Sunday, May 23, 2010

True Christianity is Growing but Rome is Sinking

This is my somewhat long response to an Orthodox commenter named "John" below:

If there's any group whose future looks endangered, I would say it would have to be traditional Protestantism.

I'll grant you that the mainline denominations have shot themselves in the foot by having latched on to some of the liberal theologies that are out there. That having been said, one can still see true and good growth in Christ throughout the Protestant world.

The thing that gives me the greatest hope is, in general, the advancement in Biblical scholarship. I've been trying to look at that sort of thing, to the best of my ability, and it really does seem to me that the old liberal theologies are passing away, and that seminaries from WSC to Dallas to Covenant to Southern Baptist to RTS are really emphasizing both original languages and hermeneutics that work to combine the best of Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, and Literary theory, along with a healthy respect for the (small-t) tradition of the church. These efforts are going to bear wonderful fruit. This is not to mention what I've seen coming out of Aberdeen.

If you have the time, take a listen, for example, to Richard Pratt's "Introduction to Pastoral Theology" messages at iTunes.rts.edu. These talk about this confluence in the best possible light. Consider that this information is not only available at Seminaries, but is available now to folks like you and me.

We understand the Scriptures far better today than we ever have -- this includes the ANE background to the OT, and how it relates, all the way through to the New Testament and early church times (the process of collecting the writings and forming a canon. For example, several writers have studied the collection of Paul's letters, and there is good evidence to suggest that this process began during Paul's lifetime.

And further, we're learning more and more about the history of the early church. There are more sources of the writings of the fathers, and more people are studying them.

Yes sure, there is a lot of growth in various parts of the world in what one might call basic Christianity, characterised by very little dogma. Christ died for our sins is about the deepest thing one might hear on a typical Sunday. Not that my aim is to denigrate these groups, but how is that a win for "Protestantism"? Its a win for minimalist Christianity, if that's what you want to promote, but Protestantism? How so?

You have cited the tremendous growth in Christianity -- it is growing tremendously fast in the southern hemisphere. I can't speak to the content of that growth. You called it "Minimalist," in that "the deepest thing one might hear is that Christ died for our sins."

Consider what Paul said to the Corinthians: "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

You have to consider that this is a sufficient message. This growth is not going to get ahead of God's word. Pratt, whom I mentioned above (a professor at a mainline PCA seminary) also is part of a growing effort to use the Internet to spread good theology throughout the world. Take a look at this:


I think this is a tremendous effort, and we'll only see more of this sort of thing in the coming years.

Who has got any figures saying that traditional Presbyterians, Anglicans or Lutherans are picking up big numbers? Or is the message ABC christianity? (Anything But Catholicism) is good?

WSC is trying to foster a movement to "Recover the Reformed Confessions." Have you read any of Scott Clark's work, for example?


I believe this is a tremendously helpful effort -- the idea is to bring to mind the development of the theologies following the Reformation. Keep in mind that it was one thing to understand the need to break from Rome (especially after Rome ossified its opposition to the Gospel at Trent); it was another to form a positive statement of what Biblical Christianity should be.

Ideas have consequences, and these are good and right ideas. But they're not just fermenting around in seminaries. There is a hunger for Christ in the world. God's hand is shaping these theologies and movements, and I believe that the use of the Internet will foster the spread of these good theologies and movements far faster than the printing press was able to influence the Reformation.

You should not look backward, at the "traditional" denominations, except as they're giving form to the movements that I've described above. I'm sure we will see the influence of this sort of thing in the not-too-distant future.

As for "anything but Catholicism," I'd nuance that to say "anything but Roman Catholicism" I do believe there are things we can learn from studying the Greek fathers, but as Robert Reymond has said:

Rome’s exegesis of Matthew 16 and its historically developed claim to authoritative primacy in the Christian world simply cannot be demonstrated and sustained from Scripture itself. This claim is surely one of the great hoaxes foisted upon professing Christendom, upon which false base rests the whole papal sacerdotal system.

"Robert Reymond, “A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith,” pg 818.

It does seem to me though, that with recent historical studies of the early papacy, that that institution won't stand in its present form. Because of this research, it seems as if Pope Ratzinger has already started to give away the store, and I'm not the only one to have noticed this:

Certainly, no one who claims allegiance to Catholic theology can simply declare the doctrine of primacy null and void, especially not if he seeks to understand the objections and evaluates with an open mind the relative weight of what can be determined historically. Nor is it possible, on the other hand, for him to regard as the only possible form and, consequently, as binding on all Christians the form this primacy has taken in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The symbolic gestures of Pope Paul VI and, in particular, his kneeling before the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch [the schismatic Patriarch Athenagoras] were an attempt to express precisely this and, by such signs, to point the way out of the historical impasse.
[Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1987), p. 198]

59 comments:

Matthew Bellisario said...

Again you have to read more than one paragraph from Pope Benedict to see that he has done nothing but support the papacy, and he usually uses the Scriptures to do so. It is unfortunate that you think that Biblical scholarship is going to save the day as if Christians over the past 2000 years have not been able to interpret them properly without this "scholarship." This is the reason why your kind only fight over the interpretations of the Scriptures and we can see this from the simple moral abandonment of adopting such atrocious acts as using contraception, which all of the Protestant forefathers taught emphatically against by using Scripture. Unfortunately for you, all of the Protesters abandoned the proper interpretation of Genesis 38 in the 1930's. Just one example of many of how the Protesters change their Biblical doctrines at the drop of a hat in order to please themselves. The papacy has survived for over 2000 years, I am not worried that it is going to vanish any time soon. I would be worried about your own kind if I were you.

Turretinfan said...

"The papacy has survived for over 2000 years, I am not worried that it is going to vanish any time soon."

What kind of idiot thinks the papacy started over 2000 years ago?

-TurretinFan

John Bugay said...

Matthew -- Ratzinger, like most of your folks, want, on one hand, to say "the papacy was divinely instituted by Christ and immediately given..." and on the other, they need to deal with the fact that it really hadn't "developed" until the fifth century. That's a position that's tailor made for an implosion. On top of that, now, as we've seen elsewhere, Ratzinger thinks the Eastern church will only accept the papacy in the form of what it was prior to 1054.

