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Author Topic: The proper place of God’s righteousness in Orthodoxy  (Read 2142 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 07, 2014, 01:07:09 PM »

Greetings to all, Christ is Risen!
I am an inquirer trying to understand the proper place of God’s righteousness in Orthodox thought.  As I have been drawn towards Orthodoxy, I appreciate the perspective of being rescued from Death into Life.  Unfortunately this perspective is often explained in a way that minimizes, often to non-existence, the idea that God is righteous and just in favor of a loving God who could not possibly “send” people to hell for their sins (be it a physical place or a state of mind). 

I have come to see a great paradox in my journey, a beautiful mystery between these two attributes of God: a God who is perfectly Just and at the same time perfectly Love; not in contradiction, but in harmony.  This mystery is personified in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, his passion, and his resurrection.  God remains just in condemnation of sin, but through his perfect love and sacrifice grants us the possibility of life, of theosis.

I understand there seems to be at least one underlying difference causing confusion.  That is a difference of opinion about “necessity” as it applies to God.  To my indoctrinated protestant mind it is necessary for Christ to die for the forgiveness of sins, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  This however seems to be rejected by some modern orthodox writers.  My question is this, if one rejects the idea of necessity, where does the righteousness of God go?  How does one say nothing is necessary of God, but at the same time God is consistently righteous?

Obviously I’m missing an important piece of the puzzle because I doubt that Orthodoxy rejects righteousness as being an attribute of God. 

Thank you,
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2014, 01:10:05 PM »

I do not agree with the modern writers who does not think it was necessary.  Besides that, welcome to the forum!
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TheTrisagion
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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2014, 02:05:28 PM »

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To my indoctrinated protestant mind it is necessary for Christ to die for the forgiveness of sins, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  This however seems to be rejected by some modern orthodox writers.
Could you give any examples of authors who deny the necessity of Christ's blood for the forgiveness of sins?  That seems very strange to me. The Blood and Body of Christ are both considered essential to our salvation and are offered to the faithful at every Divine Liturgy.

Perhaps the confusion comes from the word "necessary".  It is not "necessary" in the way that God is somehow obligated, but it is "necessary" in the respect that without Christ's sacrifice, we cannot be saved.
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« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2014, 03:12:29 PM »

How does one say nothing is necessary of God, but at the same time God is consistently righteous?
Love.
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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2014, 04:40:49 PM »

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Could you give any examples of authors who deny the necessity of Christ's blood for the forgiveness of sins?
This is an article the commended by the local OCA priest.  I got on his email list when I recently contacted him about beginning a journey towards Orthodoxy.
http://glory2godforallthings.com/2014/04/25/the-scope-of-passover-and-penal-substitution-theory/
The matter of necessity is not explicit in the article itself but comes out in the comments below as the author answers a question.  See post from Christ,  April 26, 2014 at 8:59 am, "Great post. Have a question regarding the necessity of blood sacrifice..."
The article seems to brush aside the attribute of God's righteousness and justice.

Quote
Hecma925: Love
Thank you for answering.  Can you please explain further?  If love, where does God's righteousness come into the picture?
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Dan-Romania
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2014, 05:08:29 PM »

Orthodoxy stresses on righteousness as a state of the soul.
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2014, 09:07:44 PM »

Quote
Could you give any examples of authors who deny the necessity of Christ's blood for the forgiveness of sins?
This is an article the commended by the local OCA priest.  I got on his email list when I recently contacted him about beginning a journey towards Orthodoxy.
http://glory2godforallthings.com/2014/04/25/the-scope-of-passover-and-penal-substitution-theory/
The matter of necessity is not explicit in the article itself but comes out in the comments below as the author answers a question.  See post from Christ,  April 26, 2014 at 8:59 am, "Great post. Have a question regarding the necessity of blood sacrifice..."
The article seems to brush aside the attribute of God's righteousness and justice.

Quote
Hecma925: Love
Thank you for answering.  Can you please explain further?  If love, where does God's righteousness come into the picture?
Perhaps it is not a case of brushing aside those attributes as much as it is a re-understanding of them.  God is righteous and just, but it is helpful to remember that analogizing sin as a crime or transgression is merely one way of explaining it.  The Orthodox Church more heavily relies on another analogy, one in which sin is a disease and the blood of Christ is the cure. If a doctor (Christ) offers a cure (His Blood) to a patient (sinner), how the patient (sinner) responds to that (repentance or pride) and the result from the patient's response (life or death) in no way affects the righteousness or justness of the doctor (Christ). The reason that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood is not that killing Jesus somehow calms the wrath of God, but rather Christ is the Bestower of Life and in His Blood is Life. He gives us this remedy freely, but we must participate with Him.
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2014, 12:25:15 AM »

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analogizing sin as a crime or transgression is merely one way of explaining it.
Ah, there's a difference in analogies which have evolved into different ontological realities for the respective parties.  You are calling "sin a crime (aka breaking God's law)" a mere analogy.  My protestant teachers taught this as a reality through giving examples of this in Holy Scripture (from the protestant point of view of course).  In my limited exposure thus far, Orthodoxy also presents sin in ontological language as well, "sin is a disease"  instead of "sin is like a disease".  That explains some of my confusion.

By calling this an analogy, it weakens the definition and creates the opportunity to allow another analogy to fill in the gaps.  Unfortunately anyone can create an analogy, many analogies can co-exist, and all analogies are imperfect, though some are better than others.  For this reason I consciously avoid basing what I believe on the shifting sand of analogies.  But obviously I have been doing so unconsciously.

I understand where the analogy of "sin as a crime" comes from.  Can someone give a basis for the analogy of "sin as a disease"? 

I'm also curious to know: If sin is not disobedience...
1. how should I interpret the commands of God in Scripture? If as a simple command then assuming all commands come with an implied punishment, (just ask any parent what happens when a command is issued and disobedience not punished) we are back in the protestant paradigm again.
2. what do I call humanity's disobedience to those commands?
3. what term is used to describe God's action towards humanity's disobedience (say for example Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16)?

Thank you all who have posted, and I ask for your continued patience.  I am hoping that if I keep asking questions it will make sense one day.  This reminds me of the foggy confusion I had when learning about Greek participles; hopefully this will be just as temporary.
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2014, 01:04:06 AM »

Christos Anesti! and welcome to the forum! Smiley

I certainly would not be the best one to explain this. I've been listening to podcasts on it though, because it has been a major question I've had as well.

The priests I have listened to do explain (and I believe I can say it is the Church's position) that sin is as a sickness to us, needing to be healed.

However ... in a way I cannot explain well, there is the sense that other things are going on as well. Christ destroying death is a very big one, for example, and maybe to a lesser degree Christ redeeming us from death.

Please, I am certainly open to correction, but I think one of the mistakes I made when I first started looking into Orthodoxy (I was a Baptist way back too, btw, but I went through a stint in more conservative Pentecostal churches - not so much the wild ones, though I have seen that too) ... but one of the first mistakes I made was to consider "which theory of atonement is the correct one"? When in truth, I would have to say (and I believe you will find the Orthodox Church saying as well) that more than one can be correct at the same time. Christ's incarnation/death/resurrection is just too big and too effective to be contained in a simple little theory of ours, I would say.

Ancient faith radio has lots of good information. I have my priest's blessing and listened mostly to Orthodoxy Live, Speaking the Truth in Love, Ancient Faith Today and Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. Fr. Thomas Hopko I believe it is has a very detailed series I was preparing to listen to on this topic. I have heard it mentioned but not looked it up. He suggested (because my question was the same) "Jesus the Great High Priest" in "The Names of Jesus" series to answer those questions.

http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/namesofjesus

Anyway, welcome to the forum.

I would say one thing ... if there is something that seems "not right" ... even if it looks really wrong to you, don't shy away. Ask. Find out why the Church does what it does, or says what it does. Not everything is what it seems to "baptist eyes". I so sincerely wish I could get my husband to do this, but I pray one day he will be willing.

In every case so far, I have found when I asked those "hard questions", I was left with a great respect for the answer I got, the wisdom of the Church, and the way that Christ is made center of everything you see, hear, and do there. But it's not always obvious.

Again, welcome. I hope you find the answers you are looking for.

(Oh, and if you got the Greek, then I'm sure you can understand this. The theology is coming easier for me, but my Greek is coming very slowly. I've always wanted to study it for the sake of reading the Bible and not having to ask every little question, but being part of a Greek church, it's pretty much a requirement now.)

