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

BrotherAidan

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ozgeorge said:
a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then...
Your "logical" answer to this seems to be "Just agree with me now". It ain't gonna happen
I am not saying to forget a thousand years of history, but in the instance of the subject of this thread, look at the beliefs and emphases of both East and West and its theologians and Fathers for the first thousand years in terms of various prisms through which to view the atonement.

And I'm not saying just agree with me. I am very reasonably asking people not to set up silly straw men and asking people to deal with the scriptural arguments.

If after having done that, someone still disagrees, I can heartily agree to disagree as brothers (or siblings). But let's have a legitiimate debate based on the correct understanding of what we may be critiquing and /or defending and at least try to examine some of the biblical data.
 

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Lubeltri,

Thank you for the information. I will have to read it over a few times to digest it. Below are some responses I got from a variety of Orthodox priests on the subject. One was OCA, one Antiochian, and one ROCOR. They stated they were in agreement with one another when replying to me.

OCA priest wrote:

The main flaw of 'substitutionary' atonement -- which is NOT taught by the
authentically orthodox catholic Christian Tradition -- is that it asserts that
our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died INSTEAD OF US. This theory is also
complicated by ideas of 'satisfaction of divine justice' and false notions of
what it means for us to be 'saved'.

The Tradition maintains that our Lord Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully
human, too, took it upon Himself to SHARE our existence in its entirety --
except for sin -- including all our joys and all our sorrows, not the least of
which is death itself, which we earn (just as Adam did) as the recompense for
our sins.

Christ suffers WITH us, not instead of us or because God is offended, but
because He intends to save us from the ultimate penalty for our sins. And now
that we share our humanity with Him by virtue of His incarnation, He will share
His divinity with us in the resurrection if only we will accept the salvation He
brings us.

We should remain aware that this _theosis_ is not a concern of people who
believe in Anselmian/Calvinistic atonement theories; the concept is simply not
available to their theology.

The Antiochian Orthodox priest response is:

The overriding theme in the Fathers'
soteriology is of sharing/participation/theosis. The error of
heterodox soteriology, I believe, is in focusing on one element of the
truth and exaggerating it to the detriment its catholic fullness.

There honestly is, however, no single dogmatized model of the
atonement which is put forward in Orthodox teaching. The Scripture
and the Fathers use many different images and ways of discussing the
mysterious reality of salvation, most of which cannot be reduced to
systems (buying oil for one's lamp, for instance).

A ROCOR priest wrote:

The idea of the "Atonement" as a Ransom was repudiated in no uncertain terms
by Sainy Gregory Nazianzen (4th century) who said:

"Was it paid to the evil one? Monstrous thought!
The devil receives a ransom not only from God but of God ..
To the Father? But we were not in bondage to him ...
And could the Father delight in the death of his Son?" (Orationes,
45.22)

Of course it can be thought of as a ransom. Following the Church Fathers ,
the East teaches that Christ, on the Cross, gave
"His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28), (Mark 10:45).

The "ransom" is paid to the grave. As the Lord revealed to the Prophet Hosea
(Hosea 13:14),
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from
death."

In a sense, He pays the ransom to the devil who is the keeper of the grave
and holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14).
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their
humanity
so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of
death--that is, the devil."


But despite Saint Gregory's objections, the idea that God demanded the
ransom became popular. Saint Gregory protested that the question of "Who
received the payment?" should not be pressed hard. No matter what debt the
Devil was owed it could not possibly have included God himself. On the other
hand, the Father could not have been the recipient of the ransom, since he
was not the one holding us captive. And if the blood of Isaac had not
pleased him, why would he desire the blood of his beloved son?

Saint Gregory sums up: "the Father accepts Christ's sacrifice without having
demanded it; the Son offers it to honour him; and the result is the defeat
of the Evil One. This is as much as we shall say of Christ; the greater
portion shall be reverenced with silence."

