.

So my question is this -

What role does the resurrection play in the protestant understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement message of the Gospel and how we are saved?
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2011, 12:11:30 PM »

From my experience, it really just seemed to be a nice addition to Christ that proved His Godhood.  It wasn't really vital (except in that it may be a legitimate claim to say He isn't God if He didn't rise).  I mean, rarely did I read or hear about the Ressurection, except around Easter (and Easter was also a fairly minor holiday, in fact, Good Friday was about 75% as big as Easter).  Because the penal substitution theory says that God was angry at the world and was forced to punish them (it is truly great hubris to think any human being can force God to do ANYTHING, punishing or otherwise), but in order to avoid that murdered His Son and had Him tortured for good measure before hand, the work of the Cross is acomplished on the Cross.  That is the end of the salvation story.  The last chapter is "And He Hung His Head" it is only in the epilogue that you hear about a Ressurection.
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2011, 06:39:03 AM »

I listened to a Protestant pastor speak the other day, and give an outline of the message of the "gospel".

To paraphrase,

God can't let sin go unpunished, so he punished Jesus instead of us. If you believe that Jesus died as a punishment for your sins and you trust in His blood, then you spend eternity in heaven after you die.

More was said than that, he started with God creating everything good, and talked about the fall, moved on to the ten commandments and how we've all sinned, how we're "saved" by trusting in God's punishment of Jesus, we do nothing, etc. Of all the points that I found myself in disagreement with him, I found this one point to be greatly disturbing more than anything else -

There was no mention of the resurrection. At all. Not once, not even a passing comment in reference to it.

So my question is this -

What role does the resurrection play in the protestant understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement message of the Gospel and how we are saved?

The Western Church has embraced legalism to explain God.  As a result, the West conceives of God as some sort of tyrannical landowner whose property has been violated and therefore demands 'satisfaction'. As a result, any explanation of sin is couched in legalistic terms with the result that Christ must have died because death was the only 'satisfaction' which would appease this God.

Do you remember Mal Gibson's The Passion of Christ?  Do recall the overtly bloody and savage scenes where Jesus is brutalized not so much by the Roman soldiers - but by God who demand 'satisfaction'.  Was the Guantanamo Jail about 'justice' or about barbarous 'satisfaction'?

So, Yes, the Western Church loves to focus on the death of Jesus just to keep everyone in their place - and for some Protestant churches, there is no tomorrow, there is no resurrection. 

 

 
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2011, 08:53:20 AM »

From my experience, it really just seemed to be a nice addition to Christ that proved His Godhood.  It wasn't really vital (except in that it may be a legitimate claim to say He isn't God if He didn't rise).  I mean, rarely did I read or hear about the Ressurection, except around Easter (and Easter was also a fairly minor holiday, in fact, Good Friday was about 75% as big as Easter).  Because the penal substitution theory says that God was angry at the world and was forced to punish them (it is truly great hubris to think any human being can force God to do ANYTHING, punishing or otherwise), but in order to avoid that murdered His Son and had Him tortured for good measure before hand, the work of the Cross is acomplished on the Cross.  That is the end of the salvation story.  The last chapter is "And He Hung His Head" it is only in the epilogue that you hear about a Ressurection.
That was the big change I noticed on my first Great and Holy Friday: we know how the story ends.
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« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2011, 03:29:58 PM »

What role does the resurrection play in the protestant understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement

Whereas I readily confess with sadness that we under-emphasise the Resurrection of Christ in our preaching and spirituality, and would earnestly wish to correct that imbalance, I think you might be a little unfair to the pastor you heard by chastising him for not mentioning a subject he wasn't actually dealing with.

As I understand it, the Resurrection does not play a part in the penal substitution aspect of the Atonement, because it was in his death that Christ was our substitute, when he bore our sins in his body on the Tree (as it says).

James Rottneck is sadly not far from the truth when he opines that

Quote
it really just seemed to be a nice addition to Christ that proved His Godhood.

Now I refer not to what we teach formally and officially in our theology books, but to the popular spirituality of the "man in the pew". He does dwell almost entirely on the Cross, and not very much on the Resurrection. This is why I gave a talk at our local Baptist church here under a title something like "What we need to learn from Orthodoxy" and stressed this very matter. Christ did conquer death and bring life and immortality to light: but we dwell on forgiveness much more.

Wayseer is also near the truth in saying

Quote
The Western Church has embraced legalism to explain God

This goes back, if I err not, to Anselm, and has been the foundation of both Catholic and Protestant thinking ever since. But we do not see it as "explaining God"; rather, as I suspect Wayseer really means, it is the usual way of explaining God's way of forgiving man's sin. In my view it is both biblical and true - but it is not the whole or only truth about the Cross. The Bible itself offers us other ways to help us to understand that when Christ died, he secured our pardon and saved us from wrath and hell - if we believe.

Which brings us back to the opening post. It does depend what you mean by "believe". The devils believe - and tremble. It needs to be what Paul (and Wesley frequently after him) calls "the faith that works by love". It is the faith which brings a changed life and the beginning of what you call theosis and we call sanctification.
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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2011, 10:07:16 AM »

What role does the resurrection play in the protestant understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement

Whereas I readily confess with sadness that we under-emphasise the Resurrection of Christ in our preaching and spirituality, and would earnestly wish to correct that imbalance, I think you might be a little unfair to the pastor you heard by chastising him for not mentioning a subject he wasn't actually dealing with.

It's possible that I mat have been unfair in my assessment of his message, but this seems to me to be too important to leave out of a sermon on how we are "saved", regardless of how someone defines that term. Biblically speaking, there is no salvation without the resurrection.

