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Author Topic: Orthodoxy and the Atonement  (Read 7891 times) Average Rating: 0
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StGeorge
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« on: July 13, 2006, 12:58:09 PM »

Hello.  I'm studying Catholic theology at a Catholic university.  I've just started recently, so I'm not even close to being an expert yet.  One thing I've noticed so far, however, is that in the Western theological tradition, at least for the past thousand years or so, there has been an increased focus on the importance of the atonement.  Recently, I've read a book which describes Christ as taking upon himself the punishment of death and suffering due to sin.  In other words, Christ represents man and suffers these which were man's due.  Accordingly, Christ is a pure and perfect sin offering to God the Father.  Through this offering in love, the just wrath of God is appeased.  Recently in one of my classes we've been reading books by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.  He claims that Christ not only took upon himself the punishment due to sin but actually took upon himself sin itself, although remaining sinless.  The vicarious atonement is very much stressed by Balthasar: Christ becomes a substitute for us and lovingly chooses to be the lightning rod of God's just wrath at sin.     

So, I began reading the history of atonement, and I discovered that it is seen as replacing an older idea called the Ransom Theory, which according to Catholic theology is insufficient.  I understand that the Ransom Theory was held by many of the early Church Fathers. 

I am a bit confused though.  Do the Orthodox still firmly hold to the Ransom Theory?  Also, what place is there in Orthodox theology for an atonement?  What are the Orthodox views on the meaning of Christ's sacrafice?   

Thanks for your help!  Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2006, 02:42:35 PM »

One of my frustrations with Orthodox theology since I became Orthodox has been a seeming "allergy" to any consideration of the validity of a satisfaction or substitution understanding of the atonement. In fact I don't really think even the word "atonement" is functional in Orthodox theology.

It is difficult, coming from the Western Church's protestant branch to NOT see this understanding plastered all over the pages of St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, especailly the first 6 chapters (see for example 3:21-26). Also Hebrews 4 and 5. Not to mention the whole Old Tesatment sacrificial system being a typological expression fore-shadowing the sacrifice of Christ.

Equally clear in the NT is the ransoming of the people of God from sin and death; conquering death, the harrowing of hell; defeating Satan and the example of the sacrificail gift of love in self-offering.

One can acknowledge one aspect without disregarding the others. Christ's incarnation and death are a mystery that is multi-faceted and having a number of means of viewing and understanding can only deepen and enhance our appreciaiton of the mystery.

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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2006, 02:47:26 PM »

It is difficult, coming from the Western Church's protestant branch to NOT see this understanding plastered all over the pages of St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, especailly the first 6 chapters (see for example 3:21-26). Also Hebrews 4 and 5. Not to mention the whole Old Tesatment sacrificial system being a typological expression fore-shadowing the sacrifice of Christ.
I'm wondering if Fr. Paul Tarazi's book on Romans would explain Paul's epistles in a completely different (i.e. Orthodox) way than typical protestant interpretations.
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MicahJohn
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2006, 02:50:36 PM »

Yes, I also have been interested in this issue.  I was enthralled at first about the shift from the idea of an angry God who because of His justice is forced to beat on us, but basically beats on Himself instead by taking it out on Christ.  But I think you are right too about the passages in Paul's epistles (not having read them terribly recently).  And then there's the whole suffering bit; the Catholics and Protestants meditate on Christ's suffering, but about all I hear from Orthodoxy is that we don't do that because that's where the West went wrong in adopting the whole atonement theory.

Frankly I find the Orthodox point of view to be refreshing, but I don't think it's as clear cut as some make it.  Do we not owe a debt of sin to God?  Didn't Christ pay that price for us?  I'm not sure what to think.
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2006, 12:28:26 AM »

I haven't read Fr. Tarazi but I have read Fr. Romanides.
I am still not convinced. SOME price was paid that day on Calvary's hill; SOME exchange took place; the paschal lamb was a sacrificial lamb.

Also, it is not an angry God needing to be appeased. It is God's holiness being reconciled in a satisfactory mannner.  St. Paul's argument in Romans is that "God can be just and the justifier of those who have faith." WHO would accuse God of NOT being just? The accuser, satan himself of course. So God the Son took on our sins (God made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God (it's in Galatians, I can't locate the verse). In Rom. 3 Paul talks about how God passed over the former sins of the Old Testament righteous (vs. 25); Christ was an expiation by his blood (vs. 25), "it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus." Later Paul asks, "who shall bring any charge against God's elect?"

There can be none. God has shut EVERY mouth, including that of the accuser (of God and man).

God didn't NEED to shut Satan up or defend Himself from accusation. But for our sake he did so and bore our sin through the divine Son so that we could genuinely be declared righteous. Because of Christ's sacrifice, satan dare not bring a charge against "him who has faith in Jesus."

Just as "one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to aquittal and life for all men" (Romans 5:18).   

Thus I don't buy Romanides' opinion that the substitutionary atonement makes God have to act out of necessity rather than freely out of love. He did it freely out of love for our sake and to shut up the accuser.
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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2006, 12:31:21 AM »

Through Christ's sacrificial and substitutionary death God ensures that the divine perogative of forgiveness remains above reproach - from men and angel (fallen or otherwise).
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2006, 08:27:59 PM »

I am still not convinced. SOME price was paid that day on Calvary's hill; SOME exchange took place; the paschal lamb was a sacrificial lamb.

I'm not that well up on the western atonement understanding and as far as I know the Orthodox don't reject the idea of a sin offering, but do reject the idea that an angry God required a perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins - this is counter to the Orthodox understanding of God as merciful, requiring no sacrifice (Isaiah), and so on, but the paschal lamb wasn't, and still isn't, a sin offering. If the primary reason was Christ as a sin offering it would have made more sense to have coincided this event with Yom Kippur. Orthodox teaching is that Christ conquered death by death on those in the tombs bestowing life, not that He died for our sins, and, in that Christ God became man, inextricably bound into creation in humankind, a unique event of creator and created meeting - if, a passing thought, Christ died for our sins and if the wages of sin is death, then why do we still die? Was His sacrifice perfect enough to placate a wrathful God but not perfect enough to make us perfect?

Anyway, back to Passover. The sacrificial lamb was killed to use its blood to protect those inside from death which came for all the first born and because this came only to the Egyptians the pharoah set the Israelites free from their slavery. How one then thinks of this in relation to Christ is somewhat flexible it seems to me, but that it was a sacrifice required by God doesn't gel. And although you say below that it's not an angry god needing to be appeased, that is the way it's been taught in the main Christian Churches in the West which teaches a juridical relationship to God through Augustine's doctrine of Original Sin. Which Orthodox don't and, as your example below shows, doesn't have to be read into Paul.


Myrrh

Quote
Also, it is not an angry God needing to be appeased. It is God's holiness being reconciled in a satisfactory mannner.ÂÂ  St. Paul's argument in Romans is that "God can be just and the justifier of those who have faith." WHO would accuse God of NOT being just? The accuser, satan himself of course. So God the Son took on our sins (God made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God (it's in Galatians, I can't locate the verse). In Rom. 3 Paul talks about how God passed over the former sins of the Old Testament righteous (vs. 25); Christ was an expiation by his blood (vs. 25), "it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus." Later Paul asks, "who shall bring any charge against God's elect?"

There can be none. God has shut EVERY mouth, including that of the accuser (of God and man).

God didn't NEED to shut Satan up or defend Himself from accusation. But for our sake he did so and bore our sin through the divine Son so that we could genuinely be declared righteous. Because of Christ's sacrifice, satan dare not bring a charge against "him who has faith in Jesus."