Anselm took aim at the exaggerated versions of the ransom theory, but
unfortunately didn't agree to leave the greater portion to silence. He
theorised that the payment *was* made to God the Father. In Anselm's
formulation, our sins were like an offence against the honour of a mighty
ruler. The ruler is not free to simply forgive the transgression;
restitution must be made. (This is a crucial new element in the story;
earlier Christians believed that God the Father did, in fact, freely forgive
us, like the father of the Prodigal Son - that parable deserves serious
thought in connection with this discussion.) No human would be adequate to
pay this debt, so God the Son volunteers to do so. "If the Son chose to make
over the claim He had on God to man, could the Father justly forbid Him
doing so, or refuse to man what the Son willed to give him?" Christ
satisfies our debt in this, the "Satisfaction Theory."

Western Christian theology marched on from that point, encountering
controversies and developments and revisions, but locked on the idea that
Christ's death was directed toward the Father. When Western theologians look
back at the centuries before Anselm they can't find his theory anywhere
(well, there are some premonitions in Tertullian and Cyprian, but it wasn't
the mainstream.) And Anselm's ideas which developed when Christendom had
been rent in two remain, still, essentially unknown to the ancient Churches
of the East.
 

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tuesdayschild said:
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.
The terms are not meaningless but mean different things to each group.
 

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Justinian said:
Hahaha, yea if you live in an alternate historical reality...
Nice one! Thanks, I get it. Ha Ha!

I repeat myself:
I am not saying to forget a thousand years of history (since the schism), but in the instance of the subject of this thread, look at the beliefs and emphases of both East and West and its theologians and Fathers for the first thousand years in terms of various prisms through which to view the atonement. Are both emphases present in each's understanding although the East highlighted one and the West highlighted the other and only after the schism did each "side's" emphasis become dominant almost to the exclusion of the other emphasis?

If I did not make that clear and you thought I meant, "oh boy, wouldn't it be nice if we could all just get along and pretend nothing bad has happened since 1054 and jump back a thousand years." Well, I'm not smoking anything so that is not what I meant!

 

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OCA priest wrote:

OCA priest wrote:

The main flaw of 'substitutionary' atonement -- which is NOT taught by the
authentically orthodox catholic Christian Tradition -- is that it asserts that
our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died INSTEAD OF US. This theory is also
complicated by ideas of 'satisfaction of divine justice' and false notions of
what it means for us to be 'saved'.
The commission of sin involves injury to God Himself. there is need of virtue great than is found in man to be able to cancel the indictment. For the lowest it is particularly easy to commit an injury against Him who is greatest. Yet it is impossible for him to compensate for this insolence by any honour. He, then, who seeks to cancel the indictment against himself must restore the honour to Him who has been insulted and pay more than he owes, partly by way of restitution, partly by adding compensation. Jesus alone, then, was able to render all the honour that is due to that Father and make satisfaction for that which had been taken away. The former he achieved by His life, the latter by His death. The death which He died upon the cross to the Father's glory He brought to outweigh the injury which we had committed; in addition He most abundantly made amends for the debt of honour which we owed for our sins.

Nicholas Cabasilas from The Life in Christ 4:4

And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: "By his stripes we were healed," and "The Lord delivered him for our sins," with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, "I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee".

St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31

The Antiochian Orthodox priest response is:

There honestly is, however, no single dogmatized model of the
atonement which is put forward in Orthodox teaching.
The Scripture
and the Fathers use many different images and ways of discussing the
mysterious reality of salvation, most of which cannot be reduced to
systems (buying oil for one's lamp, for instance).
A ROCOR priest wrote:

The idea of the "Atonement" as a Ransom was repudiated in no uncertain terms
by Sainy Gregory Nazianzen (4th century) who said:
He is Sanctification, as being Purity, that the Pure may be contained by Purity. And Redemption, because He sets us free, who were held captive under sin, giving Himself a Ransom for us, the Sacrifice to make expiation for the world. And Resurrection, because He raises up from hence, and brings to life again us, who were slain by sin.