All the best to you.
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2014, 04:22:00 AM »

"Father all things are possible for You" said Jesus.  It was possible to save without it but not God's will and hence not perfect and therefore it was necessary for Christ to die for God to obtain His will and desire which is perfect
If you crashed someones car even if you said sorry you would have to pay the debt. Christ came and payed our debts in His grace because the price is too big. Love and Justice are two parallel lines which only meet at the cross. These are not my thoughts but of a guest speaker at my church
I do not know if God would have been satisfied with humanity or the rest of humanity if Christ did not die. "He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied" I am not God to know
If one does not accept the Sacrifice now he makes light of what Christ did and it is up to God to forgive him or not
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2014, 08:33:39 AM »

Quote
analogizing sin as a crime or transgression is merely one way of explaining it.
Ah, there's a difference in analogies which have evolved into different ontological realities for the respective parties.  You are calling "sin a crime (aka breaking God's law)" a mere analogy.  My protestant teachers taught this as a reality through giving examples of this in Holy Scripture (from the protestant point of view of course).  In my limited exposure thus far, Orthodoxy also presents sin in ontological language as well, "sin is a disease"  instead of "sin is like a disease".  That explains some of my confusion.

By calling this an analogy, it weakens the definition and creates the opportunity to allow another analogy to fill in the gaps.  Unfortunately anyone can create an analogy, many analogies can co-exist, and all analogies are imperfect, though some are better than others.  For this reason I consciously avoid basing what I believe on the shifting sand of analogies.  But obviously I have been doing so unconsciously.

I understand where the analogy of "sin as a crime" comes from.  Can someone give a basis for the analogy of "sin as a disease"? 

I'm also curious to know: If sin is not disobedience...
1. how should I interpret the commands of God in Scripture? If as a simple command then assuming all commands come with an implied punishment, (just ask any parent what happens when a command is issued and disobedience not punished) we are back in the protestant paradigm again.
2. what do I call humanity's disobedience to those commands?
3. what term is used to describe God's action towards humanity's disobedience (say for example Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16)?

Thank you all who have posted, and I ask for your continued patience.  I am hoping that if I keep asking questions it will make sense one day.  This reminds me of the foggy confusion I had when learning about Greek participles; hopefully this will be just as temporary.
I'm not going to have much time on here today, but I will just make this comment and hopefully others can flesh out.  We use analogies, metaphors and similies because we cannot truly understand the full affect that sin has on us.  Therefore, we must relate it to things we do understand. There are actually many metaphors used for the affect that sin has on us.  If I have time later and no one else responds, I will do my best to explore that further. I will also say this.  The Orthodox relish paradoxes and calling sin a transgression while at the same time calling it a disease is one of those paradoxes. There is an understanding that all we see and understand is merely a shadow of the true reality, somewhat like Plato's Cave. Another example would be the Eucharist.  We believe that the bread and wine is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.  We don't come up with explanations on how that might be, we just accept it that it is a mystery and a paradox beyond our comprehension.
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2014, 11:31:49 AM »

Hello Anna. T, thank you for the encouragement.  I agree, AFR has lots of good information.  I’ve also enjoyed listening to myocn.net as well.  Fr. Hopko’s Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy podcast was especially helpful many years ago.  It is probably time I revisit them.

Growing up in the poly-dogma world of Protestantism, I’ve learned to guard my convictions carefully and indeed they are few.  The theories of sin and questions of how to view atonement are not among those convictions, important as they are.  This discussion has revealed how deep those “Baptist-eyes” are entrenched, and I hope that as this discussion continues I can learn how to see through the “eyes of orthodoxy.”  A book that has been helpful so far, and I’ve only been able to read parts of it, is entitled “Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes,” by Donald Fairbairn.  He remains Protestant so check with the priests you’ve been talking to before reading it, but it may be helpful to loosen the “Baptist eyes” of your husband.  I am in the same predicament with my wife, but she’s not a big reader.  Several years ago she visited some friends in Malta, and saw what seemed to be people “worshiping” Mary who at the same time had little knowledge of Christ.  As a result, she’s staunchly against iconography and praying to saints.  I’ve resolved to pray and be patient, trusting that as the Lord is leading me to Orthodoxy, he will lead her also.  I will pray for you and your husband too. Lord have mercy on us.

mikeforjesus: Thank you for the Mark 14:36 reference (c.f. Matt 19:26).  I hear a distinction between what “is”, and what “is possible” in your answer.  So another piece of the puzzle is the concept of possibilities versus what happened.  Orthodoxy is saying that God in his omnipotence could have chosen another way for salvation.  This causes me to ask, and forgive me if this seems like a trolling question – I ask sincerely: Is it possible for God to act against his revealed state of being (Reference Reply#5)?

TheTrisagion:  A paradox! Yes I love them too.  Indeed the Orthodox willingness to call things paradoxes has kept me coming back to learn more through the years.  Those who turn analogies into dogmas and then build theology upon them only divide the church.   I have seen too much of this in the protestant world and I pray Orthodoxy may be spared such pride.

I am not opposed to the “sin as a disease” analogy because I do not understand it.  But the “sin as breaking God’s law” affects so many areas of my thought, I cannot discard it yet.  To remove a support beam from a building without first bracing the roof is not very wise.  Answering the questions in Reply#7 will help with this ignorance.  Please continue to have patience and teach me.  Thank you.
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« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2014, 12:31:55 PM »

Quote
I understand where the analogy of "sin as a crime" comes from.  Can someone give a basis for the analogy of "sin as a disease"? 

I'm also curious to know: If sin is not disobedience...
1. how should I interpret the commands of God in Scripture? If as a simple command then assuming all commands come with an implied punishment, (just ask any parent what happens when a command is issued and disobedience not punished) we are back in the protestant paradigm again.
2. what do I call humanity's disobedience to those commands?
3. what term is used to describe God's action towards humanity's disobedience (say for example Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16)?

Psalm 103 (verse 3) references God who forgives sin and heals disease.  Since the passage is not referencing physical maladies, it is safe to read it as a spiritual sickness. I Peter 2:24 speaks of the wounds of Christ healing us. Isaiah 53 has numerous references to Christ taking on our sins by describing them as illness/sickness/injuries. I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones that come to mind.

Sin is disobedience. That is not a dispute within Orthodoxy, but disobedience is a symptom of our fallen nature. The fallen nature must be "treated" by Christ and healing or "theosis" is the goal. When God gave man commands, He did so for our benefit, not for our condemnation.  When God told Adam not to eat of the fruit or he would die, God did not mean He would kill Adam.  He meant that Adam's action would severe the relationship that he had with God, thereby causing his own death. In this respect, we can view it not as a transgression (Adam's sin) followed by judgment (death), but rather as a self-mutilation that Adam inflicted on himself. When God decrees a consequence, it does not necessarily mean that God has become angered with someone and passes judgment, rather he means that the consequence is an individual cutting himself off from Life. If I tell my daughter not to touch a hot stove and she does so, I have not burned her hand, I merely warned her of the effect that touching it would bring.

When Scripture speaks of God's wrath or anger, those are anthropromorphisms.  It was a simplistic way of explaining to a primitive people what is good, what is bad and what the consequences are. God has revealed much more to us since the days that the Torah were written.  We must use the latter revelation to illuminate the earlier revelation.
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« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2014, 12:33:11 PM »

because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

How would you finish the sentence: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness because..." ?

You might say, "...because God is just." But this seems unhelpful, because being just means that one is righteous, and judges and acts rightly, doesn't it?

So how would you finish this sentence: "Without the shedding of blood, it is just that there is no forgiveness, because..." ?
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« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2014, 12:37:02 PM »

When Scripture speaks of God's wrath or anger, those are anthropromorphisms. 
God's Divine Energies are not anthropomorphisms.
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« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2014, 01:52:45 PM »

Ah, there's a difference in analogies which have evolved into different ontological realities for the respective parties.  You are calling "sin a crime (aka breaking God's law)" a mere analogy.  My protestant teachers taught this as a reality through giving examples of this in Holy Scripture (from the protestant point of view of course). In my limited exposure thus far, Orthodoxy also presents sin in ontological language as well, "sin is a disease"  instead of "sin is like a disease".  That explains some of my confusion.

I understand where the analogy of "sin as a crime" comes from.  Can someone give a basis for the analogy of "sin as a disease"?  


Something I just noticed ... I see you mentioned "sin as a crime" being made a mere analogy, and you also are looking for the basis of the analogy of "sin as a disease"?

I certainly understand where you are coming from. However (and anyone feel free to correct me if I am wrong) ... I think what you will find is that the Orthodox Church can consider sin in terms of a crime as an analogy, yes, but the reality they see is that sin is a disease. Not a mere analogy in that case.

Sin is the sickness ... the result is death (which implies we would not have died if there had never been sin?). That is why one of the major ways of looking at Christ's death was in the "breaking" of death.

Every time we meet, our prayer (during this Paschal season) is the song - Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life.

(I'm so happy, I actually had to look up the English to make sure I had it just right, since I actually know the Greek better - I'm easily pleased, lol)

(and everything I say, I want to leave open to correction, but I will do my best and only repeat what I have been taught by reliable Orthodox priests)

The Church teaches that the result of the fall was death (and of course we were separated from God). In Christ dying (as a man He could die), it became that God Himself (in Christ) entered death. Since God cannot die, death was "spoiled" or "broken" ... Death swallowed a man and encountered God. Death was no longer the victor, and so mankind could be redeemed from death.

That's primary, I would say. Considering how Pascha is celebrated, our hymnology at this season, etc. I think that is accurate to say this is of greatest importance in the faith, concerning Christ's work on our behalf.

