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

Alveus Lacuna

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ozgeorge said:
Is St Isaac the Syrian also a heretic and a pagan? Because he says exactly the same thing as I do:
Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. ‘He is good’, He says ‘to the evil and to the impious.’ How can you call God just when you come across the Scriptural passage on the wage given to the workers? … How can a man call God just when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son who wasted his wealth with riotous living, how for the compunction alone which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck and gave him authority over all his wealth? Where, then, is God’s justice, for while we are sinners Christ died for us!”    — St. Isaac of Syria, Ascetical Homilies, 51
I think I'm beginning to understand that the main issue here surrounds "justice" and whether or not God can forgive freely. I was missing this element before in the debate.

"Does God need blood? Is He bloodthirsty and requires a full stomach of sacrifice to be appeased?"

It would seem obvious that the clear answer is no. However, the Old Testament is full of references to sacrifices sending up a sweet and pleasing aroma to God. Does God have nostrils? No, he does not, but he still asked for burnt offerings.

I am coming back with a quote by St. Ephraim the Syrian:

"O God of mercies Who refreshed Noah, he too refreshed Your mercies. He offered sacrifice and stayed the flood; he presented gifts and received the promise. With prayer and incense he propitiated You: with an oath and with the bow You were gracious to him; so that if the flood should essay to hurt the earth, the bow should stretch itself over against it, to banish it away and hearten the earth. As You have sworn peace so do You maintain it, and let Your bow strive against Your wrath!

Stretch forth Your bow against the flood, for lo! It has lifted up its waves against our walls!

In revelation, Lord! It has been proclaimed, that that lowly blood which Noah sprinkled, wholly restrained Your wrath for all generations; how much mightier then shall be the blood of Your Only Begotten, that the sprinkling of it should restrain our flood! For lo! It was but as mysteries of Him that those lowly sacrifices gained virtue, which Noah offered, and stayed by them Your wrath. Be propitiated by the gift upon my altar, and stay from me the deadly flood. So shall both Your signs bring deliverance, to me Your cross and to Noah Your bow! Your cross shall cleave the sea of waters; Your bow shall stay the flood of rain.
"  - St. Ephraim the Syrian, Nisibene Hymns I: 1-2.

I'm beginning to think that either the nuances of the issue are beyond my ability to grasp intellectually, or that the whole debate is some kind of a constructed war against "Western" theology which is, at its root, not really an issue at all. Aren't all of these explanations as to in what way Christ reconciles us to God only inadequate attempts to conceptualize the unfathomable? Even if we dismiss the notion of his "justice" being appeased, we cannot deny many references to His "wrath" being appeased.

There was division with God and man because of sin, and the Blood of Christ reconciled us to God. How did it do this, and why did it need to be done this way? I don't know that there is an adequate answer to this question.

Most Holy Mother of God, pray for us, that we might understand!
 

jnorm888

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Alveus Lacuna said:
ozgeorge said:
Is St Isaac the Syrian also a heretic and a pagan? Because he says exactly the same thing as I do:
Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. ‘He is good’, He says ‘to the evil and to the impious.’ How can you call God just when you come across the Scriptural passage on the wage given to the workers? … How can a man call God just when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son who wasted his wealth with riotous living, how for the compunction alone which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck and gave him authority over all his wealth? Where, then, is God’s justice, for while we are sinners Christ died for us!”    — St. Isaac of Syria, Ascetical Homilies, 51
I think I'm beginning to understand that the main issue here surrounds "justice" and whether or not God can forgive freely. I was missing this element before in the debate.

"Does God need blood? Is He bloodthirsty and requires a full stomach of sacrifice to be appeased?"

It would seem obvious that the clear answer is no. However, the Old Testament is full of references to sacrifices sending up a sweet and pleasing aroma to God. Does God have nostrils? No, he does not, but he still asked for burnt offerings.

I am coming back with a quote by St. Ephraim the Syrian:

"O God of mercies Who refreshed Noah, he too refreshed Your mercies. He offered sacrifice and stayed the flood; he presented gifts and received the promise. With prayer and incense he propitiated You: with an oath and with the bow You were gracious to him; so that if the flood should essay to hurt the earth, the bow should stretch itself over against it, to banish it away and hearten the earth. As You have sworn peace so do You maintain it, and let Your bow strive against Your wrath!

Stretch forth Your bow against the flood, for lo! It has lifted up its waves against our walls!

In revelation, Lord! It has been proclaimed, that that lowly blood which Noah sprinkled, wholly restrained Your wrath for all generations; how much mightier then shall be the blood of Your Only Begotten, that the sprinkling of it should restrain our flood! For lo! It was but as mysteries of Him that those lowly sacrifices gained virtue, which Noah offered, and stayed by them Your wrath. Be propitiated by the gift upon my altar, and stay from me the deadly flood. So shall both Your signs bring deliverance, to me Your cross and to Noah Your bow! Your cross shall cleave the sea of waters; Your bow shall stay the flood of rain.
"  - St. Ephraim the Syrian, Nisibene Hymns I: 1-2.

