Author Topic: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement  (Read 2161 times)

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Offline Severian

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I just wanted to share a summary that I wrote of a book by Fr. Tadros Yacoub Malaty called "Man and Redemption", where he explains the Orthodox view of the atonement using Scriptural and Patristic sources. This summary isn't academic in nature, it was for my own reference. I highly recommend you guys read the actual book, which can be found here. Feel free to elaborate upon this summary if you would like. If anyone else who has read the book feels I am doing Fr. Tadros' work injustice, then please tell me so I can correct myself.



Free-Will and Adam’s Sin

God has created us in his image: love. God wishes to pour forth his love on each of us personally as if each one of us were a close personal friend. In contemplating the relationship of God and man one must acknowledge the soul and body. Contrary to the teachings of Origen the body is not a prison but, rather a divine gift by which one can partake of all human needs. God wishes to send forth his salvation on man as a whole, both soul and body. He sent his eternal Word to become incarnate and through him we may dwell in the bosom of the Father eternally. God bestows upon us free will. St. Cyril states that we were created in the divine image; free-will. By Adam’s disobedience we lost the divine image (free-will). How then was our free will weakened? St Athanasius said that prior to Adam’s fall the human mind was not subject to carnal lusts, now it is however, and we must lift up our minds to God through his grace. He continues to say that our souls, mobile by nature, did not cease activity but, rejected what was good and turned towards evil. St Clement said that Adam and Eve became fixated on sexual lusts and became overpowered by carnal pleasures. He teaches that Adam represents all of mankind and that everyone has a choice to either obey God or violate his ordinances as Adam and Eve had before us. We did not inherit their own guilt or fault but rather their perverted sensuality. In his battle with heretics Origen taught the preexistence of souls. He said that God created these souls as equal essences that tried to imitate him. The souls disobeyed God, though, not as awfully as the demons. They were bound to human bodies as imprisonment (this is Origen’s heretical teaching)

Free-will and God’s Providence

God uses the evil committed against others for their salvation. St Clement clarifies this point using the biblical example of Joseph. And also Judas in his misuse of free-will brought about the crucifixion, the central turning point of human salvation. God does not create evil, but, he does not prevent it when it’s displayed in others. Why? Because God can use this evil to bring about good. Had Judas not betrayed Christ there would be no passion or crucifixion. And thus no resurrection and no victory over principalities and powers. Also, how is virtue to be brought about if there is no struggle with evil?  

Human Nature

Man is a true unity of body and soul. Both dynamic existences within his being. So the Incarnate Word took upon true humanity and upon doing so he has blessed human nature as a whole, as taught by saints Severus and Philoxenos. Alexandrian fathers struggled against Gnostic heretics who rejected the body as evil. The body can be used for good or evil depending on how the mind presides over it. There is nothing inherently evil about us because we were created by God. The human mind is crucial to our relationship with God. With divine grace the human mind can conceive mysteries otherwise unfathomable. St Athanasius says that the soul has the “word of faith” inscribed in it. The Lord Christ also said the Kingdom of Heaven is within us all. The road to God is our own soul and the intelligence that resides therein. Through the Lord Christ one can have a loving communion with the Father in the Son and through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit unites us in our complete human nature (soul, mind, body, energies, and emotions) to God and he harmonizes us with ourselves. Before they were in Christ Sts Paul the Apostle and Moses the Black were wicked, but, through the Holy Spirit there lives were changed.

God’s Role in Man’s Salvation

St. Athanasius said that when Adam disobeyed God we deviated from paradise into death and we needed someone to renew us. Repentance alone does not allow us to realize the fruit of disobedience, death, as a result of Adam’s disobedience. It also does not have the power to conquer sin and death. The Mosaic law only made us realize our sins, but, it cannot grant us true life. It prepared the way for the Messiah, the heavenly physician. Man needs a redeemer who can reconcile God’s mercy and justice together granting him a new life which tramples death. He is the Christ the incarnate only-begotten son.  The Savior must be God himself. He granted us the following:

1. Declaring the Creator’s Goodness
God formed man from nothing and prepared for him salvation. In the last of days he sent his only son for the world’s salvation see John 3:16. St Athanasius says that it would not be appropriate if God let his creation waste away as a result of Satan’s deceit so he came to show us his love. Saint Clement of Alexandria says that the Word who fashioned us came as our teacher and taught us how to live, he may afterwards as God grant us eternal life, he pitied us since the beginning then appeared to us and saved us.

