If Christ Is the One Idea…

This does not mean that all esse commune (created being) is redeemed by virtue of the incarnation or his one act on the cross. Of course there is an eschatological element in which all of creation has the promise of redemption now through Christ’s realization of that promise.  However, those who espouse a universalist atonement based on folks like Aquinas attributing Platonic principles to Christ’s being are incorrect.  I agree that the Logos ensarkos (i.e. Jesus) is the One through whom all things were made and are recreated.  Through his incarnation the Son united himself, not only with humanity, but with created being, esse commune. Although, just as Christ’s two natures are united via the Holy Spirit, esse commune is only recreated by this One whom St. Augustine defined as that Bond of Love between the Father and the Son – the Paraklete. In other words, there is no redemption without Pentecost just as there is no Atonement without Golgatha.     

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The Errors of Aulen’s Christus Victor Model

*The following is the conclusion to a review I did of Gustaf Aulen’s Christus Victor. Therefore it is lacking a bit in context, but still important for anyone who is privy to the issues.*

Because Jesus was God and man one cannot argue that the Atonement involved a total God-to-man movement or a total man-to-God movement; one must affirm that it was both.  Through the Incarnation God moved to man and through the Atonement the God-man moved back to God.  Gustaf Aulen’s dichotomy between what he terms the classic view and the Latin view of the Atonement is unwarranted.  Anselm, for sure, reinterpreted the ransom theory but still saw Christ’s sacrifice as a victory over the devil.  Luther was liberated by the story of Christ overcoming the Law and death, but he also understood Christ’s sacrifice to include punishment for man’s transgressing of the Law.  Because Aulen sets up the classic view as a model in opposition to the other historical understandings of the Atonement he falls into the error of generalization, thus creating false dichotomies between historical figures and their words.  This also leads him to an overall neglect of the humanity of Christ, thus presenting a rather Docetic picture of the Atonement. Continue reading “The Errors of Aulen’s Christus Victor Model”

The Necessity of Penal Substitution

Gerald O’Collins and many other modern scholars hate the idea of Christ’s death as Penal Substitution. O’Collins states,

“… the way Aquinas adjusted Anselm’s theory of satisfaction helped open the door to a sad version of redemption: Christ as a penal substitute who was personally burdened with the sins of humanity, judged, condemned, and deservedly punished in our place.” [1]

Most people see this atonement model as being too violent. If God would punish his own Son in such a violent way then he must be an inherently angry God. Continue reading “The Necessity of Penal Substitution”

Luther on Christ’s Taking-On Sin

Martin Luther replies to the claims of the ‘sophists’ who say “But it is highly absurd and insulting to call the Son of God a sinner and a curse [in reference to Gal. 3:13]!” Luther says,

“If you want to deny that He is a sinner and a curse, then deny also that He suffered, was crucified, and died.  For it is no less absurd to say, as our Creed confesses and prays, that the Son of God was crucified and underwent the torments of sin and death than it is to say that He is a sinner or a curse.  But if it is not absurd to confess and believe that Christ was crucified among thieves, then it is not absurd to say as well that He was a curse and a sinner of sinners.  Surely these words of Paul are not without purpose: ‘Christ became a curse for us’ and ‘For our sake God made Christ to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor. 5:21) … He is, of course ,innocent, because He is the Lamb of God without spot or blemish.  But because He bears the sins of the world. His innocence is pressed down with the sins and the guilt of the entire world.  Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have committed or may commit in the future, they are as much Christ’s own as if He Himself had committed them” (Martin Luther, 1535 Lectures on Galatians 1-4, p. 278). 

Continue reading “Luther on Christ’s Taking-On Sin”

Anselm: Christus Victor?

David Bentley Hart argues for continuity between the Patristic understanding of Christ’s atonement and that of Anselm.

Indeed, in Cur Deus Homo the matter of guilt is somewhat recursed: it is guilt that is set aside, made of no account by Christ’s grace, so that the power of death should be overcome without violence to divine justice. From very early on in the text (1.6-7) Anselm is engaged in answering a single question: If the rights of the devil (who is himself infinitely indebted to God) over humanity are not really ‘rights’ in any true sense (a position of the purest patristic pedigree), why must the overthrow of death proceed in the fashion that it does? For God could have reclaimed his creatures by force, if all that were at issue were the devil’s prerogatives (1.7), but for Anselm the true issue is God’s own righteousness. From which unfolds Anselm’s story of the ‘necessity’ – the inner coherence – of the action of the God-man.[1]  Continue reading “Anselm: Christus Victor?”

Aquinas: Two Ways of Christ’s Reconciliation of Man

It is important to ask if sin is an ontological reality rather than an exclusive legal reality. To ask this is also to ask if man’s relationship to God is effected by the nature of man’s reflecting God’s own image.  Aquinas’ distinction in two ways is helpful:

On the part of Christ he [Paul] writes of two ways through which Christ has made us pleasing [to God]. For within us there exists two antagonisms to the divine good pleasure, the stains of sin and the punishing injuries [sin inflicts]. Justice is as opposed to sin as life is to death, so that through sin, having departed from our likeness to God, we cease being pleasing to God. But through Christ he has made us pleasing. First, indeed, by abolishing the punishment; and in reference to this he says that in Christ we have redemption from the slavery of sin. “You know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled” (1 Pet. 1:18*-19). “Thou hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood” (Apoc. 5:9).  Continue reading “Aquinas: Two Ways of Christ’s Reconciliation of Man”

Salvation and Metaphor

 

According to Gordon Fee Paul’s language of redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, etc. is metaphorical because, “for Paul salvation is an especially theological reality, in the sense that it is both a reflection of God’s character and the result of God’s initiative.” [1] In as far as salvation is a reflection of God’s character it is incomprehensible to finite man.  However, this does not mean that nothing can be known for certain concerning the realities of Christ’s work but that “God’s majesty in itself far outstrips the capacity of human understanding and cannot even be comprehended by it at all …” [2]  Neither is the appeal to metaphor a sly way of reducing the meaning of Paul’s language to mere signs.  N.T. Wright affirms this idea, “Recognition of god-language as fundamentally metaphorical does not mean that it does not have a referent, and that some at least of the metaphors may not actually possess a particular appropriateness to this referent.  In fact, metaphors are themselves mini-stories, suggesting ways of looking at a reality which cannot be reduced to terms of the metaphor itself.” [3]   Continue reading “Salvation and Metaphor”