Quote
As I understand it, the Resurrection does not play a part in the penal substitution aspect of the Atonement, because it was in his death that Christ was our substitute, when he bore our sins in his body on the Tree (as it says).

It also says that we are raised up in His life by His resurrection. St Paul says somewhere (I believe in somewhere in Romans, but not sure) that Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification, and elsewhere that if He is not raised from the dead that we are still dead in our sins and our faith is in vain. It seems that in Orthodoxy, the cross and the resurrection are never really completely taught apart from each other and are viewed in light of each other.

Quote
James Rottneck is sadly not far from the truth when he opines that

Quote
it really just seemed to be a nice addition to Christ that proved His Godhood.

Now I refer not to what we teach formally and officially in our theology books, but to the popular spirituality of the "man in the pew". He does dwell almost entirely on the Cross, and not very much on the Resurrection. This is why I gave a talk at our local Baptist church here under a title something like "What we need to learn from Orthodoxy" and stressed this very matter. Christ did conquer death and bring life and immortality to light: but we dwell on forgiveness much more.

Thank you for answering this post. I apologize if I seem argumentative in my reply, not my point. I only mean to emphasize why I his think message was at best missing essential elements to our salvation in Christ, and at worst teaching that Christ's resurrection didn't actually accomplish anything for us or that everything was accomlished without the resurrection.

Quote
The Western Church has embraced legalism to explain God

This goes back, if I err not, to Anselm, and has been the foundation of both Catholic and Protestant thinking ever since. But we do not see it as "explaining God"; rather, as I suspect Wayseer really means, it is the usual way of explaining God's way of forgiving man's sin. In my view it is both biblical and true - but it is not the whole or only truth about the Cross. The Bible itself offers us other ways to help us to understand that when Christ died, he secured our pardon and saved us from wrath and hell - if we believe.

I agree that there are multiple ways of describing how we relate to God, and one would have to be entirely ignorant of the scriptures to say that "legal" terminology is not used at all to describe this reality. I also personally believe that all the different "aspects" and "ways of explaning" used all bear witness to the same reality that can't be properly described using just one "explanation" by itself. By that I mean (to use terminology that is both legal and medicinal as an example) that forgiveness and healing can't properly exist apart from each other.
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« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2011, 02:12:56 PM »

this seems to me to be too important to leave out of a sermon on how we are "saved", regardless of how someone defines that term. Biblically speaking, there is no salvation without the resurrection.

But remember that he was probably talking about the first step in being saved - that is, when one is initially forgiven - and so he would talk about the Cross. You are of course absolutely right in saying that "there is no salvation without the resurrection", and unless the bloke was a heretic, I'm quite sure he'd agree with us on that. But he probably wouldn't bring it into a talk about forgiveness, or on penal substitution.

Quote
we are raised up in His life by His resurrection. St Paul says ... that if He is not raised from the dead that we are still dead in our sins and our faith is in vain.

Amen to that!

Quote
I his think message was at best missing essential elements to our salvation in Christ,

It was; but it was probably intentionally designed to focus on only the first aspect - how forgiveness was achieved. The rest - our life in union with the risen Christ, our progress in sanctification, our final glorification - are all part of our salvation. But I don't bring all that in when I preach on the ground of forgiveness. That is the Cross. But I hold the rest as dearly, and preach on them at other times. Maybe the man you heard is like that.

Quote
forgiveness and healing can't properly exist apart from each other.

Which is presumably what I am saying when I say that a truly repentant and believing person will give evidence of the reality of his faith in a changed life.
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« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2011, 02:27:58 PM »

I listened to a Protestant pastor speak the other day, and give an outline of the message of the "gospel".

To paraphrase,

God can't let sin go unpunished, so he punished Jesus instead of us. If you believe that Jesus died as a punishment for your sins and you trust in His blood, then you spend eternity in heaven after you die.

More was said than that, he started with God creating everything good, and talked about the fall, moved on to the ten commandments and how we've all sinned, how we're "saved" by trusting in God's punishment of Jesus, we do nothing, etc. Of all the points that I found myself in disagreement with him, I found this one point to be greatly disturbing more than anything else -

There was no mention of the resurrection. At all. Not once, not even a passing comment in reference to it.

So my question is this -

What role does the resurrection play in the protestant understanding of the penal substitutionary atonement message of the Gospel and how we are saved?

The Western Church has embraced legalism to explain God.  As a result, the West conceives of God as some sort of tyrannical landowner whose property has been violated and therefore demands 'satisfaction'. As a result, any explanation of sin is couched in legalistic terms with the result that Christ must have died because death was the only 'satisfaction' which would appease this God.

Do you remember Mal Gibson's The Passion of Christ?  Do recall the overtly bloody and savage scenes where Jesus is brutalized not so much by the Roman soldiers - but by God who demand 'satisfaction'.  Was the Guantanamo Jail about 'justice' or about barbarous 'satisfaction'?

So, Yes, the Western Church loves to focus on the death of Jesus just to keep everyone in their place - and for some Protestant churches, there is no tomorrow, there is no resurrection. 

 

 
Not all Christians accept the penal substitution theory. Yes, Catholic believe that Christ sacrificed his life for our sins, but not according to the protestant notion of being punished in our place. Such a a concept is foreign to the Catholic faith.
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« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2011, 03:22:45 PM »

Catholic believe that Christ sacrificed his life for our sins, but not ...  being punished in our place. Such a a concept is foreign to the Catholic faith.

This post is strange to me. I genuinely thought that Anselm, mediæval monk and archbishop and seminal thinker and writer of the western church, taught exactly this in his Cur Deus Homo. If you say I have misunderstood, or that things have changed, despite this not being a Catholic-Protestant Discussion forum, I would like to hear more, for I know virtually nothing first-hand about Catholicism.

