Sunday, June 28, 2009

False Choices on the Atonement

The following are offered as statement of undeniable fact.

1. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was the kippor (atonement) typified by the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, as foretold most clearly in the Suffering Servant passage (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), and by his title Lamb of God.

2. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was forensic, because God's Law is perfect justice. Therefore, our salvation required a sacrificial victim (as it proved to be, the self-offering from love).

3. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was a ransom to free those held hostage to sin and death.

4. The Church has always taught and known from Scripture that Christ's offering of himself was the victory, as Christus Victor; and that it is one act with his resurrection.

In modern times, theological writers have set points 1 and 2 against points 3 and 4. In this scenario points 1 and 2 are attributed to St. Anselm and considered to be uniquely western, whereas points 3 and 4 are considered to be uniquely eastern. Furthermore, in this modern scenario that reinvents history, Anselm is believed to have written that God was infuriated with us until Jesus pacified the Father's rage. In even worse misrepresentations of Anselm, God is said to have taken pleasure, in the modern sense of the word, from his Son's crucifixion. Of course, these last two ideas are expressed with most certain conviction by those who, apparently, do not know Anselm from Popeye the Sailor Man. His writing very clearly sets forth the Atonement as the will of the whole Trinity (for God had one will), and therefore Christ's self-offering as the manifestation of the love of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost (as St.Paul taught, Rom.5:8). The images of God the Father as a raging tyrant pacified or pleased (in the modern sense of the word) by his Son's agonies, has never been western theology at all, and was never taught by Anselm. Use of Biblical language that is metaphorical, such as "wrath," does not change this fact.

Having read the Bible over and over since I was 14 (and I am now, in 2009, 51), and having studied for well over three decades the teaching of the Church, east and west from Antiquity forward, it is obvious to me that all four points are true, and that the people who insist that we must choose between either 1 and 2 or 3 and 4, suffer from deficiency of logic or from blind spots in their knowledge of the Bible. Also, the same people, on both sides, suffer from apparent gaps in their Patristic literacy, knowing only the works that present either one view or the other. Such is a weak knowledge of the ancient writers. Those who make us choose between these Biblical revelations, known and taught by the Church, require that we limit our appreciation, and even our understanding, of the fullness of God's word to man. If we know only Christus Victor, and not the Lamb of God, then we know nothing of our own sinfulness from which we were saved by God's mercy. If we know only the Suffering Servant who bears the righteous requirement of the Law for us, and not the victorious Christ also, we cannot look ahead to the Day when the saints will be glorified as partakers of the Divine Nature by grace.

Why must we choose? Why must we neglect our full heritage for only half the story? Is it to keep division alive and well? Is it to maintain enmity in the household of God, treating bitterness as a sacred thing, to be guarded at all costs against the threat of unity, and the danger of healing? Is it to defend bad theses written by young scholars who, having reached an advanced age and reputation, cannot admit that the young men they were can be corrected by the old men they have become? Or, is it just Satanic, an effort to make sure nobody can preach the whole Gospel with power and conviction?

Frankly it is one reason I remain a convinced Anglican. I can embrace it all, and I refuse the false choice that would require me to throw half the Gospel away.

34 comments:

Canon Tallis said...

As one who delighted in St. Anselm I am more than delighted to sign on to this very clearly stated defense of the full Scriptural teaching on the Atonement. I was quite shocked a little over a year ago when I heard an Orthodox scholar and theologian state that the Orthodox put very little stock in "the blood of Jesus." It was like he was sweeping away a great deal of New Testament teaching, something which I - as an Anglican - find myself unable to accept.

There should not be a split between the East and the West. That such exists is the result of our sin and not as the result of any possible division in the teaching of Holy Scripture or of the fathers. As Anglicans we need to remember that even after the division of East and West that there was a church of the Sarum rite in Constantinople under the authority of the patriarch and that a monastery following the Benedictine rule persisted on Mount Athos.

charles said...