I'm beginning to think that either the nuances of the issue are beyond my ability to grasp intellectually, or that the whole debate is some kind of a constructed war against "Western" theology which is, at its root, not really an issue at all. Aren't all of these explanations as to in what way Christ reconciles us to God only inadequate attempts to conceptualize the unfathomable? Even if we dismiss the notion of his "justice" being appeased, we cannot deny many references to His "wrath" being appeased.

There was division with God and man because of sin, and the Blood of Christ reconciled us to God. How did it do this, and why did it need to be done this way? I don't know that there is an adequate answer to this question.

Most Holy Mother of God, pray for us, that we might understand!

 The blood of Christ Expiates/cleanses/cleans/destroyes/purify/wash our sin. This is different from appeasement/Propitiation.
 

Ortho_cat

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Augustine says that anything in the Bible that “cannot in a literal sense be attributed either to an upright character or to a pure faith” should be understood as figurative. I'd say the same for the portrayal of penal satisfaction theory in the bible.
 

Rufus

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Ortho_cat said:
Augustine says that anything in the Bible that “cannot in a literal sense be attributed either to an upright character or to a pure faith” should be understood as figurative. I'd say the same for the portrayal of penal satisfaction theory in the bible.
Indeed. I think highly opinionated people on both sides of the debate muddle the issue when they equate "a sin-offering to God" with "penal substitution" as such. It really all depends on how you interpret certain phrases. Personally, I think there is a good reason why the Scriptures and our liturgical texts refrain from giving us any detailed "mechanism" of how the expiation on the Cross "works."

In the midst of all this, we must remember that Holy Tradition attributes redemptive power not to the Cross only, but to the entire Incarnation, right up through the Resurrection, the Ascencion, and even the Second Coming. Penal Subtsitution and a literal Satisfaction theory tend to obscure, often deny, the meaning of the entire Incarnation.
 

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I glanced over the first post in this thread and it cited Lossky as if he were an authority. In reality, the Russian religiophilosophy movement of which Lossky is a represenitive was not and did not claim to be the authorititave voice of Orthodoxy theology.
In my opinion the penal satisifaction theory is a pan-Christian theory. Even Berdiaev writes about how the belief of the Russian peasant trembled before God the Father fearing his retribution and preferred to pray to the Mother of God.
 

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synLeszka said:
Even Berdiaev writes about how the belief of the Russian peasant trembled before God the Father fearing his retribution and preferred to pray to the Mother of God.
Like the Publican. My issue is with the assertion that GOd must punish sin, or would rather punish sin, or is unwilling to forgive without punishent (including substitutionary punishment), etc.

In any event, the Protestant teaching of Penal Substitution is not identical to Anselm's Satisfaction Theory, with which some Protestant groups with fundamentalist tendencies take issue. There is also widespread disagereement among Protestants as to what the word "atonement" actually means. So I don't see how it is a pan-Christian theory.
 

ozgeorge

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Here is what I think and what I have been saying on this forum for 5 years about this (not that anyone listens to me since I am old and a cradle Orthodox!)


ozgeorge said:
The question it asks is: "To whom is the ransom paid?"
It cannot be paid to God, since God was not holding us to ransom because of our sins. We were enslaved to Death and the Devil by our sins, and to say that Christ paid a ransom to death and the Devil to liberate us is ludicrous.
ozgeorge said:
Or, another possibility is that "ransom" is a metaphor, and is not to be taken literally.
ozgeorge said:
St. Gregory the Theologian, Second Oration on Pascha

"To whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High Priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the evil one, sold under sin, and received pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask, to who was this offered and to what cause? If to the evil one, fie upon the outrage! The robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and as such has an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone all together.
But first I ask, how? For it was not by Him (God) that we were being oppressed. And next, on what principle did the Blood of His only Begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac when he was being offered by his father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in place of a human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself and overcome the tryant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things."
ozgeorge said:
BrotherAidan said:
I would not wish to say that any of the bibilical motifs for understanding the cross are metaphorical; mysteries that we can't fully comprehend? Yes. Metaphors, No.
So, again, I ask, to whom was the ransom paid if it is a literal ransom? As St. Gregory says, the one who held us in bondage is the evil one, so did he receive the ransom?
The problem with viewing terms like "ransom" and "atonement" too literally is that doing so imprisons God. Basically, it means God cannot forgive sin unless an atonement is made or a ransom paid.
ozgeorge said:
Demetrios G. said:
This is the way I view it. The ransom (Christ)is the bait. When Christ offers himself sinless to the devil, the devil didn't know he had a sinless example of a human. the devil took the bait and was bound by doing it. Death was overcome by a sinless example. This is clearly seen when one sees that death is the consequence for sin.
I agree. It was a case of deceiving the deceiver. And in the Orthodox Church, we commemorate this on Holy Saturday:

"Today Hades cries out groaning:
I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary.
He came and destroyed my power.
He shattered the gates of brass.
As God. He raised the souls I had held captive.