One thing that sort of led me into Orthodoxy, that I understood by studying for myself before I discovered what the Orthodox Church taught, is I kept seeing connections between "forgiveness" and "healing" in the Scripture. Why did Jesus say "Rise up and walk, your sins are forgiven?" Why are the two so closely intertwined so many places in Scripture?

A (protestant) friend told me to do a study on the word σῴζω - which I did. Primarily it will be translated "save" (regarding salvation) but I also found repeated use of the word in the context of saving from injury, to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health.

Which at the time only served to confuse me a bit more (my friend was promoting healing as the "right" along with salvation), so I kept searching and when I first understood the Orthodox idea of sin being disease, and Christ being the "cure" for that illness, all of that wondering suddenly seemed to make sense.

I can't tell you where the idea came from (I suspect from the Apostolic understanding, since it seems to be woven into Scripture), but I would imagine the early church fathers further explained. I'm sure someone with experience can better answer that question.

Just wanted to share what little I had. Smiley

Thank you very much for your prayers, and I will pray for you and your wife as well. The advice I was given was to live out the faith - I will say that as I kept a prayer rule, learned the theology, involved myself in the life of the church, and attended services as often as possible, I have changed. Not perfectly, certainly, but it has made a difference that was noticeable to my husband, which got him at least interested. And perhaps that is why he has not forbidden me from going, though he does not understand the church and thinks I am sadly misled. But slowly, it is making a difference in our marriage, and I pray, pray, pray for him. It really does seem to make a difference ... at times I was more faithful and fervent in my prayers and at those times, I could tell a difference.

Will be praying for you both.

« Last Edit: May 08, 2014, 01:57:13 PM by Anna.T » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2014, 02:32:26 PM »

Here's another analogy to confuse things further  Wink: think of alcoholism. There is a "disease" component (if you will) to this condition, but it is also disobedience and choice, the cause of much suffering and pain to the individual and his/her loved ones, as well as the larger community. Then there are the consequences to the children of alcoholics, in the form of FAS and psychological and emotional problems.
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« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2014, 03:22:45 PM »

Welcome to the forum μαθητης. May the Lord be with you on your Spiritual Journey!

First, let me say that I am quite ignorant of Protestant/Baptist theology and thus am unable to understand why you are conflating God's righteousness with the penal substitution atonement. Rejecting the latter does not result in negation of the former IMHO.

Second, allow me to recommend couple of books written by Evangelical and Baptist theologians regarding the Early Church and Early Church Fathers. I am doing so because as Orthodox we are enjoined to understand the Holy Scriptures not unilaterally but within Holy Tradition. Orthodox are not eager to go solo, so to speak, because we understand that Sola Scriptura, for example, in practice degenerates to In My Personal Opinion (or its Latin equivalent). So, just like Father Stephen in that blog was saying, the context is very critical and, in addition to context within the Scriptures, there is also a context of being part of the Body of Christ, the Church, with an obligation for all to pass on the tradition that is passed down to us. After all, what is more logical than to pay heed to the Apostolic and Pre-Nicene Fathers, in particular.

My first recommendation is Returning to First Century Theology by L. Hudson Turner (which may be available only in Amazon Kindle edition).

Here is his bio: "L. Hudson Turner was born and reared in Mississippi where he attended a Presbyterian church since his elementary school days. He attended Miss. State University and received a bachelor's degree in Banking and Finance. He then attended Dallas Theological Seminary where he received a ThM in Christian Education and a PhD in New Testament Studies. He joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1981 and was a part of that organization's International School of Theology-Asia in the Philippines for 12 years, teaching mostly New Testament courses and serving as the Academic Dean for his last 7 years there. In 2005 he became a teaching fellow with the International Institute for Christian Studies and taught two years at Kaduna State College of Education in Nigeria and three years in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Minzu University in Beijing."

Here is the Amazon's book description: "The question of the conditional (loss of salvation) or unconditional security of the believer has existed in the church since the first century. The Apostolic Fathers, writings dating from before A.D. 150, demonstrate a strong belief in the conditional security of the believer. Some of these writings came by the hand of men who had been taught by the apostles. Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp were disciples of John according to historical data. It is very likely that these men were passing on the doctrine of conditional security of the believer that they had received from the apostles themselves. The thesis of this book is that the New Testament does teach that true believers can fall, and fail to enter the coming kingdom of God if they do not repent. Most of the book is an examination of the passages that do teach what we call today “loss of salvation.” The verses and reasons that seem to support the opposite view will also be addressed. The main contribution of the book is the section that attempts to correlate salvation by grace and judgment of works. It claims to solve some of the major paradoxes found in the New Testament."

Again, this book is useful in (a) refuting the "once saved, always saved" Baptist belief and (b) demonstrating that the Apostolic Fathers are reliable witnesses to the tradition that has been passed down to us.  The second recommended book, is interesting in that it also comes from Evangelical Protestant theologians and exhibits a startling agreement with the Orthodox Christian approach to understanding the Early Church.

"The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity," by Andreas Köstenberger and Michael Kruger, was written to debunk the currently fashionable denial of early orthodoxy in the Apostolic Church by the German theologian Walter Bauer and the American theologian Bart Ehrman of Chapel Hill.

Dr. Kostenberger is Senior Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is also the founder of Biblical Foundations™. Dr. Kostenberger is the author of numerous books on a variety of biblical and theological topics. He also serves as the editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and as Director of Acquisitions for B&H Academic.

Michael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is professor of New Testament and academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary, and the author of a number of articles and books on early Christianity.

From the book's description by Amazon, "Köstenberger and Kruger's accessible and careful scholarship not only counters the "Bauer Thesis" using its own terms, but also engages overlooked evidence from the New Testament. Their conclusions are drawn from analysis of the evidence of unity in the New Testament, the formation and closing of the canon, and the methodology and integrity of the recording and distribution of religious texts within the early church." Indeed, the authors consider various approaches to understanding Early Christianity but agree only with that of Father John Behr, Dean of the St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary. 

I hope that I have whetted your appetite.
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« Reply #18 on: May 08, 2014, 04:12:42 PM »

Here is a source that discusses the present state of Protestantism and predicts a possible future. I am posting it not to dispute anything already said on this thread but as good information.  http://orthodoxbridge.com/back-to-the-future-for-protestantism/
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« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2014, 11:45:36 AM »

TheTrisagion:  Psa. 103 is a beautiful psalm, and I should have recalled Isa. 53 on my own.  I even recognized 1 Peter 2:24 after I had read it.  Thank you from bringing these to my attention.
Quote
Sin is disobedience. That is not a dispute within Orthodoxy, but disobedience is a symptom of our fallen nature. The fallen nature must be "treated" by Christ and healing or "theosis" is the goal. When God gave man commands, He did so for our benefit, not for our condemnation.  When God told Adam not to eat of the fruit or he would die, God did not mean He would kill Adam.  He meant that Adam's action would severe the relationship that he had with God, thereby causing his own death. In this respect, we can view it not as a transgression (Adam's sin) followed by judgment (death), but rather as a self-mutilation that Adam inflicted on himself. When God decrees a consequence, it does not necessarily mean that God has become angered with someone and passes judgment, rather he means that the consequence is an individual cutting himself off from Life. If I tell my daughter not to touch a hot stove and she does so, I have not burned her hand, I merely warned her of the effect that touching it would bring.

I have no issue with this explanation.  Allow me to note a few things that may be helpful to others.  First I note this does not reject the idea of condemnation for disobedience rather it quickly moves on to the more important matters at hand.  Secondly, I feel the true weakness of the Protestant emphasis on justification is that it leaves people without the goal of theosis, whereas it is central to the explanation above.  The protestant idea of sanctification is too often separated from justification (at a minimum it is spoken of separately) – one of the reasons I am drawn to orthodoxy.  Third, the commands of God are in their proper perspective: to teach what causes death, and what leads to life (Galations 4:1-5, c.f. Deut. 30:15-20).
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When Scripture speaks of God's wrath or anger, those are anthropromorphisms.

I must disagree with this statement along with NicholasMyra.  There seems to be a common idea that wrath and anger are bad things and therefore cannot be attributed to a loving God.  Like all emotions they are a gift from God and are good when used appropriately, but they can also be abused and used inappropriately.  IMHO the wrath of God is good, justified, and yes even loving. 

NicholasMyra: Thank you for joining the conversation. 
Without the shedding of blood, it is just that there is no forgiveness because “the wages of sin is death”.  To reject or redefine to oblivion the idea that “the wages of sin is death” has great repercussions for interpreting scripture.  (I do not believe those who have replied thus far have done this.)  If the consequence seems too harsh for some then I sympathize.  When my children disobey what I have asked of them I certainly do not hold them to this standard.  Jesus conquered death, but that does not change the nature of this universe that death follows sin.  It is a principle that has been consistent from the beginning; no other wages of sin is mentioned.  Only by the mercy and love of God is death not immediate.

