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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: Substitutionary Atonement.. why was Christ crucified?
Cod
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Posted by Fr. Gregory on this thread:

quote:
As a side dish ... penal subsitution makes of God a monster in satisfying a blood lust masquerading as legal satisfaction. Whatever happened on the Cross it wasn't the simple and dreadful banalities of "I deserved to die but God killed his Son in my place."
[Projectile]

This is something also that I've been taught consistently in my own church background. It was taught more in the sense of God sacrificing himself rather than a vengeful father sacrificing his son. This, of course, gives rise to the issue of whether God is more important than His 'law' - when this law demands a high blood price it seems not to be so.

All the same, I was suprised at the the projectable nature of Fr. Gregory's disgust. After all it is the only 'reason' for the Crucifixion I have been taught, coming from my evo, latterly veering to AC/liberal Anglicanism.

So - why was Christ crucified?

[ 08. January 2006, 22:01: Message edited by: Erin ]

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Adeodatus
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I can't cope with the idea of substitutionary atonement. I've never found a way in which it can actually make sense - all the business of the 'ransom' being 'paid' by whom, to whom, and for what? Can't cope, I'm afraid.

What makes a lot more sense is what I understand to be a more Orthodox position, the 'Christus Victor' tradition, in which Christ ascends the cross to do battle with Death. In his death, descent into hell, and resurrection, Christ defeats death and breaks its power over the world, so that 'death has no more dominion over us'. Christ's death and resurrection then becomes the pattern for our own death and resurrection; death is no longer the end of life, but the seedbed of eternal life (cf 1Cor 15).

Now that I can believe in.

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Cod
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Hi Adeodatus,

Unpalatable as it may seem the standard Evo position appears to hang together better as a complete package ie:

1) God Creates World and Establishes Law.
2) Humanity Lives in Harmony.
3) Humanity Sins
4) God makes New Peace Plans but Humanity keeps Stuffing Up (keeping a lot of butchers in business in the process).
5) Fed up with all the bulls and Fatted Calves, God sends His Son Instead to Pay Price..
6) Return to 2).

Now, the neatness of all this is that the Law is kept. By contrast, some loose threads seem to hang from the position you've adopted. From whence comes the power of death? Through man's rebelliousness? Why does Death have this power? Does it proceed from the results of creation being spoiled because of the Fall?

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markporter
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well.....I believe in substitutionary atonement [Eek!]

quote:
As a side dish ... penal subsitution makes of God a monster in satisfying a blood lust masquerading as legal satisfaction. Whatever happened on the Cross it wasn't the simple and dreadful banalities of "I deserved to die but God killed his Son in my place."
Well, I'm quite happy with it working like that, but how about we try a different model: Entering into God's presence is costly, it requires the offering up of something perfect, now we had nothing perfect to offer, being corrupted by sin. Christ became that offering for us.

I think that substitution still works perfectly well; the law has been broken, and God needs to express the worth/cost of that having happened to remain perfectly righteous and consistent, and also for the good of us.

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Psyduck

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There's a bery fine book on the Atonement by John Knox - no, not that John Knox! The Episcopalian theologian! (Mind you, the Scots original was an episcopalian, not a presbyterian, too.. - called "The Death of Christ", in which he surveys the traditional approaches to the Atonement, and suggests that they are all broadly findable in Scripture, that none of them can be taken to be the doctrine of Scripture, and that they are actually all related to psychological needs (which are no less actual for all that they are psychological!) that we have arising out of our perceptions of out relationship with God, how it's broken, and how it needs to be fixed.

I don't think we can repeat to ourselves often enough that the word atonement isn't Greek, Hebrew, or Latin. It's English - literally "at-one-ment".

The pervasive sense of being out of control of our own lives, of being held captive by a power that isn't amenable to our wishes to be good, of being caught up in a world that's ensnared by evil - that, it seems to me, is at the heart of "Christus Victor" atonement - whether it's Patristic-period Eastern Christians understanding their faith as liberation from the control of the Devil, or the 'rights' that the Devil has earned over them, or twenty-first century Christians seeing our collective captivity to a world-order that directs us to spend vast sums at Christmas while millions starve and die - and seeking and finding in the Christian faith the liberation from this and the starting point for a spiritual war of resistance against it.

To the extent that we sense that we are captive, abnd helpless, and compromised - or that our captivity, helplessness and complicity are overturned in Christ, setting us free - then Christus Victor is the atonement-story we tell.

But we are also people racked by guilt. Unsure of our personal acceptability to God - because we have big problems loving and accepting ourselves. That's why penal-substitutionary atonement in its criminal-civil law form has held sway for so long in the West. We are individuals - that's what moderenity has done to us - who have no idea how we fit in, no idea what others think of us - or God - and what we need is the objective assurance that we are accepted. Yes, and loved. Because love is in there somewhere, in all the distortions and debasements of the Gospel which penal-substitutionary atonement has brought about. But it's a cold, arbritrary, formal love, just marginally better than nothing. The proof, by the way, that it is better than nothing is that it fills a humn need. People believe it in this way because they need to.

It's important to notice that penal substitutionary atonement was really first formulated by Anselm, in the context of European feudalism, where the question that 'sin' suggested was "How have I fallen out of the networks and hierarchies of social relation that is God's (feudal) world. The question was, given we had affronted God's dignity and honour by 'rebelling' against him (and the 'rebellion' in much conservative atonement-speak is still clearly feudal rather than Scriptural!) how do we fix these broken relations? The answer is - we can't. We don't carry enough clout in the system to put things right. But Jesus does. The King's son... And he voluntarily and willingly... etc. etc.

It's only in early modernity (yes, Calvin! [Hot and Hormonal] ) that the feudal court is replaced by the criminal/civil court, and all the distortions of the man in the dock being released by the just judge who accepts the willingness of another to die for him (er... how just is that?) and the wedge between the loving Christ and the judging, vengeful God, emerges as a reflection of the modern European soul.

Is penal substitutionary atonement completely clapped out? That's a good question for this thread! I suspect that the answer is that while we feel guilt and uncertainty in the face of God's love, we will need some way of addressing its removal - and Christus Victor isn't about this.

So - am I Christus Victor, or am I penal substitutionary? Well, more both than neither.

But I'm actually personally more indebted to someone who hasn't been mentioned yet. Peter Abelard...

I've said enough for now. Any other Abelard fans out there want to take this one and run with it?

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"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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NemTudom
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How does Christus Victor cope with the idea of Christ as a sacrifice?
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Father Gregory

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Dear Sir George Carey

The best I can say about your list is that it can be written into a tract more easily, (and this generation thinks that it invented sound bytes!)

Yes, Adeodatus ... you have it, we believe, that is the Orthodox Christian faith. I can go with Psyduck as well in so far as "sacrifice" is a key Christian term ... it's just the substitutionary / legal / acquittal / satisafaction thing that has been overplayed into distortion in the west since Anselm.