"Today Hades cries out groaning:
my power has been abolished;
I have received a mortal, as one of the mortals;
but this One, I am completely powerless to contain;
with Him, I have lost all those over which I have ruled. 
For ages I had held them dead;
but behold, He raises them up all.'"

ozgeorge said:
I'm not sure we have any choice but to view the word "ransom" as a metaphor. If we don't view it as a metaphor- then the ransom must be paid to the one who holds in bondage, i.e., the one who holds to ransom, or the one who has enslaved.
Why can't you just accept this instead of making some song and dance about how it is "not a metaphor"? Why is it so important to you that it is not a metaphor?
ozgeorge said:
This is what I don't get.
Any time anyone questions a particular view of soteriology, such as the literal interpretation of Christ as "ransom", they are "convert bashing" or "anti-Western"....Why? 
If a particular doctrinal interpretation has holes in it, it has holes in it if it is "Western", "Eastern", "Northern" or "Southern".
And if it is not the "universally accepted" Western view, then why should someone who is merely questioning it's correctness be accused of being "anti-Western" or "convert bashing"? Do only Western coverts hold these views?
ozgeorge said:
welkodox said:
I don't believe it was a ransom paid to the devil or bait put forth to ensnare him.
And I agree with you. All I'm saying is that a literal interpretation of the concept of "ransom" does not permit one to hold this view.
I think that the fact that we were "bought at a price" is a testimony to God's love for us, and it is the way He chose to save us by Divine Economia so that "when I (Christ) am lifted up (on the Cross), I will draw all men to Myself." But I also think that God's infinite love and mercy does not require that a "payment" be made for sin. Christ said: "This is my Blood of the new Covenant which is shed for many to (Gk: "εις") the forgiveness of sin."  To interpret this as saying "in order that sins may be forgiven" in the sense that sins can only be forgiven if someone suffers and dies in "payment" for them or accepts the "punishment" due for them is, in my view, erroneous. Our sins are forgiven because God is merciful, not because He has been paid off like some mafia boss given protection money.

welkodox said:
What's important to understand to me is why it appears that much of what is being purported as the "Orthodox view" seems radically inconsistent with what the church has taught in the past. 
I'm not sure that it is radically different from what the Church has taught in the past. What seems radically different is that some view concepts meant as metaphors as meant to be taken literally- something which the Fathers did not do.

welkodox said:
It's also important to me to understand why there is a continual need felt by many Orthodox people to continually construct caricatures of the "western view" or to define what they believe in terms of what they oppose in western theology.
I think what they are reacting against is the misinterpretation of metaphors as literal doctrine. The fact is that many today think that "God cannot forgive sin unless something bleeds".  I myself have come accross this many times, not only in my Catholic and Protestant friends, but some Orthodox as well. The fact is that this view is absent in Eastern soteriology, since our salvation came about by the "Divine Economia" of the Incarnation.

welkodox said:
was not aware that I am putting forth a "song and dance" here, so much as actually posting writings that are directly related to the topic at hand.
What I am asking is: why is it so important that no one question the literal interpretation of our redemption as being the payment of a ransom? When you said:
welkodox said:
Yes, that is the question.
Yet, if what you say is true, there is no ransom.  Yet, clearly there is a ransom that was paid by Christ on our behalf.  But to whom?
It seems to me there is only one possibility.
It seems to me that the words "clearly there is a ransom that was paid by Christ on our behalf"  leaves no room except for a literal interpretation of "ransom" to mean a payment given to God without which He could not forgive our sin. If I misunderstood, I apologise. But if this is what you meant to say, I could not disagree more.
ozgeorge said:
minasoliman said:
What exactly is absent in "Eastern" soteriology?  Why do we stress "Eastern" so much?
Because Eastern theology has maintained the Orthodox Christian view of redemption. Whereas the "Western" view has been typified by the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and are different. See:Summa Theologica: Q48 The efficiency of Christ's Passion
ozgeorge said:
welkodox said:
I will say I'm thankful my real world experiences in the church are in almost all cases absolutely nothing like what I read online.
That's fine. But you're just going to have to accept the fact that in 40 years as an Orthodox Christian, I have never come across any reference in any Liturgical Service to the "satisfaction" view of redemption. That's my real world experience.
ozgeorge said:
Mina,
You're playing on the word "satisfaction" here.
There is nothing wrong with the Russian theological concept of "satisfying" the Righteousness of God (which is what St. Athanasios is talking about), in fact, this is exactly how Christ redeemed us; that is, by fulfilling the Law: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17). And not only Christ, but we too are required to satisfy God's Righteousness: ".... it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15).

But this is vastly different to the Western concept of satisfying God's "Justice" (which is what lubeltri is talking about), where God must extract a payment before He will forgive sin.

Satisfying God's Righteousnes is something we must all strive for, but was fulfilled par excellence by the Theanthropic Christ.