Just as "one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to aquittal and life for all men" (Romans 5:18).  ÃƒÆ’‚Â

Thus I don't buy Romanides' opinion that the substitutionary atonement makes God have to act out of necessity rather than freely out of love. He did it freely out of love for our sake and to shut up the accuser.
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« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2006, 07:33:01 AM »

Actually, my point is that the West doesn't always, necessarily posit an angry God needing appeased; that is one caricatured view of of the West's understanding within Western Christianity itself, but the substitutionary atonement theory is far more subtle than that and actually is closer to what I described.

Unfortunately, many Orthodox see the caricature and react against it, sometimes vehemently, and in their zeal to correct the error, caricature the view even further. At that point the Western view becomes a strawman and the debate or discussion becomes less than fruitful therafter.

I will also note, that I wasn't only referring to the passover lamb, but to the whole OT sacrificial system; the temple offerings for purification throughout the year, the scapegoat, the sin offerings. In SOME way those pre-figured Christ's offering of Himself on the cross and had something to do with what our understanding should be of what happened.

One can embrace some understanding along this line without neglecting or diminshing the conquering of sin and death or Christ's victory.
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« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2006, 08:30:04 AM »

I suppose the key question is a theological one and is not so much about language or caricutures...

Therefore, the question is whether the necessity for man's salvation lay with God or with man? Does the requirement or necessity lie with God where He demands that His justice be satisfied or with man who has become unable to know God?

I think the west has focused heavily on such juridical grounds while the east while not denying such juridical elements within its understanding of the atonement does not focus so heavily on such elements.

I think St Athanasius on his Incarnation of the Word summarises the matter quite well in stating that such a juridical element does exist however is not absolutely necessary and that God can exercise His forgiveness and relent of such juridical demands, salvation then become more an exercise of healing on man's part. Christ incarnated and took on Himself human form in order to recreate man and make Him whole again in doing so man is one's more able to satisfy God's just demands of righteousness.

Furthermore, the caricatures are more the result of remnant medieval Catholic and Protestant literature and while such juridical elements are still heavily domatised within Protestant circles they have never been deemed Catholic dogma and were even criticised by certain Catholic saints who proceeded Anselm.

I think such differences while they may seem minute make a world of a difference to the way man perceives of God. In one system salvation is entirely selfless and given out of love for man while in the other salvation is entirely selfish where God is interested in serving His own needs only, demanding something of man which He cannot give in such a system while in the other He deifies and raises man to reach God.

One system is virtual the other ontological...
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« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2006, 10:20:34 PM »

Certainly God can do whatever He pleases and is not bound by necessity - at least not as we understand it (however, I think it proper to say God cannot deny Himself; He can't be unitarian - He eternally exists as triune, certain things like that)

But God can certainly give Himself in loving sacrifice, defeat satan, conquer sin and death, ransom humanity, establish a loving example of self-sacrifice AND uphold the integrity of divine law from any aspersion or slander of the evil one (again "that God can be just and the justfier of the one who has faith in Jesus" - Rom. 3:25) - all because He wants to do it!

And I don't see anything selfish in doing so. Nor does it make Him anything but a loving God.

One more thing, God doesn't NEED to defend his justice before the slanders of the evil one. He does that for US, for our sake  and the just angels, not for Himself.   
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falafel333
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2006, 12:34:26 AM »

Quote
God cannot deny Himself

I agree, however, this really depends on how we understand such a statement. Is it in the form of some kind of divine tribunal that exacts justice at all costs or is it rather an ontological relationship where though man infringes the divine law and severes himself from God suffers the consequences of such separation. Would man then, because God cannot deny Himself, expect an unmerciful God who does not forget or forgive but demands repayment for every action that may seem to breach the divine law?

Quote
uphold the integrity of divine law

Is this really the key issue with God...I frankly see a very different God who though He may pronounce certain judgments and though He may be slighted by His creation is always merciful and forgiving.

The judgment against Nineveh is an example of this in that though God had pronounced judgment on the city He relented from His anger. The dialogue of Abraham with God over Sodom and Gommorrah is another example of this. Moses' appeal to God's forbearance with the people of Israel is also brought to mind. There is also Christ's parable of the Prodigal Son where forgiveness is freely given with much joy though clearly undeserved--what law or tribunal would this fit in but that of love, mercy and forgiveness. And there is also the debtors who were freely forgiven and the right hand thief who was ushered into Paradise because of a word. How does such a rigid juridical understanding of price and payment reconcile with such obvious examples of God's free love?

Quote
And I don't see anything selfish in doing so. Nor does it make Him anything but a loving God.

Well I suppose that this is the key really. Personally, every dogma and understanding of the church is the product of love and leads to love and if there is any lack of love in anything then surely there must be some shortcoming in its understanding.

Quote
One more thing, God doesn't NEED to defend his justice before the slanders of the evil one. He does that for US, for our sake  and the just angels, not for Himself. 

God's justice is slighted every day in every corner of the earth as He is cursed, blasphemed, denied and mocked and yet our God is a humble and loving God who knows and understands the weak frame of man and so as a loving father He bears with His creation, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2006, 09:00:43 PM »

Yes, I also have been interested in this issue.ÂÂ  I was enthralled at first about the shift from the idea of an angry God who because of His justice is forced to beat on us, but basically beats on Himself instead by taking it out on Christ.ÂÂ  But I think you are right too about the passages in Paul's epistles (not having read them terribly recently).ÂÂ  And then there's the whole suffering bit; the Catholics and Protestants meditate on Christ's suffering, but about all I hear from Orthodoxy is that we don't do that because that's where the West went wrong in adopting the whole atonement theory.

Frankly I find the Orthodox point of view to be refreshing, but I don't think it's as clear cut as some make it.ÂÂ  Do we not owe a debt of sin to God?ÂÂ  Didn't Christ pay that price for us?ÂÂ  I'm not sure what to think.

"He is an offering for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for those of the whole world."  -St John the Beloved  (1 John 2:2)

"For our sakes, God made Him Who did not know sin, to be sin, so that in Him we might becomer the very holiness of God."
                                 -St. Paul (2 Cor. 5:21)

Lord Jesus assumed our human nature and then assumed our sins, atoning for our sins to free us from them if we recieve Him and His Sacrifice for our sins, in order to share in His eternal life, love and joy forever.  Sin (the hatred of Love) has consequences; it introduces chaos into our world, in every way--in human relationships, in nature, in every dimension.  This can only be overcome by Jesus,  God-as-man ,and the reception of His Sacrifice in which He accepted responsibility for our evil and overcame evil by His atoning Sacrifice.  We have victory in His victory, and only in His victory ,over the Evil One, sin and death.

In His Victory,
Steve

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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2006, 10:48:36 PM »

The Orthodox do not consider the "atonement" view of salvation as wrong since, as has been correctly, pointed out, it is very scriptural.  But this forensic viewpoint should not stand as pars pro toto which, unfortunately, has happened way too much in Western Christianity and especially in the Protestant branches.  I always found it ironic that these same Protestants who insist on such a juridical view of salvation consider such things as the Divine Liturgy, veneration of the saints, fasts, monasticism, etc. as legalism.  But, if we solely consign ourselves to ONLY (that's the key word) the atonement view of salvation as equivalent to a "not guilty" verdict which Christ paid for us on the cross, what comes after that?  Does the defendant just walk out of the courtroom and go on as if nothing happened?  When reading St. Paul, he uses the juridical terminology to a point, but then switches to another metaphor of Christ's redemptive work, namely of life/death.  For the Orthodox, Christ's redemptive work was necessary so that upon hearing the "not guilty" we are transformed and desire to achieve theosis, to participate in God's nature (II Pet. 2:14).