There is a huge old thread of SubAt somewhere. Can anyone find it? Maybe it should go into Dead Horses? It is a very important thread. I hope it hasn't been lost. (I sure groan at the prospect of going constructing that debate all over again!) [Frown]

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Father Gregory

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Dear Aldamir

C.S. Lewis made an excellent synthesis in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The sacrifice of Christ was the necessary (and, from a human point of view ... paradoxical), 'coup de grace' in God's victory over sin, suffering, evil and death. You submit to something with a power it doesn't comprehend to defeat it. Star Wars is quite good as well ... Skywalker in battle with Vader ... also in LOTR ... Gandalf resurrected after falling into Gehenna with the Balrog.

Early Saxon Christianity resonated very strongly with these themes ... Christ as the young warrior mounting the cross as a stallion of Love to do battle with Hell.

Go here for the Dream of the Rood ... a Saxonm (and, therefore, Orthodox [Biased] ) Christian poem.

Bearing in mind the popularity of such themes in secular culture; I am surprised that evangelicals haven't followed up on Aulen's seminal work: "Christus Victor." He was a Lutheran of course. Much of Luther's work in this area was very Orthodox. Unfortunately he was loaded with Augustinian Latin juridical baggage as well ... so it didn't all come out consistently Orthodox.

[ 29. November 2003, 10:55: Message edited by: Fr. Gregory ]

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Father Gregory

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Oh ... and there's Neo in Matrix 3 as well ... blinded, defeated, broken, voluntarily entering, arms outstretched, the Matrix to unstitch Smith.

I think that the block to the west getting a hold of this Orthodox intuition in the popular culture is its deep seated moralism (and moralising). Twas ever thus with the children of Rome [Ultra confused] ... well, even more so in the second Millenium. Can't we shake it off for good in the Third? PLEASE! [brick wall]

[ 29. November 2003, 11:01: Message edited by: Fr. Gregory ]

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Adeodatus
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There's nothing in the 'Christus Victor' model that doesn't fit in with a perfectly Biblical view of salvation history. (Let's stick with the Genesis myth of the Fall as a convenient shorthand way of looking at it.)
(1) Humanity is created to be God's stewards of the world.
(2) Humanity discovers the choice between good and evil and inevitably chooses evil.
(3) Therefore the world is separated from God because its (human) stewards have separated themselves from God.
(4) The power of Death (rather than death itself) is a necessary consequence of this, rather being an imposed 'punishment'. (Note that in Genesis, God says only, 'you shall die', not 'I will inflict death on you'.)
(5) God establishes the Law in his chosen people as a temporary 'fix' to prepare the world for the coming of Christ. (In Paul, especially in Romans, the Law only ever holds sway until the coming of Christ.)
(6) At the right time, the right place, Christ enters the world 'under the Law'. (The only time and place Christ could enter the world.)
(7) Christ becomes all that is human, thus redeeming all that is human: finally taking on the power of Death and defeating it.
(8) Death becomes the seedbed of eternal life preparatory to the final restoration of all things in Christ.

Even the idea of 'sacrifice' fits in with this, if we read sacrifice as an act of celebration rather than an act of guilt. This is in fact what sacrifices were - the act of killing was always followed by a party. In this view, sacrifice is a sacrament, rather than a judicial act. (See, e.g., Ed Sanders's account on Jewish practices around the time of Jesus in his book of which I seem to have forgotten the title. Sorry.)

The 'guilt' that so many Western Christians feel, and which has led to some of the more bloodthirsty formulations of substitutionary atonement, is in my view a false and pathological guilt. It arises from a failure to realise (make real for ourselves) the fact that the victory over Death has been definitively and objectively won, once and for all.

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Psyduck

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Er - so you're saying, Adeodatus, that there is only one approved Biblical model of atonement - and that's Christus Victor? I suppose that's marghinally better than saying that theres's only one Biblical model, and it;s penal substitution...

If I had to choose... but hang on! I don't! That's not the way the Bible presents the atonement! Why should there be only one way of talking about it?

The atonement is event, and the doctrine a struggle to articulate that event - not to exhaust it!

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"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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Adeodatus
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I hope I didn't suggest, psyduck, that 'Christus Victor' is the only way of looking at things. In saying it's a Biblical view I was countering the idea (unstated in this thread, but widely taught in some Protestant churches) that substitutionary atonement is the only thorough-going Biblical view.

My own position is that I can't see logically how substitutionary atonement works, because I have (I think) unanswered problems with the idea of 'ransom' or 'debt'. I also think it's based on an erroneous view of sacrifice and that it often leads to unnecessary guilt in Christians. For these reasons, I believe 'Christus Victor' is a better model, but not the only one.

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Nicodemia
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Think I can follow these arguments! This thread is overlapping with the next one where I asked about atonement!

Why is death an enemy? Why does it have to be overcome? I have spoken to many who would welcome it. If one is afraid of what happens after death, then we are onto the Hell and being unsaved bit, aren't we?

Nic (determined to get this thing straight!)

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by psyduck:
If I had to choose... but hang on! I don't! That's not the way the Bible presents the atonement! Why should there be only one way of talking about it?

Are you sure?

I think that Christ's victory over death and hell is by far the most prominent way that the Bible presents it. He constantly refers to "overcoming" the powers of darkness, to being the "light", to turning away from evil, to establishing justice. The Old Testament context is a protracted war between Israel and her enemies. The end of Revelation can only be seen as the peace that comes when the enemies of peace are defeated.

On the other hand, the few references to such things as "giving His life a ransom for many" and "bearing the sins of the world" can easily be fit into the "victor" theme. Everyone knows that sacrifice is necessary to overcome evil. Your own will must be submitted to the cause, and the love of worldly things must be given up to gain heavenly ones.

The ONLY biblical perspective is that good is to triumph over evil. This is therefore the only interpretation of the Incarnation that ultimately makes sense.

SA theology undermines this perspective by recasting the Incarnation as the clever solution to a conundrum caused by the unfortunate contradiction of original sin and divine justice. At stake is human salvation - not goodness itself. Therefore the focus of SA theology is not service to God and the neighbor, or doing the will of God, or avoiding evil, but only on salvation and the solution to this ancient conundrum. Goodness is thought to flow from salvation, and the idea that the reverse may be the case is dismissed as "merit." Yet virtually all of Jesus' teaching is that salvation is the result doing God's will and turning away from sin, avoiding the idea of merit by attributing everything to God.

It is strange that the vicarious atonement is so often presented as the only explanation for Christ's death on the cross. While it has a logic to it, and does fit several biblical teachings, the overall message runs counter to any sensible way of seeing the biblical message.

Christ's death was the final act of His victory, as He willingly gave up the most precious of earthly things - life itself - in favor of the divine purpose of His coming. In doing this He broke the power of hell, which places self and the world above all other goals.

Christ therefore restored human freedom to follow Him or not as we choose, giving us an alternative to the crushing dominance of selfish and wordly ends.

This is the way the Bible presents it, as I understand it.