So the greatest years of the papacy, from say 451 through 1054, and consider that period was marked by being "putty in the hands of the Roman aristocracy" on one hand, and the pornocracy on the other.

Who needs it? Reymond is right. The papacy is the greatest hoaxes ever foisted on the Christian church. People are seeing this.

scotju said...

Mr Bugay, didn't you read the articles on the Internet Monk site on "The Coming Evangelical Collapse"? The late Michael Spencer, a SBC member, says it's your ship that's sinking not ours.

That "willing catholic martyr" website you refered your readers to criticize Pope Benedict is run by a flake who has declared PBXVI an anti-pope. Yeah, that really impresses Catholics like Bellisarno and myself, not!

"What kind of idiot believes the papacy started 2000 years ago"? Well, Turretinfan, an idiot who has read what all the early pre-Nicene church fathers had said about Matt 16:18-19. The Bishop of Rome has primacy. You can deny it all you want, but Matthew and the church fathers will be shoving it in your face until you repent or die.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Interesting because Pope Benedict says, "...the Johannine strand of tradition also offers quite unmistakable evidence fro the awareness that Peter enjoyed a position of primacy that came to him from the Lord." and "We may thus say that in reality the very act of naming the fishermen from Bethsaida the "rock"- which is a wholly incontrovertible fact- already contains the entire theology of Matthew 16:18 and I therefore a guarantee of its authenticity" and "We have seen that the New Testament as a whole strikingly demonstrates the primacy of Peter..." I am glad to be in the company of such idiots as Pope Benedict XVI, who is a far greater theologian than all of the pretended "Reformers" put together.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

scotju writes:

Mr Bugay, didn't you read the articles on the Internet Monk site on "The Coming Evangelical Collapse"? The late Michael Spencer, a SBC member, says it's your ship that's sinking not ours.

Why should we take Spencer seriously?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Also, we do not have to worry about the "Reformed" flavor of Protestantism taking over any time soon. The stats tell the tale. The total number of Protestants are 670 million. Only 75 million are of the "Reformed" flavor. That is just over 11% of Protestants. The Catholic Church is somewhere around 1.2 billion. If we compare the "Reformed" numbers to Catholics, it is around 6% the size in relation to Catholic numbers. If we add up all Protestants and Catholics together aside from the "Reformed" flavor, we arrive at the very insignificant number of just over 4% being "Reformed." Finally if we add in the 210 million Eastern Orthodox we arrive at the minuscule number of 3.5% of all professing Christians being of the "Reformed" flavor.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Matthew Bellisario writes:

Also, we do not have to worry about the "Reformed" flavor of Protestantism taking over any time soon.

You're right. Although I wouldn't take comfort in the large numbers you've cited. Theological liberalism, cultural patriotism and nominal Christianity have wrecked havoc with the Catholic and Orthodox denominations to the point where I don't think it's appropriate to cite those figures without some serious qualifications. If we want to speak of true, committed adherents to the official documents and teachings of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, we are speaking of much lower numbers, at least if the relevant poll data and the laments of leading apologists are to be believed. At best we could say that no one group has any kind of definitive hold on the world and that nominal Christianity (if we could even call it "Christian") is the dominant religious expression.

In short, it's fairer to compare traditional, robust versions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy with Reformed Protestantism. Now, I doubt Reformed Protestantism is making significant headway in the more conservative and committed circles of those groups, but at least the comparison would be more accurate.

Matthew Bellisario said...

"In short, it's fairer to compare traditional, robust versions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy with Reformed Protestantism"

You are making a huge assumption by concluding that everyone who professes "Reformed" Protestantism is conservative, which is not the case at all. It is no question that "Reformed" Protestantism in the conservative sense is almost dead. They are not even close in number to what you would call conservative Catholics, or those that go by what the Catholic church actually teaches. When the numbers break down the percentages are very accurate.

John Bugay said...

Mr Bugay, didn't you read the articles on the Internet Monk site on "The Coming Evangelical Collapse"? The late Michael Spencer, a SBC member, says it's your ship that's sinking not ours.

Scotju, I didn't see it, and a search for it didn't turn it up. It looks as if someone is maintaining his archives, but I couldn't find the article you mentioned. I never read his stuff.

As you can see from this post, I'll admit that Protestantism has some problems (and that's likely as far as I'll go along those lines). Rather, I'm going to be a person who focuses on the good things that are to be found among the heirs of the Reformation. And I've written about just a couple of the movements here that I believe are going to yield good fruit for the kingdom.

That "willing catholic martyr" website you refered your readers to criticize Pope Benedict is run by a flake who has declared PBXVI an anti-pope. Yeah, that really impresses Catholics like Bellisarno and myself, not!

I only said that he noticed something that I've also noticed -- that Benedict is "giving away the store." He's backing away from binding dogmas about the papacy. I don't care if he impresses you, but it should impress you that he turned up at the top of the list on a Google search.

"What kind of idiot believes the papacy started 2000 years ago"? Well, Turretinfan, an idiot who has read what all the early pre-Nicene church fathers had said about Matt 16:18-19. The Bishop of Rome has primacy. You can deny it all you want, but Matthew and the church fathers will be shoving it in your face until you repent or die.

That's interesting, because there is a virtual vacuum among the pre-nicene fathers about the Bishop of Rome.

Perhaps you've not seen William Webster's compilation of these:

http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/fathersmt16.html

Now, I know that's a lot of reading, but I don't see many of these boasting about Matt 16:17-19 applying to the Bishop of Rome.

zipper778 said...

Why are we comparing sizes all of a sudden Matthew? I could care less about how big something is. So what, you're a member of a large bully who thinks that it's right simply because it's bigger than everyone else. Remember the narrow and wide gates? (Matt 7:13,14)

You also brought up contraception, which is an interesting thing to bring up. Why do you say "all of the Protesters abandoned the proper interpretation of Genesis 38 in the 1930's" when what really happened is that the Anglican Church adopted contraception as okay. Sure many Protestant denominations do accept some forms of contraception, and I have nothing against that. But what kind of contraceptives were available before this time period? I doubt anyone heard about the pill back then, or condoms even. Back then contraception was quite brutal, and that form of contraception I still cannot accept. My question is, if the RCC won't accept any contraception at all, why do they accept in vitro fertilization? You're still playing God without harming the sperm or the egg.