Hello Fr. Hart,

This is an excellent post, and helps me understand Eastern Orthodoxy's misunderstanding of both Anselm and Augustine. I have a number of liberal TEC acquaintences, and when we get on the topic of gay marriage/blessings, it is very hard to pin them down. They always end up using, as you said, #3-4 against #1-2, in order to marginalize the significance of sin against a loving God. I think all ages have their heresies. In this particular one, the idea of the atonement and death for sin is very much under attack. It is an unpleasant message. Perhaps the Eastern Orthodox have yet to appreciate our apologetics, not having been hit by the full wave of 'modernism' yet? I also think restoring the cross and passion alongside the victory and resurrection is needed so that Anglicans may better reconcile themselves to our Reformation. Conviction of sin, repentance, and mortification of the flesh are also opportunities to restore and recall the great ascetic theology of the Church, particularly what little we know the the acetic heroics of the Irish (orthodox) one before England was Romanized.

Fr. D. said...

I have always had a problem with the word "Ransom". It seems to me that it strongly implies that the hostage taker, if you will, is stronger than the One who must pay the ransom.
I remember this coming up in seminary a couple of decades ago. The instructor, a published Oxford Don, argued against the idea of Ransom, but frankly I do not remember the details of the argument.
I would appreciate any comments from the learned members of "The Continuum".
Fr. D.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The teaching that hostages to sin and death have been ransomed (Matt. 20:28) suggests that Satan had more than simply his limited power over those who had come under his power. It implies that he had a legal claim as well, like the witch in Narnia had over Edwin. The idea of a legal claim still, however, subjects Satan's claim to God's eternal and unavoidable Law, and therefore is not entirely alien to justice. Seen in that light, the ransom is redemption, buying back the captives from the consequences of the Fall. Also, it should be seen as complementary to the forensic view of the atonement, not as contradictory.

This complement is summed up briefly in a few words by St. Paul:

"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" Col. 1:12-14

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Father Hart. To truly understand the Atonement, I agree that all 4 aspects are necessary.

You point out well why we as classic Anglicans need to exist. You also point out that to be authentic Anglicans, we need to embrace the reformed catholic faith of the English Reformation.

Pretending to be Roman Catholics, and memorizing their Cathechism, is the loss of a precious faith tradition. We are, as classic Anglicans, a unique church positioned over truths that our RC/Orthodox brethren have missed on one hand, and our Protestant brethren have missed on the other hand.

I was visiting with two conservative Episcopal priests recently, who both still love the 1928 BCP and the faith contained therein. Both lamented that the Oxford Movement had not only won the day, but unfortunately gone much further than the Sacramentalists (such as the Wesleys) and Tractarians ever intended. They both felt that classic Anglicanism had been trampled under by a desire, here in the US and in England, to change Anglicanism into imitation Roman Catholicism. Both felt, and I agree with them totally, that this has been a terrible loss.

The 1979 BCP, which reprinted the Roman Novus Ordo Mass word for word, for its Rite II, is an example.

From the continuum standpoint, I, too, hadly to sadly report that a true Anglican parish is hard to find. The beauty of sung Morning Prayer and Evensong, is nearly lost forever. The Sacramentalists and the Tractarians didn't mean to end these traditions, they only wanted to revive the tradition of weekly Eucharist which had been lost. A so-called "Anglican" church without the important traditions of the daily office, and especially the sung offices on Sunday, to my way of thinking, isn't really "Anglican" at all.

Thank you, Fr. Hart, for your efforts, in this post and others, to remind the continuum of why we need to embrace Anglicanism and stop trying to be imitation RCs. TEC has, in two priest's opinions, and I agree with them, gone down the imitation RC route. It certainly hasn't prospered TEC, has it?

BCP Catholic

The Midland Agrarian said...

Fr. Hart,
Thank you for posting this. Because I have no theological education, could you kindly explain how number #3 Forensic, relates to what is commonly called penal substitionary atonement? Is it the same action, different phrases? I have heard some theologians (NT Wright) seem to deny the penal, but express something closeI get confused at this point.
Richard

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Penal substitution requires the whole idea of Law, and so I have used the word forensic because it has become the fashionable way of saying it, especially by those who want to denounce it. Frankly, I like the term.

It is a just criticism to denounce those who limit their understanding of Christ's death to this one aspect; but, equally, it is a just criticism to denounce its removal. We need all four of these wheels, including this one.

But, as Fox news puts it, "we report, you decide." Here are a few passages.

"Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good."
Rom. 7:12

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:5,6

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures..."
I Cor. 15:3

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
II Cor. 5:21

By the way, "to be sin" means the "sin offering" from the Law of Moses. Of this I am convinced by how often the original Hebrew translated "the sin offering" says simply "the sin" when speaking of that same offering.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Allow me to add this fact concerning "forensic" or "penal substitution." Those who turn this into a caricature of God "getting mad" need to rethink the Biblical metaphor "wrath" in the context of Impassibility. Wrath is used to speak of why justice is something that God, as the Truth Himself, does not simply overlook. Sin requires a just penalty, including the passive penalty of consequence. But Love (i.e. God, as St.John tells us) wills to have mercy. Therefore, the forensic satisfaction of justice, as part of what the cross is all about, is necessary if we are to teach Divine Impassibility. This simple truth runs counter to the current theological fashion of a false debate over these complementary images of the Atonement.

poetreader said...

I keep quoting the image ascribed to Luther of the drunk man attempting to ride a horse. He climbs on and falls off the other side, and then climbs back on and falls off on the first side again, und so weiter -- but, if he wants to get anywhere he has to stay on the horse. In thinking of the atonement, as in so many other issues of theology, it is always destructive to emphasize one aspect above all others. That pushes one off the horse and into heresy of one sort or another. After all, all heresy is the overemphasis of a truth to the point where it defeats another truth.

Canon Tallis said...

"I was visiting with two conservative Episcopal priests recently, who both still love the 1928 BCP and the faith contained therein. Both lamented that the Oxford Movement had not only won the day, but unfortunately gone much further than the Sacramentalists (such as the Wesleys) and Tractarians ever intended. They both felt that classic Anglicanism had been trampled under by a desire, here in the US and in England, to change Anglicanism into imitation Roman Catholicism. Both felt, and I agree with them totally, that this has been a terrible loss."

I feel for the BCP Catholic and much agree with him and his priest friends, but would like to point out that the Oxford Movement was over by 1845. The ritualist movement began later and was followed by what Anson in "Fashions in Church Furnishing" called the 'Back to Baroque' movement even later. Some authorities even declare that the latter effectively ended around 1930, but the damage had already been done and persists to this day. In fact the greater number of Anglican priests even in the Continuum have absolutely no idea of the historical sequence of the ideas and events which gave us our present pseudo-Romanist Anglo-Catholicism. The priests who follow it - for the most part - mean no disloyalty although some of them are frequently quite rude to those who find the prayer book service clothed in ceremonial of the most corrupt century in the history of the Roman Church.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It depends on the Anglo-Catholics to whom we refer; that is, which kind of Anglo-Catholic? On one hand some of the reverence for the Sacrament needed recovery, as did the original Protestant objective of restoring true Catholic belief as it comes from Antiquity. But, with the sight of men like Fr.John Hunwicke, I can see that another kind of Anglo-Catholic is a richly vested bull in a china shop. This is the kind who simply despise and reject that well balanced Catholic-Protestant patrimony that liberated the English Christians from ignorance and superstition, but did not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Canon Tallis said...

And that, Father Hart, is precisely the sort of not quite Anglo-Catholic of whom we are forced to write. Those of us for whom the whole point of St. Louis and the Continuum was the intention of that balance intended by the Elizabethan Settlement which was precisely what made it so hated both by those for whom Zurich and Geneva were the desired model of reform and those for whom the glamour of the Roman myth was all important. For us, even when we had some personal reservations about this or that detail of the 1928 American prayer book, we knew that maintaining the doctrine, discipline and worship of that book and of the entire prayer book tradition was the most important thing which we could do against that time when the Anglican establishment as a whole might recover the orthodox tradition.

I believe that the majority of our Anglo-Catholic bishops and priests understand the heart of that task and its importance even when they equally fail, because of our history, the importance of maintaining the reality of 'Antiquity, Universality and Consent.'

I would prefer to never again see a Roman soutane, biretta, lace trimmed rochet or alb on an Anglican cleric, but I will be content to endure it as long as the faith as taught here on The Continuum is accepted, taught and maintained.

Fr_Rob said...

As the great evangelical Anglican biblical scholar Leon Morris has shown in his various books on the atonement (The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance and The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross), the writers of the New Testament used a variety of word-images to explain the atonement. These include covenant, sacrifice, the Day of Atonement, the Passover, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and justification.