Again, the problem with the western viewpoint is that it is incomplete.  By itself, the Orthodox have no problem with the "vicarious atonement", but to leave it simply as a "not guilty" neglects the incarnation in that what Christ assumed was to be healed (St. Gregory the Theologian) and death becomes truly powerless.

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« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2006, 12:37:38 AM »

thank you Scamandrius

that is my point exactly! as Orthodox, we don't have to choke on a vicarious atonement, we just need to view it in it's context of a wide range of metaphors and understanding of just what took place in totality on the cross and also in context of the incarnation, resurrection and ascension.

thank you, again! You have said what few Orthodox have been willing to say. Hearing it just once, allows me to think I'm not crazy.

Seriously, it is like an allergy: mention the sacrificial atonement and Orthodox start to sneeze! They never really answer the question; they just point to the errors you have rightly pointed out among evangelicals or to straw men caricatures of Anslem's view.

Okay, I'm exaggerating some; but just to hear one Orthodox give the interpretation some credence is SO refreshing.

thank you again
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« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2006, 01:18:14 AM »

For the Orthodox, Christ's redemptive work was necessary so that upon hearing the "not guilty" we are transformed and desire to achieve theosis, to participate in God's nature (II Pet. 2:14).

I like what scamandrius has said, but let me "piggyback" with some thoughts of my own...I think one of the biggest differences between Orthodox and many Western soteriologies (that's just a big word that means somebody's take on how salvation works, for those reading who just went, 'huh?!').  For many Protestants, the legal transaction of "not guilty" takes place individually, when each individual repents of his sin and asks Christ into his heart.  For the Orthodox, ALL are technically saved, for Christ died as a ransom for ALL men, and so ALL of humanity is technically redeemed.  The difference (and the crucial one at that) is that, in our eyes, Christ's death was not motivated by the demand of the Father, as if He had any offended, insecure, need to "restore His honor" (for how could anything a man could do detract from the All-Honorable One?).  Rather the death of Christ was motivated by the necessity of the situation in which mankind found itself.  The life of the flesh is in the blood, as the Old Testament Law states, and our blood, being corrupted by sin and death, was a "closed circuit" that would never achieve theosis, being as it was united to death, not the Resurrection and the Life.  Christ then died, spilling His blood--human blood which had been united to divine Life and thereby redeemed to its former state (that of Eden)--and thereafter sprinkled that blood and placed that flesh before the heavenly altar, not so the Father would breath some cosmic "sigh of relief" and say, "All right; I'll be able to let you into heaven now," but so that there would be a redeemed sample of humanity that would actually be able to experience the presence of God as refining joy and peace, and not as torment.  It is this sample of redeemed humanity that the Father has judged "not guilty," for indeed, He is the only One who truly is not guilty.

As we unite ourselve to this sample of redeemed humanity through baptism and Eucharist, we are continually changed, body and soul, into what the God-man was by nature, and therefore receive the "not-guilty" merits of the sacrifice of Christ and can, because of our participation in this universally available "not guilty" verdict given to Christ for the sake of man and not the Father (I can't stress that enough!), experience theosis and the Life of God in our members, instead of the sin and death that so easily entangles us.

For a wonderful article that deals even more deeply with the subject than I ever could, read this.

You can also read this and this, from the same site; the first is a treatise on Genesis and the OT setup of atonement, and the second is the NT fulfillment of it as we see it in the Orthodox Church.

And this, by Hieromonk Damascene: What Christ Accomplished on the Cross.
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« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2006, 04:09:09 PM »

Evangelicals (Eastern, Western, etc) hold to a 'Biblical' soteriology (i.e. our understanding of salvation is drawn directly from the way it is articulated in the Scriptures).

I believe there is a lot of 'spin' happening in Christianity to articulate a gospel which does away with a "Holy" God to establish a God with one overarching attribute (that of love alone). Once we move away from a "Holy" God we are forced to articulate Salvation through other means than 'atonement'.

As much as I respect Pedro and the others on this forum I don't believe it's the Gospel the Apostle Paul preached but a 'new' Gospel largely influenced by hellenism.

God is Holy

When we think of God as holy, we think of Him absolutely free from sin in thought, word, and deed. There is not the slightest taint of sin in Him. He is absolutely pure. As St. John says, "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:15). He cannot in any way condone sin. As Habakkuk says, "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:" (Hab. 1:13).

One of the main themes in the Old Testament is a declaration and demonstration of God's holiness (Ex. 15:11; Lev. 19:2; 1 Sam. 2:2; 6:20; Job 34:10; Ps. 47:8;89:35; 119:9; Is. 6:3; 57:15; and others). This theme continues in the New Testament (Jn. 17:11; Jas. 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; 1 Jn. 1:5; Rev. 4:8; 15:4; and others).

God as a holy God will not tolerate sin. It is because of God's holiness that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). The frist revelation of God's holiness is a revelation of judgment. He said to Adam and Eve, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). God's judgment against sin reveals His immutability in his holiness.

The acts of judgment in biblical history bear testimony of God's hatred toward sin and His immutability in holiness. The flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the many other acts of judgment in the Scriptures leave us no doubt where God stands on the issue of sin.

The eternal punishment of the wicked with such expressions as, "outer darkness" (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; and 25:30), "furnace of fire" (Mt. 13:42-50), "everlasting fire" (Mt. 18:8; 25:41), "everlasting punishment" (Mt. 25:46), "fire unquenchable" (Mk. 9:43-48), "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Th. 1:9), and "the lake which churneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8 ).

The cross of Jesus Christ also reveals God's immutability in holiness. The cross of Christ is an eternal testimony that God will not forgive sin unless it is first punished. If we see in God a pattern of purity and righteousness but fail to see His hatred of sin, we have failed to understand the biblical view of holiness.

God's holy will is an expression of God's holy nature. As Thiessen says: "In God we have purity of being before purity of willing. God does not will the good because it is good, nor is the good because God wills it, else there would be a good above God or the good would be arbitrary and changeable. Instead, God's will is the expression of his nature, which is holy."

We are not to imagine that God can by an arbitrary act of will declare a thing to be holy and it be holy. In Islamic thought, the will of Allah is supreme and arbitrary. In Christian thought God's will is always a true expression of His nature. It is incompatible with God's nature to declare one person obligated to the morality of the Ten Commandments and to declare a reverse morality for another. Under such an arrangement, God could reign by whim and fancy. We would not know what to expect next.

Since God's will is an expression of His holy nature, morality is rational. We can discover principles form our study of Scripture and apply them to things not mentioned in the Bible.

Holiness is the basic or fundamental attribute of God. As Thiessen explains: "Because of the fundamental character of this attribute, the holiness of God rather than the love, the power, or the will of God should be given first place. Holiness is the regulative principle of all there is of them; for the throne is established on the basis of His holiness" (Ps. 47:8; 89:14; 97:2).

This in one of the most important observations to be made in a doctrinal study. When love is made the basic attribute of God, it leads to the idea of universal salvation - an idea that finds no support whatever in Scripture. It also leads to compromise in moral issues. Love that is not subject to holiness is too ready to modify and compromise. It is only when holiness, not love, is seen to be the basic attribute of God that the biblical doctrines of Hell and Atonement can be maintained. It is holiness, not love, that sends sinners to Hell. It is holiness, not love, that demanded that sin be punished before God would forgive sin.

Righteousness and justice flow from God's holiness. When we speak of God as righteous, we mean that He is right in all that he does. Righteousness is an overall term that refers to all of God's dealings as being right.