It must be nice to have a "visible head" that leads all of its followers to do the right thing. The funny thing is that even with a "visible head" Protestants still behave more morally than RC's. Take the 2008 US Presidential election for example. 54% of RC's voted for Obama, even though the clergy was very clear about it's dislike over the man. 54%. It should have been 0% according to everything I hear about RC's following their great pope. Too bad he isn't effective. Evangelical Protestants without a visible head was more in line with what the RCC's clergy wanted then what the RCC's followers themselves wanted. Maybe having no head at all isn't so bad. People seem to be a little wiser when they read the Bible and follow it to the best of their abilities.

Trust Jesus Christ alone, no institution can claim you. There's only one God that can save you.

John Bugay said...

Matthew: I'm not finished yet, but I'm working on a series from Ratzinger's "Called to Communion."

Here are a couple of examples of his

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/not-called-to-communion-dishonest-about-“exegesis”/

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/looking-at-ratzingers-called-to-communion/

If you think that what Ratzinger is doing passes for fine theology, then you might not be reading carefully enough and thinking through what it is he's saying.

Matthew Bellisario said...

John says, "Perhaps you've not seen William Webster's compilation of these."

William Webster is a nobody. I've read some of his work and he is not very impressive with his knowledge of Church history or Catholic theology. If he is the best you have then you have some serious problems in your camp.

Matthew Bellisario said...

John writes, "Matthew: I'm not finished yet, but I'm working on a series from Ratzinger's "Called to Communion."

John I have read the book twice and just finished it the second time not long ago, along with several of his other works. If you think you are going to put a black eye on the papacy with that book you had better be prepared to actually debate it. I will take you on any day in debating Ratzinger's/Pope Benedict's material from his writings. I have almost every volume that he has published. If you think you are going to twist his writings like you do with the Church Fathers you better think again. You are truly barking up the wrong tree if you think you are going to use the Holy Father's writings to discredit the papacy. Good luck on that half-witted undertaking.

John Bugay said...

William Webster is a nobody. I've read some of his work and he is not very impressive with his knowledge of Church history or Catholic theology. If he is the best you have then you have some serious problems in your camp.

But what you haven't done is to say why all of these citations contradict what you believe about the papacy.

Calling someone names is a certain indication that you have lost the argument.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

William Webster is a nobody. I've read some of his work and he is not very impressive with his knowledge of Church history or Catholic theology. If he is the best you have then you have some serious problems in your camp.

The Apostle John is a nobody. I've read some of his Gospel and I wasn't impressed with his grasp of Jewish history or Greek philosophy. I'm surprised anyone would think him qualified to address matters of salvation.

Matthew Bellisario said...

John says, "But what you haven't done is to say why all of these citations contradict what you believe about the papacy."

What citations John? It is apparent the Pope believes that the papal primacy of Peter is found in the Scriptures. You have to actually read every thing that he wrote in the book in context. Why do you ignore the passages of the book which attest to the papacy's apostolic foundation? Anytime you want to engage me in a formal written debate on the topic of the papacy in regards to Pope Benedict XVI's/ Cardinal Ratzinger's material let me know.

John Bugay said...

If you think you are going to twist his writings like you do with the Church Fathers you better think again.

I haven't "twisted" anything. What I'm doing is going through the work, letting Ratzinger make his own argument, and then interacting with it.

Good luck on that half-witted undertaking.

Again, when you have to launch into insults like this right from the start, it's a very bad sign for you.

scotju said...

John, Michael Spencer's article on the coming Protestant collapse is very well known. Even the Wall St. Journal ran his article about a year ago. And I had no problem ascessing the article on his website. Try again.

As for the so-called vacuum of the pre-Nicene Fathers about the bishop of Rome, the vacuum exist only in the minds and hearts of willfully ignorant Protestants and ex-Catholics. When I studied what all the pre-Nicene fathers had to say about Matt 16:18-19, they all said the bishop of Rome had primacy.

As for PBXVI giving away the store, balderdash! As I've already mentioned, the FCM is an extremist flake. The record shows that the Pope is restoring doctrinal discipline, traditionaal liturgy, and respect for morality. People like FCM, the Traditio crowd, and the followers of extreme visionaries such as Bayside, are and never will be satified with anything the Pope does. So, if you're going to qote someone who is "Catholic", please find someone other than an off the wall nutcase like FCM.

Matthew Bellisario said...

John said, "I haven't "twisted" anything. What I'm doing is going through the work, letting Ratzinger make his own argument, and then interacting with it. "

As I said anytime you want to formally debate the issue let me know. We will see how confident you are.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

scotju writes:

As for the so-called vacuum of the pre-Nicene Fathers about the bishop of Rome, the vacuum exist only in the minds and hearts of willfully ignorant Protestants and ex-Catholics. When I studied what all the pre-Nicene fathers had to say about Matt 16:18-19, they all said the bishop of Rome had primacy.

Speaking of willful ignorance, the question with respect to the pre-Nicene fathers is how they defined "primacy."

John Bugay said...

Scotju: Here's what iMonk said:

I want to say two things to all of them: 1) The CSM piece was on the commentary page. It is commentary, not news or research. 2) I did not say that evangelicalism is dying. I said it is going to decline quickly to a smaller, more chastened, more diverse, less influential form.
For all my new readers, here are the original, longer and more detailed “Coming Evangelical Collapse” posts.


http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-original-coming-evangelical-collapse-posts

He's also got some nice sections on "church planting." I'd say that all of this dovetails nicely with what I was saying.

As for the so-called vacuum of the pre-Nicene Fathers about the bishop of Rome, the vacuum exist only in the minds and hearts of willfully ignorant Protestants and ex-Catholics. When I studied what all the pre-Nicene fathers had to say about Matt 16:18-19, they all said the bishop of Rome had primacy.

They all did, huh? Then show me a couple of them.

John said...

"The thing that gives me the greatest hope is, in general, the advancement in Biblical scholarship."

I don't know why this would give you any hope.

What traditional Protestantism is struggling with is not a lack of scholarship, but boredom. The average punter is deciding whether he wants to turn up at the local charismatic rock-band style worship, or the local dull and boring mainline church.