Additionally, as the great Swedish theologian Gustaf Aulen pointed out in his classic work Christus Victor, the Church Fathers almost unanimously held to the idea that God in Christ dramatically rescued man from the forces of sin, Satan, and death (the Christus Victor model), a position that has continued to this day in the Eastern Church.

It was Anselm of Canterbury who propounded the modern Western notion of the atonement as a strictly juridical matter, in which Christ suffered the punishment man deserves, and thus appeased the wrath of the Father.

Anselm’s younger contemporary Peter Abelard reacted against Anselm and argued for a subjectivist view of the atonement, a position that most post-Enlightenment and modern liberal Christians have also followed. In this view, Christ is the great teacher and example who arouses love in men; and this love in turn leads to reconciliation and forgiveness with God.

Clearly we will never fully understand the atonement, man’s reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Church as a whole has never proclaimed any particular theory of the atonement to be the correct one. But I agree with Fr. Hart that we need not choose between the forensic/propitiatory model and the Christus Victor model. The subjectivist model, however, is neither Biblical nor Patristic.

Anonymous said...

I personally think that we are not supposed to understand everything about the plan of God to bring us salvation, including the Atonement. I think Fr. Hart is absolutely correct that we should not try to choose on theory or the other. This is something that we should accept on faith.

The plan of our salvation, and, indeed, much of the Christian faith, is composed of Holy Mysteries that we are not suppoed to understand. How a human Virgin could give birth to the Son of God, how the Body and Blood of Christ are present in what appears and tastes to be wafers of bread and common grape wine, how Jesus Christ fed 5,000 with a few fishes and a couple loaves of bread, etc., etc., etc., are all Holy Mysteries.

I think that where the church throughout history has had schisms and sometimes fallen into heresy is when theologians/clergy make attempts to define what God has ordained as being undefinable by frail human minds.

No offense to anyone, but we are not capable of truly defining things like the miracle of the Eucharist. When humans try, they can cause schism and other problems.

I believe that we are to accept on faith the Holy Mysteries. I believe that this is what God wishes and why he has created our minds as incapable of defining such mysteries and miracles.

BCP Catholic

Death Bredon said...

Points 1, 3 and 4 are true, but some qualification is important.

Points 1 & 3: It is important to understand the NT "Lamb of God" language echoes the OT type, as Fr. Hart says, and is therefore metaphorical. Likewise, the use of the word "ransom." As Fr. Rob correctly points this out the NT writers drew upon much OT imagery, typology, and metaphors -- but the Church never considered Christ self-sacrifice simplistically the perfected OT sacrifice or as a direct quid-pro-quo offering for all sin.

Point 4: As Fr. Rob further notes the Christus Victor model -- which indicates that in the Old Passover, the divide of Death passed over Israel; in the New Passover (Easter), Israel passed over the divide of Death -- along with its corollary, the doctrine of the Incarnation as Recapitulation -- Christ as New Adam, already appears fully and clearly explicated in Irenaeus' "On Apostolic Preaching," is contained in the majestic Anaphora of St. Basil the Great, and continues without addition or subtraction in St. John Damascene's "Exposition." No other competing model or theory of what the biblical imagery, metaphors, and types actually mean in systematic dogmatics existed until much later. All the NT reference to various OT imagery is designed to bring out the qualitative difference between OT quid-pro-quo sin offerings (which were insufficient) and Christ's "becoming sin" to defeat Death. However improbable this reading of the NT is to Christian's of Western formation, it is in fact the only reading that meets St. Vincent's test of being held QUOD UBIQUE, QUOD SEMPER, QUOD AB OMNIBUS CREDITUM EST.

* * * * * * *

Anslem is often misread to say that God's sense of honor required a sacrifice to be satisfied. But as Fr. Patrick Reardon aptly notes, Anselm identifies neither God nor man as the hold of the debt of honor, but rather "the order of things" itself. And it is a very natural way of understanding the order of things in Germanic, Feudal society to see breaches of divine pronouncements as requiring honorable satisfaction. The ancient Fathers also intimated that Christ's sacrifice was not too God the Father nor to Satan, but in some sense to reality itself. Thus, Anselm's theory might just be considered an culturally and idiomatically appropriate way of describe atonement for sin, were sin the cause (and not the symptom) of man's separation from God.