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Faithful Sheepdog
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quote:
Originally posted by Fr. Gregory:
Bearing in mind the popularity of such themes in secular culture; I am surprised that evangelicals haven't followed up on Aulen's seminal work: "Christus Victor."

I am currently reading an interesting book called “Evangelicalism and the Orthodox Church”, published by the Evangelical Alliance in the UK. This book had both evangelical and Orthodox input. When discussing the evangelical understanding of atonement, it takes the interesting methodological approach of looking at evangelical hymnody, and comments as follows on page 59:

quote:
…evangelical hymnody as a whole displays a definite preference for the substitutionary model of the atonement. However, other models are also used (the “Christus Victor” model, which interprets the death and resurrection of Christ as conquering the powers of evil, has been particularly popular in modern charismatic songs), and such items as the hymns above (“Let earth and heaven combine” and “Here is love, vast as the ocean”) also assign saving significance to the incarnation. Indeed, it could even be said that popular evangelicalism has been shaped in part by patristic thought, through the medium of Charles Wesley’s hymns…
For a comprehensive evangelical presentation of the theology of the cross, I can highly recommend John Stott’s book “The Cross of Christ”. His scholarly presentation of the substitutionary model takes issue with some of the cruder formulations to be found in the evangelical world.

Stott takes care to connect his presentation of a substitutionary atonement into both incarnational and trinitarian theology. His book also engages comprehensively and positively with the Aulen (“Christus Victor”) model and the Abelard (“revelation of love”) model.

Neil

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Psyduck

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Freddy:
quote:
Are you sure?
Yes!

quote:
I think that Christ's victory over death and hell is by far the most prominent way that the Bible presents it. He constantly refers to "overcoming" the powers of darkness..
I don't doubt it! I'm simply saying it's not the only way.


quote:
to being the "light", to turning away from evil, to establishing justice.
And there's another three right there!!

quote:
The Old Testament context is a protracted war between Israel and her enemies.
There's a huge amount of the OT that's replete with all sorts of sacrificial imagery that plays in all sorts of ways on the New Testament. The OT also supplies the categories of the go'el (redeemer,) and ga'al (redemption) which are richly used and spectacularly misused in Christian tradition.

quote:
The end of Revelation can only be seen as the peace that comes when the enemies of peace are defeated
Only? I honestly don't think 'only'. Several people have pointed out that Athanasius, for one, manages to give a very creditable account of he incarnation without bringing the Devil into it at all.

quote:
On the other hand, the few references to such things as "giving His life a ransom for many" and "bearing the sins of the world" can easily be fit into the "victor" theme.
Only on the learner-driver-on-the-gears principle of 'Grind 'em till they fit!" An advocate of penal substitution would have no trouble in 'fitting in' all the references to the Victorious Christ to their particular procrustean bed either! My question is - why do it? Why make anything fit anything else at all? Why not glory in the richness of the ways that the Bible has of articulating the unsearchable riches of Christ?

I remember being pulled up short by that profound work of sprituality The Shorter Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church when I read that "there is no orthodox doctrine of the atonement". How could there be? In order to construct one, you'd have to bin more than half of what scripture says!

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"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by psyduck:
quote:

Originally posted by Freddy: I think that Christ's victory over death and hell is by far the most prominent way that the Bible presents it. He constantly refers to "overcoming" the powers of darkness..

I don't doubt it! I'm simply saying it's not the only way.
OK. I guess you're right. The accounts are presented with a beautiful variety, and do lend themselves to a variety of interpretations.

I do think, however, that some interpretations have serious shortcomings - leading me to agree with Fr. Gregory's projectile response. [Disappointed]

[Edited for UBB.]

[ 29. November 2003, 15:22: Message edited by: Tortuf ]

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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Nightlamp
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quote:
Originally posted by psyduck:

It's important to notice that penal substitutionary atonement was really first formulated by Anselm, in the context of European feudalism,

I believe this to be incorrect anselm formulated subsitutionary atonement. Penal subsitutionary atonement was formulated by calvin they are related but quite different.

The principle issue with Abelard's view of atonement is that Jesus did not have to die. If i remeber correctly Bernard of clairvaux's mystical view of atonement has some merit.

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I don't know what you are talking about so it couldn't have been that important- Nightlamp

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Gamaliel
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Fr Gregory, I think evangelicals ARE trying to engage with 'Christus Victor' and, indeed, overtly Patristic insights ... even on a popular level. Maybe it's work in progress and hasn't seen the light of day in any evangelical text-book as such yet.

Nigel Wright, a former president of the Baptist Union and a big pal of Andrew Walker the Orthodox academic sociologist, touches on the various theories in 'The Radical Evangelical' and, perhaps through sleight of hand, manages to preserve an element of penal substitutionary atonement in a modified form:

'The Son of God enters into and identifies himself fully with fallen humanity to such an extent that he is able to represent humankind before God. This involves standing with us under judgement. In doing so, he bears the 'intrinsic' punishment whereby sin produces alienation from God, becoming vulnerable to our self-inflicted judgement. By bearing this, Christ acknowledges the justice of the Father's judgement and says Amen to it in such a way, on our behalf, that he renounces and puts an end to the old, sinful humanity and replaces it with a new, obedient humanity. The human situation is thus transformed and the possibility of a renewal of covenant with God is opened up for all.

'In this way we may conceive of Christ's work being both substitutionary, in that it is done in our place and on our behalf, and penal in that it involves the bearing of an 'intrinsic' punishment, but not as 'penal substitution', with its implication of the Father personally punishing the Son. So the God who brings forgiveness does so in a way that fully acknowledges the reality of sin, does not pass over it, but judges it,yet judges it so as to open the way to transformation.'

Wright goes on to argue that redemption does not abrogate the creation but is in itself a further manifestation of the divine power to create and renew.

I'm not explaining myself very well here, but I suppose what I am saying is that much classic and contemporary evangelical thought on the issue isn't as crude as is so often portrayed in sermons and tracts. Even in very pro-penal substitutionary and evangelically popular works like TC Hammond and DF Wright's 'In Understanding Be Men' the cruder portrayals of SA are questioned and denounced.

We are talking divine self-substitution here ... and the court-room analogies we've all heard fall far short.

Anyway ... perhaps because it's the tradition I'm most familiar with, I'm reluctant to ditch penal substitutionary atonement completely. I will, like Wright, be happy to modify it and, indeed, to embrace 'Christus Victor' too ... which in fact is already embedded in much charismatic evangelical theology and spirituality as has been noted.

Why should it be either, or, why can't it be both?

Gamaliel

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markporter
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FGreg, I seem to remember looking for that thread a while back and being unable to find it.

quote:

(2) Humanity discovers the choice between good and evil and inevitably chooses evil.

hmmm? inevitably?
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Psyduck

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Gamaliel:
quote:
I think evangelicals ARE trying to engage with 'Christus Victor' and, indeed, overtly Patristic insights ...
I would by no means equate evangelicals with 'conservative Protestants'. I'm not an evangelical, but I am very aware of the breadth and openness that characterize many who do call themselves evangelical.