Also, I challenge those who say it’s too harsh to take a good look at how powerful sin is.  Adam and Eve is obvious, note also how the sin of King David affected his whole family and for generations to come.  Think about how the little lie we tell in front of our children becomes trans-generational and affects future relationships.  It spreads just like a contagious Disease!  Got to love co-existing analogies...  A judgment I believe is still necessary, when one refuses to acknowledge that sin is sin or that the wages of sin is death.  A medical doctor must still make a judgment, a determination, of the patient’s condition.  Whether the judgment is made in a court room or a doctor’s observation room, the result remains the same.

Both analogies fit and are useful.  I’ve started reading St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Great Catechism.  And in the prologue he makes the wonderful observation that the argument which works for the poly-theistic Greek philosopher will not necessarily work for the Jewish monotheist.  Perhaps this observation applies to this discussion.

Hello Anna. T, thank you for your prayers.  You are correct in your observation of “mere analogy”.  And yes, some (most) of the Orthodox teaching I’ve seen speaks ontologically that sin is a disease.  And while I’m not ready to make such a statement, thanks to TheTrisagon’s post I certainly understand the concept much better and have seen the benefit of this perspective.  I’m not ready to disregard the idea that sin is a crime either, though I am willing to say it is a good analogy.  Glory to God and thanks to all, this is progress!

Welcome to the conversation Carl Kraeff.  Thank you for the resources and the appeal to my enjoyment of academic material.  I have certainly heard of Dr. Turner’s journey, though I have not read the book.  I threw out the idea of “once saved always saved” years ago (but don’t tell the elders of my Southern Baptist church); it just doesn’t match the pattern in scripture.  Likewise the concept of Sola Scriptura I find lacking.  I have observed that one can describe the Protestant methods of Hermeneutics and exegesis as their “Tradition”. 

The book by Dr. Kostenberger and Kruger’s has been on my reading list for a while.  My hobby is transcribing manuscripts for IGNTP (International Greek New Testament Project; IGNTP.org) and I'm fascinated by the interpretative notes in the margins.  I find the protestant ignorance of the history of scripture and its interpretation throughout church history very sad indeed.  Sorry fellow protestant brothers and sisters but the Bible wasn’t rediscovered by Luther.

Quote
conflating God's righteousness with the penal substitution atonement. Rejecting the latter does not result in negation of the former IMHO.
And this is exactly the reason for this thread.  Penal substitution dove-tail’s beautifully with God’s righteousness and the “sin as a crime” concept.  In the protestant mind they are tied together.  To separate the two feels a bit like explaining to a 5 year old how to tie a shoe in reverse, (cross, go over and under, make two loop, cross again and pull.  Here’s the visual picture: llup owt dna niaga ssorc, pool a ekam, rednu dna revo og, ssorc).  Adding to the confusion is the change in terminology or re-understanding of them (see reply#6 above).  The terminology of the righteousness of God is absent from the ransom theory of atonement (at least the ones I’ve seen).  So to the protestant mind, rejecting penal atonement pulls out God’s righteousness and sure enough the language is missing from the ransom theory.  This thread seeks out the missing language of the righteousness of God.

Above, I made the comment that a medical doctor must still make a judgment of the patient’s condition.  This appears to be where the righteousness of God comes into play.  Any thoughts?

Again thanks to all!
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« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2014, 12:28:58 PM »

When I mentioned the descriptions of wrath of God as being anthropromorphic, I did not intend to mean that they are not true or that the energies of God are mere analogies.  Rather, the manner in which some OT writers presented God in their writings is sometimes anthropromorphic, likely for the purpose of enabling the peoples they were writing to in better understanding God through their own eyes.
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« Reply #21 on: May 11, 2014, 12:37:28 AM »

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First, let me say that I am quite ignorant of Protestant/Baptist theology and thus am unable to understand why you are conflating God's righteousness with the penal substitution atonement. Rejecting the latter does not result in negation of the former IMHO.
Another thought on this.  Many of those who consider themselves conservative protestants are also particularly sensitive to this question of God's righteousness.  Too many of our "fellow protestants" have tried to explain away morality and the righteousness of God taught by Holy Scripture.  The more liberally minded have sought to marginalize sin to accommodate this modern society (including rejecting the idea of Hell because God says he is a loving God - not in the meaning of Orthodoxy I've discovered, but in a way that seeks to justify their unrepentant lifestyle).  Please be patient with the protestants who are confused in this issue; we have reason to be wary.
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« Reply #22 on: May 11, 2014, 12:57:01 AM »

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First, let me say that I am quite ignorant of Protestant/Baptist theology and thus am unable to understand why you are conflating God's righteousness with the penal substitution atonement. Rejecting the latter does not result in negation of the former IMHO.
Another thought on this.  Many of those who consider themselves conservative protestants are also particularly sensitive to this question of God's righteousness.  Too many of our "fellow protestants" have tried to explain away morality and the righteousness of God taught by Holy Scripture.  The more liberally minded have sought to marginalize sin to accommodate this modern society (including rejecting the idea of Hell because God says he is a loving God - not in the meaning of Orthodoxy I've discovered, but in a way that seeks to justify their unrepentant lifestyle).  Please be patient with the protestants who are confused in this issue; we have reason to be wary.

This is an indeed an issue to keep in mind regarding many Western Christians approaching Orthodoxy, Protestant or not. For example, a conservative Catholic might hear an Orthodox say "married priests" or something, and immediately think they also want female priests and the whole shebang. Likewise, if someone hears us rejecting fundamentalist approaches to the Bible, they may assume we thereby approach it as liberal Protestants/Bible critics do. Etc.

We don't fit neatly into the standard Western (especially North American) camps, and it shows with these sorts of things.
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« Reply #23 on: May 11, 2014, 12:44:02 PM »

Justice in terms of uprightness is specific to the Old Testament, the old law (or to morality). But Christ brought the law of love which is higher. It doesn't mean that the Old Law is abolished, but that it is transcended. Justice in terms of the Old Law means to be upright or moral, while justice in terms of the New Law means to be in accord with the truth (of love); thus the ultimate "injustice" is to be in opposition to the truth or aberration or darkness.
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« Reply #24 on: May 11, 2014, 05:25:10 PM »

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First, let me say that I am quite ignorant of Protestant/Baptist theology and thus am unable to understand why you are conflating God's righteousness with the penal substitution atonement. Rejecting the latter does not result in negation of the former IMHO.
Another thought on this.  Many of those who consider themselves conservative protestants are also particularly sensitive to this question of God's righteousness.  Too many of our "fellow protestants" have tried to explain away morality and the righteousness of God taught by Holy Scripture.  The more liberally minded have sought to marginalize sin to accommodate this modern society (including rejecting the idea of Hell because God says he is a loving God - not in the meaning of Orthodoxy I've discovered, but in a way that seeks to justify their unrepentant lifestyle).  Please be patient with the protestants who are confused in this issue; we have reason to be wary.

This is an indeed an issue to keep in mind regarding many Western Christians approaching Orthodoxy, Protestant or not. For example, a conservative Catholic might hear an Orthodox say "married priests" or something, and immediately think they also want female priests and the whole shebang. Likewise, if someone hears us rejecting fundamentalist approaches to the Bible, they may assume we thereby approach it as liberal Protestants/Bible critics do. Etc.

We don't fit neatly into the standard Western (especially North American) camps, and it shows with these sorts of things.
This is definitely true.  I had the hardest time when I first started exploring Orthodoxy trying to figure out how it fit in my understanding of the liberal/conservative spectrum of religion.  I discovered that don't fit on that spectrum at all, and probably not on the same plane of conversation.
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« Reply #25 on: May 12, 2014, 12:48:02 AM »

Hello Nephi,
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We don't fit neatly into the standard Western (especially North American) camps, and it shows with these sorts of things.
Which is why I'm grateful for this forum.  Thanks to all who have participated!

Hello IoanC, Thank you for joining the conversation.  However I'm not sure I agree with the distinction between Justice in the Old and New Testaments.  This may be relevant to my confusion so allow me to briefly give my perspective so that my error may be corrected.  On the other hand, I may be saying the same thing in essence but with different words.

First, I believe that God does not change and what he has expected of humanity has remained the same from Adam and Eve to the present day.  This is made explicit in Micah 6:8. "He has shown you O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  This is in the context of the preceding verses asking, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?..." (verse 7) and is consistent with the character of Godly men throughout the OT.  Couple this with St. Paul's perspective on the Law in Galatians 4:1-3 and IHMO, the OT law/morality teaches the very things which God expects: Justice, Loving mercy, walking humbly.  Christ did not bring the law of love as a higher law, rather he cut through all the Pharisee's "red tape" (excess paperwork) and taught plainly what was there all along.  In the purest of mathematical senses LOVE=Justice, mercy, humility and visa versa.  In my opinion it is not specific to one or the other testaments but Love is the Law of the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings (Mat 22:37-40), the Gospels, the Epistles, indeed of the whole cannon of Holy Scripture. 