At least if and when Catholicism or Orthodoxy might seem boring, the theological reasons and important distinctives of being Catholic/Orthodox are a lot more front and centre and obvious to the people than mainline Protestants. I've seen conservative Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists in action, and they are really boring. For die-hard Calvinists, that doesn't matter. But is your mom or your sister interested in that? I think not.

zipper778 said...

Hhhmmmm, that's funny. I always thought the mass was boring. It seems many people agree with me because a lot of them bolt for the doors as soon as they receive the bread. It's always the same thing week after week. Nothing new. How boring.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Zippy said,"Hhhmmmm, that's funny. I always thought the mass was boring. It seems many people agree with me..."

So what? That just goes to show that you and many others are ignorant of Christ and His Passion, death and resurrection. I feel sorry for you and others who think the Divine Liturgy is boring. For the early Christians, they would rather die than have it taken from them.

John Bugay said...

Matthew: As I said anytime you want to formally debate the issue let me know.

I'm just going to keep on doing my thing. If you want to comment on it, you're welcome to do that.

John: [JB]"The thing that gives me the greatest hope is, in general, the advancement in Biblical scholarship."

I don't know why this would give you any hope.

I only answered that in the next three paragraphs.

What traditional Protestantism is struggling with is not a lack of scholarship, but boredom. …

You missed the point. The point is that the scholarship is secure, and it is creating ways of understanding scripture and history that is much more in line with traditional orthodox Protestantism (the kind that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries, in the wake of the Reformation, but before liberal theologies became a nuisance.

Matthew: For the early Christians, they would rather die than have it taken from them.

You make a category error in confusing the current Roman Catholic situation with the "early Christians."

John said...

"The point is that the scholarship is secure, and it is creating ways of understanding scripture and history that is much more in line with traditional orthodox Protestantism"

I don't know what you have in mind, but does any of it matter when the cornerstone of Protestantism - substitutionary atonement is being recognised by scholars as not being in the bible, and not being in the Fathers? Not much point being proud of the scholarship of the structure, when the foundation was found to be whiteanted.

Matthew Bellisario said...

John says, "You make a category error in confusing the current Roman Catholic situation with the "early Christians."

No category error on my part. It is plain in Scripture and in the early writings of the Saints that they would rather die than not be able to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. The evidence of liturgical consistency is on our side, not yours.

John Bugay said...

John: the cornerstone of Protestantism - substitutionary atonement is being recognised by scholars as not being in the bible, and not being in the Fathers?

Not sure what you're talking about here. The New Testament, especially Paul's writings but also the Old Testament, Gospels, Acts and other writers are thick with the idea of substitution. On the other hand, it seems evident that many of the early fathers lost Paul's teachings on grace and justification, which is understandable given some of the early history of the church.

I don't have time to get into a spitting match with you today, but these are themes I'll work to develop in the coming weeks and months.

Matthew: It is plain in Scripture and in the early writings of the Saints that they would rather die than not be able to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. The evidence of liturgical consistency is on our side, not yours.

Your claims to "liturgical consistency" are quite spurious. The medieval Mass was nothing like the early church worship. If it weren't for an effort to go back to the writings of the antipope Hippolytus, Roman liturgy would still be quite far away from what the earliest church looked like.

Again, I don't have time today to get into a discussion on this. But I'll develop these themes moving forward.

Viisaus said...

"substitutionary atonement is being recognised by scholars as not being in the bible, and not being in the Fathers"

If Christ's death was NOT "substitutionary atonement", then what was it supposed to be then?

We see it prefigured already in Abraham's substitution-sacrifice in place of Isaac:

"Since other Christians from the period saw Isaac as a type of the "Word of God" who prefigured Christ (Origen, Homilies on Genesis 11–13), it is easy to see how early Christian interpreters might have made sense of this Jewish tradition. The majority of Christian Biblical commentators hold this whole episode to be an archetype of the way that God works; this event is seen as prefiguring God's plan to have his own Son, Jesus, die on the cross as a substitute for humanity, much like the ram God provided for Abraham."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_of_Isaac#Christian_responses

John said...

"Christians from the period saw Isaac as a type of the "Word of God" who prefigured Christ"

If Isaac is the one prefiguring Christ, who is Isaac substituting for?

Matthew Bellisario said...

John says, "Your claims to "liturgical consistency" are quite spurious. The medieval Mass was nothing like the early church worship. If it weren't for an effort to go back to the writings of the antipope Hippolytus, Roman liturgy would still be quite far away from what the earliest church looked like. "

John you obviously are not familiar with the many liturgies of the Catholic Church that stem back to apostolic times. The Roman liturgy is not the only Catholic liturgy. Again, I would love to debate someone on this topic as well in a formal debate. Your "Reformed" liturgy is no where near what any of the ancient liturgies were like. The Catholic liturgies attest to the structure of the ancients.

Viisaus said...

"If Isaac is the one prefiguring Christ, who is Isaac substituting for?"

Wikipedia seems to have presented the idea in a clumsy manner.

It's basically like this: God actually DID what He only ASKED Abraham to do (but mercifully eventually spared him from doing) - sacrifice His only son.

And then, like Abraham's son was spared by the introduction of a God-given substitute offering, so the spiritual sons of Abraham are spared by the God-appointed sacrifice of Christ.

zipper778 said...

Matthew says: "So what?"

My point exactly. John was making the assumption that Protestant theology was boring and going nowhere. So I showed where the RCC was boring and going nowhere. Your view is that the RCC is not boring and my view is that Protestant theology is not boring.

Christ's sacrifice on the cross being the atonement for our sins is not a boring thing. It's a timeless message that will go on forever. Rome seems to have forgotten that sweet old story from long ago.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Zipper says, "Rome seems to have forgotten that sweet old story from long ago."

What are you talking about? We enter into the passion death and resurrection of Our Lord every Mass. That is something that you never understood, otherwise the Mass would not be boring to you.

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward Reiss said...

John,

"I don't know what you have in mind, but does any of it matter when the cornerstone of Protestantism - substitutionary atonement is being recognised by scholars as not being in the bible, and not being in the Fathers? Not much point being proud of the scholarship of the structure, when the foundation was found to be whiteanted."