Justice is an aspect of righteousness. God is righteous in His judicial proceedings in handing out punishments and rewards. Remunerative justice is the justice of God that guarantees that obedience will receive its appropriate reward. Retributive justice is the justice of God that guarantees that disobedience will receive its appropriate punishment. Justice is the guardian of God's holiness as well as the realm of heaven.

Note: it is God's Holiness and Righteousness which is the first attribute to be hated by the unrighteous. God's Holiness and Righteousness convicts us in our sin and assaults our ego. It is the first trait of God's to go when man makes God in his own image. It is God's Holiness and Righteousness which cause all who come before Him to experience Awe and to tremble before Him. In the face of God's Holiness we know who will really are and what we really are and we experience in a profound way how insignificant we are before the Almighty.

My 2 cents plus 2 cents from Francis
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« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2006, 05:41:32 PM »


Forgive me, my friend, but you have just delineated exactly what the problem is with Western Christianity in its various facades--namely, the pars pro toto approach to Scripture and towards the Faith.  I know of no Orthodox who would say that the "vicarious atonement" of Christ is misguided as to looking towards the cross of the Christ, but the Orthodox do get flustered when this is viewed as the only thing Christ did on the cross.  According to what you have written, it seems that your view of what Christ did on the cross was for safeguarding the honor of the Father.  Was it not for us and for our salvation, as we confess in the Nicene Creed, that God became incarnate and to die.  Your viewpoint removes "us men" from Christ's work. 

I have no problem with your quotes that show God as one hating sin, but again, you are not seeing the whole picture. The Orthodox do put a lot of empahsis on the love of God as one of his divine energies, but that is not seen as His only energy.  You are failing to view God and the Faith holistically or as holistically as possible using apophatic language.  Trusting in God's love does not remove the need for repentance for it is because Christ died and atoned that we can bear fruit in our faith to truly live as we were created for.  Don't pigeonhole the faith.  This is one of the great dangers, imho, of Western Christian thought--where there is this need to categorize and analyze the parts of the whole to the point that the whole is viewed myopically through the individual parts.

If Christ died only for justice to be done for the Father then what hope do we have before the dread tribunal if HIs death did nothing to transform us for what we were created for in the first place--to worship our God unceasingly.

In IC XC,

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« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2006, 07:12:49 PM »

"But go and learn what this means:  ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Matthew 9:13
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« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2006, 08:58:45 PM »

There is no such thing as atonement in Orthodoxy. Christ came as the perfect Adam to defeat the devil. The 40 day fast in the desert along with the temptations that he had to endore shows us just that. Once he defeated the devil. He took all the sin of man with him on the cross to start a new age. Before the new age he freed hades (Dammed people).
 ÃƒÆ’‚ The new age is the holy spirit of god with us. God despises sin but he still dwells within us.  Even the holy fathers of the Church were not without sin.These were men that had thesis (union with the energies of god). Gods love is so great that he endores our sins.
 ÃƒÆ’‚  
The problem with western theology is more of a deception.
They are fooled into believing that no free will exists. We are the decision makers. Not god. We are called to be like Christ. He shows us the way. Some will fall short. With this deception many more will fall short.
 ÃƒÆ’‚ Once the devil has convinced them that their fate lies in a judgement from god they begin to hate him. Atheism sprung up in the west. Because only a cruel god can sentence someone. They didn't want any part of that.
 ÃƒÆ’‚Â
 ÃƒÆ’‚  If god has revenge in him. He would be the source of all evil. If love was the way to gods kingdom wouldn't someone with this mindset be condemned for his lack of love. He would be breaking the greatest of the commandments. Why would god give us these commandments if love is not the way to salvation?

 ÃƒÆ’‚ The holy spirit of god was given to us to be able to love god and one another. To bring us to repentance. The final decision is ours. Weather we seek the kingdom of darkness or light is under our control.
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« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2006, 09:15:05 PM »

Chrisb,

While I will avoid presenting my soteriology because it seems to upset so many I will point out a few problems with what you posted. Firstly, if your posistion is so biblical, why didn't anyone come up with it before Anselm? Do you really expect us to believe that such a teaching is obvious biblical, even though it is unknown to Christians for the first 1000 years? More fundamentally problematic, however, is that such a soteriology is fundamentally opposed to what we know about the nature of God, he is as a loving father to his children, does a loving father seek retribution and vengance upon his child or is he all forgiving? How much more so the Infinitely-Merciful God?
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« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2006, 01:23:11 AM »

There is no such thing as atonement in Orthodoxy.  ÂÂ

I'd be careful about saying this.  The juridical language of atonement and redemption are clearly scriptural, but as I earlier pointed out, this is not the whole picture for that is where our Protestant and Catholic friends go astray.  Even Vladimir Lossky, in his seminal workThe Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church does acknowledge that though going further to see Christ's work done for us in His love and mercy so that we are transformed and death has no claim upon us.

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« Reply #21 on: July 27, 2006, 01:26:14 AM »


As much as I respect Pedro and the others on this forum I don't believe it's the Gospel the Apostle Paul preached but a 'new' Gospel largely influenced by hellenism.

One more thing I forgot to mention is that the langauge Orthodoxy uses for Christ's work on the cross and the salvation granted us that is devoid of the juridical terminology is largely (though not exclusively) found in the Johnannine writings.

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« Reply #22 on: July 27, 2006, 11:02:37 AM »

Quote
   I'd be careful about saying this.  The juridical language of atonement and redemption are clearly scriptural, but as I earlier pointed out, this is not the whole picture for that is where our Protestant and Catholic friends go astray.  Even Vladimir Lossky, in his seminal workThe Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church does acknowledge that though going further to see Christ's work done for us in His love and mercy so that we are transformed and death has no claim upon us.

Quoted from: ALEXANDRE KALOMIROS

Quote
This paganistic conception of God's justice which demands infinite sacrifices in order to be appeased clearly makes God our real enemy and the cause of all our misfortunes. Moreover, it is a justice which is not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers 4 In other words, what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ's love and sacrifice loses its significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God.

    Does this conception of justice have anything to do with the justice that God revealed to us? Does the phrase "justice of God" have this meaning in the Old and New Testaments?

    Perhaps the beginning of the mistaken interpretation of the word justice in the Holy Scriptures was its translation by the Greek word DIKAIWSUNH. Not that it is a mistaken translation, but because this word, being a word of the pagan, humanistic, Greek civilization, was charged with human notions which could easily lead to misunderstandings.

    First of all, the wordDIKAIWSUNHbrings to mind an equal distribution. This is why it is represented by a balance. The good are rewarded and the bad are punished by human society in a fair way. This is human justice, the one which takes place in court.

    Is this the meaning of God's justice, however?

    The word DIKAIWSUNH,"justice", is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka. This word means "the divine energy which accomplishes man's salvation". It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other
Hebraic word, hesed which means "mercy", "compassion", "love", and to the word, emeth which means "fidelity", "truth". This, as you see, gives a completely other dimension to what we usually conceive as justice.5 This is how the Church understood God's justice. This is what the Fathers of the Church taught of it. "How can you call God just", writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, "when you read the passage on the wage given to the workers? 'Friend, I do thee no wrong; I will give unto this last even as unto thee who worked for me from the first hour. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?'" "How can a man call God just", continues Saint Isaac, "when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son, who wasted his wealth in riotous living, and yet only for the contrition which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck, and gave him authority over all his wealth? None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him lest we doubt it, and thus He bare witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God's justice, for whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us!" 6
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« Reply #23 on: July 27, 2006, 01:18:57 PM »

Forgive me, my friend, but you have just delineated exactly what the problem is with Western Christianity in its various facades--namely, the pars pro toto approach to Scripture and towards the Faith.