In this holistic understanding of Love, I completely understand the Orthodox emphasis on God's love.  Unfortunately, this word, "love" is a cheep word in today's culture.  Too often, Love is associated with no rules, cheep grace, and pleasure - i.e. separated from justice.  I had to be sure this was not the case in American Orthodox teaching and became worried with the lack of the protestant righteousness language.  I am grateful that "love" to the Orthodox is not shallow.

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« Reply #26 on: May 12, 2014, 01:30:45 AM »

what you need to remember is that "righteous" or "justice" is not something above God that He is obligated to follow. When it means a strict set of behaviors, it is a tool. To bring people into communion with God. One cannot be "unjust" and love God, because by being unjust they have willfully chosen that which is against God. That is true righteousness, the communion with God that comes from choosing Him.

God IS just in Orthodoxy. When a sinner comes to repentance, they absolutely despise their sins and do everything in their power to atone for them, all the while acknowledging that remission comes from God alone. I remember stories of how St. Mary suffered horribly for 17 years during her monasticism, the same amount of time she lived as a reprobate, or how another monk knew that he would end up getting eaten by lions because he once killed a man. Sin and evil are real things, but so is forgiveness. God does desire punishment, but not for its own sake. God did not create man to punish him. He created man to be glorified by him. And punishment helps us to do so if we accept it with faith.
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« Reply #27 on: May 12, 2014, 04:25:41 AM »

Hello Nephi,
Quote
We don't fit neatly into the standard Western (especially North American) camps, and it shows with these sorts of things.
Which is why I'm grateful for this forum.  Thanks to all who have participated!

Hello IoanC, Thank you for joining the conversation.  However I'm not sure I agree with the distinction between Justice in the Old and New Testaments.  This may be relevant to my confusion so allow me to briefly give my perspective so that my error may be corrected.  On the other hand, I may be saying the same thing in essence but with different words.

First, I believe that God does not change and what he has expected of humanity has remained the same from Adam and Eve to the present day.  This is made explicit in Micah 6:8. "He has shown you O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  This is in the context of the preceding verses asking, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?..." (verse 7) and is consistent with the character of Godly men throughout the OT.  Couple this with St. Paul's perspective on the Law in Galatians 4:1-3 and IHMO, the OT law/morality teaches the very things which God expects: Justice, Loving mercy, walking humbly.  Christ did not bring the law of love as a higher law, rather he cut through all the Pharisee's "red tape" (excess paperwork) and taught plainly what was there all along.  In the purest of mathematical senses LOVE=Justice, mercy, humility and visa versa.  In my opinion it is not specific to one or the other testaments but Love is the Law of the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings (Mat 22:37-40), the Gospels, the Epistles, indeed of the whole cannon of Holy Scripture. 

In this holistic understanding of Love, I completely understand the Orthodox emphasis on God's love.  Unfortunately, this word, "love" is a cheep word in today's culture.  Too often, Love is associated with no rules, cheep grace, and pleasure - i.e. separated from justice.  I had to be sure this was not the case in American Orthodox teaching and became worried with the lack of the protestant righteousness language.  I am grateful that "love" to the Orthodox is not shallow.



I know what you mean by shallow love. However, the holistic understanding of love is closest to the real meaning of love. There are two extremes: 1. to not understand the old law (morality) and fail to be upright. 2. to remain on the level of the old law and to mistake love for law (or for morality) or have a mixed view. Yes, love means law (or justice), but not in the sense that justice is the definition of love. Love is love. And to put it in the opposite way, love is the highest justice; that holistic (or transcendent/mystical let's say) love is actually the highest virtue (it takes the greatest courage and maturity) and is the most beautiful and rewarding. 
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« Reply #28 on: May 12, 2014, 08:16:31 AM »

I feel incline to agree that Love is the highest Righteousness, as it is the highest of virtues. The New Testament defines God as Love.
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« Reply #29 on: May 12, 2014, 12:32:40 PM »

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In this holistic understanding of Love, I completely understand the Orthodox emphasis on God's love.  Unfortunately, this word, "love" is a cheep word in today's culture.  Too often, Love is associated with no rules, cheep grace, and pleasure - i.e. separated from justice.  I had to be sure this was not the case in American Orthodox teaching and became worried with the lack of the protestant righteousness language.  I am grateful that "love" to the Orthodox is not shallow.

I know what you mean by shallow love. However, the holistic understanding of love is closest to the real meaning of love. There are two extremes: 1. to not understand the old law (morality) and fail to be upright. 2. to remain on the level of the old law and to mistake love for law (or for morality) or have a mixed view. Yes, love means law (or justice), but not in the sense that justice is the definition of love. Love is love. And to put it in the opposite way, love is the highest justice; that holistic (or transcendent/mystical let's say) love is actually the highest virtue (it takes the greatest courage and maturity) and is the most beautiful and rewarding. 
Thank you, it sounds like we are on the same page.

Hello William,
Quote
what you need to remember is that "righteous" or "justice" is not something above God that He is obligated to follow.
 
It sounds like this statement correctly reacts to the charge that there is a "justice" apart from God - which God must follow.  I agree no such thing exists.  I'm getting confused when I hear/read this statement when the word "above" is not so explicit: "righteous" or "justice" is not something that God is obligated to follow."  For example, I reference an early post by mikeforJesus (reply #9) that suggests IF it was God’s will, he could have chosen another method of healing – the possibility exists, “all things are possible for You (God).”  This possibility is reconciled to reality through the language, “but it is fitting” or “but it was God’s will”.

To these “Baptist-eyes”, the possibility of another method cannot exist because of who God is:  God is Love, the perfect and full love IoanC described as being the highest justice – therefore the death of sin cannot be simply dismissed or healed by any other means except death. 
My premise is this: It is impossible for God to deny himself.   
(I tried to get the forum’s opinion on this premise in Reply#11 with the question: Is it possible for God to act against his revealed state of being (Reference Reply#5)? – no one answered...)

Here is an important distinction: I reject the idea of a “justice” above/apart from God.  I affirm the idea of a “justice” inherent in the Essence of God that cannot be denied.  It is as you say:
Quote
God IS just
It is a mysterious thing.

Now this is just as important: the use of the word “obligation” is inaccurate (or at least confusing and requires clarification) when describing this premise because of the commonly implied attitude of the one being obligated – acting out of duty apart from one’s desire.  God is not “obligated” because the impossibility for God to deny himself is not apart from his desire/will, but is in perfect harmony with his desire.  This is the paradox/mystery of God being perfect in Love and perfect in Justice.

The re-understanding of this paradox through the language “but it is fitting” or “but it was God’s will”, seems a bit weak and unbalances the paradox IMHO due to the possibilities it allows. 

I apologize for my bold assertions.  Please correct my errors and ignorance.
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« Reply #30 on: May 12, 2014, 01:00:52 PM »

I agree with what you've said.
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« Reply #31 on: May 12, 2014, 02:08:31 PM »

To these “Baptist-eyes”, the possibility of another method cannot exist because of who God is:  God is Love, the perfect and full love IoanC described as being the highest justice – therefore the death of sin cannot be simply dismissed or healed by any other means except death.  
My premise is this: It is impossible for God to deny himself.  

Of course another method can exist. God can do whatever He wants to do. If they are lucky, the greatest, wisest and holiest saints can "understand" only the merest most infinitesimal fraction of the reality of God. We can only make assertions like the above with the caveat: in so far as we understand Him. Which is not much!   Wink
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« Reply #32 on: May 12, 2014, 03:03:58 PM »

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In this holistic understanding of Love, I completely understand the Orthodox emphasis on God's love.  Unfortunately, this word, "love" is a cheep word in today's culture.  Too often, Love is associated with no rules, cheep grace, and pleasure - i.e. separated from justice.  I had to be sure this was not the case in American Orthodox teaching and became worried with the lack of the protestant righteousness language.  I am grateful that "love" to the Orthodox is not shallow.

I know what you mean by shallow love. However, the holistic understanding of love is closest to the real meaning of love. There are two extremes: 1. to not understand the old law (morality) and fail to be upright. 2. to remain on the level of the old law and to mistake love for law (or for morality) or have a mixed view. Yes, love means law (or justice), but not in the sense that justice is the definition of love. Love is love. And to put it in the opposite way, love is the highest justice; that holistic (or transcendent/mystical let's say) love is actually the highest virtue (it takes the greatest courage and maturity) and is the most beautiful and rewarding. 
Thank you, it sounds like we are on the same page.

Hello William,
Quote
what you need to remember is that "righteous" or "justice" is not something above God that He is obligated to follow.
 
It sounds like this statement correctly reacts to the charge that there is a "justice" apart from God - which God must follow.  I agree no such thing exists.  I'm getting confused when I hear/read this statement when the word "above" is not so explicit: "righteous" or "justice" is not something that God is obligated to follow."  For example, I reference an early post by mikeforJesus (reply #9) that suggests IF it was God’s will, he could have chosen another method of healing – the possibility exists, “all things are possible for You (God).”  This possibility is reconciled to reality through the language, “but it is fitting” or “but it was God’s will”.