Indeed the consensus of the Fathers before Augustine of Hippo was that Christ's the enemy directly defeated by Christ was Death and therefore, indirectly defeating sin, the symptom of the ancient curse. Thus, but for Anselm's assumption that Augustine's doctrine of original sin represented what the Church had always taught and not a wholesale innovation, his soteriology might by considered complementary the classical theory, simply couched in an feudal Germanic idiom. But, as Anslem's theory is premised on theory of the fall that is not part of the deposit of faith once delivered, i.e., that the primary wedge between God and fallen man is sin and guilt, and only indirectly mortality, we are forced to chose between the classical theory believed QUOD UBIQUE, QUOD SEMPER, QUOD AB OMNIBUS CREDITUM EST and forensic theories based on Augustine's cut-from-whole-cloth speculations that are NON QUOD UBIQUE, NON QUOD SEMPER, NON QUOD AB OMNIBUS CREDITUM EST.

Of course, as a whole, Anglicanism has been loathe to let go of Augustine and Anselm, and Anglo-Catholics can add Aquinas and progeny to that list, I believe that is in fact the trajectory of the Caroline Divines and there renewed interest and immersion in the Greek fathers, whose deposit has been brought to the Britain Isles via St. Theodore, the first ABC be recognized by Celt and Saxon alike, and band of Greek scholar-monks. Moreover, it is the only path consistent with the stated intentions of the framers of the Elizabethan Settlement and in accord with St. Vincent's truism.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Deth:

"Reality itself" makes the perfect justice of the Law, the eternal unchanging moral Law, a matter of God's own holiness. It was not the Father who was satisfied, but the perfect justice that belongs equally to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and in which context forgiveness to fallen man was God's will.

But, as Anslem's theory is premised on theory of the fall that is not part of the deposit of faith once delivered, i.e., that the primary wedge between God and fallen man is sin and guilt, and only indirectly mortality, we are forced to chose between...

Why are we forced to choose between two facts, both of which have been dealt with? The cross deals with guilt, and the resurrection with death. This is what the Bible sets forth clearly; and neither can contradict the Patristic witness of Antiquity. I have written this to say, we cannot and must not choose. I state here the same objection to this that I had to what you wrote over a year ago. You said then that we must choose between the Good Friday Gospel and Easter Gospel. And, I still say, we cannot and must not choose. Which foot would you cut off? Your right or your left? By what reasoning would either answer help you walk straight?

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart,

Your response is very reasonable. The only problem is that it is not what was revealed. Are a discplice of the Revealed Truth or the what YOU thin is the reasonable truth.

Death Bredon said...

Fr. Hart,

Two additional concerns about the reasonableness of Anselmian soteriology.

First, by depicting atonement as the a cosmic drama about the satisfaction of wounded honor, Anselm and his adherents become guilty of attributing the tribal germanic theory comitatus to the fabric of reality itself, essentially metaphysically dogmatizing feudalism. And, the Church ought no more endorse or dogmatize feudalism that it should Aristotelean metaphysics (which led to the Reformation and more schism) or physics (which made us a laughing stock and aided the so-called Enlightenment).

Second, classical soteriology (Christus Victor/Recapitulation) already enjots the "sweet reasonableness" of overcoming both Death and Sin. And, as Irenaeus, Anathasius, Basil and numerous other Fathers explicated the classical theory, because Christ's Cruxification and death is NOT a quid-pro-quo or direct blood-for-sin sacrifice (contra OT sacrifices) -- though rhetorically we can still boast in "only in the Cross," beacause orthodox, catholic Christians (ought) never separate in their mind (nous) the Cross from the Resurrection, Indeed, we are careful in the Liturgy to expressly note that we offer a "bloodless" or "reasonable" sacrifice in the Eucharist. Indeed, the Cross as a literal, direct satisfactionary atonement (whether to God's justice, to the "reality" of feudal comitatus, or to Satan or anyone else) is not a dangerous appeal to the Germanic blood lust that runs through both our veins (and I have Borderer blood, some mine my be even worse on that score) perhaps aiding such atrocities as the sack of Constantinople and numerous anti-semitic Christian pogroms, it also is very patient of the unreasonable and bloody carnal Romish-doctrine of Transfiguration, rejected by our Articles.