In fact - and here I probably know less but am desirous of being better instructed - did not Augustine of Hippo also teach penal substitution?

It has been said that Catholics and Protestants ask the same questions, and arrive at different answers, whereas Orthodox ask different questions. Hence, I even say in public (which is why I ought to be corrected if I am mistaken) that the legal or forensic approach to Atonement is common to both Catholic and Protestant, but (though present in such writings as Thomas Hopko's, if I understand them aright) under-emphasised or overlooked in usual Orthodox thought and spirituality.

By the way, when I say that I think certain recent developments (say, 1880s onwards) in Baptist circles are probably traceable to ambient Roman Catholic teaching, what I mean is that the Anglicans took it from the Catholics, then came the Ecumenical movement, and so ideas alien to Baptist (or other Free Church) principles are coming to be accepted without really being examined and genuinely accepted as true teaching, or rejected as thoughfully weighed and found wanting. Sort-of osmosis.
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2011, 02:57:03 AM »

Catholic believe that Christ sacrificed his life for our sins, but not ...  being punished in our place. Such a a concept is foreign to the Catholic faith.

This post is strange to me. I genuinely thought that Anselm, mediæval monk and archbishop and seminal thinker and writer of the western church, taught exactly this in his Cur Deus Homo. If you say I have misunderstood, or that things have changed, despite this not being a Catholic-Protestant Discussion forum, I would like to hear more, for I know virtually nothing first-hand about Catholicism.

In fact - and here I probably know less but am desirous of being better instructed - did not Augustine of Hippo also teach penal substitution?

It has been said that Catholics and Protestants ask the same questions, and arrive at different answers, whereas Orthodox ask different questions. Hence, I even say in public (which is why I ought to be corrected if I am mistaken) that the legal or forensic approach to Atonement is common to both Catholic and Protestant, but (though present in such writings as Thomas Hopko's, if I understand them aright) under-emphasised or overlooked in usual Orthodox thought and spirituality.

By the way, when I say that I think certain recent developments (say, 1880s onwards) in Baptist circles are probably traceable to ambient Roman Catholic teaching, what I mean is that the Anglicans took it from the Catholics, then came the Ecumenical movement, and so ideas alien to Baptist (or other Free Church) principles are coming to be accepted without really being examined and genuinely accepted as true teaching, or rejected as thoughfully weighed and found wanting. Sort-of osmosis.
No. None of them taught penal substitution, anymore than the Bible does.
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2011, 03:57:57 AM »

Actually, I think Aquinas is an even better example of a penal substitution theorist than either Augustine or Anselm.
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« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2011, 08:34:41 PM »

Actually, I think Aquinas is an even better example of a penal substitution theorist than either Augustine or Anselm.
My understanding is that Aquinas never taught that Jesus Christ bore the eternal penalty for the sin of the world, which is what Protestants teach.
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« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2011, 08:48:43 PM »

Actually, I think Aquinas is an even better example of a penal substitution theorist than either Augustine or Anselm.
My understanding is that Aquinas never taught that Jesus Christ bore the eternal penalty for the sin of the world, which is what Protestants teach.

St. Thomas Aquinas:

"The whole human race was subject to sin. To be restored to the state of justice, there would have to be a penalty which man would take upon himself in order to fulfil the order of divine justice. But no mere man could satisfy God sufficiently by accepting some voluntary punishment, even for his own sin, to say nothing of the sin of the whole human race. For when man sins he transgresses the law of God and tries, were he able, to do injury to the God of infinite majesty. The greater the person offended, the greater the crime; we see, for instance, that someone who strikes a soldier is punished more than someone who strikes a farmer, and much more if he strikes a king or prince. Therefore a sin committed against the law of God is somehow an infinite offence.

"Again we must observe that the dignity of the person making reparation is also to be considered. For example, one word of a king asking for pardon of an offence is considered greater than if someone lower went on his knees and showed any other sign of humiliation to beg pardon from the one who suffered the injury. But no mere man has the infinite dignity required to satisfy justly an offence against God. Therefore there had to be a man of infinite dignity who would undergo the penalty for all so as to satisfy fully for the sins of the whole world. Therefore the only-begotten Word of God, true God and Son of God, assumed a human nature and willed to suffer death in it so as to purify the whole human race indebted by sin. Thus Peter says (1 Pet 3:18): "Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty."

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« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2011, 04:04:49 AM »

Actually, I think Aquinas is an even better example of a penal substitution theorist than either Augustine or Anselm.
My understanding is that Aquinas never taught that Jesus Christ bore the eternal penalty for the sin of the world, which is what Protestants teach.

I suspect that your church has not gone so far with it, into teaching that God turned his back on Christ, but it certainly appears that Aquinas taught that the punishment that was rightfully ours was transmuted to Jesus for our redemption.
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« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2011, 04:07:22 AM »

It really seems that Aquinas was the origin of penal substitution theory proper rather than Luther.

Anselm appears to be the origin of the broader branch that is satisfactionary atonement, but I don't think his form was penal.
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« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2011, 12:21:27 PM »

Actually, I think Aquinas is an even better example of a penal substitution theorist than either Augustine or Anselm.
My understanding is that Aquinas never taught that Jesus Christ bore the eternal penalty for the sin of the world, which is what Protestants teach.

I suspect that your church has not gone so far with it, into teaching that God turned his back on Christ, but it certainly appears that Aquinas taught that the punishment that was rightfully ours was transmuted to Jesus for our redemption.