Satisfying God's Justice, however by saying things such as:
lubeltri said:
To satisfy the divine justice or the divine consistency. It is just that we all die for rejecting God through sin.
makes Death not the natural consequence of sin, but a temporal evil imposed on us by God in retribution for sin. In other words, it makes God the Author of evil. The wages of sin are death, but who is it that "pays" these wages? Is it the God Who swore by His Own Life that He does not desire the death of the sinner but that he should turn and live (Ezekiel 33:11)? I don't think so.
ozgeorge said:
If one wishes to take the judicial view of Redemtion, one has no choice but to aknowledge that the reductio ad absurdum is that God cannot forgive sin unless a penalty for it is paid, and one lays oneself open to the accusations of Atheists that the God one worships doesn't think repentance is sincere enough unless someone has pain and death inflicted on them.

ozgeorge said:
minasoliman said:
According to St. Athanasius, repentance wasn't enough.  Not only does it not heal the corruption, but also it makes God's word untrue to simply forgive after saying one will "surely die."
But you are assuming that St. Athanasios is taking the judicial view here, and you are reading things into him that he does not say. Where does St. Athanasios say that God cannot forgive sin without the Crucifixion? Forgiving sin is one thing, and redeeming us from death is quite another.

I've said it three times on this thread, and I'll say it again: Death is the natural consequence of sin, not the "penalty" inflicted by God for sin. We will "surely die" for sin just as we will "surely die" if we ingest cyanide, but death is not the "penalty" for ingesting cyanide, it's merely the natural consequence of it. By ingesting cyanide, we corrupt our homeostasis, and this leads to death. Sin also corrupts us and leads to death.

The greatest testimony to the fact that God did not redeem mankind by judicial means is the Harrowing of Hades. It was a rescue mission to save mankind from the natural consequences of sin, just like a paramedic saves a drug addict from the natural consequences of taking an overdose.

minasoliman said:
Again, we should not put words in RC mouths.  Let's seek to understand them.  Perhaps, all they were affirming all this time was Athanasian theology.
I am listening, and what I am hearing is that unless I take the judicial view of redemption, I am a heretic, and I refuse to accept that.
lubeltri said:
The denial of any juridical aspect is just plain heterodoxy to me
ozgeorge said:
minasoliman said:
Well, St. Athanasius says that God cannot merely forgive sin or fix corruption, even though He has that power, it would be "inconsistent" for God to forgive sin without the Incarnation, Human Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.  So, in the end, St. Athanasius does indeed say that God cannot "forgive sin" without the Incarnation, in addition to redemption of death.
No he doesn't Mina.

Listen to what St. Athanasios actually says:
"The law of death, which followed from the Transgression, prevailed upon us, and from it there was no escape. The thing that was happening was in truth both monstrous and unfitting. It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die ; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption."
St. Athanasios says that Death is not "Just" as lubeltri claims, St. Athanasios says it is monstrous.

and St. Athanasios also says:
"Was He to demand repentance from men for their transgression ? You might say that that was worthy of God, and argue further that, as through the Transgression they became subject to corruption, so through repentance they might return to incorruption again. But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature ; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning., Had it been a case of a trespass only, and not of a subsequent corruption, repentance would have been well enough; but when once transgression had Begun men came under the power of the corruption proper to their nature and were bereft of the grace which belonged to them as creatures in the Image of God. No, repentance could not meet the case. What-or rather Who was it that was needed for such grace and such recall as we required? "
St. Athanasios is not talking about forgiveness, but healing the consequences of sin. One can repent of murdering someone, and God will forgive them, but the consequences of the sin (the corruption it causes) remain- the victim remains dead.

You are equating Forgiveness with Redemption- which is the very error which the judicial view makes, but St. Athanasios clearly distinguishes between sin and it's consequences, and between forgiveness and Redemption. Sin can be forgiven, and indeed was forgiven even before the Incarnation. But the echoes sin causes through the Universe, that is, it's consequences, could only be healed through the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of the God-Man.
ozgeorge said:
minasoliman said:
The law of death, which followed from the Transgression, prevailed upon us, and from it there was no escape. The thing that was happening was in truth both monstrous and unfitting.I
t's equally monstrous and "unthinkable" (did you think about it...shame on you  Tongue) that God should just simply get rid of the death and corruption that ailed man.  God said man will surely die, and He CANNOT go back on His word.  Notice also, it's interesting because while we concentrate so much on the fact that it's our own fault, we forget that it's also God's commandment that this should happen if this happened.  If it's merely just a "my own fault, God didn't create death" type of arguement, it wouldn't have been necessary for St. Athanasius to be so insistent on Goid not going back "on His word."
No Mina! Stop and think! You are saying that what St. Athanasios calls "the law of death" was created by God, and that He cannot break His own law. But "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good", and "the dead do not praise the Lord, neither they that go down into the silence", and "The Lord is the God of the living and not of the dead." Just as sin is evil and can have no part with God, Death is also evil and can have no part with God. Death is the absence of Life, and the only Source of Life is God.
When God says in Genesis that on the day Adam disobeys His commandment "you will surely die", He is stating a fact; namely that sin by definition cuts us off from the Source of Life. This is the "law of death" St. Athanasios is talking about. What is impure and evil cannot have anything to do with what is Pure and Good, and evil cannot have any part of God. The concept is ontological not judicial. Don't be confused by the term "law". When we talk about the Laws of Thermodynamics, we are not talking about judicial laws. And note that St. Athanasios calls it "the law of death", not the "law of God".