Hi scamandrius,

I don't see this as 'Western' Christianity I merely see this as 'Biblical' Christianity. You guys and gals wrap some much external philosophical argument around your exegesis that you don't allow Scripture to present it's own arguments. I also feel strongly that you guys and gals dismiss the whole of the Old Testament Revelation except for a few positivist passages.

Quote
I know of no Orthodox who would say that the "vicarious atonement" of Christ is misguided as to looking towards the cross of the Christ, but the Orthodox do get flustered when this is viewed as the only thing Christ did on the cross.

I could point out several right here on this board.

Quote
According to what you have written, it seems that your view of what Christ did on the cross was for safeguarding the honor of the Father.ÂÂ  Was it not for us and for our salvation, as we confess in the Nicene Creed, that God became incarnate and to die.ÂÂ  Your viewpoint removes "us men" from Christ's work.

Well I would say that you then have misinterpreted what I've written. I believe in the Unity of the Attributes of God. God's Righteousness is in unison with His Love. One does not consume the other nor is there any conflict within God. God's Love is not at odds with His Holiness.

The coming of Jesus Christ as the Incarnation is far more than just to 'die for us' although "He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World". He came to 'reveal' the Father to us in an encounter with His creation. He also served as an example as the obedient servant, etc etc.

I believe we loss a lot of the message when you take 'one' attribute of God and discard the rest. We are left with a God who does not look like the God of the Old Testament. Fear is the Beginning of All Wisdom. Let us be Wise.

Quote
I have no problem with your quotes that show God as one hating sin, but again, you are not seeing the whole picture. The Orthodox do put a lot of empahsis on the love of God as one of his divine energies, but that is not seen as His only energy.ÂÂ  You are failing to view God and the Faith holistically or as holistically as possible using apophatic language.ÂÂ  Trusting in God's love does not remove the need for repentance for it is because Christ died and atoned that we can bear fruit in our faith to truly live as we were created for.ÂÂ  Don't pigeonhole the faith.ÂÂ  This is one of the great dangers, imho, of Western Christian thought--where there is this need to categorize and analyze the parts of the whole to the point that the whole is viewed myopically through the individual parts.

I believe there is a big difference in trusting in God and His Love and using that as a license for Sin. Paul was clear on this.

Quote
If Christ died only for justice to be done for the Father then what hope do we have before the dread tribunal if HIs death did nothing to transform us for what we were created for in the first place--to worship our God unceasingly.

He is the Way but he never said that we didn't have to walk to get there.

Peace and God Bless.
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« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2006, 02:15:24 PM »

I am not sure how one can be Christian and deny the atonement.  The point that I think some are trying to express is that God's atonement, his reconciliation with man, includes more than just the death of Christ.  His very incarnation atones for the separation of human and divine natures, his death atones for our sin, and his resurrection wipes out our mortality, thus we are completely reconciled to God. 

But for those that would deny and aspects of justice and propitiation,  some of these links may be helpful.  They conpendiums of Patristic and other Orthodox qoutes that explain Christ's death in very Biblical terms, terms that some modern-day Orthodox may be prone to shun:

http://www.bensusan.net/razilazenje/2005/06/03/some-patristic-quotations-on-divine-justice-substitution-and-propitiation-as-aspects-of-the-atonement/

http://www.bensusan.net/razilazenje/2006/03/29/more-patristic-quotations-on-divine-justice-substitution-and-propitiation-as-aspects-of-the-atonement/

http://www.bensusan.net/razilazenje/2006/07/02/divine-justice-substitution-and-propitiation-as-aspects-of-the-atonement-in-the-eastern-orthodox-confessions-and-catechisms/
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« Reply #25 on: July 27, 2006, 02:22:40 PM »

Hey, chris.

Before I start the reply...did you ever read those articles I gave you (which I posted earlier in this thread, btw)?  Wink Tongue  And how would you respond to how I framed the atonement in that post?

I don't see this as 'Western' Christianity I merely see this as 'Biblical' Christianity.

I know you do.  The problem is, imo, that in simply using the same words you think you have attached the same meaning to said words that the authors attached to them.  You really haven't, in our eyes, so calling your position 'Biblical' means little, if anything, since the understanding of what those words mean is, in our opinion, what matters more than a set of vocabulary words.

Quote
You guys and gals wrap some much external philosophical argument around your exegesis that you don't allow Scripture to present it's own arguments.

May I turn this around?  Evangelicals specifically (and western Christians in general) wrap so much post-Enlightenment, rationalist philosophical arguments around their exegesis that they don't allow Scripture to present its own arguments through the linguistic and cultural understanding into which it was born: that of Hellenic Judaism.

Quote
I also feel strongly that you guys and gals dismiss the whole of the Old Testament Revelation except for a few positivist passages.

Read those articles, buddy.   Wink  It ain't that we dismiss it; we just see it through a completely different lens and done for a completely different purpose.

Quote
I believe in the Unity of the Attributes of God. God's Righteousness is in unison with His Love. One does not consume the other nor is there any conflict within God. God's Love is not at odds with His Holiness.  The coming of Jesus Christ as the Incarnation is far more than just to 'die for us' although "He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World". He came to 'reveal' the Father to us in an encounter with His creation. He also served as an example as the obedient servant, etc etc.

Funny how I can agree so completely with basic statements like these, yet also know that I disagree thoroughly with what you mean by this.  Kind of like saying I agree with a statement that, say, oh, St. Paul made--at least in the way it was written as I understand it--yet coming to find out I disagree strongly with the definitions that were actually behind said words...see my point?  The point is not, "Who uses the words of the apostles?" but rather, "Who means what the apostles meant?"

Quote
I believe we loss a lot of the message when you take 'one' attribute of God and discard the rest. We are left with a God who does not look like the God of the Old Testament. Fear is the Beginning of All Wisdom. Let us be Wise.

We would say you take the attribute of Holiness and disgard the motivation behind it: that of the possibility of reform through Love.  Fear is the beginning of wisdom, but there is ultimately no fear in love, for perfect Love casts out all fear.  The one who fears has not been perfected in love, which is perfected wisdom.  Wisdom: Let us attend.   Wink

Quote
I believe there is a big difference in trusting in God and His Love and using that as a license for Sin. Paul was clear on this.

He is the Way but he never said that we didn't have to walk to get there.

Would ya look at that...two more perfectly-worded statements whose details and definitions I (more than likely) completely disagree with...ah, you get my point.

Quote
Peace and God Bless.

You too.  Good to see you back.
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« Reply #26 on: July 27, 2006, 02:34:37 PM »

I am not sure how one can be Christian and deny the atonement.ÂÂ  The point that I think some are trying to express is that God's atonement, his reconciliation with man, includes more than just the death of Christ.ÂÂ  His very incarnation atones for the separation of human and divine natures, his death atones for our sin, and his resurrection wipes out our mortality, thus we are completely reconciled to God.ÂÂ  

But for those that would deny and aspects of justice and propitiation,ÂÂ  some of these links may be helpful.ÂÂ  They conpendiums of Patristic and other Orthodox qoutes that explain Christ's death in very Biblical terms, terms that some modern-day Orthodox may be prone to shun:

Grace and Peace DownfallRecords,

You have restored my faith in orthodoxy among the Orthodox! Great Links.

God Bless you!
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« Reply #27 on: July 27, 2006, 02:40:51 PM »

Grace and Peace Pedro!