St. Gregory Nazianzen, Discourses 30.20

For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many

Mark 10:42-45

He it is that was crucified before the sun and all creation as witnesses, and before those who put Him to death: and by His death has salvation come to all, and all creation been ransomed. He is the Life of all, and He it is that as a sheep yielded His body to death as a substitute, for the salvation of all, even though the Jews believe it not.

St. Athanasios the Great, On the Incarnation 37:7

Thus then the Lord also, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; but when the Father willed that ransoms should be paid for all and to all, grace should be given, then truly the Word, as Aaron his robe, so did He take earthly flesh, having Mary for the Mother of His Body as if virgin earth, that, as a High Priest, having He as others an offering, He might offer Himself to the Father, and cleanse us all from sins in His own blood, and might rise from the dead.

St. Athanasios the Great, Against the Arians 2.7

We believe our Lord Jesus Christ to be the only mediator, and that in giving Himself a ransom for all He hath through His own Blood made a reconciliation between God and man, and that Himself having a care for His own is advocate and propitiation for our sins.

Synod of Jerusalem, Decree 8

He theorised that the payment *was* made to God the Father. In Anselm's
formulation, our sins were like an offence against the honour of a mighty
ruler.
The commission of sin involves injury to God Himself. there is need of virtue great than is found in man to be able to cancel the indictment. For the lowest it is particularly easy to commit an injury against Him who is greatest. Yet it is impossible for him to compensate for this insolence by any honour. He, then, who seeks to cancel the indictment against himself must restore the honour to Him who has been insulted and pay more than he owes, partly by way of restitution, partly by adding compensation. Jesus alone, then, was able to render all the honour that is due to that Father and make satisfaction for that which had been taken away. The former he achieved by His life, the latter by His death. The death which He died upon the cross to the Father's glory He brought to outweigh the injury which we had committed; in addition He most abundantly made amends for the debt of honour which we owed for our sins.

Nicholas Cabasilas from The Life in Christ 4:4
 

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Andrew,

I think we could go around all day using quotes from the Fathers to repudiate the other's claim. But I think what is key is that there is no single dogmatized model of the atonement which is put forward in Orthodox teaching according to the Antiochian Orthodox priest and even Lubeltri's message mention that the Roman Catholic church did not dogmatize anyone theory. He wrote: the Mystery of Faith cannot be contained in only one concept, and the nature of the Atonement remains open to theological speculation.

So there appears to be agreement on this issue that neither church dogmatized any one theory. I guess the next step to figure out is what theories does each church put forward and how does each church define them.

I may not be able to post much between now and Pascha because I have to prepare for Pascha.
 

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Tamara said:
Andrew,

...But I think what is key is that there is no single dogmatized model of the atonement which is put forward in Orthodox teaching according to the Antiochian Orthodox priest and even Lubeltri's message mention that the Roman Catholic church did not dogmatize anyone theory.
...
So there appears to be agreement on this issue that neither church dogmatized any one theory. I guess the next step to figure out is what theories does each church put forward and how does each church define them.
Isn't this what he's been saying all along?
 

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Let me start out by saying none of this is addressed to Tamara or anyone else personally.  She is certainly a person of good will who I think I just happen to annoy.

Anyhow,

People want to have it both ways as far as I can tell.  There is an "Orthodox view" of the Atonement, which of course is opposed to and totally different from the western view.  When quotes from the church fathers, statements from Orthodox catechisms, quotes from the Bible or statements of Orthodox Synods highlight the paucity or contradictory nature of the purported "Orthodox view" (i.e. you can't find a theory of satisfactions in, or there is no ransom, or it couldn't be to the father, or nobody's honor is at stake, etc.) then either it's your credibility to speak which is in question (you just don't have the Orthodox mindset yet) or one can just fall back on the "well, there's no actual dogma here" position.