I would like to know your interpretation of the following:

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.


Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you." And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."
(Hebrews 9:11-22)

Especially the boded part. I would really like to know why the shedding of blood remits sins if there is no such thing as substitutionary atonement.

Please also compare Leviticus 4 and 5.

This should be a gimme for you, since apparently according to scholars the Reformers made the whole thing up.

John said...

zipper778: I never said that protestant theology is boring, I said that traditional protestant denominations tend to put on services that the man in the pew finds boring in comparison to rock band style denominations.

And I also acknowledged that some people also find traditional liturgies boring as well. The difference is I think that your theology lacks sufficient motivation to choose tradition over the latest fads.

John said...

Edward: Christ's atonement has the aim of undoing the death that comes from Adam. Blood is the symbol of life (Gen. 9:4), and he gives His divine blood to us to give us His divine life and to put away death in Adam and be partakers of his divine and eternal nature. That's why we partake of his divine blood in the liturgy.

What is entirely lacking from this Hebrews passage is any mention that Christ dies to satisfy God's sense of divine justice.

However, the passage you quote does actually present a reason why blood is necessary: he says that a covenant which is the same word for "will" as in "last will", can't come into effect until the person making it dies. I would take this to mean that the thing God wants to give us, which is eternal life and forgiveness of sins through his divine blood, can't be done until he dies. The logic is that just like your children don't get your house until you die and leave it in your will, so we don't get the divine life and the heavenly home until Christ dies to leave it to us. Since you are the one who presented this passage, I have to ask you how deliberately dying so that you can leave good gifts to your children in your will amounts to dying to satisfy a 3rd party's sense of justice? It simply doesn't fit the very passage you have given to us.

Viisaus: God gave a life to Abraham so that Isaac wouldn't lose his life. However Protestant substitutionary atonement means that God wanted to kill Isaac for his sins, but gave the ram instead. However the text never says anything about Isaac's sin as a motivation for the incident. All we are left with is God removing Isaac's inevitable death through providing his own lamb. This is the Orthodox view.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"Christ's atonement has the aim of undoing the death that comes from Adam. Blood is the symbol of life (Gen. 9:4), and he gives His divine blood to us to give us His divine life and to put away death in Adam and be partakers of his divine and eternal nature. That's why we partake of his divine blood in the liturgy.

...However, the passage you quote does actually present a reason why blood is necessary..."

Your doctrine does not exclude substitutionary atonement. However, it does teach substitutionary atonement.

In any case, as the passage I cited says, "...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins..." It seems to me your interpretation does not account for that. How, in your model, does the shedding of blood mean sins are forgiven? Saying Christ gives us his blood for life is true, but it does not address the clear statement of the connection here between blood sacrifice on the one hand and the forgiveness of sins on the other.

The parallel between the OT sacrificial system and the work of Jesus Christ is clear: forgiveness of sins comes through the shedding of blood in both cases. Indeed, the whole OT sacrificial system makes no sense if we are limited to your discussion above. Nor does Jesus' death on the cross make sense if his death on the cross was to establish a covenant so he could give us his blood. Indeed, it makes a hash of the passage in question.

Compare:

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but(C) also for the sins of the whole world."
(1 John 2:1-2)

A "propitiation" is something offered to turn away the wrath of a God. This is sacrifice language, plain and simple.

It seems that this substitution language is pretty common, while the more abstract approach you take is not really at the center of what is being described, even if one can give assent to it in a subordinate way.

John Bugay said...

John said, What is entirely lacking from this Hebrews passage is any mention that Christ dies to satisfy God's sense of divine justice.

Penal substitution is quite evident when considering three things: 1. the sinfulness ang guilt of humanity, the holiness of God, and the sacrifice of Christ.

The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sinners deserve eternal punishment in hell from God himself because of their sin and guilt. God's holy anger is directed (Romans 1:18) against all of those who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Because of God's great love, he sent Christ to bear the punishment of our sins. Christ died in our place, took to himself our sin (2 Cor 5:21) and guilt (Gal 3:10), and bore the penalty so that we might receive forgiveness of sins.

The Scriptures emphasize repeatedly that God is holy (Lev 19:2, Ps 71:22, IS 6:3) and that those who sin face the retributive judgment of God. It is clear that the judgment God inflicts is retributive (2 Thess 1:5-9). God is personally angry with sinners. Sin is spiritual adultery (Jer 2:13)

Numbers 11:1: And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.

Josh 7:1: But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

See Isaiah 53:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.

although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;

Romans 3:21-26: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Viisaus said...

"Christ's atonement has the aim of undoing the death that comes from Adam."

Perhaps that ALSO, but it was sin and not death that Christ really had to conquer. Death is but one of the consequences of original sin.

This is where EO theology becomes truly banal and twisted. If it misses the glorious truth of Christ's substitutionary suffering satisfying the perfect righteousness of God, then all EO liturgies and outward splendor are mere frippery and irrelevant superstition.

John said...

Edward: The first thing to note about the passage you cited is that blood "cleanses the flesh" to remit sins (9:13-14,22). Not that it appeases the angry father. In other words, the aim is to do something to the person for whom the sacrifice is made, not to do something to God so that he won't nuke us. Compare Rev. 7:14 that we are made white in the blood of the lamb, not that God is appeased by the blood of the lamb. Or compare 1John 1:7, the "blood cleanses us".

That's why Orthodox have a model of theosis: where Christ's death transforms us, not where it transforms God's opinion on whether he is going to nuke us.

The connection between sin and the blood of Christ therefore, is that Christ's blood transforms and cleanses us. Because it is "precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1Pe 1:19) and because we partake of this blood, we can acquire the purity of the divine life. We lost the purity of the divine life and we lost immortality through the sinfulness of Adam, so it necessary to regain immortality that we are cleansed from sin through Christ's death. The solution is the counterpart and undoing of the problem in Adam, not to make God ignore our sin in Adam.

An ἱλαστήριον doesn't have to be something that becomings a whipping boy for God's wrath. It is something that helps regain the goodwill of a deity, but that's not the point of issue. We know Christ is the way we regain God's goodwill, but not because he is punishing him and not us, but because he is cleansing us from sin.