In a sense he did take on the "wages" (or "punishment" as a legal analogy, in a sense it is what is due to us as a consequence of our own personal transgressions) of our sin, which is death. But then again, it was not so that we did not receive those wages ourselves (we still have to die), but so that by incorporating himself into our death, he could incorporate us us into his resurrection and redeem us from (do or "pay" that which is necessary to make us no longer subject to) our sin and death. If the wages of sin, that is death (our "sentence" in legal terms), is ultimately undone (that is by Christ's resurrection, without which we would still be dead, not because it is a "sign" of something, but an actual accomplishing act of our salvation), then the curse that we are born into no longer exists, and our personal transgressions in which we have rightfully made ourselves subject to death (our "sentence") no longer stand between us and God (we are "acquitted" of our "crimes" to use legal terminology).

But the "legal" aspect of the Gospel can't be taken too literal or strict by itself outside of the context of healing, victory, rescuing, etc. And we certainly can't take it to the extreme of "God can't truly forgive a sinner without first exacting His revenge on someone perfectly innocent and undeserving". And we also can't preach a "half-gospel" where Christ takes the wages of our sin on the cross, but never nullifies those wages in His resurrection.

We are united to Him in His death and raised up in His resurrection.

Jesus didn't tell the good thief on the cross "Ok, you can get down off that cross now that you acknowledge My innocent suffering that you properly deserve, I got it from here", but rather "This day you will be with Me in paradise."
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« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2011, 01:19:11 AM »

Actually, I think Aquinas is an even better example of a penal substitution theorist than either Augustine or Anselm.
My understanding is that Aquinas never taught that Jesus Christ bore the eternal penalty for the sin of the world, which is what Protestants teach.

I suspect that your church has not gone so far with it, into teaching that God turned his back on Christ, but it certainly appears that Aquinas taught that the punishment that was rightfully ours was transmuted to Jesus for our redemption.

In a sense he did take on the "wages" (or "punishment" as a legal analogy, in a sense it is what is due to us as a consequence of our own personal transgressions) of our sin, which is death. But then again, it was not so that we did not receive those wages ourselves (we still have to die), but so that by incorporating himself into our death, he could incorporate us us into his resurrection and redeem us from (do or "pay" that which is necessary to make us no longer subject to) our sin and death. If the wages of sin, that is death (our "sentence" in legal terms), is ultimately undone (that is by Christ's resurrection, without which we would still be dead, not because it is a "sign" of something, but an actual accomplishing act of our salvation), then the curse that we are born into no longer exists, and our personal transgressions in which we have rightfully made ourselves subject to death (our "sentence") no longer stand between us and God (we are "acquitted" of our "crimes" to use legal terminology).

But the "legal" aspect of the Gospel can't be taken too literal or strict by itself outside of the context of healing, victory, rescuing, etc. And we certainly can't take it to the extreme of "God can't truly forgive a sinner without first exacting His revenge on someone perfectly innocent and undeserving". And we also can't preach a "half-gospel" where Christ takes the wages of our sin on the cross, but never nullifies those wages in His resurrection.

We are united to Him in His death and raised up in His resurrection.

Jesus didn't tell the good thief on the cross "Ok, you can get down off that cross now that you acknowledge My innocent suffering that you properly deserve, I got it from here", but rather "This day you will be with Me in paradise."

Do you think our differing views on whether God punished Christ for our sins could have arisen from the translations we use? Take Isaiah 53:10, for instance.

"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand" (Authorized Version).

"The Lord wishes to cleanse Him of His wound, and if You give an offering for sin, Your soul shall see a long-lived seed" (Orthodox Study Bible).

These two translations aren't exactly saying the same thing.
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« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2011, 10:23:41 AM »

Do you think our differing views on whether God punished Christ for our sins could have arisen from the translations we use?

I don't think it's a translation issue. Western Christianity has always had a tendency to use legal terminology for expressing the reality of our salvation in Christ. Combine that with the fact that what are probably the two most influential leaders of the Protestant reformation (Luther and Calvin) were highly educated lawyers before they studied theology, and what you get is men who know nothing better than law studying something expressed mainly in legal terminology. I believe that has made more of a difference historically than how a few verses are translated.
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« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2011, 03:12:50 PM »

Do you think our differing views on whether God punished Christ for our sins could have arisen from the translations we use?

I think you also need to look at the words propitiate and propitiation.

Christ's death is likened in scripture to the payment of a ransom; to a propitiation; to a vicarious punishment for man's sin. All of these I have preached and probably shall preach again - the Lord sparing me - many times. But I see them as illustrations taken from human life and culture, to help us grasp the fact that, on the Cross, Christ has done all that is necessary in the will of the Father to redeem us. I do not see them as deep, all-embracing, satisfactory explanations of what happened between God the Father and God the Son.

I think C S Lewis puts it succinctly, beautifully and memorably, when he describes the death of Aslan, which likewise saved Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the law of sin and death: he calls it deeper magic from before the dawn of time. Is that not really what Christ's redeeming death was? A hidden mystery which operated within the counsels of the Godhead, beyond human comprehension?

If we Evangelicals believe that Christ's dying for us was a ransom, a propitiation, our punishment borne vicariously, and if you Orthodox see Christ's death as paying in some way for your sin, sufficiently to secure God's forgiveness, surely that is faith? And it is faith that God requires, not understanding. The rest is there to help us believe, to get some human idea we can hold on to of what Christ did for us.

I have said before, and may say again, that Thomas Hopko's writings on the death of Christ warm the heart and cause me to believe that, as they say, your faith and mine meet at the foot of the Cross.
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« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2011, 04:15:45 PM »

Not all Christians accept the penal substitution theory. Yes, Catholic believe that Christ sacrificed his life for our sins, but not according to the protestant notion of being punished in our place. Such a a concept is foreign to the Catholic faith.