It is above all obvious to me that many things people are saying are not there, or that they oppose as western and therefore erroneous, are there and present in Eastern Fathers and theologians.  It is also equally obvious to me that many Orthodox people instead of engaging the western theological tradition openly, honestly and fairly; prefer to construct a straw man of their own making called "western theology" that they can readily knock down for the purposes I suppose of any or all of the following

- Justifying their own conversion through maximizing the East/West differences
- Expressing a loathing of the Roman Catholic Church
- Attracting converts interested in renouncing their past and living a life of oppositional faith (I believe, because I believe the west is wrong)

Really, all I'm calling for is honesty.  If Orthodoxy is really about creating a new view of the Atonement inconsistent with a great deal of the Patristic tradition and its own past which stands in opposition to some vague notion of the "western view", let's just call it that.  Let's stop kidding ourselves and move on.

 

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Schultz said:
Isn't this what he's been saying all along?
I think that is what Welkodox and I have both been saying; that substitution may not be the main motif in the Eastern Church but it is not entirely and systematically absent either.
 

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Andrew and Brother Aidan,

I never said I didn't believe we had multiply theories, what I said is I have never been taught that the Orthodox church has  a penal satisfaction theory. I think this is where the difference of opinion lies.
 

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The problem with the penal satisfaction theory is that it give rise to the Filioque. It changes the way the trinity is understud. The Church is located within this Triadic plan, where the Father favors, the Son is the One Who offers Himself so that Creation can become incorporated and be able to have a relationship with the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the One Who liberates Creation from its limitations, from the restrictions of being created.
 

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lubeltri said:
Hardly. That's a very old and tired canard.
Your very mistaken. Because Creation cannot on its own communicate with God, on account of its natural limitations. It is the son who makes the link to the father. The son is the one that makes the link for us to be saved. That is why we are called the body and Christ is the head. Together we are given to the father for reconciliation. without the proper understanding, Christology is lost in translation. The reconciliation is repeated at every Divine liturgy. Again, His act is not to satisfy the fathers wrath. His act is to unite humanity with the uncreated.
 

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I thought this was helpful because this Orthodox gentleman defines some terms from the original Hebrew and Greek

from this blog: http://perennialrambler.blogspot.com/2006/01/wading-into-controversy.html

"What is particularly interesting is that in On the Incarnation 2:7 (with the relevent passage quoted above) St.Athanasios says pretty clearly that had it only been an issue of trespass, repentence would have been sufficient However, the sad fact is that our repentence would not have been sufficient to undo the damage done to human nature when Adam fell from grace. And this is where we move into the central theme of St.Athanasios' treatise - that Christ came to heal human nature, restoring divinizing grace to it. The central part of fixing this damage of course, was to destroy the power of death; and Christ did this by submitting to the "law of death" and being the Light which overcomes darkness, transforming the grave into the womb of our ressurection.

Foreign to all of this is any notion of God needing His honour repaired. That would seem pretty clear given St.Athanasios' words on the would-be sufficiency of repentence (were it not for the corruption and death which flow from it). He could not have said such words had he entertained the later teachings of heterodoxy on this topic.

Beyond this particular document of St.Athanasios though, there are all sorts of terms which many westerners (myself included) seem to have difficulty seeing on the page without misunderstanding them. For example...

Atonement - Hebrew Kippur/Kapher which means to "cover over" with the implied understanding of this resulting in reconcilliation. This does not at all require a belief that one is somehow buying off an upset God. The Greek word used for atonement in the New Testament is katallage which simply means to reconcile via an exchange/transformation (you can check this yourself by following the etymological references provided in a New Testament Greek concordance like Strong's).

Sacrifice/Offering - Hebrew Qarav, which means "to draw near". The purpose of the sacrifices of old was to (insofar as they were able) bring a man close to God. In fact the same root word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament in the context of sexual relations (and hence may be part of the reason why the relationship between God and His people is portrayed as being that between a husband and his bride.) Again, none of this relates to the later (heterodox) teachings on Christ's feat of salvation.

Justified - Greek Dikaioo, which means to render one has he ought to be, and/or to declare/demonstrate that one is as he ought to be. The closest aspect of this to the later-day western conception of this subject, is the idea that God is making a statement about someone. Whatever way you slice it, it has nothing to do with pacifying a grievous offence given to God.