To these “Baptist-eyes”, the possibility of another method cannot exist because of who God is:  God is Love, the perfect and full love IoanC described as being the highest justice – therefore the death of sin cannot be simply dismissed or healed by any other means except death. 
My premise is this: It is impossible for God to deny himself.   
(I tried to get the forum’s opinion on this premise in Reply#11 with the question: Is it possible for God to act against his revealed state of being (Reference Reply#5)? – no one answered...)

Here is an important distinction: I reject the idea of a “justice” above/apart from God.  I affirm the idea of a “justice” inherent in the Essence of God that cannot be denied.  It is as you say:
Quote
God IS just
It is a mysterious thing.

Now this is just as important: the use of the word “obligation” is inaccurate (or at least confusing and requires clarification) when describing this premise because of the commonly implied attitude of the one being obligated – acting out of duty apart from one’s desire.  God is not “obligated” because the impossibility for God to deny himself is not apart from his desire/will, but is in perfect harmony with his desire.  This is the paradox/mystery of God being perfect in Love and perfect in Justice.

The re-understanding of this paradox through the language “but it is fitting” or “but it was God’s will”, seems a bit weak and unbalances the paradox IMHO due to the possibilities it allows. 

I apologize for my bold assertions.  Please correct my errors and ignorance.


I think in Orthodoxy Righteousness is an uncreated energy of God not his essence.

Is God obligated to be Just? Some would say 'No'. And often looking at the world people say that it is not just, or life is not just. And if I am not mistaken, some Orthodox elders/fathers(?) say there is nothing just in Christ dying for us and forgiving our sins. I heard it said that just would have been for God to deal with all our sins, and imperfection accordingly, not forgive them.

The questions according to me is, is there a distinction between Divine Justice and our justice and Divine Love and our love? And is there a distinction/separation between God's energies and his essence? What is the nature of that distinction and how do we perceive divine energies? Is our experience of divine energies full? When the Scripture says 'God is Love' does that speak of his energy or his essence? Is there a distinction between God's Love and love as we know it? Does God love differently, is his righteousness different than ours,etc?

There are different ways of looking at the Atonement of Christ and the Penal is the most cruel and tragic one.
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« Reply #33 on: May 13, 2014, 05:36:59 PM »

Hello Katherineofdixie, Thank you for reminding of the depths of the mystery of God.  That is a wise caveat. 

In so far as I understand God (which is not very much), I cannot fathom how God could deny his own revelation about himself – but I’m willing to learn.

Quote
I think in Orthodoxy Righteousness is an uncreated energy of God not his essence.
Hello Dan-Romania that is an interesting point.  My exposure to the distinction of essence and energies (and uncreated energies) is lacking.  I only know of them and that they play a key role in many Orthodox theologies.  Can anyone expound on this as it relates to God's righteousness? 

Quote
Is God obligated to be Just? Some would say 'No'. And often looking at the world people say that it is not just, or life is not just. And if I am not mistaken, some Orthodox elders/fathers(?) say there is nothing just in Christ dying for us and forgiving our sins. I heard it said that just would have been for God to deal with all our sins, and imperfection accordingly, not forgive them.
First we must not equate, “just” with human sense of “fairness”.  Even if a murder is put to death for his crime, the victim and their family will never experience fairness, but they will see justice done.
Secondly, I agree, Christ dying for our salvation is not fair justice. Our death would be just because we have turned against God.  Christ rescuing us has everything to do with love. 

Let us consider love for a moment.  Does love have anything to do with fairness?  My wife cooks, cleans, homeschools my children, works every bit as hard as I do, plus she puts up with me!  Yet she does not receive a paycheck.  Is that fair? (Yes I’ve offered to switch with her, but she won’t do it Grin)  On the other hand, she sacrifices her time and energy so I may enjoy a loving home where I may live and raise my children.  Think of any display of True Love, (not the shallow stuff).  Did that act of love have anything to do with fairness? 

Justice is that sin equals death; Love is that Christ conquered death so that we may live.  As I am learning not to cut God’s righteousness out of the healing analogy, please do not remove God’s love from the penal analogy.  In so far as I understand (which is not very much), one should not unbalance God’s justice and love. 

Quote
The questions according to me is, is there a distinction between Divine Justice and our justice and Divine Love and our love?... Is there a distinction between God's Love and love as we know it? Does God love differently, is his righteousness different than ours,etc?
Divine Justice and Love is perfect, ours is imperfect.  And if one can accept the premise above: Divine Justice and Love does not change, ours changes too many times to count.

Quote
There are different ways of looking at the Atonement of Christ
Yes I agree.  To reject any of them without seeing it through the proper eyes leaves one’s opinion of Atonement incomplete.

Quote
the Penal is the most cruel and tragic one
  Perhaps, but to the extent that it is cruel and tragic the Love of God is also manifested.  If you say it is the cruelest then I also suggest it displays the greatest depth of God’s love.   

My meager defense of the penal analogy is not important however, though I hope it will reveal an ignorance that may be corrected on another thread. 
Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
Secondly, Can someone speak to Dan-Romania’s statement and questions?
Quote
I think in Orthodoxy Righteousness is an uncreated energy of God not his essence... And is there a distinction/separation between God's energies and his essence? What is the nature of that distinction and how do we perceive divine energies? Is our experience of divine energies full? When the Scripture says 'God is Love' does that speak of his energy or his essence?

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed!  Please continue to teach me.
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« Reply #34 on: May 13, 2014, 07:05:54 PM »

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Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the question, but the statement itself seems to be somewhat intelligible. For someone to "deny" themselves, there is first a desire, followed by a resolute action to refuse the desire.  In other words, denial of a desire requires a time continuum, which God does not operate under.  Am I perhaps not understanding the question you are exploring?
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« Reply #35 on: May 14, 2014, 04:19:50 AM »

When Scripture speaks of God's wrath or anger, those are anthropromorphisms.  
God's Divine Energies are not anthropomorphisms.

We only know of anger, love, and all human feelings in human ways. Are you saying that God himself (the divine nature) hates, loves, angers in human ways? Didn't the fathers call these anthropomorphisms and said that the divine qualities that they are distinct of the human ones?
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« Reply #36 on: May 14, 2014, 04:23:39 AM »

God denying Himself?

The Incarnation?

Phil. "he emptied himself"
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« Reply #37 on: May 14, 2014, 04:26:07 AM »

Hello Katherineofdixie, Thank you for reminding of the depths of the mystery of God.  That is a wise caveat. 

In so far as I understand God (which is not very much), I cannot fathom how God could deny his own revelation about himself – but I’m willing to learn.

Quote
I think in Orthodoxy Righteousness is an uncreated energy of God not his essence.
Hello Dan-Romania that is an interesting point.  My exposure to the distinction of essence and energies (and uncreated energies) is lacking.  I only know of them and that they play a key role in many Orthodox theologies.  Can anyone expound on this as it relates to God's righteousness? 

Quote
Is God obligated to be Just? Some would say 'No'. And often looking at the world people say that it is not just, or life is not just. And if I am not mistaken, some Orthodox elders/fathers(?) say there is nothing just in Christ dying for us and forgiving our sins. I heard it said that just would have been for God to deal with all our sins, and imperfection accordingly, not forgive them.
First we must not equate, “just” with human sense of “fairness”.  Even if a murder is put to death for his crime, the victim and their family will never experience fairness, but they will see justice done.
Secondly, I agree, Christ dying for our salvation is not fair justice. Our death would be just because we have turned against God.  Christ rescuing us has everything to do with love. 

Let us consider love for a moment.  Does love have anything to do with fairness?  My wife cooks, cleans, homeschools my children, works every bit as hard as I do, plus she puts up with me!  Yet she does not receive a paycheck.  Is that fair? (Yes I’ve offered to switch with her, but she won’t do it Grin)  On the other hand, she sacrifices her time and energy so I may enjoy a loving home where I may live and raise my children.  Think of any display of True Love, (not the shallow stuff).  Did that act of love have anything to do with fairness? 

Justice is that sin equals death; Love is that Christ conquered death so that we may live.  As I am learning not to cut God’s righteousness out of the healing analogy, please do not remove God’s love from the penal analogy.  In so far as I understand (which is not very much), one should not unbalance God’s justice and love. 

Quote
The questions according to me is, is there a distinction between Divine Justice and our justice and Divine Love and our love?... Is there a distinction between God's Love and love as we know it? Does God love differently, is his righteousness different than ours,etc?
Divine Justice and Love is perfect, ours is imperfect.  And if one can accept the premise above: Divine Justice and Love does not change, ours changes too many times to count.

Quote
There are different ways of looking at the Atonement of Christ
Yes I agree.  To reject any of them without seeing it through the proper eyes leaves one’s opinion of Atonement incomplete.

Quote
the Penal is the most cruel and tragic one
  Perhaps, but to the extent that it is cruel and tragic the Love of God is also manifested.  If you say it is the cruelest then I also suggest it displays the greatest depth of God’s love.   