You are quite correct:

    "If we speak of that satisfactory punishment, which one takes upon oneself voluntarily, one may bear another's punishment…. If, however, we speak of punishment inflicted on account of sin, inasmuch as it is penal, then each one is punished for his own sin only, because the sinful act is something personal. But if we speak of a punishment that is medicinal, in this way it does happen that one is punished for another's sin."

    — Thomas Aquinas
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« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2011, 10:47:59 PM »

Do you think our differing views on whether God punished Christ for our sins could have arisen from the translations we use?

I think you also need to look at the words propitiate and propitiation.

Christ's death is likened in scripture to the payment of a ransom; to a propitiation; to a vicarious punishment for man's sin. All of these I have preached and probably shall preach again - the Lord sparing me - many times. But I see them as illustrations taken from human life and culture, to help us grasp the fact that, on the Cross, Christ has done all that is necessary in the will of the Father to redeem us. I do not see them as deep, all-embracing, satisfactory explanations of what happened between God the Father and God the Son.

I think C S Lewis puts it succinctly, beautifully and memorably, when he describes the death of Aslan, which likewise saved Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the law of sin and death: he calls it deeper magic from before the dawn of time. Is that not really what Christ's redeeming death was? A hidden mystery which operated within the counsels of the Godhead, beyond human comprehension?

If we Evangelicals believe that Christ's dying for us was a ransom, a propitiation, our punishment borne vicariously, and if you Orthodox see Christ's death as paying in some way for your sin, sufficiently to secure God's forgiveness, surely that is faith? And it is faith that God requires, not understanding. The rest is there to help us believe, to get some human idea we can hold on to of what Christ did for us.

I have said before, and may say again, that Thomas Hopko's writings on the death of Christ warm the heart and cause me to believe that, as they say, your faith and mine meet at the foot of the Cross.

Pastor David, I have often wondered about CS Lewis' portrayal of our Lord in the lion Aslan.

It is notable that Aslan offered himself as a sacrifice not for to his father across the sea but to the white witch. What do you make of this?

Likewise, what do you make of the concept of the deeper magic? I see it as a Christianised copy of the pagan Greek concept of necessity/anange, which I find troubling.
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« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2011, 03:37:32 AM »

Aslan offered himself as a sacrifice ... to the white witch. What do you make of this?

Likewise, what do you make of the concept of the deeper magic? I see it as a Christianised copy of the pagan Greek concept of necessity/anange, which I find troubling.

Let's number these 1 and 2.

1. The early Fathers debated to whom the ransom was paid, and of course it is a futile speculation, as the scriptures never say, and I do not think we are intended to press the matter that far. I think (as I said above) that it is a partial illustration. Christ's death was the price which released us from captivity to sin and death. Likewise, I doubt that CSL would have wished us to push his children's story too far into theological analysis and speculation. I suspect what he wished to convey was that Aslan died in Edmund's place, to help us with one thought in the illustration, namely, that Christ died in our place.

2. I fear I am no Classicist, and must confess entire ignorance concerning pagan Greek concepts. What I mean (and of course, I cannot know what prompted CSL to use this phrase) is that the 'magic' by which Christ's death saved us is deeper than our minds can grasp, and has its origin in eternity, and in the mind of the Triune God, rather than only in the culture and possibilities of this present world or age.

3. Maybe this is also germane. I began life, as we all do, as an unbeliever, and when my parents insisted on my going occasionally to church with them, I was baffled by the very idea that a death 2000 years ago could affect me today - not affect me emotionally, I mean, but actually work something within me or for me. Then I came to 'see' the idea of substitutionary punishment for my sin, and it made sense: it enabled me to believe, and to trust that death as being satisfaction for my wrongdoings. So, aged 16 or so, I became a Christian. Now, later on, whilst still happy to preach that same teaching of substitutionary atonement, to help people believe and trust, I find I understand it less, but believe more strongly in the effective power of that death to redeem me. As the hymn has it:

How it was done, we can't discuss;
But this we know - 'twas done for us.
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« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2011, 05:43:26 AM »

This post is strange to me. I genuinely thought that Anselm, mediæval monk and archbishop and seminal thinker and writer of the western church, taught exactly this in his Cur Deus Homo.

I agree.

Anslem refuted the 'ransom' theory of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa and claimed; 'everyone who sins must repay to God the honor that he has taken away, and this is the satisfaction that every sinner ought to make to God'.
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« Reply #23 on: July 19, 2011, 05:56:30 AM »

What’s At Stake in the Atonement

By Father Stephen

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


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.

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« Reply #24 on: July 19, 2011, 05:59:57 AM »

For something on Anselm see message 434
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http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,11389.msg390108/topicseen.html#msg390108

"Why Orthodox do not believe in the penal satifaction theory..."
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« Reply #25 on: July 19, 2011, 06:18:32 AM »

the doctrine of the Substitutionary Atonement... in conservative Evangelical circles is often made a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy.

This is true. I would probably go so far as to remove the word "often".
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« Reply #26 on: July 19, 2011, 07:03:56 AM »

Aslan offered himself as a sacrifice ... to the white witch. What do you make of this?

Likewise, what do you make of the concept of the deeper magic? I see it as a Christianised copy of the pagan Greek concept of necessity/anange, which I find troubling.

Let's number these 1 and 2.

1. The early Fathers debated to whom the ransom was paid, and of course it is a futile speculation, as the scriptures never say, and I do not think we are intended to press the matter that far. I think (as I said above) that it is a partial illustration. Christ's death was the price which released us from captivity to sin and death. Likewise, I doubt that CSL would have wished us to push his children's story too far into theological analysis and speculation. I suspect what he wished to convey was that Aslan died in Edmund's place, to help us with one thought in the illustration, namely, that Christ died in our place.

