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Participatory atonement 2: Medieval era

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

An accurate understanding of the atonement was practically lost during the early to late medieval era. In the 12th century Anselm’s satisfaction theory and Abelard’s moral influence theory competed; Anselm’s model however, became dominant.

Peter Lombard attempted to reconcile competing theories, [1] favouring exemplary and participatory views. Penal substitution was essential to Reformation theology as a single legal satisfaction ‘once, for all’, eliminating human involvement in the process of salvation. [2] Emphasis was placed on God’s wrath and the need for violent appeasement of His anger.[3]

Penal substitution became the standard view for Reformation groups down to the 20th century,[4] though unorthodox groups such as the Anabaptists and Socinians rejected it for exemplary or participatory models.[5] [6] [7] The Catholic Church was also influenced by penal substitution. [8]

*  1080-c.1147: Robert Pullan;[9] exemplary [10]

*  d. 1142: Peter Abelard; exemplary, participatory [11] [12]

*  1100-1160: Peter Lombard; exemplary, participatory [13] [14] [15]

*  1265-1308: Duns Scotus; exemplary [16] [17] [18]

*  d. 1562: Laelius Socinus; exemplary [19] [20]

*  1527-1700: Anabaptists; exemplary [21]


[1] ‘Peter Lombard accumulated and tried to reconcile the most widely divergent opinions. He expresses the view that the death of Jesus was both a ransom paid to the devil and a manifestation of love.’, Sabatier, ‘The Doctrine of the Atonement: And Its Historical Evolution and Religion; and, Religion and Modern Culture ‘, p. 75 (1904).

[2] ‘The Magisterial Reformers made penal expiation central and set forth the once-for-all, finished work of the cross as the foundation of justification by faith alone. Luther preached it with unprecedented force (under the influence of Gal. 3); he taught that the satisfaction of divine justice and the propitiation of God’s wrath is the basis of our deliverance from sin, death, and the devil (Eißler 128–29). Calvin marshaled the biblical evidence (Isa. 53 as a key).’, Blocher, ‘Atonement’, in Vanhoozer et al. (eds.), ‘Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible’, p. 73 (2005).

[3]The Reformers introduced another view of the atonement, generally called the penal substitutionary theory. In some ways, it was similar to Anselm’s satisfaction theory, but with this major difference: Instead of grounding the atonement in the honor of God—that of which God had been robbed by the sin of humanity—the Reformers grounded it in the justice of God. Because he is holy, God hates sin with wrathful anger and acts against it by condemning and punishing sin. Thus, an eternal penalty must be paid for sin. Humanity could not atone for its own sin, but Christ did: as the substitute for humanity, he died as a sacrifice to pay the penalty, suffered the divine wrath against sin, and removed its condemnation forever.’, Allison, ‘History of the Doctrine of the Atonement’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology ( 11.2.11), 2007).

[4] ‘The penal substitutionary view has come to characterize the standard Reformed/Calvinist approach to the atonement.’, Beilby, Boyd, & Eddy (eds.), ‘The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views’, p. 17 (2006).

[5] ‘Although this theory became the standard view of the atonement among Protestants, it did not go unchallenged. The heretical Socinians developed a view similar in some ways to Abelard’s moral influence theory; it is called the example theory of the atonement.’, Allison, ‘History of the Doctrine of the Atonement’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology ( 11.2.13), 2007).

[6] ‘And they insist that Christ’s atonement requires following in his footsteps and conforming one’s own will to the divine‘, Roth & Stayer, ‘A companion to Anabaptism and spiritualism, 1521-1700’, p. 268 (2007); a comment on an Anabaptist list of articles of faith.

[7] ‘While Anabaptists stressed Christ’s example in the way of martyrdom, Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrine of atonement became the heart of the evangelical message, and its so-called “crucicentrism,” down, for example, to John Stott.’, Blocher, ‘Atonement’, in Vanhoozer et al. (eds.), ‘Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible’, p. 73 (2005).

[8] ‘Until the middle of the twentieth century, Roman Catholics also commonly held penal substitution as one element in complex theologies.’, ibid., p. 73.

[9] Also known as Pullen, Pullan or Pully.