You know everytime I read one of your posts I always enjoy them even when you are basically telling me I'm wrong!ÂÂ  Grin

Anyways I have read the links you gave me and I like what you are saying to a point but I see too much liberties taken with this premise that I ultimately start rejecting them because I see what people do with them that just seem so wrong.

I like DownfallRecords links! What is your take on them?

“But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.” (St. Athanasios the Great, De Incarnatione, 20)

St. Athanasios The Great is, well, Great!

God Bless you Pedro!
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« Reply #28 on: July 27, 2006, 02:54:45 PM »

Grace and Peace Pedro!

And with your spirit.

Quote
You know everytime I read one of your posts I always enjoy them even when you are basically telling me I'm wrong!  Grin

What a great compliment.  Thanks!

Quote
Anyways I have read the links you gave me and I like what you are saying to a point but I see too much liberties taken with this premise that I ultimately start rejecting them because I see what people do with them that just seem so wrong.

Well...let's deal with that "to a point," because abuse of a premise has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a premise, when expressed clearly and unabused, is correct or incorrect.  So laying aside people's unauthorized and abusive excesses, where, specifically, do you and I part ways in looking at the atonement?

Quote
“But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.” (St. Athanasios the Great, De Incarnatione, 20)

I read this all the way through in a church school class for adults in my parish.  GREAT work.  Notice, though, that the debt owed was not owed to the Father based solely on His supposedly offended demand for it, but was paid to the reality of death so that we could approach the never-changing Holy God.  Boldfaced the pertinent parts of that quotation for you.

So, as I said before,

Quote from: Pedro
Christ then died, spilling His blood--human blood which had been united to divine Life and thereby redeemed to its former state (that of Eden)--and thereafter sprinkled that blood and placed that flesh before the heavenly altar, not so the Father would breath some cosmic "sigh of relief" and say, "All right; I'll be able to let you into heaven now," but so that there would be a redeemed sample of humanity that would actually be able to experience the presence of God as refining joy and peace, and not as torment.  It is this sample of redeemed humanity that the Father has judged "not guilty," for indeed, He is the only One who truly is not guilty.

As we unite ourselve to this sample of redeemed humanity through baptism and Eucharist, we are continually changed, body and soul, into what the God-man was by nature, and therefore receive the "not-guilty" merits of the sacrifice of Christ and can, because of our participation in this universally available "not guilty" verdict given to Christ for the sake of man and not the Father (I can't stress that enough!), experience theosis and the Life of God in our members, instead of the sin and death that so easily entangles us.

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St. Athanasios The Great is, well, Great!

You know it!

Quote
God Bless you Pedro!

You too, man.
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« Reply #29 on: July 27, 2006, 03:11:54 PM »

The Old Testament speaks of God's justice, especially in the psalms and prophets, as God setting things right - not, may I add, as God making sure that every sin goes punished.ÂÂ  Setting things right implies that something has gone wrong.ÂÂ  What has gone wrong?ÂÂ  Satan tempted man and in doing so gained control over man.ÂÂ  Satan became prince of this world, and man was left a prisoner to sin and death.ÂÂ  This is what God had to set right.ÂÂ  So I believe that Orthodox Christians can say that the death of Christ is the Justice of God, but in the sense that it defeats the devil and sets man free in forgiveness and incorruption, not in the sense that it satisfied God's need to see someone punished.ÂÂ  His ways are not like our ways, nor His thoughts like our thoughts, thus His justice is not seen as retribution.ÂÂ  We must be careful not to lose the doctrine of the Trinity in the midst of our theories of the atonement.ÂÂ  God cannot punish God.ÂÂ  But God, in Christ's humanity, can die (the consequence of sins), and death, finding no place to exist within God, can be done away with; the beauty of the cross.
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« Reply #30 on: July 27, 2006, 03:16:46 PM »

Quote
and free him from the primal transgression.


Witch is the law that we were held captive under.
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« Reply #31 on: July 27, 2006, 03:21:48 PM »

Very good DownfallRecords. I posted just as you replied.
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« Reply #32 on: July 27, 2006, 03:41:49 PM »

I think that what the Orthodox are trying to guard against is the reduction of our salvation to a great business transaction in the sky.ÂÂ  Indeed, we are told that a price was paid, however let us not assume that God is sitting at a desk with a ledger.ÂÂ  Much of the language used in Scripture is metaphorical.ÂÂ  When we say that a soldier "paid the price" to defend his country, we do not assume that he was doing any accounting work with a calculator in the process.ÂÂ  He did what needed to be done, as Christ did was needed to be done. (I've stolen this example from Fr. Reardon, see below).

Of course St. Paul uses many legal terms to describe Christ's work: he was writing to Jews who knew only the law!ÂÂ  To speak in legal ways was to speak their own language. But we must interpret St. Paul through St. John, and St. John through St. Peter, and St. Peter through St. James, and most importantly we must interpret all of these apostles through the words of Christ himself in the Gospel books.ÂÂ  I believe that the Orthodox take in the whole picture of Scripture, not interpreting all Scripture through St. Paul, but integrating him into the larger biblical witness.

A good link to check out is Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon's short essays on the atonment, dealing rather frankly with expiation, sacrifice, and the like:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/ReardonAtonement.php
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/ReardonExpatiation.php
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/ReardonRedemption.php
http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/ReardonJustify.php
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« Reply #33 on: July 27, 2006, 04:27:51 PM »

Hi scamandrius,

I don't see this as 'Western' Christianity I merely see this as 'Biblical' Christianity. You guys and gals wrap some much external philosophical argument around your exegesis that you don't allow Scripture to present it's own arguments. I also feel strongly that you guys and gals dismiss the whole of the Old Testament Revelation except for a few positivist passages.

My friend,

  Christianity is so much more than the Bible and I really don't have the time or will to get into the whole sola scriptura argument which is nonsense.  I used to be a Lutheran and I always found it amazing how often the things we believed in the Nicene Creed were not believed because of sola scriptura, but in spite of sola scriptura.  You claim you read the Bible and let it speak for itself, but you are guilty of proof-texting and using only those parts of scripture which support what you WANT scripture to say.  IT doesn't work that way!  If you want I can proof text the scriptures to find all the passages that support communism!  You are arguing from the parts and letting the parts stand for the whole!  How much you are missing!

That is why we have the consensus of the holy fathers in the ecumenical councils.  I know I'm not going to convince you, but I just had to make it very clear as to how the Orthodox come to conclusion.

Let me close with paraphrasing Fr. Coniaris.  He says that I have the Bible and I treasure it because it leads me to Christ and His good news for those who wish it.  It is a ship that carries me to Him.  You are going round the boat and looking for leaks.  When you come to the pearly gates, would Christ not say, "O ye of little faith"?

Look beyond Christ's death and embrace his Resurrection.  You have a focus on the cross, but not on the Christ.  You have to have both.  There is not one without the other.  Otherwise, how could we continue to live?  Such a belief is not a license for sin as you quipped.  I know very well that I have not yet begun to repent and my tears amount to nothing.  Trusting in the mercy of God is not saying "I'm OK; you're OK so let's get on with our lives."  Because Christ saved us through more than just a "not guilty" verdict, we are now transformed to live what we and what Adam were created for--to worship the Creator with the heavenly host.

Christianity is a life, a life of repentance.  It is not a courtroom drama!

In IC XC,

Scamandrius
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« Reply #34 on: July 27, 2006, 04:40:14 PM »

Well...let's deal with that "to a point," because abuse of a premise has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a premise, when expressed clearly and unabused, is correct or incorrect.ÂÂ  So laying aside people's unauthorized and abusive excesses, where, specifically, do you and I part ways in looking at the atonement?