2. To Join Us With Himself
Redemption is unity with God. By Christ’s blood we can be united with God. St Athanasius says that had Christ been a creature we could not unite to God. Origen says that Christ’s blood propitiated us and that he destroyed the enemies and made peace, he reconciled us to God by abolishing the barrier of wickedness caused by sin.

3. To Accomplish God’s Sentence of Death
St Athanasius said that Christ assumed humanity and death on our behalf. He died in the place of all. Through him all may be free of the curse that resulted due to our sin. By his resurrection all may be free from corruption. By his death he set us all free from the liability of our transgressions.

4. To Undergo Death (and conquer it)
The problem surrounding our human nature was not only forgiveness of sins , but, the death and corruption that it was subject to. St. Cyril says Christ’s perfect humanity was the only thing that could trample death. St Clement said by assuming death Christ turned death into life and turned mortality to immortality. St Athanasius teaches that Christ assumed mortal human form in order to die and resurrect, conquering death. He continues to say that by assuming our nature Christ has, in a way, united and dwelled with each and every one of us. Death no longer holds us because of the Word Incarnate‘s assumption of death. He also raises the question saying if God made man by a word why not redeem him by a word? But, bringing things into being is different than redeeming things already in existence, so it was only appropriate that God would use a human instrument to redeem us. Because death was engendered to the body the Savior fought death in a body.

5. To Conquer Our Enemy, Satan
 St Athanasius says that if Christ were a creature then Satan should have no anxiety because of our Lord Jesus Christ, but, because Christ was God himself he conquered the enemy. By conquering death, the tool which Satan used to hold humanity in his clutches, Christ has conquered Satan.

6. To Raise Us Up To Heaven
In him, Christ, we may unite with God and be raised to heaven.

7. To Renew Our Nature
St. Paul makes a distinction between animal’s sacrifices and Christ’s sacrifice. The former had to be repeated because it was incapable of renewing human nature. Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all and all who turn to him can have their nature renewed turning mortality into immortality. We can participate in his life. Origen says Christ summons those who are flesh to bear his divine image.  He may deify us (not in his essence of course). St Clement said the Logos reduced himself to our weakness so that we may be raised to power. God became man so that we may learn from a man how to “become god”.  St Athanasius says God assumed what was ours so that he may impart to us what is his. We become a new creation. Christ has come in the flesh, condemned sin, and sanctified our nature that we may partake of his, see 2 Pet 1:4. By his incarnation Christ has despoiled Hades renewed Adam and made paradise accessible to all. He has turned curse to blessing.

8. To Realize Universalism
The Savior’s sacrifice took effect in all times and places. All who turn to him can have eternal life.

9. To Grant Us True Knowledge “Gnosis”
St Clement calls spiritual believers “Gnostics”.  Knowledge comes from the Father through the Son. The Son came to grant us knowledge of the Father.

Man’s Role In His Salvation

1. Predestination and Man’s Free Will
God does not “predestine” someone’s fate nor does he choose people for their salvation. It is his desire that all may be saved. God wishes all to live in him. It is our own choice to cut ourselves off from him. What St Paul means in Eph 1:4 is that God has imparted knowledge and love of him in our hearts.

2. Faith and Good Works
A. The Alexandrian Church integrates all aspects of living in the life of her faithful. Theology cannot be separated from worship and asceticism. Many Alexandrian Patriarchs were deans of the Catechetical school of Alexandria. We must live our lives in Christ by participating in worship and having a good relationship with others not just believing in dogmas alone.

B. We cannot perform good works like practicing the law or believe that we can save ourselves based on our own righteousness. Good works performed in the grace of God are from a believer’s heart and perfects faith. We cannot perform anything righteous apart from God. Our works will affect our judgment. The Alexandrian fathers said that good works is our reaction to God’s love by his help.