2. I fear I am no Classicist, and must confess entire ignorance concerning pagan Greek concepts. What I mean (and of course, I cannot know what prompted CSL to use this phrase) is that the 'magic' by which Christ's death saved us is deeper than our minds can grasp, and has its origin in eternity, and in the mind of the Triune God, rather than only in the culture and possibilities of this present world or age.

3. Maybe this is also germane. I began life, as we all do, as an unbeliever, and when my parents insisted on my going occasionally to church with them, I was baffled by the very idea that a death 2000 years ago could affect me today - not affect me emotionally, I mean, but actually work something within me or for me. Then I came to 'see' the idea of substitutionary punishment for my sin, and it made sense: it enabled me to believe, and to trust that death as being satisfaction for my wrongdoings. So, aged 16 or so, I became a Christian. Now, later on, whilst still happy to preach that same teaching of substitutionary atonement, to help people believe and trust, I find I understand it less, but believe more strongly in the effective power of that death to redeem me. As the hymn has it:

How it was done, we can't discuss;
But this we know - 'twas done for us.

Thank you for this.

If all evangelicals approached the atonement in this manner I don't think I would have any theological quarrel with them.
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« Reply #27 on: July 19, 2011, 06:10:16 PM »

With all respect to Pastor David, I would include the word "often." In America penal substitution is not only central to many Protestants, it's often times the only view of atonement they will accept. This has become especially common with the "neo-reformed" movement in evangelicalism.

I've been told I ascribe to a view of penal substitution, but I often find myself in disagreement with fellow evangelicals over the issue. For instance, Jesus wasn't punished for our sins, rather I would say that Scripture teaches that He bore the ramifications of our sins. The difference between the two is vast; for one, Jesus is treated as a sinner, in another He is merely accepting the consequences of our sins, an innocent victim to our malice, but all so that we might be saved.

Certainly the atonement is for more than saving us from death (though this is obviously part of it). Something happens in the atonement between Christ and our sins, though I wouldn't go so far as to say that He takes a punishment we deserve.
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« Reply #28 on: July 19, 2011, 06:30:32 PM »

Jesus is treated as a sinner

He was treated as a sinner, in fact He was treated as the most vile human being ever. The difference would be in "who" is treating Christ in this manner. We are the ones that unjustly accused Him, sentenced Him to death, and executed that sentence. In the end, it was Christ Himself who laid down His life and commended His spirit to the Father, but it was God Who raised Him up, and The Jews who delivered Him to be executed as a criminal and the gentiles who carried it out.
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« Reply #29 on: July 19, 2011, 07:52:36 PM »

Jesus is treated as a sinner

He was treated as a sinner, in fact He was treated as the most vile human being ever. The difference would be in "who" is treating Christ in this manner. We are the ones that unjustly accused Him, sentenced Him to death, and executed that sentence. In the end, it was Christ Himself who laid down His life and commended His spirit to the Father, but it was God Who raised Him up, and The Jews who delivered Him to be executed as a criminal and the gentiles who carried it out.

Correct, nor would I take any contention with this, nor would most Protestants. Smiley

I think the issue is over what exactly occurred in the Atonement. For my own edification and learning, what exactly is the Orthodox position (if any), or at least what are the common views?
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« Reply #30 on: July 19, 2011, 08:00:12 PM »


[I think the issue is over what exactly occurred in the Atonement. For my own edification and learning, what exactly is the Orthodox position (if any), or at least what are the common views?


There isn't one.  Atonement is absent from the teachings of the Fathers and therefore it is not known in the Church.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said something to that effect when he was asked why there is no mention of Atonement in his classic work "The Orthodox Church."

Also please see message 436
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« Reply #31 on: July 19, 2011, 08:03:13 PM »

There isn't one.  Atonement is absent from the teachings of the Fathers and therefore it is not known in the Church.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said something to that effect when he was asked why there is no mention of Atonement in his classic work "The Orthodox Church."

Also please see message 436
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http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,11389.msg390111.html#msg390111

Father,

Thank you for simply and clearly pointing that out. I was afraid I was going to have to hunt through some notes I've taken while having discussions with my Priest on this one!

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« Reply #32 on: July 19, 2011, 08:19:57 PM »


[I think the issue is over what exactly occurred in the Atonement. For my own edification and learning, what exactly is the Orthodox position (if any), or at least what are the common views?


There isn't one.  Atonement is absent from the teachings of the Fathers and therefore it is not known in the Church.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said something to that effect when he was asked why there is no mention of Atonement in his classic work "The Orthodox Church."

Also please see message 436
at
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,11389.msg390111.html#msg390111

So Father, it would appear what you are saying is that the Orthodox look at the "Atonement" as a mystery and that all the various competing views in the West are all pretty much true?

From what you describe it seems that's where I currently am on my view of the Atonement (people ask me which view I embrace and I always answer, "The one that has Jesus saving us"). This seems to be a common theme in my journey towards Orthodoxy; I believe something and then discover it's what the Orthodox have been teaching for 2,000 years.

As a caveat, if this is the "view" of the Orthodox Church, then would substitutionary atonement necessarily be wrong if taken as a part of the atonement?

I'm also only asking to I can get a better understanding before I go to my Priest on this issue. I love him very much and don't want to waste his time, so I try to get as many answers as I can before asking him questions. Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: July 20, 2011, 03:22:28 AM »


As a caveat, if this is the "view" of the Orthodox Church, then would substitutionary atonement necessarily be wrong if taken as a part of the atonement?

"2) If a substitution was required for the forgiveness of sin, how could Christ forgive the sins of the Paralytic and the Woman caught in adultery before this substitution had taken place?"

