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Eastern Orthodox View of Salvation #2

Handout #4  10/5/14

I. Review
A. Things we have in common
B. Elect, regenerate lovers of Christ
C. The EO seem to reject three cornerstones of the Reformed and evangelical view of salvation:
1. Original sin (the concept that we all share in Adam’s guilt and inherit his sinfulness)
2. Penal substitution (the concept that Christ was punished by God upon the cross in our place)
3. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness (the concept that our salvation is based solely not on our righteousness but on “alien” righteousness, that is, righteousness from outside of ourselves, namely Christ’s righteousness counted for us)
a. The gospel is the announcement that God has done for us in Christ what we could never do for ourselves, even with His help. “This is all we have at the end of the day, and without it our ancient pedigree and customs, liturgies and rites, ecclesiastical offices and powers, are worthless.” (Michael Horton)
II. Anthropology
A. Created man was not morally perfect but perfectible. “Adam fell not from a state of righteous perfection but from a state of undeveloped simplicity.” (Letham, p.245)
1. Lower view of created man, higher view of fallen man
B. Original sin
1. No inherited guilt from Adam: explain
2. The two Adams brought death and life, not guilt and forgiveness.
3. Rom.5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
4. Rom.5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
5. Rom.5:18-19 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
6. Why is this so important?
a. Michael Horton: “If we do not grasp the representative, legal, covenantal nature of Paul’s argument with reference to the imputation of original sin, we cannot comprehend the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience as the second Adam.” (p.160)
b. Michael Horton: “If each person ‘falls’ on his own (with Satan’s help), then each person can recover with the help of the Holy Spirit, but if each of us is under sin, condemnation and death ‘in Adam,’ we can only be justified by inheriting Christ’s obedience, justification, and immortality.” (p.160)
C. The sinfulness of man
1. Father Palachovsky: “Human nature hayans not remained intact, as some theologians teach, but has become corrupt. Nevertheless, this corruption does not go so far as the protestant theologians teach.” (with Vogel in Sin in the Orthodox Church and in the Protestant Churches)
2. Anselm: “You have not yet considered how great your sin is!” This is true about us all, isn’t it? But it’s true theologically about EO.
D. Free will
1. No slavery to sin
2. What is free will? (they claim we don’t believe in it)
3. Man decides based on whatever is in his heart. But God is the One who makes him willing to choose good.
4. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t work to make us willing, we’ll always say no.

E. Michael Horton: “Orthodoxy has many healthy emphases, but its denial of the full seriousness of sin and its consequently high appreciation for the possibilities of free will keep it from recognizing the heart of the gospel.”
III. EO view of salvation
A. Different in terms of how you get saved and also what salvation is.
B. Prot: Jesus was God/man so He could be the savior: crucifixion unites God and man
C. Ever since the early Eastern church fathers, the emphasis has been more on the resurrection of Christ to overcome death than the death of Christ to overcome sin.
D. “The strong focus has been on Christ by His incarnation sharing our humanity and healing it from within.” (Letham, p. 246)
E. Michael Horton: “The reigning paradigm is relational and transformative. Humanity is on a pilgrimage — from innocence to mortality to immortality. It’s a movement from image to likeness, from natural goodness to moral goodness.”
1. Father Palachovsky: “We have been made in His image through creation, but we must become like Him by ourselves, through our own free will. To be in the image of God belongs to us by our primordial destination, but to become like God depends upon our will...” (with Vogel in Sin in the Orthodox Church and in the Protestant Churches)
F. Salvation = sanctification
G. Forgiveness and eternal life are what salvation is all about from an evangelical perspective. But from an Orthodox perspective, deification/theosis is what salvation is all about.
1. Union with God, being filled with God, abiding in Christ, being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
H. Christ is the recapitulator. He starts everything over.
I. Saved by godliness, wrought in cooperation with the grace of God
1. Father Palachovsky: “Our salvation will be the outcome of a virtuous life permeated and sealed by the inestimable blood of the Only-begotten Son of God.”
2. Father Palachovsky: Daily sins “may be cleansed through: (1) the recitation of the Miserere, (2) almsgiving, and (3) fasting.”
3. We commend their concern about works. This is an important aspect of the OT and NT. It’s just not the basis of salvation.
4. We understand the view that making salvation completely free of man’s works seems to open the door to lawlessness. This is why they accused Paul of the same thing in Romans 6.
5. It’s as if they don’t even get the distinction between law and gospel which is so emphasized in Romans and Galatians.
J. Both RC and EO consider Reformation Christianity antinomian (anti-law).
1. If being persuaded that salvation is not based on our own obedience to the law is anti-law, then we are antinomian.
2. But the obligation of believers to work out their salvation by obeying the law of Christ and doing the good works He has prepared for us has always been an emphasis in Reformed theology. IV. Legal/judicial
A. It’s hard to figure out what they believe about the atonement. They just don’t talk about it much. They are much more concerned about other things.
B. EO seems uncomfortable with the concept of the wrath of God toward sinners, a concept so foundational to Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
1. I admit that the concept of a just God who is angry at sin and whose wrath hangs over the sinner is one which understandably makes people squirm. But the issue is whether it’s true, not whether it’s pleasant.
2. But if we give up the just wrath of God, we also lose the spectacular grace of Christ.
3. Without it, there is no punishment on the cross. There is no satisfaction of divine justice.
C. Such a central feature of what Christ’s coming was all about
1. Isaiah 52:13–14 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
2. Isaiah 53:4 stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
3. Is.53:10 “an offering for guilt”
4. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
D. Michael Horton: “To miss these Biblical motifs is not merely to leave out a few pieces of the puzzle, but it is to make the puzzle into something else entirely.”
E. Christ is the creator, the Alpha and the Omega but there is little about Christ as the redeemer from sin.
F. And even when they talk about it, redeeming from sin doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for evangelicals.
1. It refers to restoring man to the way he was before the fall so that he might continue his journey toward deification (union with God).
2. They believe in repentance. They believe in crying out to God for mercy. They believe in the need for God’s help in order to change. But they don’t seem to like the idea of God holding something against us
G. Their critiques of Reformation theology complain so much about our preoccupation with the atoning work of Christ upon the cross to redeem us from sin, and they speak so little of this in their discussions of salvation, that it gets hard to believe they really believe it.
1. Let me give you an example from a well-known contemporary spokesman, Timothy Ware:
2. “Where Orthodoxy sees chiefly Christ the Victor, the late medieval and post-medieval west sees chiefly Christ the Victim. While Orthodoxy interprets the Crucifixion primarily as an act of triumphant victory over the powers of evil, the west — particularly since the time of Anselm of Canterbury (?1033-1109) — has tended rather to think of the Cross in penal and juridical terms, as an act of satisfaction or substitution designed to propitiate the wrath of an angry Father.”
a. This doesn’t mean that the eastern church denies any validity of the western view of the cross — and some of the early eastern church fathers acknowledge it clearly — but it seems at every point they diminish it.
b. And let me ask you a question: How is Christ triumphant at the cross except for by atoning for the sin of man? How is He a victor without being a victim?
H. “Back in the fourth century, Athanasius had a truncated view of the atonement. For him, the decisive fulcrum is the incarnation. Christ assumed our nature so that we, by grace, might be united to God. As a result the cross has diminished significance...Athanasius lacks reasons why Christ should have died. For him, corruption consists in fallenness rather than sin. This interest in salvation through the incarnation culminating in deification and resurrection has thereafter been the focus of the East, in self-conscious aloofness from a more legal or juridical approach.” (Letham, p.252)
1. Some have suggested that Athanasius’ doctrine of salvation is akin to a sacred blood transfusion.
I. It is in trusting in Christ’s merits alone, not trusting in our cooperation with God’s grace, that we are saved.