An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

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An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby rmmahoney » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:33 pm

Reconsidering Tulip
By Alexander Renault

A biblical, philosophical, and historical response to the Reformed doctrines of predestination. This book is an Eastern Orthodox assessment of TULIP, bringing to the table 1,500 years of theology and thinking which is usually absent in the typical Calvinist vs. Arminian debates.

http://www.amazon.com/Reconsidering-Tul ... 418&sr=8-1

Excerpt

Orthodox Problems with Penal Substitution

The penal substitution view was completely absent from the church for over 1,000 years. It was only in the 11th century that Anselm of Canterbury began to introduce the groundwork for this kind of theology to the West. Nor was it fully developed into the doctrine we now know as penal substitution until the 16th-century Reformers came along. To this day it has never been accepted in the east (nor has it ever been fully accepted by the Roman Catholics).

1. Penal substitution compromises the deity of Christ and puts a rift in the Trinity.

If Christ died for, and is our solution to, our sins against God the Father, then what about our sins against Christ? He’s just as God as the Father is. Or our sins against the Holy Spirit? With penal substitution, God is pitted against God, either dividing God (and thus destroying the Trinity) or saying that Christ isn’t fully god.

2. With penal substitution, God is bound by necessity.

If god’s justice demands that He punish sin, then there is a higher force than god—necessity—which determines what God can and cannot do. Calvinists will be quick to argue,

“No, justice is an aspect of God’s nature. There is no necessity laid on Him from outside His nature.”

The problem, though, is that if I do “A” then God must do “B.” If I sin, God must punish. He does not have the freedom to do otherwise. Thus God’s actions are bound and controlled by some-thing outside of Himself, i.e. my actions. This becomes even more confusing if we add in the Calvinistic notion that God foreordained my sinful actions in the first place, thus forcing Him to respond to them. Furthermore, it is often argued by the Reformed that God is sovereign and doesn’t have to save anyone if He chooses not to. On the other hand, He does have to punish sin. So God has to punish sin, but He doesn’t have to save sinners. It’s very interesting that justice (or at least what the Reformed see as justice) becomes the defining characteristic of God rather than love. Justice forces God to respond to our actions, but love does not.

3. Penal substitution misunderstands the Old Testament sacrifices.

The Old Testament sacrificial system was not a picture of penal substitution. God was not pouring out His wrath on the animals in place of the Israelites. He didn’t vent His righteous judgment on the animals, sending them to hell in place of the Israelites. On the contrary, they were killed honorably and as painlessly as possible. Their life (i.e. their blood) was offered to God as a sweet smelling aroma. The resulting meat was good and holy—not just worthless carrion fit for dogs and vultures. Such is also the case with Christ’s sacrifice: it is a holy offering of blood to the Father, not a means whereby god can vent His wrath.

4. Penal substitution misunderstands the word “justice.”

A quick perusal of the psalms and prophets will reveal that the word “justice” is usually coupled with “mercy.” Justice really means to show kindness and deliverance to the oppressed, and to right the wrongs done to them. True justice is destroying our oppressors—sin, death, and Satan—not punishing us for the sins to which we are in bondage.

5. Penal substitution misunderstands the word “propitiation.”

Propitiation should not be thought of in the classical pagan sense, as if our god were some angry deity who needed appeasing and could only be satisfied through a penal sacrifice. It’s really quite different. Propitiation (Greek hilasterion) is also translated “mercy seat.” The mercy seat covered the ark of the covenant, which contained a copy of the ten commandments—the law. While the law cried out against us and demanded perfection and showed us our shortcomings, the mercy seat covered those demands and our failure to live up to them. Was the mercy seat punished for our sins? of course not. Likewise, Christ’s blood was not the punishment demanded by justice, but rather the ultimate mercy seat, covering and forgiving our sins. This is why “propitiation” is sometimes more accurately translated as “expiation” in some versions of the Bible. (“expiation” implies the removal of our sins, while “propitiation” implies appeasing an angry deity.)

6. With penal substitution, God does not show unconditional love.

With penal substitution, God Himself does not show the unconditional love that He commands us to show one another. There is a big condition attached: God must have an “outlet” to vent His wrath. His “self-giving” love is only made possible by His “self- satisfying” justice.

7. With penal substitution, God does not truly forgive.

With penal substitution, the debt is not really forgiven; it’s just transferred. But we are commanded to forgive as God forgave us. If my brother offends me, should I demand justice and vent my wrath on someone else? Should I beat myself up? No, obviously we are to simply let it go and graciously accept the offense.