Nightlamp: I did run on from Anselm to Calvin, though I really intended 'penal substitutionary' to do duty for a whole category that 'substitutionary' on its own doesn't cover. The point is that the death of Christ does restitution for a punishable wrong that he is innocent of. Substitutionary indicates no more than that Christ dies in our place. Penal, you might well argue, doesn't really do justice to the feudal structure of thought in which Anselm's doctrine is embedded, but the point is that a lawfully-established system of relationships privileging God's rights and honour (Anselm) or God's law (Calvin) has been infringed, and the infringement cannot be overlooked.

(A friend of mine once astonished me with a sermon illustration 'that I could use', about a Church of England clergyman who was an absentee (if I remember rightly) landlord in Ireland. The story was that at a time of great hardship, the tenants indicated that they couldn't pay their rent, and begged that it should be remitted. The story was that the clergyman sent a letter back saying that this was impossible, that the law had to be respected, and also hsi rights as a property-owner - and enclosing his own cheque for the full amount of the rent, so that this could be done. My reaction was astonishment that my friend couldn't see what was wrong with that! In case anyone here is in any doubt, isn't the point that the guy did this very generous thing to uphold a system which stank, and stank in his favour??? [Eek!] )

I suppose that it's a forgiveable limitation on Anselm (whose brain was probably fried after producing the Ontological Argument, if that's the sequence - can't be bothered to look it up as its nearly teatime!) that he thought that the whole universe had the same feudal structure his own society did. I think you can make the same point about Calvin personally, given his personality structure and driving anxieties. Where the thing approaches the unpardonable is when you have people promoting themselves to teaching ministries in conservative Protestant churches who haven't the theologicl education - just the arrogance - to undertake the task of telling people what Christianity is, and then keep their hard-pressed and deeply anxious and vulnerable flocks ignorant that the Bible says a great deal more about the work of Christ than they will ever let them hear. Doctrine as a tool of the power-mad!

I'm in large part an Abelardian because the cross as the demonstration of the love of God is both the truth about ourselves, and the assurance that the truth about ourselves, which we are so reluctant and unable to face (understandably!) is both mirrored and totally accepted in the cross. This is how much God loves us - yes (that's where the understanding of Abelard as an appeal to our 'higher feelings' stops; no wonder it misleadingly parodies Abelard as a 'subjective' doctrine of the Atonement) but it's also what we do to God and to each other, and to ourselves in the crucifying world we create, willy-nilly. And still God loves us. The atonement understood in an Abelardian way post Freud is the assurance that God loves the bits of us that we suppress.

And yes, of course, there's still a deficiency in Abelard's view. But the point is that all 'doctrines' of the Atonement are in some degree or other deficient. And on the other hand, there is something of important conserved in every doctrine of the atonement. Even the penal-substitutionary. For me what's conserved there is the insight that there is absolutely nothing in the relationship between us and God that hasn't been dealt with and put right. But how you separate this from all the extra-Biblical dross that's sedimented over it is another queston.

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The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.
"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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Freehand

The sound of one hand clapping
# 144

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Fr. Gregory, would you agree with psyduck in the following statement?

quote:
psyduck wrote:
I suspect that the answer is that while we feel guilt and uncertainty in the face of God's love, we will need some way of addressing its removal - and Christus Victor isn't about this.

With respect to Christus Victor, I would tack on the concept that Christ enters into us (and vice versa) and defeats sin within our own being. The defeat of sin in our life still requires sacrifice. Sin is not defeated by brute force but through submission to the consequences of sin.

Our role in our own salvation does more to provide guilt therapy than the belief that God sacrificed everything to provide a free gift (sorry if I'm over-simplified here). Substitutionary atonement did not help to alleviate and treat guilt in my life. Rather, it ballooned the guilt to cosmic proportions and exacerbated my sense of lostness. Substitutionary atonement claims a magical solution that amplifies the guilt when the transformation is not forthcoming. Christus Victor, for me, brought together faith and works into one holistic process of oneness with God. I am still on this journey irregardless of my state of unbelief. This is a great comfort in my agnosticism.

Freehand [Smile]

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by psyduck:
I suppose that it's a forgiveable limitation on Anselm (whose brain was probably fried after producing the Ontological Argument, if that's the sequence - can't be bothered to look it up as its nearly teatime!

I fully understood, or thought I fully understood, the Ontological Argument once.

When I say "once" I mean on one occasion only, about 25 years ago, one afternoon in a house full of theoretical physicists and philosophers near the Wear in Durham. (I, a mere biologist, was reading some of their books)

Understood properly, it seemed so obviously true as to be undeniable. "Why didn't I think of that before?!"

Others present on that occasion think that my apparent understanding, which was not readily communicable to anyone else present, may have had something to with certain chemicals ingested over the previous few days. Or whatever it was that I put in the hummus.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Psyduck

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# 2270

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quote:
With respect to Christus Victor, I would tack on the concept that Christ enters into us (and vice versa) and defeats sin within our own being.
Sorry to leap in when you're waiting for Fr. G. I couldn't agree more; I'm just not sure that this is covered by Christus Victor. In fact part of what I'm trying to say is that there's no doctrine that covers all the bases on its own. What we have is a sprawling Christian language of what God was doing in Christ. A story, in fact, made up of many fused stories.

To my mind, the real affront isn't the idea of penal substitution as its elevation into the doctrine of the Atonement. I can see why people would need to say "It's like when you have a debt, and you've no idea how you're going to pay it - and you find that someone has already paid it for you out of sheer goodness!" I can see why someone would want - need - to say "All those things that have gone wrong in my life, all those things I've done wrong, all the hurt I've caused, everything I have become - I felt that constantly coming between me and God. And somehow, it's all been taken away!"

Of course, what happens doctrinally, to put us all in the same boat, is that the work of Christ is tied to a formal concept of Original Sin that is the same for all of us. In that sense, the line back to Augustine is clear.

My understanding of Original Sin is empirical though. We don't theorize it from a theological description of our relationship with God, or from our exegesis of a story about a couple in agarden with a snake and a daud of fruit. We start with a world out of joint, with skewed and hurtful relations, and we understand these in the light of the stories and the theology. Original Sin's to do with what's wrong in the world and in our relation to it. (I actually have problems seeing how you can theologize environmental concerns without an understanding of Original Sin.) But it seems to me that Original Sin is something which in the first place alienates us from God, and creates a fallen world of fallen relationships in which we are powerless. It seems to me that Christus Victor is to do with the overcoming of those things out there and therefore in me which hold me fast and alienate me from God.

It seems to me too that the act which creates the grounds of our acceptance by God in love - the authoritative declaration that this is how, and how much, God loves us (Abelard) is the redemption/justification which destroys the old legal framework, and opens the door to the process of Sanctification (God's liberation of us from all that holds us fast) which follows. It's less like God acquitting us, than it is like God the judge standing up in court, taking off his wig and robes (let our transatlantic brethren understand...) and saying "Actually, we're not going to do it this way..."