From: "Why Orthodox do not believe in the penal satifaction theory..."

So we were ransomed from death and corruption by Christ's substitution on the Cross in order that we would undergo an ontological change through theosis and thus be saved from the "everlasting punishment" which those who have not put on Christ and thus remain united to death and corruption will undergo.

David,
Again, in my mind, this raises the questions:
1) To whom was the "ransom from death and corruption" paid?
2) If a substitution was required for the forgiveness of sin, how could Christ forgive the sins of the Paralytic and the Woman caught in adultery before this substitution had taken place?
3) If Theosis was impossible before the "substitution", how did Elijah not die and get taken up into Heaven in his body and meet Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration?

I mention this only because, as you say, such ideas of substitution and ransom may be "very comfortable to Western ears", but in this day and age, when people are questioning the basis of our belief, such questions can be raised and are quite valid, and we need to be ready with an answer.


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« Reply #34 on: July 20, 2011, 03:34:20 AM »

2) If a substitution was required for the forgiveness of sin, how could Christ forgive the sins of the Paralytic and the Woman caught in adultery before this substitution had taken place?
3) If Theosis was impossible before the "substitution", how did Elijah not die and get taken up into Heaven in his body and meet Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration?

We always teach that the Atonement worked backwards as well as forwards in time. If we had lived before Calvary, but somehow got knowledge of present-day theories of the Atonement, we might well ask the very opposite of your question: How could Christ forgive the sins of David Young, seeing they had not yet been committed? It is written that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly; but what happened in time, God saw in eternity, and it was sufficient for the sins of all people in all ages. Surely it had to be: if Jesus was God, then it must carry infinite worth.
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« Reply #35 on: July 20, 2011, 03:55:02 AM »

2) If a substitution was required for the forgiveness of sin, how could Christ forgive the sins of the Paralytic and the Woman caught in adultery before this substitution had taken place?
3) If Theosis was impossible before the "substitution", how did Elijah not die and get taken up into Heaven in his body and meet Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration?
[size=10pt
We always teach that the Atonement worked backwards as well as forwards in time. If we had lived before Calvary, but somehow got knowledge of present-day theories of the Atonement, we might well ask the very opposite of your question: How could Christ forgive the sins of David Young, seeing they had not yet been committed? It is written that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly; but what happened in time, God saw in eternity, and it was sufficient for the sins of all people in all ages. Surely it had to be: if Jesus was God, then it must carry infinite worth.[/size]

So you have no problems with the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?   They justify it by using your same argument - that the salvific merits of Christ on the Cross were "pre-applied" to Mary at the time of her conception.
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« Reply #36 on: July 20, 2011, 04:05:57 AM »

So you have no problems with the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?   They justify it by using your same argument - that the salvific merits of Christ on the Cross were "pre-applied" to Mary at the time of her conception.

I think you are writing tongue (or keyboard) in cheek.

However, if the dogma of the Immaculate Conception means she was sinless, then I can't see the link between the two. Calvary met the need of sinners; it has nothing to do in our teaching with the idea of someone being born without sin. If there were such a person, and if that person never sinned in subsequent life, then he or she would have no need of the benefit of Calvary, backwards or forwards, having no sin from which to be cleansed, surely?
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« Reply #37 on: July 20, 2011, 04:20:01 AM »

  it would appear what you are saying is that the Orthodox look at the "Atonement" as a mystery and that all the various competing views in the West are all pretty much true?

I wouldn't go so far as to say they are all true... the ones of the type "sinners in the hands of an angry God"  make me tear my hair out.

Metropolitan Kallistos has something to say about all the variety of theories in this little video clip

"Funny Moments with Met Kallistos Ware"

http://youtu.be/NR0KZT5rjZc

This topic commences at 5:00, where he speaks of the menu aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

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« Reply #38 on: July 20, 2011, 04:42:18 AM »

So you have no problems with the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?   They justify it by using your same argument - that the salvific merits of Christ on the Cross were "pre-applied" to Mary at the time of her conception.

I think you are writing tongue (or keyboard) in cheek.

However, if the dogma of the Immaculate Conception means she was sinless, then I can't see the link between the two. Calvary met the need of sinners; it has nothing to do in our teaching with the idea of someone being born without sin. If there were such a person, and if that person never sinned in subsequent life, then he or she would have no need of the benefit of Calvary, backwards or forwards, having no sin from which to be cleansed, surely?

If God had not chosen to pre-apply the salvific merits of Christ and Calvary to Mary at her conception would she not have been born into the Original Sin which is the fate of every other human?

How is this any different than God pre-applying, as you say, the merits of Christ and Calvary to the Pharisee and the woman taken in adultery.   Like Mary they too are "covered with the blood of the Lamb" before the Blood has even been shed and atonement is made fror their sins before the Atonement has occured on the Cross.
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« Reply #39 on: July 20, 2011, 07:27:18 AM »

2) If a substitution was required for the forgiveness of sin, how could Christ forgive the sins of the Paralytic and the Woman caught in adultery before this substitution had taken place?
3) If Theosis was impossible before the "substitution", how did Elijah not die and get taken up into Heaven in his body and meet Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration?
[size=10pt
We always teach that the Atonement worked backwards as well as forwards in time. If we had lived before Calvary, but somehow got knowledge of present-day theories of the Atonement, we might well ask the very opposite of your question: How could Christ forgive the sins of David Young, seeing they had not yet been committed? It is written that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly; but what happened in time, God saw in eternity, and it was sufficient for the sins of all people in all ages. Surely it had to be: if Jesus was God, then it must carry infinite worth.[/size]

So you have no problems with the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?   They justify it by using your same argument - that the salvific merits of Christ on the Cross were "pre-applied" to Mary at the time of her conception.