Christ's Peace,

Death Bredon

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Deth:

What I believe is most certainly the same as what has been revealed.

I Cor. 15:1-11 is only one of many places where you may find the revelation. Another is Isaiah 52:13-53:12. If you wish to discuss revelation intelligently, it appears you need to open that dust covered book you have somewhere.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...essentially metaphysically dogmatizing feudalism....it also is very patient of the unreasonable and bloody carnal Romish-doctrine of Transfiguration, rejected by our Articles.

Actually, it was simple hermeneutics, using a commonly understood idea in one time and place as a launching point to Biblical truth. And, if you believe that Christ's "one...perfect and sufficient sacrifice..." contradicts the Articles, or that Christus Victor makes sense without also having the necessary satisfaction that meets the demands of perfect justice, then you are simply rejecting what you do not like. That is not Patristic of you, it is not Biblical, it is not even logical.


"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

What part of that revelation is contrary to revelation?

Magnulus76 said...

Well, after hearing a sermon on penal substitution, the sunday after Christmas I stopped visiting Continuing churches. This kind of thing focused on death and needing to punish, juts is not fitting with the research I have done on Christian history, especially the first millenium. If in God there is no un-Christlinkess at all, then it doesn't make sense for the same Father, who in the parable of the Prodigal Son, runs towards his son to embrace him, to demand "satisfaction" to forgive. Anselm is not the worst offender since he's dealing metaphorically with honor and not justice (they are not the same, to the medieval honor was almost like magic- it's definitely not like modern humanistic justice of the renaissance, AKA penal substitution), but this unfortunately started the long chain of using inductive speculation using a carnal mind of fallen man into the mysteries of God. Anselm is "OK" with caveats, but Aquinas, Luther, Grotius, and Calvin are starting to really miss the point.

I'll be exploring Orthodoxy next. Christ didn't die so God the cosmic accountant or jurist could keep score. Liberal theologians may be wrong on other things, but they are not wrong on Christus Victor. And neither is Abelard all that wrong. The Cross shows that God isn't an insensible God, but a suffering God who bears the brokenness of the world (yes, even Orthodox would say "God suffered on the Cross", since they don't have Calvinist quasi-Nestorianism). The Crucifixion is a window into the Infinite - "the hands that hold us in existence are pierced with unimaginable nails". It is suppossed to move people, it moved the Roman soldier, "Surely this was a righteous man!". Being moved is not something to sneeze at, again it's only something somebody with a clinical, rationalistic mind would fail to grasp(the middle ages started a profound skepticism to the heart in the West). This isn't simply weak sympathy, but sensing the numinous, the presence of the divine, (in the words of the Current Bishop of Rome), in the place we'ld least expect it, and death and suffering itself have been touched by holiness and purity.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am sorry for you that you fail to accept the clear teaching of St. Paul (which means the teaching of Christ by his Apostle):

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
[24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
[25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
[26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (from Romans, chapter three)

How tragic that you see justice as unimportant, or even as ugly, for it is the same word in Hebrew as righteousness (tsadok). If your God has no justice, then he is unrighteous. If forgiveness comes without the Law being satisfied, then your idea of God is not holy. Furthermore, you also cannot see the cross as the healing of your own conscience.

It is tragic, also, that you cannot see that God's justice was turned, by his love, on himself. Also, you seem unaware of the unity of the Trinity, as if Christ was so separate from the Father that it was, in some way, the Father's justice only, and not the Son's justice equally.

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8

You fail to see the beauty of God's justice, turned by love, on God. He took the just demands of the Law, receiving them Himself, so that we would be cleansed in our consciences and also learn what love is.

Death Bredon said...

Magnulus76

Christus Victor isn't universally acknowledged as the classic theory of atonement by competent theological scholars for nothing. Even St. Austin held it. It was the consensus of the fathers, Latin and Greek alike for about eight centuries. In fact, nobody ignored that St. Paul oft made metaphorical use of OT typology in his writing or otherwise took his words out of context to make God the systematic author of evil until after the Church was de facto divided into East and West.