In other words, I can't see that the defeat of sin in our own being can be rigorously distinguished from its eradication from all our relationships. And the prelude to God's transforming us and our relationships is God's unconditional loving acceptance of us as we are - which is the only atonement that ultimately really makes sense. Because that's the atonement that's present everywhere in the New Testament, wherever Jesus Christ is, in Jesus' ministry as well as in the cross. In the end, Jesus Christ is the Christian Doctrine of the Atonement. End of story. (But not of thread, I bet!!)

--------------------
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.
"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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Psyduck

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# 2270

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Ken:
quote:
I fully understood, or thought I fully understood, the Ontological Argument once.
I've never been able to afford enough Laphroaig... [Yipee] [Confused] [Yipee] [Ultra confused]

--------------------
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.
"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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ken
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# 2460

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quote:
Originally posted by psyduck:
I suppose that it's a forgiveable limitation on Anselm (whose brain was probably fried after producing the Ontological Argument, if that's the sequence - can't be bothered to look it up as its nearly teatime!

I fully understood, or thought I fully understood, the Ontological Argument once.

When I say "once" I mean on one occasion only, about 25 years ago, one afternoon in a house full of theoretical physicists and philosophers near the Wear in Durham. (I, a mere biologist, was reading some of their books)

Understood properly, it seemed so obviously true as to be undeniable. "Why didn't I think of that before?!"

Others present on that occasion think that my apparent understanding, which was not readily communicable to anyone else present, may have had something to with certain chemicals ingested over the previous few days. Or whatever it was that I put in the hummus.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Nightlamp
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# 266

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quote:
Originally posted by psyduck:


Nightlamp: I did run on from Anselm to Calvin, though I really intended 'penal substitutionary' to do duty for a whole category that 'substitutionary' on its own doesn't cover. The point is that the death of Christ does restitution for a punishable wrong that he is innocent of. Substitutionary indicates no more than that Christ dies in our place. Penal, you might well argue, doesn't really do justice to the feudal structure of thought in which Anselm's doctrine is embedded, but the point is that a lawfully-established system of relationships privileging God's rights and honour (Anselm) or God's law (Calvin) has been infringed, and the infringement cannot be overlooked.


The crucial difference between Calvin (Penal substitution) and Anselm (substitution) is Calvin held that Jesus died in our place whilst anslem held that jesus releases us from punishment through satisfaction.

Still with Ablelard you have to ask why did jesus need to die?

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I don't know what you are talking about so it couldn't have been that important- Nightlamp

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Father Gregory

Orthodoxy
# 310

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(Mark ... I don't think that quote was from me .. it's not something I would say).

Freehand .... there is a diference between guilt and shame. Guilt must relate to what I do (or envisage) .. not a generic inheritance, (as against a western understanding or original sin of course ... and the shame that goes with it .... sex ... oh dear, neuroses here we come).

Shame is what I feel about what I do or envision. Guilt cannot exist authentically without some reliable moral compass. Guilt dissolves into shame when this moral compass is not available. Shame is only reliable once guilt is anchored.

In our quicksand age, guilt is not anchored at all. Hence in a post Freudian context, guilt is always the enemy. No wonder ... if it's not reliable. This is why modern psychiatry is so popular, lucrative .... and ineffective .... wrong diagnosis .... wrong cure.

In atonement terms we have to start from somewhere else other than guilt. Orthodox start with death and alienation (booted out of Eden for our own good) not guilt. Repentance is not a gut wrenching morbid turmoil kind of thing ... it's coming home. NOT coming home is a feeling of unease ... dis-ease. We are not where we should be. "I shall arise and say to my Father ..."

Dear Psyduck

I wish I could be democtratic on atonement but I cannot. I need a framework that will include all atonement themes and, moreover, integrate the death and resurrection of Christ in one co-equal divine movement. Christus Victor is the only framework that manages to achieve this. For example, in substitutionary atonement, (penal or otherwise Gamaliel), the resurrection is hardly necessary. Once one is right with God ... that's it ... end of story. When I have spoken to SubAt types on this they simply say that the resurrection vindicates the sacrifice of Christ and offers hope "beyond the grave." There is no SALVIFIC significance in the resurrection itself here at all. Only Christus Victor embraces all the other elements. It is not called the "Classic" theory for nothing. Luther seemed quite attached to it, (notwithstanding the pull of St. Augustine).

--------------------
Yours in Christ
Fr. Gregory
Find Your Way Around the Plot
TheOrthodoxPlot™

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JimT

Ship'th Mythtic
# 142

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My latest brush with this topic occurred at a lecture given by Marcus Borg. He said that he didn't believe in a conscious life after death, so I surmised that he did not see the death of Christ as providing for nor paving the way to conscious life after death. He also said that he believed the message of Christ to be principally about the locus of authority over one's soul or self. If I understood him, he seemed to say that Christ asserted his own right to govern his own soul in prayerful and contemplative connection with the image of God inside him. He attempted to explain to others that they had the same right and should assert it against religious and secular authorities should they sense any attempt to usurp this right by force.

Listening to this, I put together a picture that Jesus vainly tried to assure the religious authorities that although he thought that some of them had completely lost sight of the purpose of the law, he was not arguing for its abolition nor for his own elevation as supreme religious authority. He failed in this cause and convinced the religious rulers that he represented enough of a threat to their authority and established traditions to merit death. Once they convinced the Romans, who were merciless in their requirement of submission to their own absolute authority in every province of life, that he represented at least a brash challenge to their asserted unlimited authority, death became inevitable and Jesus submitted to it in a loving act of spiritual defiance with the faith that it would plant a seed that would eventually blossom into his vision of a kingdom of heaven rather than a kingdom of Jewish and Roman rulers.

It makes some kind of sense to me and I can weave a post modern interpretation of Jesus as fulfiller of law, the first and original Son of God, victor over death in that death could not be used to intimidate him, and the one who died in our place so that religious and secular authorities eventually allowed the protection of individual rights that give us the priviledge of speaking our hearts and minds here. And more. In terms of Jesus' more apocalyptic prophesies, I am not sure as to where they came from nor what they really mean.

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Father Gregory

Orthodoxy
# 310

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So, Borg is about self determination. How West Coast! No wonder he finds it difficult to fit Easter into TA theology. I'm OK, you're OK, Jesus says so, screw the screwing authorities. I think that this is a gross trivialisation of the Christian gospel.

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Fr. Gregory
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lanky_badger
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# 3514

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I'm not sure I can follow these arguments, as I'm only a simple lad (well, I am a Christian, after all).

I don't understand why atonement - as our sin absolved by Jesus' death - would 'trivialise' Christianity?

I do not mean to suggest the any of the ideas that have been put forward are incorrect, merely that i don't understand them (although, by nature somebody's gotta be wrong if anyone's right).

a little help?

[ 29. November 2003, 19:52: Message edited by: lanky_badger ]

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"He had to accept the fate of every newcomer to a small town where there are plenty of tongues that gossip and few minds that think"
Victor Hugo, Of Myriel. Chapter I, Les Miserables.