minasoliman said:
It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die.
Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature ; all that it does is to make them cease from sinning.
Self-explanatory.  This is the ontological side of things.
No, Mina. It is exactly the same as what St. Athanasios said before, just a different way of saying it. In both cases, St. Athanasios is saying the same thing and is speaking ontologically.
ozgeorge said:
David,
I have read your articles, and I liked them, but I don't think we can draw the conclusion that the "judicial" and "ontological" views complement each other, and I'm not sure how you are trying to make this connection when you say:
DavidBryan said:
I mean...God demands a perfect humanity for union with Himself and will take no less, for to do so would 1) go against the reality of holiness' incompatibility with iniquity and 2) damn us all as a natural consequence...and His love for us could not bear the latter, nor would His holiness allow for the former to pass unchallenged and unconquered.
(1) above, is ontological- evil and good, impurity and purity cannot mix, because that would mean that God is no longer Pure, and therefore, no longer God., and in (2), it is not God Who is damns us, and He acts, not with "Justice" but with Mercy to solve an ontological problem:
our impurity and consequential seperation from Him Who is the All Pure Source of Life vs. His desire that we be united with Him

Peter the Aleut,
I think it is wrong to think of God as the Creator of death. The Source of Life cannot create Death. Just as darkness is the result of being cut off from a source of light, Death is the result of being cut off from the Source of Life. Thus, "the law of death" is not a "Divine Law", it's the natural consequence of being cut off from the Divine. Deification is not "one option among many", it is the only option if we are to attain Eternal Life, and it is intrinsic to our true Human Nature. We made it impossible to attain by leaving the Source of Life, and Christ made it possible again by Sanctifying Human Nature at the Incarnation, and delivering the souls of those in Hades by His own Death. God took back from Death what was His. To say that He put them there in the first place makes God the sadistic being that modern Atheists accuse us of making Him into.
ozgeorge said:
But if you say that God created "the law of death" you are saying that God could have chosen not to let sin lead to death. Our redemption, therefore, is a farce which never needed to happen in the first place. God places us in Hades then gets us out again....some Redeemer that would be! It would be like a firefighter who starts forest fires then plays the hero.
ozgeorge said:
PeterTheAleut said:
I am in fact saying this!  :eek:  All jest aside, for God to have chosen "not to let sin lead to death" would have been inconsistent with His incorruptible nature.  God cannot by His very nature allow Himself to be corrupted by uniting Himself to the corruption caused by sin.  Sin, therefore, MUST separate man from God.
That's correct. Which is what I've been saying all along. God could not have included anything in the Laws of Nature which would prevent sin leading to death, so, contrary to the Laws of Nature, a Virgin gave birth to a Human Being Who is God....We were redeemed because God suspended and contradicted the Laws of Nature. And when, as True Man, God died on the Cross, He himself entered the realm of Death, and even the Dead were no longer seperated from Him, and He raised them up and granted them Life again.

ozgeorge said:
EkhristosAnesti said:
If St. Athanasius explicates that our redemption was achieved by (inter alia) the lifting of "God's sentence", and yet you persist in essentially denying that God could be responsible in any way for any sentence, then I am inclined to believe that you are not really addressing St. Athanasius on his own terms.
EA,
Again, you misquote St. Athanasios and take his words out of context.
In answer to the Arians, Saint Athanasios is talking about the remission of sin and the fact that Christ had the authority to forgive sins on Earth, which proves that He was not a creature, but God Himself. Here is what St. Athanasios actually says:
And how, were the Word a creature, had He power to undo God's sentence, and to remit sin, whereas it is written in the Prophets, that this is God's doing? For 'who is a God like unto You, that pardons iniquity, and passes by transgression Micah 7:18 ?' For whereas God has said, 'Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return Genesis 3:19 ,' men have become mortal; how then could things originate undo sin?
Therefore, since the Saint is saying that Christ had the authority to "undo God's sentence" by forgiving sins on Earth, the attempt to use this as "proof" that the Saint is saying that our redemption through the Cross and Resurrection was judicial in nature is ludicrous. In answer to the Arians, St. Athanasios is showing that Christ is God by referring to the fact that in the Gospel, Christ had the authority to "undo God's sentence"  by forgiving sins....and He was doing this in the Gospel before His Death and Resurrection. If we take the judicial view of Redemption, wouldn't it be impossible for Christ to remit sins before the "debt" was paid by Him?

ozgeorge said:
Peter,
it isn't the use of words like "ransom" and "wrath" which are the problem, but trather, it is when they are taken literally. If I take what St. Cyril is saying literally, then I must believe that the immutable God changed from being wrathful to merciful. Even Scripture says that God was "grieved" that He had that He had created the world (Genesis 6:7) but is this really possible? Could God really have felt that He'd made a mistake in creating the Earth and changed His mind? Are we meant to take this literally?
ozgeorge said:
DavidBryan said:
So we were ransomed from death and corruption by Christ's substitution on the Cross in order that we would undergo an ontological change through theosis and thus be saved from the "everlasting punishment" which those who have not put on Christ and thus remain united to death and corruption will undergo.
David,
Again, in my mind, this raises the questions:
1) To whom was the "ransom from death and corruption" paid?
2) If a substitution was required for the forgiveness of sin, how could Christ forgive the sins of the Paralytic and the Woman caught in adultery before this substitution had taken place?
3) If Theosis was impossible before the "substitution", how did Elijah not die and get taken up into Heaven in his body and meet Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration?