Grace and Peace Pedro,

Actually it's been some time since I read them but I get the impression from your emphasis below where we differ. Let's hop down there and take a look.

Quote
I read this all the way through in a church school class for adults in my parish.ÂÂ  GREAT work.ÂÂ  Notice, though, that the debt owed was not owed to the Father based solely on His supposedly offended demand for it, but was paid to the reality of death so that we could approach the never-changing Holy God.ÂÂ  Boldfaced the pertinent parts of that quotation for you.

“But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.”

I assume that we 'all' agree there was a debt 'now' that must be paid but from your post it appears that you assume this debt is due to 'death' personified? I most admit it has a certain resonance with my inner child but are you serious? Is death personified in Orthodoxy?

As I understand it atonement is between two 'parties' whom are estranged you appear to be personifying this estrangement in order to leave the other half of the estranged parties unnamed. Directly or indirectly God is the source of condition of estrangement, he set the stage. I don't see why we should try and avoid recognizing the fact. You know what I mean?

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« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2006, 04:43:46 PM »

The Old Testament speaks of God's justice, especially in the psalms and prophets, as God setting things right - not, may I add, as God making sure that every sin goes punished.ÂÂ  Setting things right implies that something has gone wrong.ÂÂ  What has gone wrong?ÂÂ  Satan tempted man and in doing so gained control over man.ÂÂ  Satan became prince of this world, and man was left a prisoner to sin and death.ÂÂ  This is what God had to set right.ÂÂ  So I believe that Orthodox Christians can say that the death of Christ is the Justice of God, but in the sense that it defeats the devil and sets man free in forgiveness and incorruption, not in the sense that it satisfied God's need to see someone punished.ÂÂ  His ways are not like our ways, nor His thoughts like our thoughts, thus His justice is not seen as retribution.ÂÂ  We must be careful not to lose the doctrine of the Trinity in the midst of our theories of the atonement.ÂÂ  God cannot punish God.ÂÂ  But God, in Christ's humanity, can die (the consequence of sins), and death, finding no place to exist within God, can be done away with; the beauty of the cross.

Grace and Peace DownfallRecords,

This kicks a lot of butt Downfall. Kudos!

This is actually very similiar to the Act of Aslan. Interesting.
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« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2006, 06:42:05 PM »

I assume that we 'all' agree there was a debt 'now' that must be paid but from your post it appears that you assume this debt is due to 'death' personified? I most admit it has a certain resonance with my inner child but are you serious? Is death personified in Orthodoxy?

Well, I would not presume to say that it is a defined teaching of the Faith, but a reading through of Revelation would hint at that possibility, for St. John speaks of it quite anthropomorphically:

Quote from: St. John
Revelation 6:8
I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Quote from: St. John
Revelation 20:13
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

Quote from: St. John
Revelation 20:14
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

Put it this way: Whether or not there is an actual "Angel of Death" the way pop culture likes to make it out (Grim Reaper and whatnot), death is a reality that has a claim on all mortal flesh.  Because we are sons of Adam made in Adam's likeness (instead of God's -- Gen. 5:3), we are mortal, and we therefore owe a debt to Death: our own life.

Quote
As I understand it atonement is between two 'parties' whom are estranged you appear to be personifying this estrangement in order to leave the other half of the estranged parties unnamed. Directly or indirectly God is the source of condition of estrangement, he set the stage.

God did not 'create' Death anymore than a lightbulb 'creates' darkness.  If a person unscrews an active lightbulb (ouch!), his end result is darkness, for he has severed ties with the Light.  When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to "be like God," they tried to be deified without the Deity, and, in severing themselves from their Life, Death was the result.  Adam then had a child, not in God's image, but in his own, and that son was mortal, as well, as are we all.  God, who is Life, set all this right by taking dead flesh upon Himself and reuniting it with the divine Life of God, thereby killing Death.  When Christ died on the cross, Death tried to take a hold of Him, but in doing so, thinking it found a man, found nothing but Life Incarnate, and was trampled down forevermore.  We now must unite with Christ--for just as it was His physical body that was enlivened and Christ defeated Death in the flesh, so we as the physical Body of Christ are united to Him in physical baptism and the communion of His physical Body and Blood so that we can share in the divine Life that was shed out for us on the Cross...for us and for the life of the world.
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« Reply #37 on: July 27, 2006, 06:59:02 PM »

Well, I would not presume to say that it is a defined teaching of the Faith, but a reading through of Revelation would hint at that possibility, for St. John speaks of it quite anthropomorphically:

Put it this way: Whether or not there is an actual "Angel of Death" the way pop culture likes to make it out (Grim Reaper and whatnot), death is a reality that has a claim on all mortal flesh.ÂÂ  Because we are sons of Adam made in Adam's likeness (instead of God's -- Gen. 5:3), we are mortal, and we therefore owe a debt to Death: our own life.

God did not 'create' Death anymore than a lightbulb 'creates' darkness.ÂÂ  If a person unscrews an active lightbulb (ouch!), his end result is darkness, for he has severed ties with the Light.ÂÂ  When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to "be like God," they tried to be deified without the Deity, and, in severing themselves from their Life, Death was the result.ÂÂ  Adam then had a child, not in God's image, but in his own, and that son was mortal, as well, as are we all.ÂÂ  God, who is Life, set all this right by taking dead flesh upon Himself and reuniting it with the divine Life of God, thereby killing Death.ÂÂ  When Christ died on the cross, Death tried to take a hold of Him, but in doing so, thinking it found a man, found nothing but Life Incarnate, and was trampled down forevermore.ÂÂ  We now must unite with Christ--for just as it was His physical body that was enlivened and Christ defeated Death in the flesh, so we as the physical Body of Christ are united to Him in physical baptism and the communion of His physical Body and Blood so that we can share in the divine Life that was shed out for us on the Cross...for us and for the life of the world.

Grace and Peace,

Whew! This is heavy man. I'm going to have to reread this post and think about it a bit.

As always thank you for your time and patience Pedro and God Bless you!
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« Reply #38 on: July 28, 2006, 01:22:53 PM »

ChrisB,

It is interesting that you should mention Aslan.  C.S. Lewis and his atonement theology (if you can call it that, he wasn't very systematic) was often in line with a more classical Patristic sense of the atonement.  Of course, he never wrote a clear description of his thoughts on the atonement.  In fact, in one of his books he writes:  "Christ’s death redeemed man from sin, but I can make nothing of the theories as to how!"  - I believe it comes from his Letters to Malcom. 
He was quite a catholic Anglican, especially when it came to the Eucharist, to salvation as a journey, to thoughts very similiar to deification, prayers for the dead and even his unique belief in a state of purgatory.  What an interesting man!  I think that his true worth is evidenced by the fact that all Christians - Orthodox, Anglican, Evangelical and Catholic - like to claim him as their own.

Anyhow, this is getting off topic....

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« Reply #39 on: August 07, 2006, 08:37:53 PM »

God did not 'create' Death anymore than a lightbulb 'creates' darkness.ÂÂ  If a person unscrews an active lightbulb (ouch!), his end result is darkness, for he has severed ties with the Light.ÂÂ  When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to "be like God," they tried to be deified without the Deity, and, in severing themselves from their Life, Death was the result.ÂÂ  Adam then had a child, not in God's image, but in his own, and that son was mortal, as well, as are we all.ÂÂ  God, who is Life, set all this right by taking dead flesh upon Himself and reuniting it with the divine Life of God, thereby killing Death.ÂÂ  When Christ died on the cross, Death tried to take a hold of Him, but in doing so, thinking it found a man, found nothing but Life Incarnate, and was trampled down forevermore.ÂÂ  We now must unite with Christ--for just as it was His physical body that was enlivened and Christ defeated Death in the flesh, so we as the physical Body of Christ are united to Him in physical baptism and the communion of His physical Body and Blood so that we can share in the divine Life that was shed out for us on the Cross...for us and for the life of the world.