8. With penal substitution, God changes.

According to penal substitution, god is angry with us because of our sins. But once He expresses His wrath in His Son, He is no longer angry with us. Now He loves us as He loves His own Son. In other words, He changes. First He’s angry with us, then He changes His mind and decides to love us. But how can this be if God is love? How can a God who is infinite, self-giving love ever vary in His degree of love towards us? Besides, not only is God love (1 Jn 4:8, 16), but He’s also unchanging (Mal 3:6) and doesn’t change His mind (Num 23:19).

9. Penal substitution makes the resurrection unnecessary.

According to penal substitution, salvation is made possible only by a legal exchange. We are counted “just” and “forgiven” only because God’s wrath has been poured out on Christ instead. Since hell is said to be a punishment for sins, and since our sins have already been punished in Christ, we are free to go to heaven. The resurrection then becomes simply a nice bonus, nothing more than a “proof” that Christ is divine.

10. Penal substitution makes the incarnation unnecessary.

Was it Christ’s physical suffering or spiritual suffering which atoned for our sins (according to penal substitution)? If physical, then anyone who has suffered physically more than Christ (and there have been plenty in the history of our race), is exempt from hell, since they already paid for their own sins. If it was Christ’s spiritual suffering that counts, then He didn’t need to be incarnate. (After all, the demons will be punished without needing bodies.) The incarnation becomes just an “add-on” to help us out a little more.

11. One person cannot be punished for another

Contra penal substitution, the Bible tells us that one person can not be punished for another. each one shall die for his own sins:

In those days they shall say no more: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
But every one shall die for his own iniquity. (Jer 31:29-30)

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deut 24:16) The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezek 18:20)

12. Penal substitution makes death a punishment rather than a result.

God said,

“In the day you eat the fruit, you will surely die” (Gen 2:17).

He did not say “I will kill you” but rather “you will die.” To walk away from God (i.e. to sin) is by definition, death. death is the realm of “Not God.” likewise, if I pull the plug on my own life support system, the result is death. No one else is killing me. If I jump off the roof, after being warned by my mother not to, and I end up breaking my leg, does that mean that my mother broke my leg? No, that was simply the result of my own choice. Christ gave Himself up to death. If death is an active punishment from God, then Christ was punished by His Father (per penal substitution). But if death is the result of sin, then it is an outside enemy, and not God’s own wrath.

13. Penal substitution undermines union with Christ

If death is a punishment for sin rather than a result of sin (continuing with the last point), then it makes little sense to speak of being united with Christ. St. Paul says that we were united together in the likeness of His death (Rom 6:5). He also says
“I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20).

If death is a punishment, then St. Paul is saying
“Christ and I have been punished together.”

But again, why would two people be punished for one person’s sins? Perhaps it makes more sense to say that Christ, in union with our humanity, experienced the consequence of death, and through His death, defeated death for all of us. Besides, if we really believe that Christ defeated death, then we certainly can’t say that death is a punishment sent from god, or else we’d be forced to say that Christ defeated something that god willed for us. But Christ and His Father are not at war with each other. On the other hand, I will certainly confess that there is a substitution as well. Christ experienced the consequence of sin (i.e. death), as a substitute for us, so that we don’t have to experience the ultimate consequence sin (i.e. eternal death). But note that Christ is taking on the consequence of sin in our place, rather than the punishment for sin in our place.

14. Penal substitution was absent from the entire Church (both east and west) for at least 1,000 years

To quote from the Theogeek blogsite,

“If the apostles taught penal substitution as a central part of their gospel, then it seems almost entirely inconceivable that the generations that came after them and spoke the same language had, worldwide, managed to universally forget the major and central part of the gospel and replace it with something else entirely.”

So what was Christ’s death for, if not to satisfy God’s justice? The purpose of Christ’s atonement was to defeat death and forgive us of our sins. It was the presenting of Christ’s blood, His humanity, to the Father to restore the unity that we had broken. It was a sweet-smelling aroma, a sacrifice acceptable to God.

The depth and purpose of His sacrifice is far beyond the scope of this little book, but one thing is for sure: it was not about punishment. And when punishment is taken out of the equation, things look much different. We can no longer say that Christ was punished in place of John but not in place of, say, Judas. But we can say that Christ defeated death for both John and Judas, both of whom will be resurrected regardless of their acceptance or rejection of Christ…
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby Alex Smith » Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:55 am

Thanks heaps, I must admit I'm leaning towards the EO perspective. I'd love to see an in-depth live debate on this between two clear communicators, one Calvinist & one EO.
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby Sobornost » Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:18 am

Wow - has to be the book of the season!!!!! I'm going to order a copy a.s.a.p.