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Father Gregory

Orthodoxy
# 310

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Dear Lanky Badger

I didn't say that being absolved by Christ's death trivialised Christianity ... I said that Borg's minimalist theology of protest trivialised Christianity. It's just another rehash of Jesus the vindicated revolutionary. Being absolved by Christ's death is a much deeper and richer concept.

[ 29. November 2003, 20:19: Message edited by: Fr. Gregory ]

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Yours in Christ
Fr. Gregory
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JimT

Ship'th Mythtic
# 142

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quote:
Originally posted by Fr. Gregory:
So, Borg is about self determination. How West Coast! No wonder he finds it difficult to fit Easter into TA theology. I'm OK, you're OK, Jesus says so, screw the screwing authorities. I think that this is a gross trivialisation of the Christian gospel.

I should not be taken as a gospel authority on Borg and the comments he made were in connection to a specific question from the audience on what "Son of God" means. I'll leave it to others to debate how much Borg has trivilized the gospel, but as one who was properly diagnosed, treated, and at least functionally cured by psychotherapy I can say that this is a gross trivialization of the effectiveness of psychotherapy:

quote:
Originally posted by Fr. Gregory:
This is why modern psychiatry is so popular, lucrative .... and ineffective .... wrong diagnosis .... wrong cure.

As proof of my cure, I offer this: I only smiled when I saw it and felt a warm liking of the fervency it displays rather than a need to confront, discredit, and rage against it.
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markporter
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# 4276

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quote:
(Mark ... I don't think that quote was from me .. it's not something I would say)
no, sorry....I should have made that clear in my post
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Gamaliel
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Fr Gregory, I too, have heard SA proponents explain the resurrection like that and tag it on almost as an afterthought. I wouldn't say that was typical of all SA types though, only those that major on the penal aspect almost to the detriment of everything else. As Psyduck says, the big issue isn't SA itself but the implication that SA is the only allowable 'take' on the matter.

You know more about this than I do. So does Psyduck and many others on this thread. You've studied theology formally. I haven't. Yet my gut-instinct inclines me to be more democratic than you are in trying to absorb and reconcile the various theories. I don't see why they should be mutually exclusive. Some people tell me I'm no longer an evangelical, for instance, and that I'm only clinging onto it because I'm nervous about moving on. I can't see why I can't be an evangelical still and yet embrace insights from other traditions - your own and Psyduck's for instance, and indeed many more besides.

Equally, I don't see why we have to weld ourselves unremittingly to any one particular atonement theory. Sure, the 'classic' theory is fantastic - but surely there are other insights that might not be so all-embracing and so important but which it can, in turn, absorb and be illuminated by? Or am I being naive?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Orthodox theology emphasises that we are saved by Christ's life, classic evangelical theology that we are saved by his atoning death. The two aren't mutually exclusive. We are saved by his life, death and glorious resurrection - and of course his continuing intercession. We are saved by Christ. Period.

I'll admit that many evo's are weak on all of this. That's why we need the Orthodox, among others, to help us out. We all need each other.

Gamaliel

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Psyduck

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# 2270

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Nightlamp:
quote:
Still with Ablelard you have to ask why did jesus need to die?

I think there's a hidden logic in Abelard. Jesus needed to die because they crucified him. That's the sort of world this is. That's what happens when love in its self-giving purity is incarnated in a world like this. As Fr. Herbert McCabe says, this is a crucifying world. If you love in a world like this, you'll get hurt. If you love enough, you'll get crucified. Something rather similar is said by Leander Keck, who argues (I hope I'm reproducing this accurately; it's years since I read it) in A Future for the Historical Jesus? that the crucifixion is the inevitable upshot of the life that Jesus lives. And the resurrection is God's validation of this life in the face of the world's rejection of it - this is the valid life which Christians must themselves strive to live. That's an avowedly liberal Protestant construal, but I think it has considerable power.

As to your accusation that I was very sloppy in conscripting Aneselm under the banner of penal-substitutionary atonement, you'r quite right. Hey, it was Saturday afternoon... (But no excuse.) What I meant was that this line of thought, in which a price which must be paid is paid on our behalf by Jesus, begna to be formulated with Anselm, which is why the three bog-standard alternatives in the field are usually Anselm and descendants, Abelard and Christus Victor (which is usually allowed to subsume a considerable variety of Orthodox views as well as Martin Luther.) However, I'm not sure that your own terminology is correct: substitutionary atonement certainly is the view that Christ dies in our place - he is where we should be. Anselm's point, however, is that Christ dies on our behalf.

Now here's a thought. Let's go back to this original grouping of 'Anselmian' viewpoints. Let's understand them as entailing that the problem of atonement is a mess that we've made, or have been implicated in, or are complicit in. This is what God must deal with. Let's separate them into "in our place" (penal substitutionary in the strict sense) views, and "for our sake" views.

I think it's actually possible to group at least some "Abelardian" perspectives under the "for our sake" heading. The world is a murderous mess, in which, to get by without being hurt, we put up screens, and defences, and we 'get our retaliation in first'. Love verges on the impossible, because wherever it appears, it is wounded and trashed. What God does in Christ is to enter the world, open and vulnerable, and live out the fulness of committed love. And the inevitable happens. The cross. But the cross and the resurrection together are the ultimate, radical validation of love. Sure, it may be risky, sure, you'll get hurt living like this, sure it may seem like the ultimate 'mugs' game' - but all of a sudden, in Jesus Christ, it can be seen as God's game too.

Am I saying that it's only the entry of Christ into the world that allows us to love? Of course not. But it's only this story that makes sacrificial love of another seem anything other than meaningless, irrational and at best an impossibly, stupidly noble and beautiful raging against the dark.

Now this makes something else possible as well. It makes it possible to see acts of sheer, selfless love, even perpetrated in ignorance, atheism or despair, as being a covert faith in the way the universe really is. It gets us off that dreadful hook of having to believe that only people who are paid-up, signed on the dotted line menbers of the One True Church, AKA my church, have any sort of relationship with God. To love is to know God. That's Biblical enough, isn't it?

And God, in Christ does this for our sakes. He does it to get us out of the loveless mess that our world has become, and in which we are complicit. He loves with the love that we should have.

And yes, of course I'm blurring the distinctions among all these doctrines. Because the taxonomy is important if you want to understand how the atonement has been understood. But if you want the fulness of the atonement, you have to understand that all these understandings of it are complementary.

In other words, Nightlamp, I don't think all of this is in Abelard. But I do think that you can generate an understanding like this if you connect Abelard up to all the other understandings that Scripture has generated, and, far more importantly, keep going back to Scripture itself.

--------------------
The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.
"Lle rhyfedd i falchedd fod/Yw teiau ar y tywod." (Ieuan Brydydd Hir)

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Adeodatus
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markporter - it was me what said that line about 'inevitably' choosing evil. Perhaps 'inevitably' was the wrong word. 'Universally and invariably, as soon as the choice presents itself as a real choice' was the idea I was looking for. Hence St Paul: 'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'.