[10] ‘Appeal might be made to a thinker like the English theologian Robert Pullan, who rejected the ransom view and in good Abelardian fashion stressed the noetic aspect that Christ “by the greatness of the price” made known to us “the greatness of his love and of our sin” (Sent. viii.4.13).’, Bromiley, ‘Atone; Atonement’, in Bromiley (ed.), ‘International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia’, volume 1, p. 357 (1992 ed.).

[11]Abelard is known as the pioneer of the subjective, moral influence, view (though he did express the objective and penal one when commenting on Rom. 4:25; as quoted by Tobias Eißler 124n30).’, Blocher, ‘Atonement’, in Vanhoozer et al. (eds.), ‘Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible’, p. 73 (2005).

[12] ‘The main point for him was the teaching of Christ and the response it evoked. Christ became man in order that He might enlighten the world by His wisdom and excite it to love for Himself (Ep. ad Rom., Opera [ed Cousin], II, 207). His death was both a lesson and also an example. Its intended effect was the kindling of a responsive gratitude and love which “should not be afraid to endure anything for his sake” (pp. 766f). When the sinner was stimulated to amendment of life in this way, God could remit eternal punishment in virtue of the conversion rather than any objective or external equivalent (p. 628). The work of Christ was thus a demonstration of divine love which removed the obstacle between God and man, not by a work for man, but by the effect in him.’, Bromiley, ‘Atone; Atonement’, in Bromiley (ed.), ‘International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia’, volume 1, p. 357 (1992 ed.).

[13] ‘Peter Lombard, though far from having Anselm’s vision, is almost equally explicit in tracing the moral element in the sacrifice of Christ’s death‘, Williams, ‘Broadchalke Sermon-Essays on Nature, Mediation, Atonement, Absolution, Etc’, p. 254 (1867).

[14] ‘As Peter Lombard, a twelfth-century theologian, wrote: So great a pledge of love having been given us we too are moved and kindled to love God who did such great things for us; and by this we are justified, that is, being loosened from our sins we are made just. The death of Christ therefore justifies us, inasmuch as through it charity is excited in our hearts.’, Bartlett, ‘Cross purposes: the violent grammar of Christian atonement’, p. 221 (2001).

[15] ‘But a more representative treatment is that of Lombard, who combines several aspects. Thus a ransom is paid and the devil is caught as in a mousetrap (Sermo i.30.2). Yet Christ’s death is also seen from the standpoint of satisfaction or merit (Sent. iii.18.2). It exerts a moral influence too, for by it we “are moved and kindled to love God who did such great things for us” (19.1).’, Bromiley, ‘Atone; Atonement’, in Bromiley (ed.), ‘International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia’, volume 1, p. 357 (1992 ed.).

[16] ‘A third general group of theories is known as the moral-influence theory. Its roots, though not its completed form, go back to Duns Scotus (d.1308) (qv).’, Colby & Williams (eds.), ‘The New International Encyclopaedia’, volume 2, p. (1930).

[17] ‘Thus Scotus did not see that Christ’s death was a punishment or that God’s justice necessarily demanded it. He could regard it as in fact a (nonsubstitutionary) satisfaction, but only because God in love freely willed to accept it as such (a doctrine known as acceptilation). Nor did it have to be infinite in scope but merely sufficient to merit initial grace for man, for which implicit faith was enough on man’s part.’, ibid., p. 357.

[18] ‘There is, however, no hint that Scotus accepts any sort of penal theory of the atonement here.’, Cross, ‘Duns Scotus’, p. 205 (1999).

[19] ‘Atonement is secured instead by penitence and a will to obey. The role of Christ’s death is that of an example of obedience.’, ibid., p. 358.

[20] ‘In reaction against the exaggerations of this ‘penal theory’ arose the doctrine, first defended by the Socinians, which denied the objective efficacy of the Cross and looked upon the death of Christ as primarily an example to His followers. Notable modern exponents of this view in England were B. *Jowett and H. *Rashdall.’, Cross & Livingstone, ‘The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church’, p. 125 (3rd rev. ed. 2005).

[21] ‘Unlike the so-called magisterial Reformation, the Radical Reformation gave pride of place to discipleship and the imitation of Christ rather than to justification and union with Christ.’, Horton, ‘Lord and servant: a covenant Christology’, p. 184 (2005).