3. Grace and Man’s Free-Will
A believer can choose to have the will of God act within him. At the same time one can reject God’s grace. “For we are God’s fellow workers” - Corinthians 3:9. Salvation is achieved when God and man work together. [Remember Origen’s example in Psalm 126 (127)].

4. Trust in Enjoying the Kingdom
Hope in the mercy of God otherwise, you will lose salvation. Though we can be saved by Christ’s sacrifice we must repent and realize we are sinners.



« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 01:14:06 PM by Severian »
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline Severian

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2012, 04:36:21 PM »
--Bump--
« Last Edit: July 15, 2012, 04:36:36 PM by Severian »
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline Severian

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"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2012, 10:18:15 AM »
St Athanasius said that prior to Adam’s fall the human mind was not subject to carnal lusts, now it is however

This is of particular interest to me... do you know where St. Athanasius says this in his writings?

Offline Severian

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2012, 01:39:21 PM »
St Athanasius said that prior to Adam’s fall the human mind was not subject to carnal lusts, now it is however

This is of particular interest to me... do you know where St. Athanasius says this in his writings?
It maybe mentioned in the book itself. It has been a while since I read said book, sorry. :-\
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline Severian

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2012, 08:40:46 PM »
--Bump--
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2012, 12:32:18 PM »
I find nothing wrong with the summary for the most part except this one quote:

Quote
Had Judas not betrayed Christ there would be no passion or crucifixion.

Where does Abouna Tadros say this?  Can we really say that salvation wouldn't have happened of it wasn't for Judas?
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2012, 01:33:20 PM »
Origen says that Christ’s blood propitiated us
I didn't know Origen wrote in Latin.  ;)
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
...you can imagine so-called healing services of the pigpen. The books that could be written, you know: Life in the Pigpen. How to Cope in the Pigpen. Being Happy in the Pigpen. Surviving in the Pigpen. And then there could be counselling, for people who feel unhappy in the pigpen, to try to get them to come to terms with the pigpen, and to accept the pigpen.

Offline Severian

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2012, 01:56:10 PM »
I find nothing wrong with the summary for the most part except this one quote:

Quote
Had Judas not betrayed Christ there would be no passion or crucifixion.

Where does Abouna Tadros say this?  Can we really say that salvation wouldn't have happened of it wasn't for Judas?
He says: "If you remove the wickedness of Judas and annul his treachery you take away likewise the cross of Christ and His passion; and if there were no cross, then principalities and powers would not have been stripped nor triumphed over by the wood of the cross."

I do not think he really means that our salvation is contingent upon Judas, rather he is giving an example of how God uses evil to bring about good.
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2012, 06:26:06 PM »
I find nothing wrong with the summary for the most part except this one quote:

Quote
Had Judas not betrayed Christ there would be no passion or crucifixion.

Where does Abouna Tadros say this?  Can we really say that salvation wouldn't have happened of it wasn't for Judas?
He says: "If you remove the wickedness of Judas and annul his treachery you take away likewise the cross of Christ and His passion; and if there were no cross, then principalities and powers would not have been stripped nor triumphed over by the wood of the cross."

I do not think he really means that our salvation is contingent upon Judas, rather he is giving an example of how God uses evil to bring about good.
It's an interesting quote.  Perhaps if one has the chance to meet with Abouna to ask him.  Or of anyone has the Arabic, maybe something went wrong in translation.
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

Offline Severian

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2014, 10:12:30 PM »
Thread resurrection!
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die [...] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -The Lord Jesus Christ

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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2014, 12:37:07 AM »
Right now, I'm reading (ever so slowly) his book (pdf file) on the Divine Grace, which is awesome.  However, I'm wondering if anyone has a hard copy because I'm having a hard time figuring out which parts are Abouna's words and which parts are the scholars or patristics.  Perhaps, the hard copy has a good print?