The "Continuing Anglicans" tend to have at least Anglo-Catholic sympathies and therefore often hold to the Thomist theory of substitutionary atonement to satisfy the wrath of God. Some, alternatively hold to Anselm's novel importation of feudal metaphysics into systematic soteriology. [Exactly one and only one convert Orthodox writer in print has ever been enamored of Anselm's feudalistic soteriology.] Of course, this is hardly the leading Anglican position either before or after the creation of the Continuum. For example, Dean Staley's standard high-church catechism speaks of representative atonement and C.B. Moss, E.J. Biknell, and J.N.D. Kelly all tip their hats to Gustav Aulen.

Orthodoxy has its own problems with the practical ascendency of monastic Phariseeism since the medieval Byzantine period, but it generally doesn't tolerate juridical or feudal-honor theories of atonement.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

No, not to satisfy "the wrath of God" as modern emotionally based modern Americans understand it. But, that it did satisfy the just demands of the Law is beyond dispute, most certainly the teaching of the Church as recorded in the Bible. That Anselm used the culture of his day to help people understand this was simply a normal use of hermeneutics.

Death Bredon said...

Anslem's hermeneutic implicitly and necessarily reduces God's level of magnanimity to that of a feudal lord by requiring that his "honor" be literally satisfied by blood. This in itself is heretical.

The same sort of "hermeneutical problem" exists in Aquinas' doctrine of transubstantiation because it enforces dubious Aristotelean categories upon God's mysteries.

In sum, using time-bound and contemporary ways of thinking to explain divinely revealed mysteries is a dangerous business. And, this is why the English reformers, as evidence in the Articles of Religion, were so hostile towards the schoolmen and eager to return to the more empirical and mystery-preserving theology of the primitive church.

Just read all the major propers for Holy Week in the BCP and see it whether Christus Victor or Anselm is taught.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It is both. Again, I see it as a false choice.

And, St. Anselm does not reduce God's justice to the petty whims of a feudal lord. He uses the image of earthly rulers just as Jesus used the image of a king in a few parables.

Magnulus76 said...

I'm not sure how Christ's death satisfies the demands of the law. If anything, that's getting even further away from Anselm's thinking. Christ satisfies the Law through living a sinless life in obedience to God's willing, not through dying. That it was God's will that Christ should be handed over to sinners was not in fulfillment of the Old Testament Law, certainly (although certainly the old testament sacificial system, the religious imagery, is a shadow of Christ's sacrifice- but these sacrifices were for people to approach God and weren't absolutely required, as was revealed through the prophets, God isn't particularly interested in "religion".

I think penal substitution is a problematic view in the modern era with the changing consciosuness of the West (which is become much more de-Christianized and much more "Eastern" in mentality, focused on shame, powerlessness, finitude, and a greater awareness morality as something relational rather than purely duty to abstract principles). It does turn off some otherwise decent, potentially receptive people to Christianity if this is all they hear, it doesn't click with how they think about their problems in life, how the Gospel in its fullness can heal the brokeness of their lives, the legal abstractions don't really work.

<A HREF="http://therebelgod.com/cross_intro.shtml> Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor </A>

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I'm not sure how Christ's death satisfies the demands of the law...

I fear for you, for obviously you cannot appreciate the simple and direct words of St. Paul, "Christ died for our sins..." Yes, a shadow and type, all the sacrifices. but not of our brokenness. Rather, they spoke of Christ's death, as all the writers of the New Testament declare and as the prophets foresaw, especially clear in Isaiah's Suffering Servant passage.

What you cannot understand is the serious nature of what sin is, meaning you cannot love God or understand his holiness, or have any humility in the scriptural sense. This even has implications about whether you have a concept of morality at all. You are in a dark place, no matter how "spiritual" or mystical you think it to be.

Magnulus76 said...

"What you cannot understand is the serious nature of what sin is, meaning you cannot love God or understand his holiness, or have any humility in the scriptural sense. This even has implications about whether you have a concept of morality at all. You are in a dark place, no matter how "spiritual" or mystical you think it to be."

Fr. Hart, I am shocked. You presume alot about the state of my soul.

Of course sin is serious but penal substitution is not essential to the Gospel. It is not really what Jesus Christ's ministry was about, which was about the revelation of the Kingdom of God, something much bigger than the kind of individualistic insecurities that penal substitution was formulated to address. St. Iranaeus of Lyons summarizes the work of Christ as defeating the powers that enslave mankind, "sin, death, and the devil". Where does "propitiating God's wrath/justice" come in there?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have already quoted Scripture that answers your question.