My meager defense of the penal analogy is not important however, though I hope it will reveal an ignorance that may be corrected on another thread. 
Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
Secondly, Can someone speak to Dan-Romania’s statement and questions?
Quote
I think in Orthodoxy Righteousness is an uncreated energy of God not his essence... And is there a distinction/separation between God's energies and his essence? What is the nature of that distinction and how do we perceive divine energies? Is our experience of divine energies full? When the Scripture says 'God is Love' does that speak of his energy or his essence?

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed!  Please continue to teach me.

Why does Justice(retribution) matter so much to you? When was the last time justice comforted you?
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« Reply #38 on: May 14, 2014, 12:56:06 PM »

Quote
μαθητης:Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
TheTrisagion: Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the question, but the statement itself seems to be somewhat intelligible. For someone to "deny" themselves, there is first a desire, followed by a resolute action to refuse the desire.  In other words, denial of a desire requires a time continuum, which God does not operate under.  Am I perhaps not understanding the question you are exploring? Dan-Romania: God denying Himself? ... The Incarnation? ... Phil. "he emptied himself"
It seems “deny” is a poorly selected word. Please allow me to ask it this way,

If God says he is just, can he be unjust?  (not by human standards, but by his own revealed standards)
God has plainly declared, ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Can he then say, ‘the wages of sin is not death’? If you say, “he has declared it through our Lord Jesus,” I agree, but Jesus had to suffer and die for this to be said.  The wages of sin still equals death.

I am struggling with the teaching that it was possible there was another way of salvation besides the death of Jesus because of who God has declared himself to be.  (I use past tense “was” intentionally because I do not believe Orthodoxy teaches salvation through any means but Jesus.)  I can agree Jesus’ death and resurrection is fitting, but in my ignorance I do not yet understand how there can be another possibility given what God has revealed about himself and about sin.  Do I just call it a mystery and ignore the possible implications?

Quote
denial of a desire requires a time continuum, which God does not operate under.
God may not be restricted by time, but he does operate in it.  The issue of time is a tricky one, another thread perhaps...

Quote
Why does Justice(retribution) matter so much to you? When was the last time justice comforted you?
Two good questions; I’ll try to be brief.  More than a decade ago I found myself faced with living life outside the umbrella of my parents.  I had been taught doctrine and to believe in God.  Thanks be to God I experienced my parents living what they believed growing up, but now it had become my turn to decide how to live.  There were two social pitfalls around me I sought to avoid, a compartmentalized life (religion only on Sunday, “real life” every other day) and the world’s version of love (see mention to shallow love in previous posts).  I searched the scriptures and found what I had been looking for summarized in two passages, Mat 22:37-40 and Micah 6:8.  In Micah 6:8, God chastises the people of Judah for their shallow religion, going through the religious motions while they lived however they wanted.  I soon realized the wisdom of justice and love and humility as the building blocks of Life.  The paradox of God’s justice and love became apparent.  I saw some who emphasized justice but forgot to love; they became proud in their righteousness, cold and unforgiving blind to their own unrighteousness.  I saw others who emphasized love but forgot about justice; forgiveness was free and no discipline enforced.  They became proud in their forgiven state and since it was free, love became cheap; sin and death abounded. 

I’ve learned that the way of life is a filled with both Justice and Love.  In love is justice, and in justice is love.  I have emphasized Justice in this thread, because in my exploration of Orthodoxy, I’ve came across statements and theories (such as the one mentioned previously in this thread) which did not have the language I expected.  If the situation was reversed and I saw justice emphasized without mention of love, this thread would be about the love of God instead of his righteousness.

I see you have equated Justice and retribution.  This is an incomplete equation.  Do not forget there are two sides to Justice: punishment for disobedience and also freedom(life) for obedience.   In justice I find Life and guidance for how to live it; this is how I take comfort in justice.  Let me quickly add, I believe life is not about justice alone but must be harmonized with Love and humility. 
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« Reply #39 on: May 14, 2014, 01:04:34 PM »

Quote
μαθητης:Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
TheTrisagion: Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the question, but the statement itself seems to be somewhat intelligible. For someone to "deny" themselves, there is first a desire, followed by a resolute action to refuse the desire.  In other words, denial of a desire requires a time continuum, which God does not operate under.  Am I perhaps not understanding the question you are exploring? Dan-Romania: God denying Himself? ... The Incarnation? ... Phil. "he emptied himself"
It seems “deny” is a poorly selected word. Please allow me to ask it this way,

If God says he is just, can he be unjust?  (not by human standards, but by his own revealed standards)
God has plainly declared, ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Can he then say, ‘the wages of sin is not death’? If you say, “he has declared it through our Lord Jesus,” I agree, but Jesus had to suffer and die for this to be said.  The wages of sin still equals death.

I am struggling with the teaching that it was possible there was another way of salvation besides the death of Jesus because of who God has declared himself to be.  (I use past tense “was” intentionally because I do not believe Orthodoxy teaches salvation through any means but Jesus.)  I can agree Jesus’ death and resurrection is fitting, but in my ignorance I do not yet understand how there can be another possibility given what God has revealed about himself and about sin.  Do I just call it a mystery and ignore the possible implications?

No, if God declares Himself to be something He is that something. He cannot be opposed to His own nature. The wages of sin is death and there is no other way of salvation other than the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is not in the manner of "you sin, God pays you what you deserve". It is more like "you sin, the natural consequence is death".  If you stick your finger on the hot stove as a child, your parent did not come and burn you as a consequence, rather it was a natural consequence. Sin is death because it separates us from God. It is through the combined work of Christ and our repentance that that wound is healed and we are restored again and made alive.  The exact mechanism of that restoration is a mystery and it perhaps is unique for each individual, perhaps similar to how a child does not know how a burn heals, but he sees a scab form and eventually the skin is restored.
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« Reply #40 on: May 14, 2014, 02:34:23 PM »

Quote
μαθητης:Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
TheTrisagion: Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the question, but the statement itself seems to be somewhat intelligible. For someone to "deny" themselves, there is first a desire, followed by a resolute action to refuse the desire.  In other words, denial of a desire requires a time continuum, which God does not operate under.  Am I perhaps not understanding the question you are exploring? Dan-Romania: God denying Himself? ... The Incarnation? ... Phil. "he emptied himself"
It seems “deny” is a poorly selected word. Please allow me to ask it this way,

If God says he is just, can he be unjust?  (not by human standards, but by his own revealed standards)
God has plainly declared, ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Can he then say, ‘the wages of sin is not death’? If you say, “he has declared it through our Lord Jesus,” I agree, but Jesus had to suffer and die for this to be said.  The wages of sin still equals death.

I am struggling with the teaching that it was possible there was another way of salvation besides the death of Jesus because of who God has declared himself to be.  (I use past tense “was” intentionally because I do not believe Orthodoxy teaches salvation through any means but Jesus.)  I can agree Jesus’ death and resurrection is fitting, but in my ignorance I do not yet understand how there can be another possibility given what God has revealed about himself and about sin.  Do I just call it a mystery and ignore the possible implications?

No, if God declares Himself to be something He is that something. He cannot be opposed to His own nature. The wages of sin is death and there is no other way of salvation other than the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is not in the manner of "you sin, God pays you what you deserve". It is more like "you sin, the natural consequence is death".  If you stick your finger on the hot stove as a child, your parent did not come and burn you as a consequence, rather it was a natural consequence. Sin is death because it separates us from God. It is through the combined work of Christ and our repentance that that wound is healed and we are restored again and made alive.  The exact mechanism of that restoration is a mystery and it perhaps is unique for each individual, perhaps similar to how a child does not know how a burn heals, but he sees a scab form and eventually the skin is restored.

+1

I think that this is the problem, perhaps. To my ears at least, the OP's understanding/interpretation of God's justice sounds a little legalistic or juridical. In the sense of, "you went over the speed limit, now you have to pay a fine." Death is not so much a punishment inflicted by God for our offenses as it is a natural consequence of sin and a broken world. Jesus did not so much "pay our fine" as he did rescue us and restore us to relationship with God. (although I think that one can make somewhat of a case for the penal substitution theory, it has always sounded cruel and capricious to me. I think a better answer is that we don't know the "exact mechanism.")
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« Reply #41 on: May 14, 2014, 05:07:47 PM »

Quote
μαθητης:Is anyone willing to correct my premise: In so far as I can understand it is impossible for God to deny himself?
TheTrisagion: Perhaps I am just misunderstanding the question, but the statement itself seems to be somewhat intelligible. For someone to "deny" themselves, there is first a desire, followed by a resolute action to refuse the desire.  In other words, denial of a desire requires a time continuum, which God does not operate under.  Am I perhaps not understanding the question you are exploring? Dan-Romania: God denying Himself? ... The Incarnation? ... Phil. "he emptied himself"


Quote
Why does Justice(retribution) matter so much to you? When was the last time justice comforted you?
Two good questions; I’ll try to be brief.  More than a decade ago I found myself faced with living life outside the umbrella of my parents.  I had been taught doctrine and to believe in God.  Thanks be to God I experienced my parents living what they believed growing up, but now it had become my turn to decide how to live.  There were two social pitfalls around me I sought to avoid, a compartmentalized life (religion only on Sunday, “real life” every other day) and the world’s version of love (see mention to shallow love in previous posts).  I searched the scriptures and found what I had been looking for summarized in two passages, Mat 22:37-40 and Micah 6:8.  In Micah 6:8, God chastises the people of Judah for their shallow religion, going through the religious motions while they lived however they wanted.  I soon realized the wisdom of justice and love and humility as the building blocks of Life.  The paradox of God’s justice and love became apparent.  I saw some who emphasized justice but forgot to love; they became proud in their righteousness, cold and unforgiving blind to their own unrighteousness.  I saw others who emphasized love but forgot about justice; forgiveness was free and no discipline enforced.  They became proud in their forgiven state and since it was free, love became cheap; sin and death abounded. 