Ransom - Greek Lutron, which means the price paid to liberate someone, such as a captive or a slave, with the distinct sense that the "ransom" dissolves whatever it is that was binding that which is being liberated (from it's root luo). Now, unless one believes that it was "God the Father" who was our jailor and from whose oppression we needed liberation, then it is quite clear that the Anselmian theory (and it's bastard children) are not at all called for."
 

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Demetrios G. said:
Your very mistaken. Because Creation cannot on its own communicate with God, on account of its natural limitations. It is the son who makes the link to the father. The son is the one that makes the link for us to be saved. That is why we are called the body and Christ is the head. Together we are given to the father for reconciliation. without the proper understanding, Christology is lost in translation. The reconciliation is repeated at every Divine liturgy. Again, His act is not to satisfy the fathers wrath. His act is to unite humanity with the uncreated.
The filioque predates the penal satisfaction theory by hundreds of years. Perhaps you can try one of the other anti-Western cliches?
 

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Tamara said:
I thought this was helpful because this Orthodox gentleman defines some terms from the original Hebrew and Greek

from this blog: http://perennialrambler.blogspot.com/2006/01/wading-into-controversy.html

"What is particularly interesting is that in On the Incarnation 2:7 (with the relevent passage quoted above) St.Athanasios says pretty clearly that had it only been an issue of trespass, repentence would have been sufficient However, the sad fact is that our repentence would not have been sufficient to undo the damage done to human nature when Adam fell from grace. And this is where we move into the central theme of St.Athanasios' treatise - that Christ came to heal human nature, restoring divinizing grace to it. The central part of fixing this damage of course, was to destroy the power of death; and Christ did this by submitting to the "law of death" and being the Light which overcomes darkness, transforming the grave into the womb of our ressurection.

Foreign to all of this is any notion of God needing His honour repaired. That would seem pretty clear given St.Athanasios' words on the would-be sufficiency of repentence (were it not for the corruption and death which flow from it). He could not have said such words had he entertained the later teachings of heterodoxy on this topic.

Beyond this particular document of St.Athanasios though, there are all sorts of terms which many westerners (myself included) seem to have difficulty seeing on the page without misunderstanding them. For example...

Atonement - Hebrew Kippur/Kapher which means to "cover over" with the implied understanding of this resulting in reconcilliation. This does not at all require a belief that one is somehow buying off an upset God. The Greek word used for atonement in the New Testament is katallage which simply means to reconcile via an exchange/transformation (you can check this yourself by following the etymological references provided in a New Testament Greek concordance like Strong's).

Sacrifice/Offering - Hebrew Qarav, which means "to draw near". The purpose of the sacrifices of old was to (insofar as they were able) bring a man close to God. In fact the same root word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament in the context of sexual relations (and hence may be part of the reason why the relationship between God and His people is portrayed as being that between a husband and his bride.) Again, none of this relates to the later (heterodox) teachings on Christ's feat of salvation.

Justified - Greek Dikaioo, which means to render one has he ought to be, and/or to declare/demonstrate that one is as he ought to be. The closest aspect of this to the later-day western conception of this subject, is the idea that God is making a statement about someone. Whatever way you slice it, it has nothing to do with pacifying a grievous offence given to God.

Ransom - Greek Lutron, which means the price paid to liberate someone, such as a captive or a slave, with the distinct sense that the "ransom" dissolves whatever it is that was binding that which is being liberated (from it's root luo). Now, unless one believes that it was "God the Father" who was our jailor and from whose oppression we needed liberation, then it is quite clear that the Anselmian theory (and it's bastard children) are not at all called for."
Once again we have strawmen, complete with generalizing everything as "Western" and using phrases like "hideous" and "whacked out" and "buying off an upset God." Really, this is probably, deep down, one of the chief reasons I did not become Orthodox. What is so clear in Scripture and the Fathers is denied by so many Orthodox as "Western." I would suggest you read the article I posted that gives a balanced Catholic view instead of reading a caricature from an Orthodox who shows signs of convertitis.
 