I mention this only because, as you say, such ideas of substitution and ransom may be "very comfortable to Western ears", but in this day and age, when people are questioning the basis of our belief, such questions can be raised and are quite valid, and we need to be ready with an answer.

ozgeorge said:
Thanks Father.
No matter how many times I quote St. Gregory the Theologian on this thread and no matter how many times I insist that “ransom” and “substitution” and “atonement” cannot be taken literally, people insist that we need to use these terms to make our (Orthodox) soteriology palatable to the West. But I keep arguing that these terms make no sense if taken literally rather than metaphorically. I can’t see how the “scholastic” West could find these terms "palatable" since even slightly scratching the surface of them causes them to fall apart.
George
ozgeorge said:
St. Gregory the Theologian, Second Oration on Pascha

"To whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High Priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the evil one, sold under sin, and received pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask, to who was this offered and to what cause? If to the evil one, fie upon the outrage! The robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and as such has an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone all together.
But first I ask, how? For it was not by Him (God) that we were being oppressed. And next, on what principle did the Blood of His only Begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac when he was being offered by his father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in place of a human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself and overcome the tryant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things."

ozgeorge said:
BrotherAidan said:
I would not wish to say that any of the bibilical motifs for understanding the cross are metaphorical; mysteries that we can't fully comprehend? Yes. Metaphors, No.
So, again, I ask, to whom was the ransom paid if it is a literal ransom? As St. Gregory says, the one who held us in bondage is the evil one, so did he receive the ransom?
The problem with viewing terms like "ransom" and "atonement" too literally is that doing so imprisons God. Basically, it means God cannot forgive sin unless an atonement is made or a ransom paid.

ozgeorge said:
PeterTheAleut said:
ialmisry said:
That fact that the term "atonement" had to be invented should tell people something.
What do you suggest this should tell us?
What St. Isaac the Syrian says:

Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. ‘He is good’, He says ‘to the evil and to the impious.’ How can you call God just when you come across the Scriptural passage on the wage given to the workers? … How can a man call God just when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son who wasted his wealth with riotous living, how for the compunction alone which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck and gave him authority over all his wealth? Where, then, is God’s justice, for while we are sinners Christ died for us!”    — St. Isaac of Syria, Ascetical Homilies, 51

ozgeorge said:
DavidBryan said:
1) There is no "whom," but a "what": the reality of all mens' common mortality.  It held us captive as would a human captor, and Christ's blood was the only element strong enough to overturn the rule of death.
By this reasoning, God paid a debt which was owed to the mortality which He Himself gave us: "And the LORD God said, “My Spirit shall not remain among these men forever, for they are flesh; but their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”  (Genesis 6:3) It is God Who appointed our mortality. Is God therefore like a pyromaniac firefighter who ignites fires so that they can be seen as dramatic rescuer? And is death so much stronger than the Pantocrator God by Whose command the Universe and everything in it came to be that the only way God can defeat death is to bleed and suffer in pain? It's absurd.
DavidBryan said:
2) Melito of Sardis comments that, when the angel in the book of Exodus saw the blood of lambs on the Israelites' doorposts, the angel was not truly "seeing" the blood of lambs, but the blood of Christ which would cleanse all sins (which are shortcomings of being as well as of action, and which are made up for in the Life offered by Christ in His blood).  Likewise, the forgiveness offered to the Paralytic and the Adulterous Woman was "looking forward" to the Cross.  The Cross is the Axis on which all of Time, all of Creation turns; as such, there is no "before" or "after" regarding its effectiveness.  As St. Irenaeus of Lyons said, "it was necessary that he who would be saved should come into existence, that the One who saves should not exist in vain."  The "In the beginning" of Genesis 1:1 was uttered because of the Cross.  The healing of souls and bodies offered by Christ during His Advent was available because of the same. 3) Enoch, as well as Elijah, had faith in God as told in Hebrews 11, and as such shared in an imperfect participation in the yet-to-be-temporally-realized Crucifixion.  Again, any benefit men in the Old Testament received from the Lord was an economia of sorts based on what would happen on Calvary.
David, firstly, as ialmisry points out, this is the "logic" by which the erroneous doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was conceived. What you are basically saying is that God could not forgive sins without Christ bleeding and dying on the Cross, however, sins could be forgiven in anticipation of His bleeding and dying. Why then were the souls of the righteous dead kept in Hades in the millennia before the Harrowing of Hades and not admitted to Paradise in anticipation of the Crucifixion?  Couldn't God forgive them and admit them to Paradise in anticipation of Golgotha like the way you claim He was able to forgive sins on Earth before His death (in anticipation of it)? Secondly, you have diminished the Authority, Dominion and Power of the Almighty God by saying that He cannot forgive sins unless certain conditions are met. The Apostle doesn't think so, because he says: "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses,  “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy." (Romans 9:14-16) God's Mercy is limitless because God is limitless. God's Love is limitless because God is Love and God is limitless. What you are saying is that certain criteria must be met in order for God to have Mercy and forgive sin- in other words, you are saying that God is not omnipotent, but restricted by factors external to Him. This is heresy. Now the usual Western argument is that the factors are not external to Him because they are His own Justice. And I say: Codswhollop! God is not just.  A "just" God does not make the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the good and the wicked alike (Matthew 5:45). A 'just" God does not command us to imitate Him by loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, doing good to those who hate us and praying for those who persecute and abuse us (Matthew 5:44-45). This is what God expects of us, because He Himself does so freely.  A "just" God is not good and kind to evildoers. And most importantly,: A "just" God does not die for sinners while they are still sinners or for the ungodly while they are still ungodly.(Romans 5:6-8 ) Read again, what St Isaac the Syrian says: “Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind. ‘He is good’, He says ‘to the evil and to the impious.’ How can you call God just when you come across the Scriptural passage on the wage given to the workers? … How can a man call God just when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son who wasted his wealth with riotous living, how for the compunction alone which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck and gave him authority over all his wealth? Where, then, is God’s justice, for while we are sinners Christ died for us!”    (Ascetical Homilies, 51). And concerning the Sacrifice of the Cross, read again what St. Gregory the Theologian says: "Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself and overcome the tryant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things." (2nd Oration on Pascha). If he who is one of only two Saints the Church calls "Theologian" says this, who am I to argue with it?
 