Magnulus76 said...

Yes, Fr. Hart, but that Isaiah passage is not necessarily talking about the atonement in the terms that John Calvin drew up 2000 years later. Else why would it say "By his wounds we were healed?" Why doesn't it say "by his wounds we were acquitted?" if we were forensic?

The idea that God must return evil for evil, retributive justice, is completely contrary to the Jewish religion. Read Psalm 103, God doesn't deal with us according to what we deserve, but according to love, which is a relationship between persons, not abstract principles like "justice".

Fr. Robert Hart said...

You do not understand what a covenant is in Biblical terms, what the Gospel is at all in any sense, or the relationship that St. Paul taught about between grace and the Law.

And, do you think Calvin invented atonement (כִּפֻּר) or propitiation (ἱλαστήριον)? As the Hebrew and Greek words show, it was in the Torah, the prophets and the New Testament, long before Calvin, and long before Anselm. And your idea of "returning evil for evil" is wrong on two counts.

1. Yes, he does in one sense ("visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..."), namely, stating what is justly deserved, but...

2. ...ultimately, he took the evil on Himself, and paid the price with his own blood. That is why Divine love is seen on the cross more than anywhere else.

What you fail to see is the beauty of Divine love as God actually revealed it.

Magnulus76 said...

If you are going to talk "Gospel vs. Law" Lutheran style, I think Rev. N.T. Wright has done a good job showing that the Reformers may not have been so clear in what St. Paul was talking about in Romans. There's a whole "New Perspective on Paul" to that effect.

In reply to no. 2, how do you reconcile the idea of God paying a debt to Himself, with the doctrine of aseity, which is fundamental to theology east and west? Furthermore, it was not merely God "paying a debt to himself", but it was the "God-man". Of course Calvinists have their own Christological quirks, embrace Nominalism ("humanity? Christ only dies for particular indiviudals, not all..."), and aren't quite sure if a divine person died on the cross or not. It all comes down to the Incarnation and since Penal Substitution stems from a theological tradition that was accused of Nestorianism by Lutherans (and some Orthodox and Catholics who have revisited Calvinist Christology), has known Christological errors in light of early rationales for iconclasm, I think it should be treated with caution. The bottom line is I'm not sure the mystery of the Incarnation actually matters in PSA, when the Incarnation should be essential to any proper understanding of the atonement.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

If you are going to talk "Gospel vs. Law" Lutheran style...

Pauline style, easily proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Besides, Mr. Anti-Forensic, don't you know what the words "Law" (as in the Torah) and "commandments" mean? Have you ever broken God's commandments, or are you merely a broken soul in need of "healing"?

There's a whole "New Perspective on Paul" to that effect.

I prefer not to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.

In reply to no. 2, how do you reconcile the idea of God paying a debt to Himself, with the doctrine of aseity, which is fundamental to theology east and west?

With a doctrine we call the Incarnation; and furthermore, a debt that belonged to sinners, not to himself. Look up the word τελειόω as used in John 19:30. By the way, no one has ever disputed the idea that he paid our debt for us; how you went from "penal substitution" to attacking this is beyond me.

As for the Calvinists, yes they are quite sure that He was fully God and fully man. Accuse them of other things, but not denying the Incarnation. That accusation, popular among the ignorant and prejudiced, is just pure crap.

It all comes down to the Incarnation and since Penal Substitution stems from a theological tradition that was accused of Nestorianism by Lutherans (and some Orthodox and Catholics who have revisited Calvinist Christology), has known Christological errors in light of early rationales for iconclasm, I think it should be treated with caution.

Iconoclasm is not relevant to this subject at all in any way whatsoever (haven't you ever seen a western crucifix?). What needs to be treated with caution is language to the effect that He was punished for our sins. Such language takes away the willingness with which he laid down his life (and took it again). Christ was not punished in our place, rather, he offered himself in our place. "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:18)

The bottom line is I'm not sure the mystery of the Incarnation actually matters in PSA, when the Incarnation should be essential to any proper understanding of the atonement.

If PSA means penal substitution and atonement, than you simply display your ignorance of the whole doctrine. The Incarnation is essential to it, and if you don't know that then you don't know the ABCs. Only a man could lay down his life, and only God could take up his human life again.