It's interesting to see on this thread a number of Protestant and evangelical contributors saying that SA theory isn't the only way of looking at things. I had always thought that conservative evangelical groups demanded adherence to SA theory of their members - Reform and the Church Society being but two. Can anyone tell me how I might have erroneously acquired this impression?

psyduck - the reason there is no single Orthodox 'doctrine' of the atonement is that, unlike the impression I seem to have wrongly acquired of conservative evangelical teaching, orthodox Christians have never sought to pin down the atonement to a monolithic doctrine. They have always acknowledged that it can be seen in a number of ways, and have stenuously preserved this idea by not 'crystallising' it.

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Freddy
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# 365

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quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
It's interesting to see on this thread a number of Protestant and evangelical contributors saying that SA theory isn't the only way of looking at things. I had always thought that conservative evangelical groups demanded adherence to SA theory of their members - Reform and the Church Society being but two. Can anyone tell me how I might have erroneously acquired this impression?

One way might have been a 1999 document, published by Christianity Today, titled "A Call to Evangelical Unity."

quote:
8. We affirm that the atonement of Christ by which, in his obedience, he offered a perfect sacrifice, propitiating the Father by paying for our sins and satisfying divine justice on our behalf according to God’s eternal plan, is an essential element of the Gospel.
We deny that any view of the Atonement that rejects the substitutionary satisfaction of divine justice, accomplished vicariously for believers, is compatible with the teaching of the Gospel.

11. We affirm that the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is essential to the Gospel (Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Gal. 2:16).
We deny that any person can believe the biblical Gospel and at the same time reject the apostolic teaching of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. We also deny that there is more than one true Gospel (Gal. 1:6–9).

12. We affirm that the doctrine of the imputation (reckoning or counting) both of our sins to Christ and of his righteousness to us, whereby our sins are fully forgiven and we are fully accepted, is essential to the biblical Gospel (2 Cor. 5:19–21).
We deny that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ infused into us or by any righteousness that is thought to inhere within us.

13. We affirm that the righteousness of Christ by which we are justified is properly his own, which he achieved apart from us, in and by his perfect obedience. This righteousness is counted, reckoned, or imputed to us by the forensic (that is, legal) declaration of God, as the sole ground of our justification.
We deny that any works we perform at any stage of our existence add to the merit of Christ or earn for us any merit that contributes in any way to the ground of our justification (Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8–9; Titus 3:5).

14. We affirm that, while all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are in the process of being made holy and conformed to the image of Christ, those consequences of justification are not its ground. God declares us just, remits our sins, and adopts us as his children, by his grace alone, and through faith alone, because of Christ alone, while we are still sinners (Rom. 4:5).
We deny that believers must be inherently righteous by virtue of their cooperation with God’s life-transforming grace before God will declare them justified in Christ. We are justified while we are still sinners.

This document makes my hair stand on end, especially the part about faith alone and being justified while we are still sinners, our cooperation being meaningless.

In any case, it does seem that, according to this document, conservative evangelical groups demand adherence to SA theory of their members.

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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Anselm
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quote:
Originally posted by Adeodatus:
It's interesting to see on this thread a number of Protestant and evangelical contributors saying that SA theory isn't the only way of looking at things. I had always thought that conservative evangelical groups demanded adherence to SA theory of their members - Reform and the Church Society being but two. Can anyone tell me how I might have erroneously acquired this impression?

SA is a shibboleth. It is not seen by anyone (or at least hardly anyone!) as the only way to understand the work of Christ, but as a fundamentally important facet of understanding the work of Christ - particularly in the context of distinguishing themselves from liberal theology.

It's like T.U.L.I.P. - which (contrary to popular opinion) doesn't summarise the teaching of Calvinism, it only highlight it's differences with Arminianism.

But with the passing of time - in some circles, the point of difference becomes the point of emphasis.

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carpe diem domini
...seize the day to play dominoes?

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daisymay

St Elmo's Fire
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Fr G,
quote:
For example, in substitutionary atonement, (penal or otherwise Gamaliel), the resurrection is hardly necessary. Once one is right with God ... that's it ... end of story. When I have spoken to SubAt types on this they simply say that the resurrection vindicates the sacrifice of Christ and offers hope "beyond the grave." There is no SALVIFIC significance in the resurrection itself here at all.
Well, they must be being very simplistic and trying to convert you [Biased] ...

I've never heard of the crucifixion being separated from the resurrection apart from those bits of the church who emphasise Good Friday. The two should go together, inextricably married. SAs (I keep reading that as S&M [Big Grin] ) that I've heard emphasise our identification with Christ's death and resurrection. Galatians:"I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" Romans:"So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Any that don't have that identification, or only think of it to do with life after death are not being very bright. [Roll Eyes]

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lanky_badger
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hey! that's not fair. you're quoting the bible! [Biased]

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"He had to accept the fate of every newcomer to a small town where there are plenty of tongues that gossip and few minds that think"
Victor Hugo, Of Myriel. Chapter I, Les Miserables.

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Gamaliel
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I think it is fair to say that conservative evangelicals do demand an adherence to substitutionary atonement. This doesn't mean that they are completely closed to other understandings - simply that the propiatory aspect has to be part of any understanding of the atonement if the Gospel is really going to be the Gospel.

I can understand why this causes people to shudder. I don't have a big beef about SA - provided one doesn't understand it in a crude court-room drama way. I do think Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones went too far, though, when he doubted whether CS Lewis was 'saved' just because Lewis was squeamish about SA.

Ok, ok, so I've imbibed Augustinian and Calvinistic theology. But I do think it's fair to say that many people in evangelical circles - both conservative and charismatic - are open to some form of Christus Victor approach and that the Resurrection isn't entirely missing from the evangelical landscape - 'how much more shall we be saved by his life ...', 'by the power of an indestructible life' etc...

Evangelicals do tend to be pretty big on Hebrews as well as Romans. We can be overly juridical but we're big on the 'if Christ be not raised your faith is futile, you are still in your sins' bit.

I'm not saying that evangelicals have the only correct 'take' on this - although I'm often tempted to argue that evangelicalism does preserve elements of the Gospel often down-played or even overlooked in other traditions. Just as other traditions emphasise aspects overlooked or down-played within evangelicalism.

I used to be a real git with SA ... on a bad day I could almost relish the blood and gore and punishment etc. [Hot and Hormonal]

I'm not proud of this and I've broadened and balanced out considerably. I'd have brow-beaten and proof-texted Fr Gregory and Freddy mercilessly at one time but now I bow to their insight and judgement ... [Overused] yet still reserve the right to hold to a modified SA view. Why? Not because I'm bolshie, awkward or a complete git - although these may be true - but because what I've read of SA in works like John Stott's 'The Cross of Christ' do appear, to me at least, to make sense of the Biblical data. What bugs me about Fr Gregory's approach (and I'm a big fan of his nevertheless [Biased] ) is that it doesn't appear to allow any room whatsoever for even the tiniest smidgen of a hint of SA. If elements of SA couldn't be seen in scripture then the whole Augustinian/Anselmic/Reformation tradition wouldn't have developed it. Am I missing something?