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lubeltri, I can't say I blame you.  I don't know what I would have done if I had run across this kind of nonsense before I converted.  Luckily it was a while after that I gradually became aware of it.  This in particular

Ransom - Greek Lutron, which means the price paid to liberate someone, such as a captive or a slave, with the distinct sense that the "ransom" dissolves whatever it is that was binding that which is being liberated (from it's root luo). Now, unless one believes that it was "God the Father" who was our jailor and from whose oppression we needed liberation, then it is quite clear that the Anselmian theory (and it's bastard children) are not at all called for."
Makes absolutely no sense.
 

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My only question is what are this Orthodox gentleman's credentials/experience in translating from Hebrew and Koine Greek?  Where did he get these translations from?  Are they his own?
 

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I will read it but I do think the terms used in English convey a very different meaning than what the original Greek and Hebrew words conveyed. That was the point of the post. Look at how we translate the Greek word eleison in English:


mer
 

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I will read it but I do think the terms used in English convey a very different meaning than what the original Greek and Hebrew words conveyed. That was the point of the post. Look at how we translate the Greek word eleison in English:


mer
 

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My full message is not coming through. I will try to send it later.
 

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Schultz said:
My only question is what are this Orthodox gentleman's credentials/experience in translating from Hebrew and Koine Greek?  Where did he get these translations from?  Are they his own?
Perhaps he cut and pasted them from somewhere else.

Who knows. I've been looking at his blog. On his profile, I found a link to what is supposed to be his website: http://www.thememoryhole.org/.
 

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welkodox said:
Makes absolutely no sense.
You want to know why it makes no sense to you. Because you don't see the whole picture. You have to start at the fall of man. See why he fell. It's not just a moral issue. It's an ontological one as well. After Adam fell even if he asked for forgiveness from god he couldn't return to Paradise. Because the link between uncreated and created was severed. Christ became the new Adam to correct what had gone wrong. Man was not immortal on his own even in Paradise. He had to be in communion with god to be immortal. That is why you don't understand those terms posted above. The reason why Christ came is to save us and creation from death.
1 Corinthians 15:53
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:54
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
Christ united human nature with the divine.
As created beings we are susceptible to death. For us to be saved from death we have to be in communion with Christ. Christ is the one that repairs the fall by uniting us with the father again.
 

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welkodox said:
lubeltri, I can't say I blame you.  I don't know what I would have done if I had run across this kind of nonsense before I converted.  Luckily it was a while after that I gradually became aware of it. 

NOTE: The quote ends above. I don't know how this post all got in the blue box. My response to the quote is below:

I came across it before I converted, near the end of my catechumenate during the debates about Mel Gibson's Passion movie. It was a stumbling block but I chocked it up to an Othodox allergy to the substitutionary atonement. There were too many other wonderful things about Orthodoxy to keep me away over this one point. But peridodically, I want to throw my hands up and scream over what seems to be a deliberate obtuseness when it comes to this subject. Some people just WILL not listen to any argument put forth and stubbornly will not accept any subtlety to the substitutionary view and insist on throwing up strawman after strawman.

The good thing is that I generally only find it here at OC.net and not in my parish.
 

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Demetrios G

I would not at all disagree with you. But I also do not see how Christ paying for our sins as part of the purpose of his death on the cross is at odds with what you have written.
 

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My issue was with the ransom view put forward.  In place of "makes no sense", I should have said "faulty".
 

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welkodox said:
My issue was with the ransom view put forward.  In place of "makes no sense", I should have said "faulty".
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.
 

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ozgeorge said:
The question it asks is: "To whom is the ransom paid?"
Yes, that is the question.

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.
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.
 

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welkodox said:
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?
Or, another possibility is that "ransom" is a metaphor, and is not to be taken literally.
 

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ozgeorge said:
Or, another possibility is that "ransom" is a metaphor, and is not to be taken literally.
I can't see how that wouldn't radically vitiate the meaning of the Atonement though, just as saying for instance that the words "bodily resurrection" are not to be understood literally.