Hi Pedro,

After much reflection on this I have spent time studying 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 and feel that your view might contradict it. Please read and share your reflection with me. Thanks.

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. - 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 

The atonement appears here to be to Himself and not death. Again share your thoughts.

Peace Bro.
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« Reply #40 on: August 07, 2006, 11:38:15 PM »

It appears that you are reading the verse with a western mind set. Both eastern and westerners will translate the verse perfectly to fit into their theology. What it comes down to is who do you believe carries more truth. The only advice I can give you is to follow you heart. May god lead you to the truth.
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« Reply #41 on: August 07, 2006, 11:58:33 PM »

After much reflection on this I have spent time studying 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 and feel that your view might contradict it.

Sure, we can look at this.  We'll take it bit by bit.

Quote from: St. Paul
And all things are of God,

Here I think we'd agree that God is the source of all things.  Everything created by God is good and has the potential to be used for His glory.

Quote from: St. Paul
who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ,

Now, all this says is that God has reconciled us to Himself.  This does not have to mean that he has "squared us with the house," as it were, in terms of merely settling accounts with sinful human beings so that we no longer "owed Him."  One could look at it also in this way: God, in His holiness, knew that to approach us as we were--sinful and bound up in death--would mean our torment, because our dead nature was incompatible with His pure Life.  So Christ, the Logos reconciled our human nature with the divine nature by uniting them in His one Person, thereby taking away the emnity that existed between our fallen human nature and the Father's holy divine nature.  So now, by uniting ourself to Christ's redeemed humanity AND His divine nature, we can now approach the Father.

Notice, now, that the 'demand' of the Father (yes, I will and can call it that) was satisfied by the reconciling of fallen human nature and holy divine nature in the Logos, but notice especially the motivation behind said reconciliation.  This is the main point of our difference: not that the Father never demands that we come to Him through the sacrifice of Christ, but that we come to Him through the sacrifice of Christ because He knows we can not enjoy His presence any other way, and this is what He wants for us.  Christ died, not because of some external demand of an offended Father who seeks to regain His own honor and so He might have an airtight case in justifying letting us into heaven (as if this were the Father's problem), but rather because He was not going to change one iota of His holiness when all things (us included) were submitted to Him, and this would, by natural consequence, mean our torment.  So His demand stems not from wounded honor, but from selfless love for those who once were alienated from His divine nature and union therewith, but who now have access to the throne of Grace through the divine sacrifice of the Logos, whose very Person has reconciled the fallen creation with its divine Creator.

Quote from: St. Paul
and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;


So now we're supposed to go and minister to others, proclaiming that this reconciliation has happened and inviting them to participate in the reconciliation that has already happened.

Quote from: St. Paul
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,


Like I said: the divine nature of God was in Christ, as was our human nature, and thus all creation and matter was made compatible once again with God...

Quote from: St. Paul
not imputing their trespasses unto them;


...and instead of consuming the flesh of the Virgin which He took, the Logos deified it (and her), which not only did not impute the shortcoming of said flesh unto it (normally it would have consumed the flesh as a natural consequence of coming in contact with it, as fire would with chaff, but it forebore in this case) but it also changed the very nature of the chaff/flesh so that it could unite with divine fire.  In this case, the trespassing of our flesh into the realm of death was not only passed over when the blood of the sacrificial lamb was placed over the doors of our souls and bodies, but said flesh was also healed of death.

Quote from: St. Paul
and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

So...yeah...now we gotta tell folks about this.  Like I said.

Quote from: chrisb
The atonement appears here to be to Himself and not death.

Well, so as you can see, the atonement was in a sense to the Father, but the motivation behind said reconciliation needs to be made absolutely clear: We were not reconciled for the benefit of the Father's honor or justice or satisfaction or anything else; we were reconciled to the Father so that we would be saved from death and healed of sin.  This sin and death issue, then, is not the Father's problem, but ours,  yet He, through the sacrifice of the Logos, did what we never could do: He changed our very nature into something completely different...he brought us back to Eden's goodness.
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« Reply #42 on: August 08, 2006, 10:02:57 AM »

I'm sorry Pedro but I still believe that there wasn't any kind of atonement to the father. Gods free gift to us should have nothing to do with pleasing himself. Wouldn't that make him a selfish god? My reasoning behind it is as such. Christ came as the perfect Adam not to please the father and give him a perfect example but to bound the devils power over us. His power being death and corruption. This was a gift given out of LOVE. The devil was defeated by the Savior's death on the cross. At that time he was deprived of power over the world, "fettered" and "confined to the bottomless pit" for a thousand years; that is, for a very long time (Rev. 20:3). "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out," so said the Lord before His sufferings (John 12:31). As we know from the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse and from other sources of the Holy Scripture, the devil, even after the Savior's death on the cross, had the ability to seduce the faithful and to set traps for them, although he no longer had power over them. The Lord said to His disciples: "Behold I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and on all the powers of the enemy" (Luke 10:19). He has reconsiled us by defeating the devil who had power over us. I'm no Theologen but this is what I gather from my gut.
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« Reply #43 on: August 08, 2006, 12:14:27 PM »

A traditional English word to express this reconciliation with God is the lovely noun "atonement," which literally refers to the act of "setting at one," establishing unity, "one-ment" (yes, it was once a real English word), where there had been estrangement before. Etymologically, then, "to atone" means to reconcile. This is the correct biblical sense of atonement: reunion with God.
-From Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, found http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/ReardonAtonement.php

If atonement means reunion with God, how could this not be an Orthodox concept?  We were alienated from God through sin and death and because God loved us He washes us of sin and robs death of its power.  In order to be deified through union with God we must first be reunited, we need atonement.  Again, what I think most are reacting against is an unfortunate misinterpretation of the atonement, one that postulates a God that needs to kill someone innocent in order to put everything aright.  God needs nothing!  But He loves us and used the Death of his Son to reconcile us to Him, in love, not fury.
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« Reply #44 on: August 08, 2006, 12:41:44 PM »

The word atonement used is wrong because it implys that we are forgiven of our sins. This reminds us of justification by faith alone. No Orthodox I know believe this. Lets just use the word Reconciliationwitch we can agree is biblical.

The word atonement gained widespread use in the sixteenth century after William Tyndale recognized that there was no direct translation of the concept into English. In order to explain the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, which accomplished both the remission of sin and reconciliation of man to God, Tyndale invented a word that would encompass both actions. He wanted to overcome the inherent limitations of the word "reconciliation" while incorporating the aspects of "propitiation" and forgiveness. It is interesting to note that while Tyndale labored to translate the 1526 English Bible, his proposed word is comprised of two parts, 'at' and 'onement,' which also means reconciliation, but combines it with something more. Although one thinks of the Jewish Fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the Hebrew word is ‘kaper’ ing ‘a covering’, so one can see that ‘reconciliation’ doesn't precisely contain all the necessary components of the word atonement. Expiation means “to atone for.” Reconciliation comes from Latin roots re, meaning “again”; con, meaning “with”; and sella, meaning “seat.” Reconciliation, therefore, literally means “to sit again with.” While this meaning may appear sufficient, Tyndale thought that if translated as "reconciliation," there would be a pervasive misunderstanding of the word's deeper significance to not just reconcile, but "to cover," so the word was invented.
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Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.
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