Thanks muchly

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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby Melchizedek » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:30 pm

Great stuff, thanks for posting!
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby corpselight » Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:37 pm

some fantastic reasoning there.

i've not learned enough about alternative viewpoints on the Atonement, or the result of Christ's death (which i think is pointless to talk about unless we include His life and His resurrection as well...both as important as His death, i'd say), but i know enough to see that Penal Substitution does not make any sense at all. your basic Atheist learns that the idea that God sacrifices Himself to Himself to appease His wrath against someone else entirely doesn't make sense in the first year of Atheism school.
if it's so obvious to unbelievers, why are believers so blind?
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby JaelSister » Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:13 pm

Thanks for a great, informative post.

I'm now musing on the idea that the reason Christ can overcome death, our eternal death, is because He is eternal God and therefore cannot die eternally by His very nature.
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby rmmahoney » Sat Mar 17, 2012 10:51 pm

In the article on the creation and the fall, we saw how man was created in the image of God, and in the likeness of God. We looked at how this was lost due to man’s sin, and the image of God in man was corrupted because it no longer showed the likeness of God, but the likeness of His creation. Consequently, the goal of God in our redemption is the restoration of this oneness with God, to have the likeness of God, His energies enlivening us once again as it did Adam and Eve, and to correct the corruption of His creation.

This redemption and reuniting of man with God is why Jesus Christ came to earth, why He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit, why He went to the cross and died, and was resurrected on the third day. The atonement centers around what Christ was accomplishing on the cross specifically, but the rest ties into it as well since it is one whole picture. However, one of the “stumbling blocks” has always been why Jesus had to die to accomplish our salvation. Why was this necessary in order to restore us to union with God as we just stated.

It should be noted here that it is significant as to what is being atoned for. The above is the reality as it has been handed down to us in the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church. However, in other traditions which attempt an explanation of this, the problem is not a lack of union with God that is being fixed, but something that God needs to extract from us which we don’t have and so all we have left to give is our lives, to die. Instead of being in death because of losing the likeness, we are in death because we have a need to pay God the Father back. The goal of atonement makes a big difference in the understanding of how Jesus Christ brought this about on the cross.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, in his little book, “How are we Saved,” list 5 theories of the atonement. One of these, “The teacher,” is not seriously considered by anyone to be complete even if there elements of it that are true, so we will not look at that one. His last one, is what I would call the reality of the atonement’s goal, our union with God. It is that which in Orthodoxy is salvation. So we are left with three other theories of the atonement: 1. Redemption, 2. Sacrifice/Substitution and 3. Satisfaction. We will take a brief look at these three and how they fit into an Orthodox understanding.

Redemption

In Rom. 6 we get a picture that we are slaves to sin, which is death. We are able to overcome this bondage by uniting ourselves to Christ in baptism. Because of this we are freed from bondage and death, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, certainly also we shall be of the resurrection….” (Rom. 6:5)

There are two way of redeeming something, either by buying it back, or by defeating the one who holds it. Rom. 6:6 indicates which of these Christ accomplished on the cross: “…knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be rendered inactive….” We also see this same concept in the Old Testament examples of redemption, most obviously in how God redeemed Israel Egypt. He didn’t come in and buy them back from Pharaoh, God forcefully took them from him. They were freed from bondage by force.

It is this understanding that we have reflected in our Paschal troparia, that Christ defeated death by death and on those in the tombs bestowed life. It was a defeat of Satan who held us bound to death with our sins. Christ invades our world and takes back what is His. St. Ireneus shows that this was the view of the early Church:

For if man, who had been created by God that he might live, after losing life, through being injured by the serpent that had corrupted him, should not any more return to life, but should be utterly [and for ever] abandoned to death, God would [in that case] have been conquered, and the wickedness of the serpent would have prevailed over the will of God. But inasmuch as God is invincible and long-suffering, He did indeed show Himself to be long-suffering in the matter of the correction of man and the probation of all, as I have already observed; and by means of the second man did He bind the strong man, and spoiled his goods, and abolished death, vivifying that man who had been in a state of death. For at the first Adam became a vessel in his (Satan’s) possession, whom he did also hold under his power, that is, by bringing sin on him iniquitously, and under color of immortality entailing death upon him. For, while promising that they should be as gods, which was in no way possible for him to be, he wrought death in them: wherefore he who had led man captive, was justly captured in his turn by God; but man, who had been led captive, was loosed from the bonds of condemnation.