A good point, but I would contend that the Immaculate Conception only works if one accepts the Roman Catholic dogma of original sin, which even most Protestants don't accept (if they do, yet deny infant baptism, well then...).

Still, you've given me much to think about. What do we do with the passages speaking of Him acting as sin for those who had no sin and the other a-typical passages used in support of penal substitution? I'm not asking for a major run-down, just a brief overview of how they are typically interpreted. As you can tell, I'm not interested in a debate, just learning and evaluating opinions. Smiley
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« Reply #40 on: July 20, 2011, 11:32:35 AM »

Mary ... would she not have been born into the Original Sin which is the fate of every other human?

She was - if by "original sin" you mean born with a fallen nature; if you mean the Augustinian concept of original (that is, inherited) guilt, personally I've never been persuaded of that anyway, as it seems to be Augustine's misunderstanding derived from his reading the NT in a faulty Latin translation and not in the Greek original (or at least a better translation). You don't get original guilt in the Really Sound Version, which is what I've mainly used for nigh on forty years.
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« Reply #41 on: July 20, 2011, 04:20:21 PM »


A good point, but I would contend that the Immaculate Conception only works if one accepts the Roman Catholic dogma of original sin, which even most Protestants don't accept (if they do, yet deny infant baptism, well then...).

Tenderheartedness towards unbaptized children has never been a hallmark of Protestantism.   Good for the Catholics for trying to deal with this problem by creating the state called "Limbo" for unbaptized babies.   As I understand classic Protestantism all of the human race is conceived and born in sin and is damned from the moment of conception by the justice of God.   If some are saved later in life this is seen as an act of God's loving kindness who acts to bring a person to faith in Christ and to salvation.   Those who are not in this blessed state, and that includes babies, remain in their original state of sin and damnation, unjustified in the eyes of God, and they are rightfully damned.
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« Reply #42 on: July 20, 2011, 04:51:38 PM »


A good point, but I would contend that the Immaculate Conception only works if one accepts the Roman Catholic dogma of original sin, which even most Protestants don't accept (if they do, yet deny infant baptism, well then...).

Tenderheartedness towards unbaptized children has never been a hallmark of Protestantism.   Good for the Catholics for trying to deal with this problem by creating the state called "Limbo" for unbaptized babies.   As I understand classic Protestantism all of the human race is conceived and born in sin and is damned from the moment of conception by the justice of God.   If some are saved later in life this is seen as an act of God's loving kindness who acts to bring a person to faith in Christ and to salvation.   Those who are not in this blessed state, and that includes babies, remain in their original state of sin and damnation, unjustified in the eyes of God, and they are rightfully damned.

Perhaps this might be a sign of another difference. Sin and death are what is overcome on the cross and in the resurrection. Our salvation consists of being untied to God and being raised in a state of glory in the final resurrection. Orthodoxy tends to focus on these things where most if not all Protestant preaching is about escaping gehenna by being declared "not guilty".

There are actually two ways around this concerning children. One way is to have everyone born "guilty" and destined for gehenna. The other is not uncommon, and defers them to the age of reason or accountability where if they are not fully conscious of their sin, then they are not responsible and can't be found "guilty" and therefore are undeserving of gehenna.
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« Reply #43 on: July 20, 2011, 05:03:06 PM »

As I understand classic Protestantism all of the human race is conceived and born in sin and is damned from the moment of conception by the justice of God.   If some are saved later in life this is seen as an act of God's loving kindness who acts to bring a person to faith in Christ and to salvation.   Those who are not in this blessed state, and that includes babies, remain in their original state of sin and damnation, unjustified in the eyes of God, and they are rightfully damned.

Yes, sadly I believe you are right. They swallowed Augustine's notions on this, hook, line and sinker. Nonetheless, you would be hard put to it to find a Christian who actually thinks like that, except perhaps among the most rigid of orthodox Calvinists. Most people take the view of King David, the man after God's heart, whose infant died, and who asserted, "He will not come back to me, but I shall go to him."

I must look it up, but I seem to remember that it is a faulty translation of Romans 5.12 that gave rise to the idea that we all "sinned in Adam" and were therefore born already guilty. Perhaps one of you can find that Latin for us?
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« Reply #44 on: July 20, 2011, 06:24:27 PM »


A good point, but I would contend that the Immaculate Conception only works if one accepts the Roman Catholic dogma of original sin, which even most Protestants don't accept (if they do, yet deny infant baptism, well then...).

Tenderheartedness towards unbaptized children has never been a hallmark of Protestantism.   Good for the Catholics for trying to deal with this problem by creating the state called "Limbo" for unbaptized babies.   As I understand classic Protestantism all of the human race is conceived and born in sin and is damned from the moment of conception by the justice of God.   If some are saved later in life this is seen as an act of God's loving kindness who acts to bring a person to faith in Christ and to salvation.   Those who are not in this blessed state, and that includes babies, remain in their original state of sin and damnation, unjustified in the eyes of God, and they are rightfully damned.

That's more Calvinism and their belief in Total Depravity. Other more evangelical branches out of the Weslyan tradition would (typically) have no problem admitting that infants go to Heaven.

But I see what you're saying and I am inclined to agree (with the point of the overall discussion). I know you've already answered this a bit, so please feel free to pass as this might be repetitive, but what then could we say does happen in the atonement?
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“Wherefore, then, death approaches, gulps down the bait of the body, and is pierced by the hook of the divinity. Then, having tasted of the sinless and life-giving body, it is destroyed and gives up all those whom it had swallowed down of old." - St. John of Damascus
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