Since this discussion arose when John claimed that Protestant scholarship is "secure", I think maybe some scholarship is in order. Anchor bible dictionary says " It has been maintained by some that an element of substitution was always understood and that the sacrificial victim was thought of as enduring the (divine) punishment for the sin committed, thus enabling the sinner to go free. Such a model has of course exerted considerable influence on popular Christian piety as an interpretation of Jesus’ atoning death. This probably reads too much into the rationale of the sacrificial system. It is in fact very unlikely that the sacrificial victim was ever thought of as a substitute in this way."

Also disputed is whether the Ro 3:24 referring to a ἱλαστήριον is saying anything directly about propitiation or whether it is equating Christ to the ἱλαστήριον of the old testament - the Mercy Seat. Certainly the meaning of ἱλαστήριον can't be interpreted outside of its OT and LXX usage, so anything you think it means ought to be justified from the OT. And as the Anchor scholars so put it, there isn't anything in the OT that indicates sacrifices are to be considered as substitutionary.

Concerning ἱλασμός and atonement, the model we get from the OT is from the day of atonement. And we don't find here the notion that God is satisfied by the death of the goat. If that was the case, you would kill the goat and that would be the end of it. Rather it is the blood itself which is applied and which cleanses. We have a cleansing model of the blood, not an appeasing the wrath of an angry God via substitution model.

In verses like Ezek. 43:20 it is the altar itself which is cleansed and ἱλασμός. ἱλασμός is another word for the notion of cleansing - i.e. a process whereby the thing to which it is applied is changed, and that is what appeases God. It's not as if God was angry with the altar until the blood was killed to satisfy wrath. No, the blood makes the altar satisfying to God by cleansing it. This is the understanding you need to have of ἱλασμός: It makes something pleasing to God, but substituting objects of wrath is not the mechanism.

John said...

It must also be noted, that if we are going to make reference to the meaning of ἱλασμός from its Greek heritage, that the Anchor bible dictionary says that cultic and pagan ritual sacrifices where the blood is smeared in the temple "lack the motif of substitution". So that also is not an avenue for you to introduce it here.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

You have not addressed my point. I said nothing about an angry Father, though you admit he is wrathful here:

"An ἱλαστήριον doesn't have to be something that becomings a whipping boy for God's wrath. It is something that helps regain the goodwill of a deity, but that's not the point of issue."

If a deity has "bad will" toward us and he demands a sacrifice to regain "good will", that sounds like anger to me. Not petulant human anger, but divine anger. I point this out not to cause a rabbit hole, but to show that often you are making a great distinction where none exists.

The passage in Hebrews says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. You are reading around this particular part, and you don't explain how that could be.

"And we don't find here the notion that God is satisfied by the death of the goat. If that was the case, you would kill the goat and that would be the end of it. Rather it is the blood itself which is applied and which cleanses. We have a cleansing model of the blood, not an appeasing the wrath of an angry God via substitution model."

No dead goat, no forgiven sins. That is a substitution because otherwise the sinner dies or at least retains his sins (same thing, right?). As for it being the end of it, the reason Jesus is the end of it is because his self sacrifice is perfect, unlike the sacrifices of goats etc. by sinful priests. This, too is in Hebrews. It takes a lot of effort to read substitution out of the OT and Hebrews.

"It must also be noted, that if we are going to make reference to the meaning of ἱλασμός from its Greek heritage, that the Anchor bible dictionary says that cultic and pagan ritual sacrifices where the blood is smeared in the temple "lack the motif of substitution". So that also is not an avenue for you to introduce it here."

There are more commentaries than the Anchor Study Bible. John Bugay's claims about scholarship may or may not pan out, but statements that substitutionary atonement is wrong based on one sided interpretations of words are not the way to go. There is no good reason to exclude propitiation and include only expiation other than taste and ignoring where God says he is wrathful. In fact, my wife's Russian Bible has "умилостивление" in 1 John 2:2, which means "propitiation". This means that an EO synodical bible assumes the passage in question relates to God's wrath. This does not falsify your point, but it undermines it to a great degree. Yours is not even necessarily the EO view of the word.

Regarding the commentary you cite. Wouldn't you agree that to sacrifice something to e.g. Ceres is to propitiate the wrath of Ceres? Firther, isn't such a sacrifice a substitute because if one did not sacrifice to Ceres one would suffer Ceres' wrath?

John said...

John Bugay said: "Penal substitution is quite evident when considering three things: 1. the sinfulness ang guilt of humanity, the holiness of God, and the sacrifice of Christ. "

Is this another way of saying that the bible doesn't teach it, but you have decided to infer it anyway?

"The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23)."

Actually, the wages of sin is death. You seem to have a necessity to infuse the situation with juridical language.

"Because of God's great love, he sent Christ to bear the punishment of our sins."

No verse quoted on this critical claim.

"Christ died in our place"

... or this one.

"took to himself our sin (2 Cor 5:21)"

τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ

The one without sin, for us was made a sin-offering, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

No help for you here.

However it does demonstrate the cleansing model of atonement. The purpose of the sin-offering that "we might become the righteousness of God". That is the cleansing model which this verse is promoting.

"and bore the penalty so that we might receive forgiveness of sins. "

.. and no verse quoted again.

"God is personally angry with sinners."

Yes, and what solutions do we have when someone is angry with someone? One option, the Protestant one, is that you go to the gym and take it out on a punching bag until you feel better. The other option is that the one you are angry with is cleansed and made righteous so that you are no longer angry.

Isaiah 53: "He bore our griefs, he carried our sorrows". This is the language that implies he is doing something to transform US, not transform God's opinion of us. Lifting our grief and sorrow is a transformation of US.

v4. We thought him stricken by God, BUT in reality he was crushed for us, that is in other words "by his stripes WE ARE HEALED", not "God's wrath is assuaged". Again, the net gain is for us, our transformation and our healing, not for God's mental state being satisfied.

John said...

"If a deity has "bad will" toward us and he demands a sacrifice to regain "good will", that sounds like anger to me."

The issue is not whether God is angry. The issue is not whether a sacrifice helps regain goodwill. The issue of dispute is the mechanism whereby the latter leads to the former. The Protestant view is God takes his anger out on the sacrifice. That is the point at dispute.