I'll look into Man and Redemption.  I downloaded it recently, but haven't read through it.
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

Offline minasoliman

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Re: Man and Redemption: a Summary of the Patristic View of the Atonement
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2014, 01:08:13 AM »
Okay, I just looked at it.  Abouna Tadros quoted Origen here.  So, this is technically Origen's words, and in context he wrote:

God does not create evil; still, He does not prevent it when it is displayed by others, although He could do so. But He uses evil, and those who exhibit it, for necessary purposes. For by means of those in whom there is evil, He bestows honor and approbation on those who strive for the glory of virtue. Virtue, if unopposed, would not shine out nor become more glorious by probation. Virtue is not virtue if it be untested and unexamined ... If you remove the wickedness of Judas and annul his treachery you take away likewise the cross of Christ and His passion; and if there were no cross, then principalities and powers would have not Been stripped nor triumphed over by the wood of the cross (Col. 2: 15). Had there been no death of Christ, there would certainly have been no resurrection and there would have been no "firstbom from the dead" Col. 1: 8; and then there would have been for us no hope of resurrection. Similarly concerning the devil himself, if we suppose for the sake of argument, that he had been forcibly prevented from sinning, or that the will to do evil had been taken away from him after his sin; then the same time there would have been taken from us the struggle against the wiles of the devil, and there would be no crown of victory in store for him who rightly struggled.
Origen, in Num. Hom. 14.2 (based on Abouna's source)

Now, that I read this, the quote can be taken with an either-or approach.  It's a very tough pill to swallow, but there's some truth to it.  I'd say, I agree with Abouna that God does turn the evil for the purpose of good.  I'd say from the very beginning, one can see that in Irenaeus' thought, the Incarnation would have occurred whether there be a Fall or no Fall.  But now that there's a Fall, the incarnation does more than theosis, but a cleansing and destruction of evil, which reveals in it a much greater power than ever can be realized.  The "luster" of the Incarnation is greater in that fashion.

Therefore, I think one has to be careful as to not take this quote to mean IN AN ABSOLUTE SENSE that "without Judas' treachery, there would be no salvation" or "without Satan, there would be no crown of victory".  I think this quote properly can be taken in a sense of spirituality.  Many of the monks and ascetics have always seen temptation and suffering as a "bring it on" type of attitude.  Therefore, they feel quite thankful to the Lord by how much strength they acquire by these issues.

Furthermore, due to the evil present in the world, it seemed inevitable Christ was going to deal with treachery, hypocrisy, denial and cursing, and suffering of the worst kind only due to the situation He put Himself in.  It's not a matter of "I'll just find another Judas", but it's a matter of "Judas is always going to find Me".  Therefore, in this situation, without Judas, there would be no crucifixion, that is, there is no avoiding a Judas that will bring about a crucifixion.  In the same manner, it is also true that without death, there's no such thing as Resurrection.  And all of these things, when occurring in such terrible conditions, only to find itself in victory in the end only reveals to us how much more powerful they are.  And the luster of Christ's forgiveness on the Cross is more powerful than a mere forgiveness of those who blaspheme Him or His Father, which He openly says will be forgiven (granted, it's no small sin either).

But of course, if this is taken in a more Calvinistic approach, that man or angel is destined to sin or to do evil, then I'd find no problem disagreeing with Origen.  I don't think Abouna Tadros interprets this in a Calvinistic sense.  The idea is, you'll always be met with hostilities, deaths, injustices, and sufferings and challenges of all kinds.  When these occur, God is not happy, but instead of forcibly preventing them, He put Himself in a situation where He uses them to show forth the luster of virtue, allowing Himself to be unjustly abused and killed.  Instead of taking them away, He turned them into a blessing!  It's a paradox in life that's truly a hard pill to swallow for many.  But St. James teaches, "rejoice when you are given many trials, for it produces patience".  In other words, in Christianity, nothing can "kill you".  All things you suffer from will make you stronger.  Embrace it like the ascetics:  "Bring it on!"  You'll be rewarded with maturity that is stronger than you have imagined!

If Judas realized this, he could have turned the mercy and forgiveness of God into his very own salvation, just as St. Peter did.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 01:12:57 AM by minasoliman »
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.