St. Ireneus, “Against the Heresies,” Book 3, Chp. 23.


In this understanding, Christ defeats death in us with His life, uniting us to Him, and overcoming Satan and death with His Life.

2. Sacrificial/Substitution

Here, the “what” of atonement makes a big difference. Christ is considered the reality which the Old Testament sacrifices point to. Christ did take our place in death and defeat it, and thus He did substitute Himself in our place who were to die. The whole sacrificial nature of Christ’s death is clearly portrayed in Hebrews 9 and 10: “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins in perpetuity, ‘sat down on the right of God….’” (Heb. 10:12). St. Peter also indicates this, “knowing that ye were not ransomed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot….” (1 Pet 1:18-19)

From the liturgical material of the Church, we understand that the one Old Testament sacrifice which points to the nature of Christ’s purpose on the cross is the Passover Lamb. The central celebration of Christ’s resurrection is called “Pascha” which is the transliteration of the Greek word for “Passover.” It was this sacrifice, the central sacrifice by which the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt, that illustrates how Christ with His sacrifice redeems us from the bondage of Satan and death. Death passes over those who have eaten Him and as St. John Chrysostom so graphically says, smeared His blood on the doorpost of our mouth. Our liturgical material on Pascha speaks frequently of Christ being the “new Pascha”, in that we have been brought from death to life.

To that end, all the sacrifices in the OT point even if they were for other purposes. They also all were icons pointing to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, where His body was broken and His blood was poured out that as St. John says in John 6, we might eat His flesh and drink His blood. In His flesh and blood is true life. To eat, He must be sacrificed and Satan is defeated.

3. Satisfaction

The above reality that we have described to this point has been described with several different analogies by the Fathers. Taken together, they can give us a complete picture. The problem has arisen because some have taken one analogy and attempted to make that describe the whole of atonement. However, because it can only point to certain truths about the atonement, any attempt to do this will inevitably result in false conclusions both about God and what needed to be fixed for us to be “saved.”

This is essentially what Anselm did, who is known as the father of satisfaction understanding of the atonement. His goal was to be able to explain to the heathen in a logical fashion why Christ had to die for our sins, without using the Bible or the Fathers. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying to stay within them, but because of his methodology he does drift away substantially on some points. It is known as the satisfaction theory because it indicates a need to satisfy a lack that keeps us from salvation.

Essentially, he took the concept of debt that we owe to God and made that into the whole of the atonement. We do see the debt understanding even in the Bible, as the servant who owed his master a lifetime plus of wages. Athanasius speaks of our debt we owe as well, but not as Anselm ended up using it. Because of sin, we owed God a debt due to our violation of His honor. This honor has to be repaid somehow due to the nature of God. Man can’t pay it, only God can pay it, so God becomes man to not only pay what His due is to the Father through perfect obedience, but goes beyond that to give what He didn’t have to give, His life. Since He didn’t need this “merit”, we can obtain that merit for paying our debt to God off. The sacraments then become a means of distributing these merits, as well as other good works. This is basically the Roman Catholic understanding.

The two major problems with this understanding are these:

1. God’s forgiveness is not dependant upon repaying a debt, and

2. The debt we owe is not to the Father.

All we have to do to know that the first is not true is look in the Scriptures. All through the Old Testament, before Christ’s sacrifice, God is considered merciful, slow to anger, forgiving all who come to Him. He is ready to cast our sins as far as the east is from the west. The only requirement for forgiveness offered in 2 Chron. 7:14 is “if my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways….” Nothing is mentioned about atoning for a past debt before forgiveness of sins can happen. Rather, God simply says: “…then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. In the New Testament we have the parable mentioned earlier, where the servant who owes his master more money than he could ever hope to repay is forgiven his entire debt without expectation of repaying it. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, likewise the father takes the son back, not asking that he restore the wealth he lost in sinful living.

Concerning the second, we see as we have already noted that death is what is being defeated, Satan is the one who we are in bondage to, not God. By placing God as the one who is unwilling to forgive us our debt, it is He who we are in bondage to death with, not Satan. This is attested to by the Fathers:

But since it was necessary also that the debt owing from all should be paid again: for, as I have already said , it was owing that all should die

St. Athanasius, “Incarnation of the Word,” Chp. 20)


…he means that the devil held possession of it, the bond which God made for Adam, saying, “In the day thou eatest of the tree, thou shalt die.” (Genesis 2:17.) This bond then the devil held in his possession. And Christ did not give it to us, but Himself tore it in two, the action of one who remits joyfully.