"The passage in Hebrews says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. You are reading around this particular part, and you don't explain how that could be."

Again, Hebrews answers the question, you just don't want to seem to accept the answer. Hebrew's answer is that there is no benefit from a covenant(will) without the death of the one making the covenant, which of necessity entails the shedding of blood. Again, does a model whereby someone dies so their children can inherit the benefits of the will entail a model whereby someone is punished in the place of those inheriting the benefits? How is the benefits of a will to be equated with deflecting divine wrath? The only way benefits of a will can be paralleled is by understanding it as something that directly benefits and transforms us, cleansing our consciences to serve the living God (9:14). God makes a covenant with us, our benefit from the covenant is transformation and eternal life, and the way to get the benefits of such a last will is for the one making it to die.

Overlaying some other theory, that is completely absent from the text, is not a solution no matter how much explanatory power you may think it has. Mormon notions of baptism of the dead have a lot of explanatory power over 1Cor. 15:29, but that doesn't mean I want to adopt them, or think they are true. It's not the cleverest theory that wins, it is the one which matches the biblical model.

"No dead goat, no forgiven sins. That is a substitution because otherwise the sinner dies or at least retains his sins (same thing, right?)."

No, numerical equivalence is not the same as substitution.

"It takes a lot of effort to read substitution out of the OT and Hebrews."

If its so much effort to read out, how come the Fathers never read it in, and it never even came up as a topic of conversation? If they'd been desperately working hard to read it out, they'd at least have some awareness of the doctrine they were trying to avoid.

And if it takes so much effort to read out, how come scholarly sources, like the aforementioned Anchor bible dictionary say flatly that the notion of substitution in the bible is simple not there, but rather the result of popular Christian piety?

"In fact, my wife's Russian Bible has "умилостивление" in 1 John 2:2, which means "propitiation"."

And what does propitiation mean? It means making sure someone is appeased, at least in English. Again, the fact that the atonement results in appeasement is not the issue at hand. The issue is the mechanism that leads from sacrifice to appeasement. We argue it is not because God punishes the sacrifice, but rather because the object of the sacrifice is cleansed and changed.

"Firther, isn't such a sacrifice a substitute because if one did not sacrifice to Ceres one would suffer Ceres' wrath?"

I supposed you could say it is a substitute for wrath. +1 sacrifice = -1 wrath. But the Protestant claim is that -1 wrath DIRECTED AGAINST ME = +1 wrath directed against the sacrifice. This is the issue at dispute. Does Ceres direct bad agricultural grain-growing fortune against the sacrifice instead of us in pagan mythology?

In fact, you seem to be arguing that all sacrificial systems are incomprehensible without the notion of substitution. But this would mean that all religions of the world that have a notion of sacrifice also believe in substitution. Either you have an extremely vague notion of substitution, or else you are clearly wrong on that.

Viisaus said...

"I point this out not to cause a rabbit hole, but to show that often you are making a great distinction where none exists."

Making artificial, sophistic distinctions has been a standard EO prctice ever since they introduced the latria/dulia distinction.

(Or for that matter, when they insist that "Filioque" shibboleth is a soul-damning issue.)

Viisaus said...

"And if it takes so much effort to read out, how come scholarly sources, like the aforementioned Anchor bible dictionary say flatly that the notion of substitution in the bible is simple not there, but rather the result of popular Christian piety?"

It's because EOs like you are allying with humanist-infidel scholars on this issue. They consider S.A. to be a barbarous superstition.

Anchor Bible series is loaded with unbelieving or brazenly liberal scholars:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_Bible_Series

I bet these people would have unflattering things to say about Eastern Orthodox "popular piety" as well.

John said...

"Making artificial, sophistic distinctions has been a standard EO prctice ever since they introduced the latria/dulia distinction."

We hardly introduced the distinction, we were just the ones who gave it a name. What do YOU call the distinction?

John Bugay said...

John said The issue is not whether God is angry. The issue is not whether a sacrifice helps regain goodwill. The issue of dispute is the mechanism whereby the latter leads to the former. The Protestant view is God takes his anger out on the sacrifice. That is the point at dispute.

What you are arguing here is that the word "propitiation" ("hilasterion" in the Greek) does not really mean "propitiation" in the places where it is used in the New Testament.

Viisaus is right to point out that the commentary you are using is known for its "unbelieving" and "brazenly liberal scholars."

At some point, whose argument you believe comes down to trust. This is one reason why neither the Orthodox nor the Protestants accept the word of the papacy. The argument over the papacy boils down to the Roman (provincial) interpretation of Matt 16:18-19, where the language itself is highly questionable, so much more the meaning. Even Jesus says clearly "I do not come in my own name." But Rome pulls off this arrogant feat.

In the case of "hilasterion," at least, it is impossible to deny what the word actually means in most of the cases where it is used. And in the overall understanding of Scripture, especially in a covenantal understanding that has God slaying animals to clothe Adam and Eve, where God himself instructs the nation to slay an unblemished lamb, where he himself sets up the whole levitical scheme of sacrifices, in which God is attested many times to have held his anger -- and you want to say that in this one case, it's possible that the word "propitiation" doesn't really mean propitiation. And you wonder why we don't take you seriously.

I have three monographs on my desk right now -- Morris, Schreiner, and Jeffery/Ovey/Sach, and each of these makes a compelling argument that propitiation does in fact mean propitiation. No doubt there are others.

(The third of these cites a dozen different fathers of the church, including Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Chrisostom, among other western writers, all attesting different aspects of this concept that you deny.)

These writers who I'm citing are individuals who have taken it upon themselves to "study to show themselves approved unto God," and we give their word a great deal of weight.

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Bugay said...

You wanna try again John?

John said...

"What you are arguing here is that the word "propitiation" ("hilasterion" in the Greek) does not really mean "propitiation" in the places where it is used in the New Testament. "

I don't know why you would claim this, as if this simple Greek word carries with it all the baggage of the Protestant juridical substitutionary atonement theory.