I’ve learned that the way of life is a filled with both Justice and Love.  In love is justice, and in justice is love.  I have emphasized Justice in this thread, because in my exploration of Orthodoxy, I’ve came across statements and theories (such as the one mentioned previously in this thread) which did not have the language I expected.  If the situation was reversed and I saw justice emphasized without mention of love, this thread would be about the love of God instead of his righteousness.

I see you have equated Justice and retribution.  This is an incomplete equation.  Do not forget there are two sides to Justice: punishment for disobedience and also freedom(life) for obedience.   In justice I find Life and guidance for how to live it; this is how I take comfort in justice.  Let me quickly add, I believe life is not about justice alone but must be harmonized with Love and humility. 


It seems to me you confuse justice with discipline. What is just for one's mind is not just for another's. Justice does not comfort people. Look at the example of this year where a man was sentenced to death for killing a woman's son but in the last moment the mother forgave him and asked for him to be brought down from hanging. That guy dying would not have brought that woman's son's back, though I pray that I would never get in her place. Revenge (retribution) does not comfort. What would have been the correct retaliation for that woman? Also how is justice comforting? And can you give examples of justice(correct retribution) in positive ways where justice is rewarding? How about in negative ones? What makes justice 'just'?

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« Reply #42 on: May 14, 2014, 05:18:21 PM »

Quote
It seems “deny” is a poorly selected word. Please allow me to ask it this way,

If God says he is just, can he be unjust?  (not by human standards, but by his own revealed standards)
God has plainly declared, ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Can he then say, ‘the wages of sin is not death’? If you say, “he has declared it through our Lord Jesus,” I agree, but Jesus had to suffer and die for this to be said.  The wages of sin still equals death.

I am struggling with the teaching that it was possible there was another way of salvation besides the death of Jesus because of who God has declared himself to be.  (I use past tense “was” intentionally because I do not believe Orthodoxy teaches salvation through any means but Jesus.)  I can agree Jesus’ death and resurrection is fitting, but in my ignorance I do not yet understand how there can be another possibility given what God has revealed about himself and about sin.  Do I just call it a mystery and ignore the possible implications?

You're limiting God. Of course God can do what He wants. Of course there were a lot of other options, it is just that God chose this one, it doesn't mean it is the best or that the other possible options were less perfect or etc. It just means what it is, that this is what it was done. You will get nuts trying to find motifs for everything Smiley. God has never chose a definition upon himself that is limiting to himself or limited himself to a certain concept. The OT is the proof of primitive understanding of God, that uses a lot of anthropomorphism. God gets angry, God is just, God is love, etc.. Some say all this are anthropomorphism and not necessarily true or fitting, but human ways in trying to describe the indescribable. Orthodoxy uses apophatic language when speaking of God, that is it it can say what God is not , but not what God is. God is indescribable, mysterious, in comprehensive, etc.
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« Reply #43 on: May 14, 2014, 05:42:13 PM »

Quote
μαθητης: It seems “deny” is a poorly selected word. Please allow me to ask it this way,
If God says he is just, can he be unjust?  (not by human standards, but by his own revealed standards)
God has plainly declared, ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Can he then say, ‘the wages of sin is not death’? If you say, “he has declared it through our Lord Jesus,” I agree, but Jesus had to suffer and die for this to be said.  The wages of sin still equals death.
I am struggling with the teaching that it was possible there was another way of salvation besides the death of Jesus because of who God has declared himself to be.  (I use past tense “was” intentionally because I do not believe Orthodoxy teaches salvation through any means but Jesus.)  I can agree Jesus’ death and resurrection is fitting, but in my ignorance I do not yet understand how there can be another possibility given what God has revealed about himself and about sin.  Do I just call it a mystery and ignore the possible implications?
TheTrisagion: No, if God declares Himself to be something He is that something. He cannot be opposed to His own nature. The wages of sin is death and there is no other way of salvation other than the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is not in the manner of "you sin, God pays you what you deserve". It is more like "you sin, the natural consequence is death".  If you stick your finger on the hot stove as a child, your parent did not come and burn you as a consequence, rather it was a natural consequence. Sin is death because it separates us from God. It is through the combined work of Christ and our repentance that that wound is healed and we are restored again and made alive.  The exact mechanism of that restoration is a mystery and it perhaps is unique for each individual, perhaps similar to how a child does not know how a burn heals, but he sees a scab form and eventually the skin is restored.
I hope the rest of the church shares your understanding on this matter.  And yes, I willingly accept the view point that the natural consequence of sin is death. Thank you. 

Thank you.  I understand death is a natural consequence of sin and I can follow the healing analogy.  I guess it will just take time for the idea that "whoever sins deserves death" to fade.  It is certainly not the only analogy, but it is still accurate in my opinion.

Quote
Dan-Romania You're limiting God. Of course God can do what He wants. Of course there were a lot of other options, it is just that God chose this one, it doesn't mean it is the best or that the other possible options were less perfect or etc. It just means what it is, that this is what it was done.
I’m interested to know how this statement is reconciled to TheTrisagion’s above. 

Dan-Romania, your correct that revenge does not comfort.  But justice is more than revenge/retribution.  It is also freedom and peace to those who obey.  I can live comforted by the fact that the police are enforcing justice and that I live in a just society (well better than most parts of the world anyway).

Thank you everyone for your patience
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Dan-Romania
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« Reply #44 on: May 14, 2014, 05:54:07 PM »

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μαθητης: It seems “deny” is a poorly selected word. Please allow me to ask it this way,
If God says he is just, can he be unjust?  (not by human standards, but by his own revealed standards)
God has plainly declared, ‘the wages of sin is death’.  Can he then say, ‘the wages of sin is not death’? If you say, “he has declared it through our Lord Jesus,” I agree, but Jesus had to suffer and die for this to be said.  The wages of sin still equals death.
I am struggling with the teaching that it was possible there was another way of salvation besides the death of Jesus because of who God has declared himself to be.  (I use past tense “was” intentionally because I do not believe Orthodoxy teaches salvation through any means but Jesus.)  I can agree Jesus’ death and resurrection is fitting, but in my ignorance I do not yet understand how there can be another possibility given what God has revealed about himself and about sin.  Do I just call it a mystery and ignore the possible implications?
TheTrisagion: No, if God declares Himself to be something He is that something. He cannot be opposed to His own nature. The wages of sin is death and there is no other way of salvation other than the death and resurrection of Christ. But it is not in the manner of "you sin, God pays you what you deserve". It is more like "you sin, the natural consequence is death".  If you stick your finger on the hot stove as a child, your parent did not come and burn you as a consequence, rather it was a natural consequence. Sin is death because it separates us from God. It is through the combined work of Christ and our repentance that that wound is healed and we are restored again and made alive.  The exact mechanism of that restoration is a mystery and it perhaps is unique for each individual, perhaps similar to how a child does not know how a burn heals, but he sees a scab form and eventually the skin is restored.
I hope the rest of the church shares your understanding on this matter.  And yes, I willingly accept the view point that the natural consequence of sin is death. Thank you.  

Thank you.  I understand death is a natural consequence of sin and I can follow the healing analogy.  I guess it will just take time for the idea that "whoever sins deserves death" to fade.  It is certainly not the only analogy, but it is still accurate in my opinion.

Quote
Dan-Romania You're limiting God. Of course God can do what He wants. Of course there were a lot of other options, it is just that God chose this one, it doesn't mean it is the best or that the other possible options were less perfect or etc. It just means what it is, that this is what it was done.
I’m interested to know how this statement is reconciled to TheTrisagion’s above.  

Dan-Romania, your correct that revenge does not comfort.  But justice is more than revenge/retribution.  It is also freedom and peace to those who obey.  I can live comforted by the fact that the police are enforcing justice and that I live in a just society (well better than most parts of the world anyway).

Thank you everyone for your patience


You'll have to be more explicit with that one.

On short notice even [a certain] revenge can make one feel good. But on the long term, in the big picture... inside..

I disagree with TheTrisagion at least on that one.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 05:58:29 PM by Dan-Romania » Logged

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Tags: Rightousness of God  Justice of God Penal Substitution Ransom thoery Obligation of God 
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