St. John Chrysostom, 6th homily on Colossians)


There is a third key change in Anselm’s view that makes a major shift from the view of the Early Church, indicated in the previous quote, and that is what is being atoned for. In the first understanding it was the broken relationship with God, the Lack of His life giving energies, lack of a union with. In Anselm’s view, it is the debt of broken honor with God that is the problem to solve and fix. The whole goal of Christ’s death and resurrection has moved from redeeming us from death and Satan by defeating Him, to paying back God for the honor due Him that we cannot pay ourselves. This was arrived at by deductive logic on Anselm’s part by making what should have been analogical the reality.

The Reformers modified this a bit, but used the same principles as Anselm, and thus it has the same problems. Instead of using the debt analogy, a juridical analogy replaced it. Instead of a debt of God’s honor, it is breaking God’s Law. Instead of owing a debt, we are guilty of Law breaking. Instead of Christ dying to satisfy God’s honor, He dies to satisfy God’s justice. Instead of salvation being the fulfilling of the debt, it becomes the declaring innocent of the guilty due to Christ taking our punishment.

Still, God is the one with a problem in that He cannot forgive us outright, but He must punish someone to satisfy His justice. Christ is the only one who can take it and not be defeated by it, and so He becomes man in order to take our place. Salvation is still understood in terms of something other than a relational oneness in Christ; a clearing of us from a legal problem. It still contradicts the Bible which shows God the Father as forgiving many without needing to punish someone for it. It is still based on premises about salvation and the Father that are not evident in the Early Church or Scriptures.

Missing from the satisfaction theory are the points we derive from another analogy used by the Fathers and the Scriptures, that of healing. Actually, the Greek word used for salvation is the same word translated as “heal.” Context and theology determines the translation choice. It basically is a word that means wholeness or completeness. For Orthodoxy it indicates the fullness of how we were created. We are sick, and need healing because of the corruption we are subject to. In this picture, there is no owing or guilt directly involved, though it is in the background of how we got here. Rather, there is a healing of our souls going on. The analogy of debt and justice totally miss this whole context which is much frequently used in the Fathers. Even the Eucharist is referred to as the “medicine of immortality.” That is why to get a complete picture, we need to keep all the analogies before us.

These are given us not only to understand what is salvation and how Christ chose to accomplish that in Orthodox theology, but also to show the basis for the view that many of us had as converts from Protestantism. We can see not only why Protestants understand things the way they do in relation to salvation, buy why Orthodox understanding is different. It is relational with God, not legal or financial in nature. That changes the whole perspective in how we approach salvation. It is not a one time deal, a declaring “not guilty,” but a continuing relationship with God. It is not a matter of works or faith, but a obedience to God of love which draws us closer to Him. It is not a matter of paying back something in full to God like a transaction, but a journey with Him into wholeness as we were originally created. It is the journey that saves us as we follow Him, taking His yoke upon us, carrying the cross we have been given. So we with repentance and humility work to become more in union with Him as the Church guides us.
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby Sobornost » Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:22 pm

I've just ordered a copy and been reading the reviews on Amazon. It's only published in America currently so I won’t have a copy for a few weeks. I'm intrigued from the reviews that the author makes a connection between Calvinism and Gnosticism apparently. It has always struck me as curious that some of the Gnostics were very elitist - contrary to New Ager perceptiosn of them as the touchy feely 'real Christians' silenced by an authoritarian Church. Many Gnostics argued that there were/are three types of human beings - the hylicals, the psychics and the pneumatics. The hylicals were/are the majority of us and have absolutely no prospect of salvation - is a parallel drawn between the hylicals and the reprobates in the book? I also note that during the Reformation, with all of its upheaval and anxiety, deterministic astrology enjoyed a great upsurge in Protestant as well as in Catholic countries - alhtough this type of astrology had been outlawed inthe MIddle Ages (one of the few good things that Augustine did); and I wonder if a link is made between deterministic astrology and Calvinist predestination in the book?

Finally one Amazon reviewer has made some dark hints about the author of this book being a prominent gay activist. It doesn’t mater to me if he is - but I wonder if you know anything about this? It sounds like the reviewer is playing to people’s fears to discredit the book.

Thanks for reading this.