As for the Fathers, there's a difference between using various analogies for the atonement, and actually promoting substitution as the literal mechanism for atonement. As JND Kelly said, " "Scholars have often despaired of discovering any single unifying thought in the Patristic teaching about the redemption. These various theories, however, despite appearances, should not be regarded as in fact mutually incompatible. They were all of them attempts to elucidate the same great truth from different angles; their superficial divergences are often due to the different Biblical images from which they started, and there is no logical reason why, carefully stated, they should not be regarded as complimentary"

Juridical images are just one of many possible images that point to an aspect of the underlying reality. Not that this is itself the reality.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"Juridical images are just one of many possible images that point to an aspect of the underlying reality. Not that this is itself the reality."

I am not aware of any Reformation church which states that the juridical "images" are the only way we speak of the atonement. Nor is your declaration that it is not reality even remotely proven.

And I think your approach does indeed entail re-writing quite a few rather pedestrian passages:

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
(John 3:35-36)

If God doesn't have wrath, what is Jesus speaking about?

To maintain God doesn't have wrath against sin (and not obeying the Son qualifies) you have to change "wrath of God remains on him" into "the wrath of God does not remain on him, but something else does". This is the context of "propitiation".

Regarding 2 Cor 5:21, you translated it as "The one without sin, for us was made a sin-offering, that we might become the righteousness of God in him."

It certainly is a help, because a sin offering is an offering for...sin. Why is there such a thing as a sin offering if forgiveness of sins is not linked to a sacrifice which by definition is a substitute?

You wrote: "Again, Hebrews answers the question, you just don't want to seem to accept the answer. Hebrew's answer is that there is no benefit from a covenant(will) without the death of the one making the covenant, which of necessity entails the shedding of blood. "

You still don't deal with the words. It says without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. The covenant is just that: instead of killing the sinner the sacrificed animal dies. Yoiur response so far has been to ignore one part and focus on another, and then focus on "covenant" as if it refutes substitutionary atonement. it does not refute it, and it can easily be integrated with it. However, your view does not harmonize the whole passage.

"But the Protestant claim is that -1 wrath DIRECTED AGAINST ME = +1 wrath directed against the sacrifice."

The wrath in this case being death. So far you have done nothing to refute it, and in fact even saying God does not have wrath contradicts very clear passages of Scripture, e.g. Ezekiel 18.

"In fact, you seem to be arguing that all sacrificial systems are incomprehensible without the notion of substitution. But this would mean that all religions of the world that have a notion of sacrifice also believe in substitution. Either you have an extremely vague notion of substitution, or else you are clearly wrong on that."

I suggest you read more on ancient history and ancient religions. Sometimes a thanks offering was given, but just as often a sacrifice was to turn away the wrath of an angry god. That was the context of my Ceres example.

Edward Reiss said...

John,

"And what does propitiation mean? It means making sure someone is appeased, at least in English. Again, the fact that the atonement results in appeasement is not the issue at hand. The issue is the mechanism that leads from sacrifice to appeasement. We argue it is not because God punishes the sacrifice, but rather because the object of the sacrifice is cleansed and changed."

Two things:

First, propitiation carries the connotation of removing wrath. Expiation, the preferred EO interpretation, does not. Russians have a perfectly serviceable word for expiation, "искупление".

Second, my wife is a native Russian speaker with a masters degree from a university in Russia. She knows her own language.

John said...

Edward: Again with the straw men. Nobody said that the atonement does not have the effect of removing wrath. The dispute is about the mechanism for doing so.

To use an analogy, if your kids do something bad and you are angry with them, there'd be tons of ways in theory your anger could be appeased, other than grabbing the next-door neighbor's kid and punching them in the nose to get it out of your system. Even in a juridical context, having someone take a fixed penalty is not the only solutions judges apply. Sometimes they release you in the custody of a responsible person. Sometimes they put you in a rehabilitation program. The possibiilities are many.

That's why everything in this last response is just straw men. As I already wrote several postings above, the issue is not appeasement of wrath, the dispute is about mechanism.

Edward Reiss said...

John,,

Speaking of straw man arguments:

"To use an analogy, if your kids do something bad and you are angry with them, there'd be tons of ways in theory your anger could be appeased, other than grabbing the next-door neighbor's kid and punching them in the nose to get it out of your system."

Not at all what I was saying.

God says he us angry at sin and sinners and has sentenced them to death. God instituted a system of blood sacrifice for atonement. The sacrifice dies in lieu of the sinner. The Father ordained that his own Son should die as a propitiation for our sins--something the Son did willfully. It has nothing to do with your characterization of God's anger, but with what he has revealed.

Also, your view is easily accommodated within the substitutionary atonement view. So it is not that we reject that the "subject of the sacrifice" (and by this I assume you mean the one for whom the sacrifice is performed) is cleaned, it is just that we take the death sentence for sin seriously, and see the connection between the OT system and Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. The sentence is lifted for a reason. Your account is one sided, and cannot give a good account of why the crucifixion even occurred. You offer vague philosophical notions which do not explain why Christ had to die except in an abstract "give us his life" way.

"As I already wrote several postings above, the issue is not appeasement of wrath, the dispute is about mechanism."

And the "mechanism" is right there in Scripture. So far you have not discussed a mechanism so much as simply described an effect.

John said...

OK, where does the bible say that there is a death sentence for sin? You're again putting in juridical terms what the bible does not put in juridical terms. Yes the result of sin is death, but who said we should characterise it as a "sentence"? Everytime I see death associated with sin in the bible, it is characterised as a natural consequence of sin rather than a penalty wielded by God. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life. The gift and the death are not equally wielded instruments of God. The enemy itself is death (1Cor. 15:26), not God wielding death as a juridical instrument. Death is swallowed up in victory (1Cor. 15:54), not a punishment. And what puts Christ on the cross is not God's juridical judgement, but rather sinful men. Sin resulted in his death, his victory over death is the power of God.

Its our spiritual death which puts us at odds with God, and as a natural consequent leads to physical death. You want to know the mechanism, but you won't accept the biblical categories. What is the "mechanism" by which Adam's death and propensity to sin is transferred to the whole human race? Is it juridical? I think not. You've heard of the Federal Headship concept right? If you can grasp that, you can grasp a non-juridical atonement. Christ is the second Adam. The transfer of Christ's victory to us overturns the power of sin and death and puts us right with God. But to be juridical, death would have to be characterised as a sentence or punishment rather than a consequent. Where is the verse that does that?