I'm getting confused. Someone put me out of my misery. Am I that far off the mark? [Ultra confused]

Gamaliel

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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fatprophet
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As is also outlined in my forthcoming
book " Even more arguments against substitutionary atonement Volume 14 " I propose another obvious problem with the notion of vicarious and substitutionary atonement:

How can it be justice for one person to die for the sins of another? If the argument is that God's justice is satisfied by someone else excepting my punishment, how is that right? Surely we should only suffer for our own sins and not anyone elses. If someone pays the debt then we have simply transferred our debt to a different creditor. If someone is punished for us, then haven't we unjustly been allowed to "get away with it" while there has also been a terrible miscarriage of justice upon the innocent whether they volunteered to suffer our penalty or not?

You see, I do understand the idea of justice needing to be "satisfied". God can't just let us off/forgive us if we have done bad things, as surely this would mean the collapse of the whole moral order of the universe. Moral values are only upheld if there is a strict requirement to make amends or at least change our ways. (some may recognise this as a version of the old Moral Government theory, but it makes huge sense to me)

While criticising SA, I note the need to satisfy the demands of justice does not seem to be provided for by other theories of the atonement. Indeed while I carry little favour for evangelical religion, the liberal christian's God seems a trifle too indulgent, and indeed immoral.
My solution is that we each have to pay for our sins either on earth or in some kind of future purgatory. Whatever theory is used, the problem remains: no one else can really atone for our sins, only we can. period.

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FAT PROPHET

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markporter
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quote:
If someone pays the debt then we have simply transferred our debt to a different creditor. If someone is punished for us, then haven't we unjustly been allowed to "get away with it" while there has also been a terrible miscarriage of justice upon the innocent whether they volunteered to suffer our penalty or not?
it depends upon what you believe the primary purpose of justice to be.
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daisymay

St Elmo's Fire
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There can be an enjoyment of the grisly, bloody idea of punishment too. When we're furious with someone who's hurt us, or we're gasping for justice because of the horrors some people or other have carried out, the idea that there is dire punishment in the offing for them can be pleasurable. And then it can feel unfair that they get their punishment taken over by Jesus...

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markporter
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There was a very informative and helpful post from a guy on another forum, that it might help to quote some of here

quote:

In summation, Lewis argues here that the moral value of retributive punishment lies in its revelatory function. Punishment reveals to the one punished the existential horror of his or her evil. The moral value of punishment consists of its not allowing its recipient to continue in the illusion that his or her evil finds no opposition in the universe. In this way, punishment functions as a means of exposure . It revels the true ugliness of evil, and as such, divine punishment reveals truth about the goodness of God and GodÕs holy opposition to evil.

(the full post is at post if it helps anyone)

[Edited for link.]

[ 30. November 2003, 21:57: Message edited by: Tortuf ]

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daisymay

St Elmo's Fire
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fatprophet,
it's not just someone or other "paying" for us, it's God taking the responsibility and paying for us.

And having God as the one we owe everything to is the reason that SA people say we dedicate ourselves wholly to God.

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markporter
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another concept that I feel like adding is that God cannot totally righteously pour out his blessings on anything that is less than perfect.....us not being perfect presents a bit of a problem, and so he comes down to live with us and make himself the perfect offering/sacrifice which allows God to pour out upon us the blessings which he want to do so.
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fatprophet
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So Mark, you consider, with Lewis, that the primary purpose of punishment is revelatory? I am reminded of Lewis' objection to the idea of punishment as deterrence; I recall he noted that deterrence could be equally served by some innocent person getting punished for the wrongs of another, and that for Lewis this among other reasons is why the idea of punishment as deterrence is inadequate.
So you are suggesting perhaps that punishing an innocent person would be as good as punishing a bad person because it at least reveals moral government and righteous outrage?
Im afraid I really do believe that some people "deserve" punishment. Though my attachment to a theory of deserts (spelling=puddings?) is not for sheer sadistic enjoyment as opponents of retributive justice (which I won't swing for - pardon the pun) like Daisymay might suggest!
Rather the idea of personally deserved punishment makes sense because we are only truly morally responsible - and only truly free - when we "own" the consequences of our actions including the bad results. Furthermore the notion of desert and making of personal amends recongises that evil must not simply be recognised, it must also be "reversed". You see justice properly understood, involves the rebalancing that must be carried out to actually stop and cancel evil, and restrain the power of the strong over the weak, which would otherwise dominate in society.

Penal justice takes from the wrongdoer something equivalent to that which he has stolen from/ deprived his victim of. Otherwise the wrongdoer will have "gained" from evil which cannot be so - the gain may be tangible property, but more likely it will be an abuse of freedom, the seizing of 'will to power', domination over the victim and society. The restraint of the wrongdoer by justice reverses this: his making amends or humbling means that evil has been counterbalanced and thus cancelled (if you like -justice aims thus:
-1 (the sin) +1 (the amends)= 0(justice)
Yes I note view that the idea of desert embodies the desire for revenge (when maybe the converse is the case) and this view is used to write off the whole notion of individual desert. However when we do some work, don't we feel we "deserve" to get paid for it? When someone does something nasty to us without provocation, don't we feel that we didn't "deserve" that? When we revenge, are we not (at the best) trying to equalise that which has been taken from us, so they recognise how we feel and don't gain advantage with their wrongdoing? Our very language, not to mention our system of law embodies the notion of deserts. Indeed it is so ingrained that we also think the punishment should fit the crime - the milder the offence, the lesser the punishment (though punishment as prevention or rehabilitation needs no link between length of punishment and gravity of offence) Only the notion of deserts explains the way we think about justice in everyday terms.

I do know there is value in the argument that justice is revelatory but, to my mind, we cannot have an idea of justice that breaks the link between the perpetrator and the person suffering the punishment. Vicarious atonement does just that: the sinner gets off with a "get out of jail and get into heaven card" and Jesus takes the rap. Thankyou Jesus. But if divine justice was based on a legal fiction to appear to uphold moral government, but didn't actually uphold it then what would be the value in that?? Perhaps God knows.

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FAT PROPHET

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markporter
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# 4276

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you seem to be taking the punishment more as taking from him who committed the crime, I think that perhaps it has more to do with the giving to him who was offended against.

I hope you don't mind me quoting another article, this time from tekton, about the was justice works in our society:

quote:
Punishment/restitution. This can mean a fine, a return of property, or even a prison sentence, the latter being conceived as a way of "paying" society for the crime committed.

Rehabilitation. I.e., taking steps to ensure that the person does not do the crime again.

Protection of the innocent. Until #2 above is done, this is the way to keep people from being victimized further.

The other point is that, Jesus having payed for our crimes, we now have an obligation toward him for having done that. It's not that he pays and that has no effect on us.
Posts: 1309 | From: Oxford | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged



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