In the actions surrounding the Atonement, it seems like there is a literal offering for man's sin, a literal propitiation and a literal satisfaction of divine justice.  It is in everything I have read that I have posted.  To give some examples again:

Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ. (Book 4, Section 4).

The commission of sin involves injury to God Himself...  there is need of virtue great than is found in man to be able to cancel the indictment. For the lowest it is particularly easy to commit an injury against Him who is greatest. Yet it is impossible for him to compensate for this insolence by any honour... He, then, who seeks to cancel the indictment against himself must restore the honour to Him who has been insulted and pay more than he owes, partly by way of restitution, partly by adding compensation... [Jesus] alone, then, was able to render all the honour that is due to that Father and make satisfaction for that which had been taken away. The former he achieved by His life, the latter by His death. The death which He died upon the cross to the Father's glory He brought to outweigh the injury which we had committed; in addition He most abundantly made amends for the debt of honour which we owed for our sins.

Longer Catechism of St. Philaret of Moscow

208.  How does the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross deliver us from sin, the curse, and death?

That we may the more readily believe this mystery, the Word of God teaches us of it, so much as we may be able to receive, by the comparison of Jesus Christ with Adam. Adam is by nature the head of all mankind, which is one with him by natural descent from him. Jesus Christ, in whom the Godhead is united with manhood, graciously made himself the new almighty Head of men, whom he unites to himself through faith. Therefore as in Adam we had fallen under sin, the curse, and death, so we are delivered from sin, the curse, and death in Jesus Christ. His voluntary suffering and death on the cross for us, being of infinite value and merit, as the death of one sinless, God and man in one person, is both a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, which had condemned us for sin to death, and a fund of infinite merit, which has obtained him the right, without prejudice to justice, to give us sinners pardon of our sins, and grace to have victory over sin and death.


The ransom it seems to me is quite real and I agree with you that the idea that it was owed to the Devil is ludicrous.  That leaves one possibility, and I think both of these show what the ransom was, to who it was owed, and to who it was paid.
 

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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."
 

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BrotherAidan said:
Demetrios G

I would not at all disagree with you. But I also do not see how Christ paying for our sins as part of the purpose of his death on the cross is at odds with what you have written.
It's not at all at odds. In fact it complements it. But that's not the point. The point is that western theology focuses on sin alone. Very much like Orthodox converts. Focusing on sin is a dead end. It doesn't end at the cross. If we don't look at it from an orthodox perspective (even if both end at the same place)  It doesn't bring eternal life. What gives us eternal life is focusing on the Eucharist. The Eucharist puts us in communion with Christ. Christ puts us into communion with the father. The Holy spirit razes us from the dead. The church will continue even after the second coming and forever. It's what gives us ever lasting life. The heavy focus on sin and the cross has also infected the orthodox. Most orthodox don't even know that life eternal depends on communion with Christ through his church. The churches have emptied out because people don't know what the church is there for. That's why.
 

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ransoming us from sin and death
atoning sacrifice for our sins
taking our sufferings and sins upon himself
trampling down death by death and bestowing life
showing by example that no man has greater love than this that he lays down his life for his friends, even    moreso because as St. Paul states in Romans chaper 5, that God shows his love for us in that while we still his enemies, Christ died for the ungodly
Christ as victor over sin and death  
Christ as obedient son of the Father, obedient unto death;
All of these motifs and more are the mystery of Christ's death on the cross.

to just take one of the motifs scripture gives us or to eliminate any of them, diminishes our appreciation of the mystery

 

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ozgeorge said:
Or, another possibility is that "ransom" is a metaphor, and is not to be taken literally.
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.
 

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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.
 

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BrotherAidan said:
Demetrios G

I would not at all disagree with you. But I also do not see how Christ paying for our sins as part of the purpose of his death on the cross is at odds with what you have written.
Totally agreed. Demetrio's explanation is correct, but it is not the only explanation. The fullness of the Atonement, the Mystery of Faith, cannot be limited to one theory (a better term might be "expression" or "representation").
 
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