All the best


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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby rmmahoney » Sun Mar 18, 2012 3:34 pm

No, the author isn't the gay one. They are both authors that happen to have the same name.
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby Melchizedek » Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:06 am

Another great post. Thanks for this analysis.
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby Sobornost » Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:53 pm

Ditto RM -

Great post; and thanks for the analysis and for information about the writer. Yes, I thought the review on Amazon USA that I mentioned was potentially rather unpleasant in mentioning this irrelevance after having awarded the book a very good rating – like this is a really clever book but be warned about the person who is writing it -and it’s good to know just how irrelevant the review is whatever anyone’s opinions of the gay issue are.

As for the stuff about Gnosticism - will wait until I’ve e read the book - so don’t fuss yourself about getting back to me about this; just keep the good work with the excerpts (was just making conversation!). But I am interested and hope the reviser who mentioned this as an aspect of the books analysis of TULIPism was right. You know Gnosticism is a very exciting word, bandied about all over the place; but I find it instructive that the sorts of believers who reach for the term at every opportunity may well hold beliefs similes to those of some of the ancient Gnostics.

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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby pilgrim » Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:59 am

rmmahoney wrote:3. Penal substitution misunderstands the Old Testament sacrifices.

The Old Testament sacrificial system was not a picture of penal substitution. God was not pouring out His wrath on the animals in place of the Israelites. He didn’t vent His righteous judgment on the animals, sending them to hell in place of the Israelites. On the contrary, they were killed honorably and as painlessly as possible. Their life (i.e. their blood) was offered to God as a sweet smelling aroma. The resulting meat was good and holy—not just worthless carrion fit for dogs and vultures. Such is also the case with Christ’s sacrifice: it is a holy offering of blood to the Father, not a means whereby god can vent His wrath.


I'm hoping you can give me some further help on this one. I can't get my mind-set from the idea thast the animal was, in some way, representing ourselves.

Could you further explain why God instituted the sacrificial system from the OE perspective?
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby rmmahoney » Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:20 am

Hi Pilgrim,

That was also a hard concept to wrap my mind around. It's really hard to view the sacrifice as an act of expiation rather than an act of propitiation, when that western view is the only view you have ever known.

Here is an excerpt from a piece that helps explain it.

http://becomingorthodox.wordpress.com/2 ... sacrifice/


As I researched the subject, I discovered an essential aspect of the sacrificial system described in the Old Testament: the outer act of sacrifice should reflect the inner state of the offerer seeking personal reconciliation with God. The goal of the sacrifice was to gain interior cleansing and change of heart, not to change God. This contrasts with the pagan view, in which the efficacy of the sacrifice is not at all dependent on the state of the individual offering it. Its purpose is not to change the state of the offerer, but to appease and change the deity… [the pagan] goal has a materialistic and utilitarian motivation; its goal is not to gain interior change, healing or love, but instead to gain control over other people and objects.

1. Sacrifice was viewed as a gift. There were many kinds of sacrifices that the ancient Hebrews offered (animal, fruit, grain, wine, incense) but what was really important was that the offering was made with the knowledge that the repentant offerer was returning to God what was already His. A verbal confession of specific sins often accompanied the offering (Leviticus 5:5, 6, 13 – a very interesting precursor to the Christian rite of confession).

2. Sacrifice was viewed as a form of communion. The sacrifice was never meant to be substitutionary (again, a contrast with pagan practices). The portion of the sacrifice that was burned was thought to be consumed by God, and the remainder was often eaten by the offerer and the priest. This aspect of sacrifice is also present in the Christian understanding of the Eucharist.

3. Sacrifice provides expiation. Here’s what I discussed earlier: sacrifice is not meant to appease God (propitiation) but rather to create a change in the offerer (expiation). For the Jews, offering a sacrifice was an act of self-denial and an aspect of purification. This expiatory view of sacrifice is a commonality between Judaism and Orthodox Christianity. Both are different from the Western propitiatory view.

When Orthodox read a verse like ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3), it is understood to mean that Christ died for us – to heal us, to change us, to make us more godlike – not that He died instead of us. The ultimate purpose of His death is to change us, not to avert the wrath of God.
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby pilgrim » Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:59 am

Thanks rmmahoney that's very helpful thank you.
I'm just wondering now if you would consider:

(KJV) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1Jn 2:2

a poor translation and that 'expiation' would have been better or am I still wide of the mark?
the unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates
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Re: An Eastern Orthodox response to Calvinism.

Postby rmmahoney » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:45 pm

Pilgrim,

Here is a link you may find helpful.

Expiation vs Propitiation

http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.co ... ation.html
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
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