 

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Article: Losing the Faith (14/22)

The Devil and Satan


Background of the Early Writers


That the early writers were influenced by their pagan background can easily be illustrated. On the subject of the devil we have this quotation from Tertullian. “The philosophers acknowledge there are demons; Socrates himself waited on the demon’s will. Why not? Since it is said an evil spirit attached himself specially to him even from his childhood. The poets are all acquainted with demons too; even the ignorant common people make frequent use of them in cursing. In fact, they call upon Satan, the demon-chief, in their execrations” (Apology, ch. xxii).

The Scriptural Background

In the Old Testament the use of the word devil appears just four times and occurs only in the plural form. In every instance where it is used, it refers to heathen deities, or idols. As an example we site Deut. 32:17: “They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not.” The Hebrew words translated devils are sair and shed; the latter is the common word for goat. There is no etymological link between these Hebrew words and the New Testament word diabolos.

The word Satan in Hebrew is a common noun and means opponent or adversary. The Hebrew word is carried over to the New Testament, and is used on several occasions of persons. Jesus said to Peter: “Get thee behind me Satan.” In other situations, the sinful inclinations of the human heart are termed “Satan:” Peter said to Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart … why has thou conceived this thing in thine heart?” (Acts 5:3-4). Ananias’ fraud originated in his own heart with his own covetousness; this sinful impulse is metaphorically termed Satan – “adversary.”

The word devil in the New Testament is a translation of the common Greek word diabolos, meaning false accuser. Jesus used the word of Judas Iscariot in John 6:70. “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” The term is also applied to the sinful tendencies of human nature and to those organizations of men dominated by sin. Heb. 2:14 is an example of the former usage: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he [Jesus Christ] also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.” The latter use is seen in Rev. 2:10: “Behold, the devil [pagan governmental authorities] shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried…”

Article here.

Article: Losing the Faith (13/22)

The Trinity


There is One God

“The object of our worship is the One God” (Tertullian: Apology, xvii). A characteristic teaching of the Christian faith from the beginning was that there is one God. In this respect, Christian teaching mirrored Jewish belief as opposed to pagan concepts of the time.

All who bore the name of Christ recognized this fact, and even when Trinitarian ideas had taken hold, the basic concept of One God was always declared. The inconsistency between monotheism and the doctrine of the Trinity, obvious to Jews and perhaps to pagans, was not admitted by trinitarians.

While exalted by many denominations today, the trinitarian concept was not part of the original gospel and took some time to develop in the early church. It began with confused ideas about the nature of Christ and his eternal relationship with the Father.

The Second Century

The Epistle of Barnabas speaks at length of the work and atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the author’s teaching appears to be scriptural.

Irenaeus makes some statements that are bold and true: “He created all things, since he is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence” (Against Heresies, II, i).

“The Father Himself is alone called God … the Scriptures acknowledge Him alone as God” (II, xxviii.4). “These (the apostles) have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ, the Son of God” (III, i, 2). “Neither the prophets, nor the apostles, nor the Lord Jesus Christ in His own person, did acknowledge any other Lord or God, but the God and Lord supreme … and the Lord himself handing down to his disciples, that He, the Father, is the only God and Lord, who alone is God and ruler of all” (III, ix, 1).

“Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel; that there is one God, the Maker of the universe; He who was so announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him” (III, xi, 7).

Such clear declarations of the unity of God would seem to leave no room for trinitarian teaching, and indeed, that dogma had certainly not been formulated when Irenaeus wrote late in the second century.

It is very important to emphasize that the doctrine of the Trinity is foreign to New Testament teaching. It is not simply that the word “Trinity” and the phrases “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit” are nowhere used in the Bible (which, of itself means nothing), but the fact that the very concept of God as ‘three in one’ is never found in the Scriptures (God is always described absolutely as ‘one’, never ‘three in one’). As illustrated by the following quotations, trinitarian teaching developed slowly as a result of attempts to adapt Christian theology to ideas current in the Greek philosophical systems. The attempts began with ideas relating to the personal pre-existence of Christ.

Article here.

Article: Losing the Faith (12/22)

June 8, 2007 4 comments

Christian Priesthood

Early Christianity was distinguished from both Judaism and the pagan religious system by the fact that it had no priesthood. Jesus Christ was the only high priest; all believers constituted a “royal priesthood.” There were no orders of priests acting as mediators between the believer and his God. