Why Orthodox do not believe in the penal satifaction theory...

Tamara

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Dear Fathers, Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,

Over the centuries a particular theory developed in the West as to why Christ had to die on the Cross for our salvation. It is now often referred to as the penal satisfaction theory, and it is traced back to St. Anselm of Canterbury (11th c.). As an early scholastic theologian, Anselm was trying to rationally explain the mystery of our redemption in Christ. The Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky, critical of this theory, describes it thus in speaking of Anselm:

In his work Christian horizons are limited by the drama played between God, who is infinitely
offended by sin, and man, who is unable to satify the impossible demands of vindictive justice.
The drama finds its resolution in the death of Christ, the Son of God, who has become man in
order to substitute Himself for us and to pay our debt to divine justice.

This was later further distorted by many of the Protestant refomers who claimed that God was angry with us and that Christ had to "appease" or "propitiate" Him by His blood. Hence, Jonathon Edward's "sinners in the hands of an angry God." The rich imagery of the Scriptures is unfortunately narrowed down to a very legalistic understanding of redemption in Christ. As Lossky further probes this theory, he reveals its many shortcomings:

What becomes of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit here? His part is reduced to that of an
auxillary, an assistant in redemption, causing us to receive Christ's expiating merit. The final
goal of our union with God is, if not excluded altogether, at least shut out from our sight by
the stern vault of a theological conception built on the ideas of original guilt and its reparation.

There are further "casualties" in this narrowly-focused atonement theory, according to Lossky:

The price of our redemption having been paid in the death of Christ, the resurrection and the
ascension are only a glorious happy end of His work, a kind of apotheosis without direct
relationship to our human destiny. This redemptionist theology, placing all the emphasis
on the passion, seems to take no interest in the triumph of Christ over death. The very
work of the Christ-Redeemer, to which this theology is confined, seems to be truncated,
impoverished, reduced to a change of the divine attitude toward fallen men, unrelated to the
nature of humanity.

Too great a price to pay for a rationalistic theology! Only now, are both Roman Catholic and Protestants taking a serious and critical look at this particular theory of atonement.

The early Church, following the Scriptures, emphasized the victory of Christ over sin, death and the devil in His Cross and Resurrection. He truly "trampled down death by death." The Church Fathers, beginning with St. Irenaeus of Lyons, were very expressive in their formulation of this aspect of our redemption. So you will not find the "satisfaction theory" in their writings. The language of Scripture is meant to provide a series of images and metaphors that help us understand our redemption in Christ without falling prey to a narrowly-focused rationalism or legalism. "Justification," "salvation," "atonement," "expiation," "ransom," "reconciliation," "sanctification," "glorification," "freedom" - these are the many terms borrowed from both the Old Testament and from the Graeco-Roman world to convey the great "mystery of piety." These images are the many sides of a beautiful diamond that must be viewed from different angles for its true beauty and brilliance to be appreciated.

Ransom is another term that can be misapplied if one is overly-literalistic, or again legalistic, in its application. The following passage from St. Gregory the Theologian is probably the "classic" Orthodox response to any misunderstanding about the use of "ransom" language when referring to the death of Christ. This passage demands a very careful reading, if not multiple readings, to draw out the rich insights of St. Gregory. Basically, he is making it clear that the "ransom" offered by Christ was "paid" neither to the devil nor to God the Father:

We must now consider a problem and a doctrine ofter passed over in silently, which, in my view,
nevertheless needs deep study. The blood shed for us, the most precious and glorious blood of
God, the blood of the Sacrificer and the Sacrifice - why was it shed and to whom was it offered?
We were under the reign of the devil, sold to sin, after we had gained corruption on account of
our sinful desire. If the price of our ransom is paid to him who has us in his power, I ask myself:
Why is such a price to be paid? If it is given to the devil, it is outrageous! The brigand receives
the price of redemption. Not only does he receive it from God, he receives God Himself. For his
violence he demands such a disproportionate ransom that it would be more just for him to set us
free without ransom. But if to the Father, why should that be done? It is not the Father who has
held us as His captives. Morever, why should the blood of His only Son be acceptable to the
Father, who did not wish to accept Isaac, when Abraham offered Him his son as a burnt-offering,
but replaced the human sacrifice with the sacrifice of a ram? Is it not evident that the Father
accepts the sacrifice not becaue He demanded it or had any need for it but by His dispensation?
It was necessary that man should be sanctified by the humanity of God; it was necessary that
He Himself should free us, triumphing over the tyrant by His own strength, and that He should
recall us to Himself by His Son who is the Mediator, who does all for the honor of the Father, to
whom He is obedient in all things. Let the rest of the mystery be venerated silently.

Lossky comments on this passage, thus:

What emerges from the passage we have just quoted is that, for St. Gregory, the idea
of redemption, far from implying the idea of a necessity imposed by vindictive justice, is
rather an expression of the dispensation, whose mystery cannot be adequately
clarified in a series of rational concepts.

The key concept here is the "dispensation" or "divine economy" (from the Gk. oikonomia or God's "household management"). The Son of God must offer His life as a sacrifice in fulfilment of the Father's will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in order for God's design or saving plan for us to be realized - the abolition of the power of sin and death over us. This is powerfully stated in the Epistle to the Hebrews:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise
shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death,
that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject
to bondage. (HEB. 2:14-15)


We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God, but sinners in the hands of a loving God: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son ... (JN. 3:16) Yet, there is not a drop of sentimentality in this divine love for us. As St. Paul says: "For you were bought at a price," meaning the "cost" to God in willing His Son to die on our behalf. God's saving dispensation includes not only our forgivess of sins, but also our glorification with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why we never really separate the Cross from the Resurrection and Ascension. There is one unified paschal mystery. Christ is vanquishing sin and death on the Cross: "I call Him King, because I see Him crucified" says St. John Chrysostom. Of course, our sins are forgiven on the Cross because God desired them to be wiped out. That is the true meaning of Christ as our "expiation." The Cross is the "Mercy Seat" (Gk. hilasterion) on which are sins are wiped away by God, thus revealing His righteousness by restoring us by His faifhfulness to His covenental love.

We know that we are "saved" by the death and resurrection of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have been "ransomed" back from slavery to sin and death, because He "paid the price" on our behalf. This fulfilled the love of God for us, and did satisfy a non-existent "wrath" that needed to be appeased. We accept this in faith, without trying to overly penetrate the "mystery of piety." Let us venerate the mystery in silence as St. Gregory teaches us.



Fr. Steven C. Kostoff
Christ the Savior/Holy Spirit Orthodox Church
http://www.christthesavioroca.org



 

Tamara

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welkodox said:
Yes you will.
Fr. Steven Kostoff is not a convert. I know you are a fan of Ephrem Bensusan and his writings. I am not.
 

welkodox

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It has nothing to do with being a convert, though this type of Anti-Western Orthodoxy is often something they latch on to.  One can read the Eastern Fathers (I'm attaching a Word doc with some quotes since something seems to be limiting posts) and see that the satisfaction of divine justice, substitution and propitiation are completely legitimate views of the Atonement.

The odd thing is the Anti-Western Orthodox take on this doesn't actually sound like the views of the church fathers, it sounds more like the views of modern day liberal Protestant theologians who have tossed a lot of their traditional belief in favor of the "God is just love so he couldn't have been about any of this".  There is some irony there, considering the issue is with "western theology".

 
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I, for one, am glad that the (as far as i'm concerned) narrow-minded emphasis portrayed in the OP has not infiltrated the OO Church.

Just for your information, it was only last week that His Eminence Bishop Stylianos (GO) expressed his staunch opposition to the position Fr. Romanides and Co. have taken against St. Augustine because of the alleged "heretical" corollaries that allegedly flow from his anthropology and soteriology. I didn't have time to discuss the issue further with him in order to seek clarification, but I plan to do so once class resumes in 2 weeks.
 

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welkodox said:
It has nothing to do with being a convert, though this type of Anti-Western Orthodoxy is often something they latch on to.  One can read the Eastern Fathers (I'm attaching a Word doc with some quotes since something seems to be limiting posts) and see that the satisfaction of divine justice, substitution and propitiation are completely legitimate views of the Atonement.

The odd thing is the Anti-Western Orthodox take on this doesn't actually sound like the views of the church fathers, it sounds more like the views of modern day liberal Protestant theologians who have tossed a lot of their traditional belief in favor of the "God is just love so he couldn't have been about any of this".  There is some irony there, considering the issue is with "western theology".
You are quoting Ephrem Bensusan. I know where you get your stuff. He is not an Orthodox theological trained fellow. He is the Protestant. He does alot of proof-texting of the fathers to prove his point. And his quoting from Roman Catholic catechisms are not helpful because Roman Catholics in this country have updated their cathchism. The Vatican's view of original sin will not change and has not changed according to a friend of mine who studied to be a Roman Catholic priest.
He is now an Orthodox Christian. He said Ephrem's writings are very Protestant.
 

welkodox

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The quotes are from the church fathers, and they speak for themselves, no matter who has compiled them.  In this case I pulled them off two Orthodox blogs by searching in google.  Disagree or agree with them, they are there, and there are many others.

EkhristosAnesti, there is unfortunately a deeply revisionist strain of thought that has taken hold among many Anti-Western Orthodox.  The Romanides/Kalomiros stuff is one example, and it has been picked up by the convert literature cottage industry here in the United States.

It's very sad.
 

minasoliman

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I'm going to post this once and then continue next week, since this is a topic that greatly interests me and puts me into a longing position to try to understand St. Augustine without all the anti-Western bias.

When people think "penal system" they think of Anselm.  There are two things in Anselm that I find that I so far cannot find in St. Augustine:

1.  The concept of an "infinite" sin
2.  The concept of "robbing" God's glory

These two concepts to me are troublesome, since it undermines certain ontological beliefs.  However, all other concepts against the penal system I don't find unorthodox, things like "appeasing the wrath of God," or "ransom."  Even the author you post admits that these languages are found in the Eastern fathers and the OT, but they did not proceed to explain them, but rather taking them in an allegorical sense.  "Appeasing the wrath of God" simply could be the allegory to the destruction of sin that so burns us in our relationship with God, and this allegory should not undermine the "Loving Fire of God."  The "ransom" is Christ's substitution on behalf of all mankind, turning curse into blessing.  Taking this allegory further, we can see the Orthodox beliefs of theosis being born clearly, showing that Christ came as man to give us what is His, that we may be glorified in Him.

God bless.
 

welkodox

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Demetry, Rev. Constas, D.D. Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church, With Most Essential Differences of Other Principal Churches Scripturally Criticized. Approved by the Holy Synod, 1929. N.p., 1935. -- http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/catechis.html  Look for the section "ON THE ATONEMENT OR PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE"
 

Tamara

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welkodox said:
The quotes are from the church fathers, and they speak for themselves, no matter who has compiled them.  In this case I pulled them off two Orthodox blogs by searching in google.  Disagree or agree with them, they are there, and there are many others.
No they do not speak for themselves. The writings of the Fathers are vast. Not all of the writings of the Fathers have been translated. People have used the writings of the Fathers through proof-texting to prove all sorts of pet beliefs. Mistranslations and misunderstanding of the writings of the Fathers are numerous. Anyone who claims to speak for the 'Fathers' ought to be reminded that it would take years and years of Greek studies just to become technically proficient enough to begin a decade long process of reading the writings of the Fathers collected by the Church. Then, you would have to find the time to discuss each reading with others to discern what writings accurately reflect the phronema of the Church and which ones do not, as no one is perfect save God Himself.
 

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I have stated this before and it makes alot of people mad, but the Orthodox criticisms of Anselm are of a straw man version created in their own imaginations.

With all due respect, Anti-Augustine Orthodox theologians just make themselves sound stupid when they get going on this topic. The jump from Anslem directly to Jonathan Edwards is ludicrous. Furthemore, most Orthodox barely know the Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, except from 10th grade American literature. When I was a protestant I read roughly half of the collected works of Edwards and his primary estimation of the Christian life was the sweetness of knowing Christ.

In hyper Calvinism, a penal, legalistic understanding of the atonement, and that understanding only, can indeed be a problem. But most protestants, and few Roman Catholics ONLY hold that understanding. It is apart of their understanding and perhaps the primary lense they view the atonement through. But they also grasp Christ's victory over sin and death, the ransoming of sinners from the bondage of satan, the sacrificial gift of unconditional love.

Anti-Augustine Orthodox have to come to grips with the suffering servant images in scripture (in fact, Isaiah 53 is a perfect blending of the the victory over sin and death/punishment for our sins motiffs: he has borne our griefs; he was wounded for our transgressions; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; he was bruised for our iniquities; by his stripes we are healed; the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all; for the transgression of my people he was stricken; it pleased the Lord to bruise him). The Anselmian view is a credible attempt to understand such punitive language.  The victory/ramsom view embraces the healing/bearing language.

And then there is the epistle to the Romans (see 3:23-26; 5:6-10), or I Corinthians (God made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God - substitution); or in Galatians 3:13- Christ became a curse for us; delivering us from the curse of the law). It is clear that Some price was paid for something and it appears to be our sins!

Furthermore, the whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament points to the eventual coming of the one perfect sacrifice to pay for sins. For it to be argued that Christ's death was in no sense connected to the legal theory of the law and its transgression and the payment for sin in ancient Judaism, runs agains the entire grain of the New Testament, where Christ is the lamb that is slain. He is Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
 

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BrotherAidan said:
I have stated this before and it makes alot of people mad, but the Orthodox criticisms of Anselm are of a straw man version created in their own imaginations.

With all due respect, Anti-Augustine Orthodox theologians just make themselves sound stupid when they get going on this topic. The jump from Anslem directly to Jonathan Edwards is ludicrous. Furthemore, most Orthodox barely know the Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, except from 10th grade American literature. When I was a protestant I read roughly half of the collected works of Edwards and his primary estimation of the Christian life was the sweetness of knowing Christ.

In hyper Calvinism, a penal, legalistic understanding of the atonement, and that understanding only, can indeed be a problem. But most protestants, and few Roman Catholics ONLY hold that understanding. It is apart of their understanding and perhaps the primary lense they view the atonement through. But they also grasp Christ's victory over sin and death, the ransoming of sinners from the bondage of satan, the sacrificial gift of unconditional love.

Anti-Augustine Orthodox have to come to grips with the suffering servant images in scripture (in fact, Isaiah 53 is a perfect blending of the the victory over sin and death/punishment for our sins motiffs: he has borne our griefs; he was wounded for our transgressions; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; he was bruised for our iniquities; by his stripes we are healed; the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all; for the transgression of my people he was stricken; it pleased the Lord to bruise him). The Anselmian view is a credible attempt to understand such punitive language.  The victory/ramsom view embraces the healing/bearing language.

And then there is the epistle to the Romans (see 3:23-26; 5:6-10), or I Corinthians (God made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God - substitution); or in Galatians 3:13- Christ became a curse for us; delivering us from the curse of the law). It is clear that Some price was paid for something and it appears to be our sins!

Furthermore, the whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament points to the eventual coming of the one perfect sacrifice to pay for sins. For it to be argued that Christ's death was in no sense connected to the legal theory of the law and its transgression and the payment for sin in ancient Judaism, runs agains the entire grain of the New Testament, where Christ is the lamb that is slain. He is Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Brother Aidan,

My Orthodox friend, who was the former Catholic seminarian, grew up in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He shared with me that it is the most conservative Roman Catholic diocese in this country - he believes he received the traditional Latin teaching, and it's was all about inherited guilt, juridical/legalistic, passed-along by parents' sexual intercourse, washed away by baptism.
 
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The general root of all heresies is the attempt to resolve divine paradoxes.

If we claim to not even have an adequate grasp of God's attributes to the point of needing to explicate them by way of negation, then how can we dare claim the confidence to assert a positive contradiction between any two of them (Love vs. Wrath, Mercy vs. Justice) such as to feel the need to stress the contribution and place of one and deny the contirbution and place of the other to the mysterious gift of salvation?
 

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Tamara said:
You are quoting Ephrem Bensusan. I know where you get your stuff. He is not an Orthodox theological trained fellow. He is the Protestant. He does alot of proof-texting of the fathers to prove his point.
Does not the author of the essay you posted do the same, of both Fathers and the Bible?
 

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BrotherAidan said:
In hyper Calvinism, a penal, legalistic understanding of the atonement, and that understanding only, can indeed be a problem. But most protestants, and few Roman Catholics ONLY hold that understanding. It is apart of their understanding and perhaps the primary lense they view the atonement through. But they also grasp Christ's victory over sin and death, the ransoming of sinners from the bondage of satan, the sacrificial gift of unconditional love.
Indeed, Catholicism accepts all these views. It's the Mystery of Faith---I don't think any one angle can explain it.

Furthermore, the whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament points to the eventual coming of the one perfect sacrifice to pay for sins. For it to be argued that Christ's death was in no sense connected to the legal theory of the law and its transgression and the payment for sin in ancient Judaism, runs agains the entire grain of the New Testament, where Christ is the lamb that is slain. He is Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Bingo. I never understood how an OT-NT prefiguring of such importance could be ignored.
 

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Tamara said:
Brother Aidan,

My Orthodox friend, who was the former Catholic seminarian, grew up in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He shared with me that it is the most conservative Roman Catholic diocese in this country - he believes he received the traditional Latin teaching, and it's was all about inherited guilt, juridical/legalistic, passed-along by parents' sexual intercourse, washed away by baptism.
Would you accept the hearsay of a seminarian as the source of your understanding of Orthodox teaching on the Atonement, or would you consult the official teaching?
 

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lubeltri said:
Would you accept the hearsay of a seminarian as the source of your understanding of Orthodox teaching on the Atonement, or would you consult the official teaching?
What is the Vatican's official teaching of atonement? Not the American Roman Catholic version.
 

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lubeltri said:
Does not the author of the essay you posted do the same, of both Fathers and the Bible?
What the Orthodox priest has written is consistent with what I have been taught my whole life from bishops, priests and theologians. Many of them were from the middle east, some were of Russian origin, others were from Greece. It is only recently that I have read anything different from what I had been taught. Usually these new teachings are coming from poorly catechized converts.

The priest who is of Bulgarian descent, most likely received his education at one of our Orthodox seminaries. In the case of Ephrem Bensusan, he received his education at Whitefield Theological Seminary. Its website says, "Whitefield Theological Seminary. Providing quality Reformed education by distance-learning for over 25 years."
I will trust an Orthodox seminary education over a Protestant seminary education any day of the week. The Orthodox seminary education will be much closer to the concensus patrum of the Fathers.
 

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No they do not speak for themselves. The writings of the Fathers are vast. Not all of the writings of the Fathers have been translated. People have used the writings of the Fathers through proof-texting to prove all sorts of pet beliefs. Mistranslations and misunderstanding of the writings of the Fathers are numerous. Anyone who claims to speak for the 'Fathers' ought to be reminded that it would take years and years of Greek studies just to become technically proficient enough to begin a decade long process of reading the writings of the Fathers collected by the Church. Then, you would have to find the time to discuss each reading with others to discern what writings accurately reflect the phronema of the Church and which ones do not, as no one is perfect save God Himself.
Well, I guess we'll never be able to actually discuss anything then if that is the criteria we have for discussing these matters.  Somehow I feel these themes must be able to be understood by the humblest of laymen such as myself, otherwise we would be a cult of secret knowledge.

In the meantime the statements I posted by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Palamas and Nicholas Cabasilas certainly fly in the face of anyone who wants to claim that the satisfaction of divine justice, the propitiation for original sin and the voluntary substitutionary death of Christ are not part the understanding of the dogma of redemption and the general economy of salvation.  They are actually not only legitimate aspects of the Atonement, but when taken in light of the sayings of the church fathers and sacred scripture, they are rather necessary components of understanding the redemptive work of Christ.

The priest who is of Bulgarian descent, most likely received his education at one of our Orthodox seminaries. In the case of Ephrem Bensusan, he received his education at Whitefield Theological Seminary. Its website says, "Whitefield Theological Seminary. Providing quality Reformed education by distance-learning for over 25 years."
You're the only one talking about this Bensusan person whoever that is, so that really has no bearing on this.

I will trust an Orthodox seminary education over a Protestant seminary education any day of the week. The Orthodox seminary education will be much closer to the concensus patrum of the Fathers.
I will leave it to others to speculate on whether or not revisionist or novel teaching on matters such as this has entered any of the mainstream Orthodox seminaries such as St. Vladimir's.

BrotherAidan

I have stated this before and it makes alot of people mad, but the Orthodox criticisms of Anselm are of a straw man version created in their own imaginations.
Such is the case with the Kalomiros essay, it's part of the Anti-Western Orthodox school of buckshot theology.  Just put the words Catholic-Protestant-Atonement-Anselm-Augustine-Western together, and you know we as Orthodox have something we can rally around to attack and say "hey they believe this, so we believe something different", as if the best we can do is a negative affirmation of what somebody else believes.  All of course built on a strawman in the first place.
 

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welkodox said:
Well, I guess we'll never be able to actually discuss anything then if that is the criteria we have for discussing these matters.  Somehow I feel these themes must be able to be understood by the humblest of laymen such as myself, otherwise we would be a cult of secret knowledge.

In the meantime the statements I posted by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Palamas and Nicholas Cabasilas certainly fly in the face of anyone who wants to claim that the satisfaction of divine justice, the propitiation for original sin and the voluntary substitutionary death of Christ are not part the understanding of the dogma of redemption and the general economy of salvation.  They are actually not only legitimate aspects of the Atonement, but when taken in light of the sayings of the church fathers and sacred scripture, they are rather necessary components of understanding the redemptive work of Christ.

You're the only one talking about this Bensusan person whoever that is, so that really has no bearing on this.

I will leave it to others to speculate on whether or not revisionist or novel teaching on matters such as this has entered any of the mainstream Orthodox seminaries such as St. Vladimir's.
St. Nicholas also rejected the tradition of the Church on the Uncreated Light. None of the saints of the Church are infallible.
From what I understand Lutherans who read him appreciate much of what he writes. This was the point I was trying to make about not taking a few quotes here and there from the fathers and constructing your own version of Orthodoxy.
You must go with consensus patrum. Our theology also lies within scriptures, iconography and hymnology. I realize that I, as an individual Orthodox Christian, cannot piecemeal quotes from the fathers here and there make it up as I go. There must be a consistency of thought throughout our whole tradition in regard to our beliefs.

I read one of your posts a few weeks ago where you recommended posters to check out Ephrem Bensusan's blog and you posted the address to his blog. I believe the discussion had to do with original sin. Anyway, you were in agreement with what he had written. I checked his site and realized you have been promoting many of his thoughts here.

And what Orthodox seminaries do you deem to be truly Orthodox? Wow! How long have you been in the Orthodox Church to make such an implication?  Interesting.
 

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    As Christ was being arrested, tortured and crucified, he took upon himself the sins of all the people in the world who were willing to repent. When he surrendered his spirit, he went in hell to punish those who did not want to repent.
 

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St. Nicholas also rejected the tradition of the Church on the Uncreated Light. None of the saints of the Church are infallible.
Certainly not, but by the same token there is a wide corpus of writings I think to show the modern interpretations of the Atonement are not exactly reflective of the overall tradition of the church.

From what I understand Lutherans who read him appreciate much of what he writes. This was the point I was trying to make about not taking a few quotes here and there from the fathers and constructing your own version of Orthodoxy.
You must go with consensus patrum. Our theology also lies within scriptures, iconography and hymnology. I realize that I, as an individual Orthodox Christian, cannot piecemeal quotes from the fathers here and there make it up as I go. There must be a consistency of thought throughout our whole tradition in regard to our beliefs.
Yet, in the modern interpretation of the Atonement, it is consistency that appears to be lacking.

I read one of your posts a few weeks ago where you recommended posters to check out Ephrem Bensusan's blog and you posted the address to his blog. I believe the discussion had to do with original sin. Anyway, you were in agreement with what he had written. I checked his site and realized you have been promoting many of his thoughts here.
Okay, the name didn't ring a bell.  I believe this person had put a site together that had an extensive list of church father quotes and statements from Orthodox Catechisms that showed that what is now often presented as the Orthodox view is not necessarily what the church has historically taught.  It appears to be offline now.  Either way, I'm not saying this individual is what I'm putting stock in, it's the writings that were referenced.

And what Orthodox seminaries do you deem to be truly Orthodox?
I have no idea, which is why I said I would leave it to others to speculate.  I gather there are different camps in the church though, and that some view for instance St. Vladimir's and St. Sergius to be not to their liking for various reasons.  That doesn't seem to me to be an extrsaordinary statement.

Wow! How long have you been in the Orthodox Church to make such an implication?  Interesting.
Well I made no real implication.

Regarding my status - the first divine liturgy I attended was in 1990 in the United States, which was after a visit to the Soviet Union a few years before which was my first contact with Orthodoxy.  I considered the church at the time, went back and forth for a while, but always kept it on my radar so to speak.  I began regular weekly attendance at an Orthodox church at the end of 2003, was a catechumen for a year and this summer will be two years having officially entered the church.

Would you say my status as a convert undercuts my ability to speak in this matter (or at least undermines my credibility)?  That is an implication you seem to be making.  I would not argue with you if you said this was the case, as it is my opinion based on what I have seen from Orthodox converts that they indeed get many, many things wrong.

Hopefully in the case of this discussion I can be absolved somewhat, since it isn't my opinion that I've put forward in the matter.  My goal was to reference the relevant patristic and cathetical writings.
 

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welkodox said:
Certainly not, but by the same token there is a wide corpus of writings I think to show the modern interpretations of the Atonement are not exactly reflective of the overall tradition of the church.

Yet, in the modern interpretation of the Atonement, it is consistency that appears to be lacking.

My goal was to reference the relevant patristic and cathetical writings.
You wrote that you think the wide corpus of writings show that the priest's article is a modern interpretation of atonement. Like I said earlier, listing quotes from the Fathers is not enough to prove your point. And the cathetical writing you listed by the Greek priest was written by him and produced by his children. Hardly, an authoritative catechism of the whole Orthodox church. I would be surprised if the Greek archdiocese would approve of one of their priests writing his own catechism.
 

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You wrote that you think the wide corpus of writings show that the priest's article is a modern interpretation of atonement. Like I said earlier, listing quotes from the Fathers is not enough to prove your point.
That certainly begs the question of how anybody proves anything then doesn' it.  I'm aware of no dogmatic statements other than the creed that covers this issue.  One can really only reference sacred scripture and the church fathers beyond that for any kind of "proof".  So everybody is really employing the same tactics.

Overall however, mine is not the point to prove.  I'm not the one saying things like "So you will not find the satisfaction theory in their writings", when clearly you can, as I did.  I'm not the one starting threads about the Atonement or Original Sin or ranting about how my own faith is built in opposition to somebody else's.

And the cathetical writing you listed by the Greek priest was written by him and produced by his children. Hardly, an authoritative catechism of the whole Orthodox church. I would be surprised if the Greek archdiocese would approve of one of their priests writing his own catechism.
Yet what you're producing is an essay by a single priest and saying it represents Orthodox teaching.  At least Fr. Demetry's catechism was approved by the Holy Synod.  It certainly shows that some of the current views aren't exactly consistent with the past, which is my basic impression of the movement to re-cast what is "Orthodox teaching on fill in the blank".  Many people in extremist Orthodox groups like HOCNA, or the people in the convert literature cottage industry are happy with their strawmen and their oppositional faith of west bashing.  I would assume at some point one or two things may happen however:

A. People who are interested in conversion as a refutation of their past will become extinct.
B. Apologists on the other side of the fence will read these arguments and have a field day refuting them.

So I think there will be a reality check at some point.
 

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  A. People who are interested in conversion as a refutation of their past will become extinct.
I gotta weigh in on this one! Having been a sojourning in the evangelical camp (all branches Charismatic, Reformed, Fundamental and a few lesser known ones) it was refreshing to return to my roots in Orthodoxy. However, having never learned anything about Orthodoxy prior to my return I was happy to drink up all the Orthodox teachings and literature that I could get my grubby little hands on. Frankly, I was tired of hearing about "the blood" and "saved by the blood of the Lamb". It was all so gorey and the sinners in the hands of an angry God - Well that was my view of him. Frankly, the judicial veiw seemed impersonal and God was a big meanie waiting to squash me like a bug at the first misstep. It was refreshing to read a different soteriology if you will.

However, having returned to Orthodoxy, I. like Welkodox, have become very aware of the convert driven publishing industry, which, I might add, has had its influence on lapsed cradles. Now I am not saying that all of this literature is all bad. But I was just dying to refute all of my Evangelical past to reclaim my "lost" heritage (However, Like Dorothy lost in OZ it was there all the time). This "new" soteriology I found appealing as it refuted my past and provided me with a new outlook.

Yet, I still could not get over the blood and the satisfaction of Jesus' atoning death.

This is a work in progress for me. I am still lovingly Orthodox regardless of the soteriology of the church.
 

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aserb said:
I gotta weigh in on this one! Having been a sojourning in the evangelical camp (all branches Charismatic, Reformed, Fundamental and a few lesser known ones) it was refreshing to return to my roots in Orthodoxy. However, having never learned anything about Orthodoxy prior to my return I was happy to drink up all the Orthodox teachings and literature that I could get my grubby little hands on. Frankly, I was tired of hearing about "the blood" and "saved by the blood of the Lamb". It was all so gorey and the sinners in the hands of an angry God - Well that was my view of him. Frankly, the judicial veiw seemed impersonal and God was a big meanie waiting to squash me like a bug at the first misstep. It was refreshing to read a different soteriology if you will.

However, having returned to Orthodoxy, I. like Welkodox, have become very aware of the convert driven publishing industry, which, I might add, has had its influence on lapsed cradles. Now I am not saying that all of this literature is all bad. But I was just dying to refute all of my Evangelical past to reclaim my "lost" heritage (However, Like Dorothy lost in OZ it was there all the time). This "new" soteriology I found appealing as it refuted my past and provided me with a new outlook.

Yet, I still could not get over the blood and the satisfaction of Jesus' atoning death.

This is a work in progress for me. I am still lovingly Orthodox regardless of the soteriology of the church.
Dan,

I think part of the problem is that the definition of some of the terms means something entirely different in Orthodoxy. I was raised in the Orthodox Church and convert literature was never a part of my catechism. But I also never heard  Arab, Greek, or Russian bishops or priests discuss these issues in the terms I am seeing now from some of the posters. The problem I see is when Roman Catholics and Protestants talk about atonement, they mean something entirely different than what we mean even though we may use the same words.
I believe there is a language disconnect. I also believe some new Orthodox Christians who are more western-leaning in their beliefs somehow equate the fact that we use the same language to mean we have the same beliefs. I asked Lubeltri to offer us the Vatican's statement on atonement. I hope he responds. In the meanwhile I am asking various Orthodox clergy friends of mine to explain to me what the words mean to us as Orthodox Christians.
 

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Tamara said:
I also believe some new Orthodox Christians who are more western-leaning in their beliefs somehow equate the fact that we use the same language to mean we have the same beliefs.
Are you suggesting that new Orthodox Christians do not have the same beliefs as other Orthodox Christians?  This makes me wonder which beliefs are those that make us Orthodox.  I know, I know: The Creed.  But if both groups use the same language to describe different beliefs, the Creed doesn't mean much.
 

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But if both groups use the same language to describe different beliefs, the Creed doesn't mean much.
Yes, well, some people use the same argument to say the liturgy isn't the same in English as it is in Greek or Slavonic.  I think that's a nonsense argument as well.

The Atonement is something firmly rooted in the Hebraic heritage of the church, and the concepts of propitiation and sacrifice which underpin it are straight from the Old Testament.  Though certainly firmly Jewish in origin, the Atonement and Redemption are above any one cultural expression and it is impossible to think to be understood that one would have to use exactly the right language to convey the ideas that define them.  We're not a secret society where one must have the right knowledge to understand these things.  What happened on the cross and why should actually nearly be our simplest belief to explain.

The understanding of the Atonement is really neither Eastern nor Western as we understand and use the terms for the reasons listed above.  In this thread I have only referenced the Eastern Fathers though.

What it seems to me again here is we have the myopic tendency in at least some parts of the church to see only one perspective as legitimate, and to define what one believes based on a refutation of what somebody else believes.

West = Bad.  etc., etc.

 

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tuesdayschild said:
Are you suggesting that new Orthodox Christians do not have the same beliefs as other Orthodox Christians?  This makes me wonder which beliefs are those that make us Orthodox.  I know, I know: The Creed.  But if both groups use the same language to describe different beliefs, the Creed doesn't mean much.
No, I am suggesting a few new Orthodox Christians lean toward western understanding of atonement. The English language is what we have in common to discuss these differences and define the terms. But the east and west used Greek and Latin to define what we believe. So while we may use the same words in English, we have a different understanding of the concepts which were developed in two separate languages by two churches who were separated from one another for 1000 years.

 

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welkodox said:
What it seems to me again here is we have the myopic tendency in at least some parts of the church to see only one perspective as legitimate, and to define what one believes based on a refutation of what somebody else believes.
Isn't that what apophatic theology basically does? Or is apophatic theology now too "Eastern" for your taste? ;)
 

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Here is what troubles me. No one seems to want to even deal with the fact that the anti-western Orthodox argument on this subject is a pathetic strawman that no moderately sophisticated 10th grader in an eveangelical youth group would even embrace. No wonder they reject it  - most protestants would too, and many Roman Catholics.

Secondly, no one deals with the arguments from scripture or the Fathers. They ignore the arguments or say you can't line up quotes by the fathers.

I would like to hear from someone to deal with both of these points. I have jumped in on these discussions here 4 or 5 times and no one will deal with the bibilical arguments or admit the usual anti-western tripe is bogeyman.
 

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ozgeorge said:
Isn't that what apophatic theology basically does? Or is apophatic theology now too "Eastern" for your taste? ;)
We need to get past the Eastern Church and return to the unified Church of the first thousand years. Like it or not those Western theologians and saints were Orthodox too when the we were all part of the same Church.

Whether or not anyone likes the analogy, for the first thousand years, the Church did in fact breathe with two lungs: East and the West complemented and corrected each other.
 

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Thank you BrotherAidan for taking the words out of my mouth!

ozgeorge said:
Isn't that what apophatic theology basically does? Or is apophatic theology now too "Eastern" for your taste? ;)
I'm certainly no theologian, but my understanding of apophatic theology is that it has to do with the inner nature of the Godhead.  The part of God we cannot approach or know.  The Atonement and the preceding Incarnation seem to me to be a part of the revealed aspect of God by their very nature.  So I don't see that applying in this case, unless of course apophatic now means defining your belief by caricacturing the beliefs of others and deconstucting the straw man belief to show how your belief is actually superior.

Ultimately though as I've said, I have actually nowhere in the thread referenced Western Fathers or theologians, either positively or negatively.  I've simply affirmed what the Eastern Fathers have said.  Shouldn't that be our job as Orthodox?  Or is our job to be puffed up with pride and to go around correcting everyone else's beliefs and showing how they are totally wrong?  Will outisders be impressed with us as a church when we can't resist the temptation to slam "the West" every chance we get?
 

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BrotherAidan said:
Whether or not anyone likes the analogy, for the first thousand years, the Church did in fact breathe with two lungs: East and the West complemented and corrected each other.
True, but whether you like the analogy or not, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, during which neither side has been able to correct the other. We may be looking at the same elephant from different perspectives, but we may also be looking at two different elephants. The only way to find out is by dialogue. But to say that the "Eastern" view must automatically be assumed to be "myopic" and should at once adopt the "Western" view is in itself myopic. The reality is, as you have pointed out yourself, is that there is still strong disagreement. And not just on this forum, but between theologians and clergy on both sides. Your "logical" answer to this seems to be "Just agree with me now". It ain't gonna happen
 

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BrotherAidan said:
We need to get past the Eastern Church and return to the unified Church of the first thousand years. Like it or not those Western theologians and saints were Orthodox too when the we were all part of the same Church.

Whether or not anyone likes the analogy, for the first thousand years, the Church did in fact breathe with two lungs: East and the West complemented and corrected each other.

Hahaha, yea if you live in an alternate historical reality...
 

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Tamara said:
I asked Lubeltri to offer us the Vatican's statement on atonement. I hope he responds.
There is no defining Vatican statement on the issue you describe. The Catholic Church recognizes the penal satisfaction theory (not the strawman version of it depicted in your article) as one of several valid approaches. Contrary to common Hyperdox belief, Rome doesn't dogmatize everything. The Mystery of Faith cannot be contained in only one concept, and the nature of the Atonement remains open to theological speculation.

Here's a great overview in the Catholic Encyclopedia on the development of the theology of the Atonement. I highly recommend reading the whole thing (it's not very long), but I'll post a summary excerpt here:

On looking back at the various theories noticed so far, it will be seen that they are not, for the most part, mutually exclusive, but may be combined and harmonized. It may be said, indeed, that they all help to bring out different aspects of that great doctrine which cannot find adequate expression in any human theory. And in point of fact it will generally be found that the chief Fathers and Schoolmen, though they may at times lay more stress on some favourite theory of their own, do not lose sight of the other explanations.

Thus the Greek Fathers, who delight in speculating on the Mystical Redemption by the Incarnation, do not omit to speak also of our salvation by the shedding of blood. Origen, who lays most stress on the deliverance by payment of a ransom, does not forget to dwell on the need of a sacrifice for sin. St. Anselm again, in his "Meditations", supplements the teaching set forth in his "Cur Deus Homo?" Abelard, who might seem to make the Atonement consist in nothing more than the constraining example of Divine Love has spoken also of our salvation by the Sacrifice of the Cross, in passages to which his critics do not attach sufficient importance. And, as we have seen his great opponent, St. Bernard, teaches all that is really true and valuable in the theory which he condemned. Most, if not all, of these theories had perils of their own, if they were isolated and exaggerated. But in the Catholic Church there was ever a safeguard against these dangers of distortion. As Mr. Oxenham says very finely,

    The perpetual priesthood of Christ in heaven, which occupies a prominent place in nearly all the writings we have examined, is even more emphatically insisted upon by Origen. And this deserves to be remembered, because it is a part of the doctrine which has been almost or altogether dropped out of many Protestant expositions of the Atonement, whereas those most inclining among Catholics to a merely juridical view of the subject have never been able to forget the present and living reality of a sacrifice constantly kept before their eyes, as it were, in the worship which reflects on earth the unfailing liturgy of heaven. (p. 38)


The reality of these dangers and the importance of this safeguard may be seen in the history of this doctrine since the age of Reformation. As we have seen, its earlier development owed comparatively little to the stress of controversy with the heretics. And the revolution of the sixteenth century was no exception to the rule. For the atonement was not one of the subjects directly disputed between the Reformers and their Catholic opponents. But from its close connection with the cardinal question of Justification, this doctrine assumed a very special prominence and importance in Protestant theology and practical preaching. Mark Pattison tells us in his "Memoirs" that he came to Oxford with his "home Puritan religion almost narrowed to two points, fear of God's wrath and faith in the doctrine of the Atonement". And his case was possibly no exception among Protestant religionists. In their general conception on the atonement the Reformers and their followers happily preserved the Catholic doctrine, at least in its main lines. And in their explanation of the merit of Christ's sufferings and death we may see the influence of St. Thomas and the other great Schoolmen. But, as might be expected from the isolation of the doctrine and the loss of other portions of Catholic teaching, the truth thus preserved was sometimes insensibly obscured or distorted. It will be enough to note here the presence of two mistaken tendencies.

    * The first is indicated in the above words of Pattison in which the Atonement is specially connected with the thought of the wrath of God. It is true of course that sin incurs the anger of the Just Judge, and that this is averted when the debt due to Divine Justice is paid by satisfaction. But it must not be thought that God is only moved to mercy and reconciled to us as a result of this satisfaction. This false conception of the Reconciliation is expressly rejected by St. Augustine (In Joannem, Tract. cx, section 6). God's merciful love is the cause, not the result of that satisfaction.

    * The second mistake is the tendency to treat the Passion of Christ as being literally a case of vicarious punishment. This is at best a distorted view of the truth that His Atoning Sacrifice took the place of our punishment, and that He took upon Himself the sufferings and death that were due to our sins.



http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02055a.htm

----

As you can see, the exclusive "wrath of God" view is rejected out of hand.
 

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See, this is the problem.  When a person is trying to discuss using quotes from Eastern fathers, it is exactly the anti-Western attitude from people who produce no arguments except, "Well, I trust my convert seminarian friend" or "Not all fathers are perfect" or "You're so lost and you're misunderstanding everything."  It is these empty comments that bother me a lot from Orthodox, and truly shows that Pharisaical prideful nature of many of you here, rather than being humble and actually having an intellectual/academic conversation.

It's sad that this happens to be a discussion that falls on Holy Week, when we remember to be civil, humble, and productive.  So far, the only one who made a convincing argument is Welkodox.  Everyone either says "you're misunderstanding this," "they're wrong," "let's trust that convert seminarian," "you're in an alternative reality," etc.  This is disgusting, and should not be the attitude of Orthodox intelligent faithful.  Either you are ready to make an effective argument, or don't say anything if you have nothing nice or better to say something.

I find it quite telling that many Latin fathers (and Eastern fathers) who had this type of language was never attacked at the time, and that this debate only started about 100 years ago.  I do however want to readdress the issue of "infinite sin/guilt" and "the robbing of God's glory."  Has there been anything from the Holy Fathers on these?

Here's a book by Vladimir Moss on this very subject:
http://www.romanitas.ru/eng/The%20Mystery%20of%20Redemption.htm

God bless.
 

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    That the father would demand from someone to pay and woyld accept aout of this alone for his son to be sacrificed is absurd beyond belief.
 

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Minissoliman:

I think it is great that we are having this discussion on Holy Week for it deals with the core of our beliefs and the most defining moment in the universe -- Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Instead of attacking others on this board who are making dismissive arguements, let us seek to educate and edify one another.

AS Welkodox pointed out, many new converts to Orthodoxy are quick to diown and refute their theological past, when in fact some of their former theology may have not been all off the mark. This is a pitful for our newly chrismated brethern which has also affected some newly enlightened cradles who are returning to their first love.
 

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welkodox said:
Yes, well, some people use the same argument to say the liturgy isn't the same in English as it is in Greek or Slavonic.  I think that's a nonsense argument as well.
I had not heard that translations of the liturgy.  But I do not think it is a nonsense argument to suggest that if terms in the Creed (or any document) are defined differently by different groups of people then the term in question becomes meaningless since it ceases to communicate a mutually-agreed upon idea.
 
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