ozgeorge said:
David,
St. Gregory the Theologian is not talking about substitutionary atonement.
"Atonement" is just another word for "penal satisfaction".

Imagine, for a moment that I got caught up in a poker game with a cardshark. As the game continues, I manage to lose all my money, my house and end up owing money that I don't have. Now let's say I have a rich friend who loves me and sees the distress caused by the mess I got myself into playing poker with someone who is much better at it than me. My rich friend decides to help by getting into a poker game with the cardshark himself. My rich friend is not only wealthier than the cardshark, he is also infinitely better at poker than he is, and my friend ends up completely obliterating the cardshark, takes all his winnings, his house, and has him thrown into prison in debt. My friend then distributes the loot from the cardshark among all those he has cheated. Has my wealthy friend made "atonement"? The cardshark is the Death and the Devil, my rich friend is Christ who has redeemed me, not by paying my debt, but by deceiving the deceiver.

ozgeorge said:
ozgeorge said:
Imagine, for a moment that I got caught up in a poker game with a cardshark. As the game continues, I manage to lose all my money, my house and end up owing money that I don't have. Now let's say I have a rich friend who loves me and sees the distress caused by the mess I got myself into playing poker with someone who is much better at it than me. My rich friend decides to help by getting into a poker game with the cardshark himself. My rich friend is not only wealthier than the cardshark, he is also infinitely better at poker than he is, and my friend ends up completely obliterating the cardshark, takes all his winnings, his house, and has him thrown into prison in debt. My friend then distributes the loot from the cardshark among all those he has cheated. Has my wealthy friend made "atonement"? The cardshark is the Death and the Devil, my rich friend is Christ who has redeemed me, not by paying my debt, but by deceiving the deceiver.
And here's the evidence from our Orthodox Hymns for Good Friday:

Today hell cries out groaning: I should not have accepted the Man born of Mary (i.e. "I shouldn't have got into a poker game with Him"). He came and destroyed my power. He shattered the gates of brass. As God, He raised the souls that I had held captive. Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord.

Today, hell cries out groaning: My dominion has been shattered. I received a dead man as one of the dead, but against Him I could not prevail (i.e. "I was deceived"). From eternity I had ruled the dead, but behold, He raised all. Because of Him do I perish. Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord.

Today hell cries out groaning: My power has been trampled upon. The Shepherd is crucified and Adam is raised. I have been deprived of those whom I ruled. Those whom I swallowed in my strength I have given up. He Who was crucified has emptied the tombs (ie. "He has taken all my winnings and given them back to those I cheated"). The power of death has been vanquished. Glory to Thy cross and resurrection, O Lord.

ozgeorge said:
DavidBryan said:
My whole point is that atonement need not be equated with "penal satisfaction."  Please show me where the two must be synonymous, if I am indeed mistaken.  Atonement, rather, has always been a "making up for that which is lacking," as it were, a supplement to our shortcomings so that we can partake of the presence of God -- not because God couldn't stand for us to be in His presence or because He needs it, but because He's set it up this way for us to be cleansed from sin and death through Life and Love.  Expiation instead of propitiation, in other words.
David, the original meaning of "atonement" is none of what you have described, and I actually have no problem with the original meaning of the word, however I do have a problem with how the word has come to be understood. Look in any dictionary and the first definition of "atonement" is "expiation" ie, "amends made for an injury or a wrong". This is evident from the the use of the verb "to atone". The original meaning of the word "atonement" was actually "harmonising". As I understand, it was first used in the 16th century, and it has an English etymology, literally: "at one-ment" (to cause two or more things to be "at one"). This is an excellent description of our reconciliation to God. However this is not what the word "atonement" means now (as any dictionary will describe). It now means "  Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation."  Where did this "alternate" meaning for a word which originally meant "harmonising" come from?
DavidBryan said:
He destroys death, as you say through you cardshark metaphor (which is an excellent one, by the way), but He also finishes His union of our nature with His through His three-day Pascha, which begins on Calvary.  Christ did die for us rather than instead of us--for we must also die with Him to live with Him--yet the Blood He gave when He died is what gives us the life necessary to die correctly.  Christ did reverse the deception, yet He also became sin so that we might become righteousness, thus reversing our nature's fallenness (or "atoning for it") through His life-giving Blood. Let us not make the same mistake that many western Christians make and stress one aspect of salvation -- in our case, beguiling the beguiler -- to the exclusion of other, very real facets of our salvation.  Our nature is renewed -- atoned for, or brought up from its former, crippled state and reconciled to the Father -- by the Blood of Christ.  This is the supreme atonement to which all of the atonement language in the Old Testament alluded.  We can't get around that, nor should we simply dismiss it out of hand, as St. Athanasius shows us (thanks for the quote, ignatius). 
I disagree with your definition of "atoning", and therefore I disagree with your understanding of what Christ's Blood has done for us. Yes, His Blood is the only source of Life for us, but It was not shed to make up what was lacking in our fallen state. You can't drink water from a Rock unless you split it (Numbers 20:11). You can't share a loaf of bread unless it's broken open. You can't drink the Lifegiving Blood of Christ unless He is broken open. Christ was Crucified because the only way His Unfallen Body could die was to be murdered. This was the only way His Human Soul could enter Hades and destroy it. The Cross was the "price He had to pay" in order to undertake His Rescue Mission of us. It was the "sacrifice" He made in the same way that you might "sacrifice" yourself at work every day in order to feed your family. The main point which we seem to miss about the Old Testament Sacrifices is what it meant in an agrarian society. When an holocaust offering was made of one of your cattle, you had to give up something precious. When Abraham our Father in Faith was called to make a Sacrifice, he was asked to sacrifice the most precious thing he had- his only son Isaac. When the Passover Sacrifice was made, it was offered and then shared and eaten. So yes, the Old Testament Sacrifices were a precursor to Golgotha, but your understanding of them is incorrect.
 


ozgeorge said:
PeterTheAleut said:
Even better yet, why is this even important?
Because Scripture and Tradition existed for one and a half milennia before the word "atonement" was invented by a Protestant Reformer.

ozgeorge said:
ignatius said:
Could you define what you mean Substitutionary Atonement or Penal Satisfaction to mean?
"Substitutionary Atonement" means that basically, Christ died "in our place" (ie "was substituted for us") in order to make "Atonement" (whatever that means, since the meaning has changed over time). While the various meanings of "Atonement" is problematic, the idea that Christ died "in our place" or "instead of us" is wrong. He died for us, not instead of us.

"Penal Satisfaction" basically means that a debt (or penalty) is owed to God for sin, (somewhat like a parking fine) which needs to be paid so that the sin can be forgiven. The idea is that Christ paid the fine for us (because we were unable to).
 

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If death is the natural consequence of sin that would those who sin after the last judgement and resurrection die again or anyone else in heaven? Or have those in heaven lost their free will and cannot sin?
 

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I was listening to one of the Vatican's priests on Relevant Radio this morning, and in a question and answer part after his talk, he spoke of the satisfaction theory, which the questioner brought up, which he rejected.

He said that the satisfaction theory says that when God looks at us, Christ stands in the way so the Father sees Him, not us.  Rather, the Catholic Faith (and he is right on that) says God looks at us and sees Christ in us.

Our bishop gave a magnificent sermon on the Transfiguration, on how God looks at us like a parent looks at a child and sees himself and those he loves in the child, and the Transfiguration is Christ making that-the Image and Likeness of God-come out.
 

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Azul said:
If death is the natural consequence of sin that would those who sin after the last judgement and resurrection die again or anyone else in heaven? Or have those in heaven lost their free will and cannot sin?
No, they lose their gnomic will, and therefore can exercise their free will and therefore not sin.
 

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Ramsom, substitutianary atonement and others are metaphors took way too literally.

If you want to loose weight, you must "pay the price" and do "proper sacrifice" which is to stop eating in excess and/or unhealthy but tasty food, start exercising and basically reeducate yourself ("fasting", "ascesis" and "learning the commandments" in the small world of flesh). The metaphor of "paying the price", "no pain, no gain", "do some sacrifice" may work for some and be awful for others, producing more guilt than results - exactly the same problem of much of Western theology.

Sometimes I think that most of Western heresies were due to the long period of illeteracy that occurred this side of Europe after the fall of Rome, while Constantinople not only was still literate but had subtle sophisticated and even presumptious and unnecessary domain of figures of speech. The average reader in the East (although readers were still a minority) would be able to notice metaphors (such as the image of "ramsom"), hyperboles (such as the ones used in bishops' titles, which the West also took literally), or parallelism (like the Symbol of Faith where not understanding this figure of speech led to the filioque) for what they are, the meaning they conveyed and why they were used in that context. Western readers, at that time, would be content with the simple fact that they could identify the words at all, and that is why when St. Augustine, a true writer, emerged among them (us) he was so admired. Even in modern times the whole issue with the heretic dogma of Immaculate Conception is due to not being able to understand Byzantine-style excessively colorful figures of speech and interpreting it in absolute and literal ways.
 
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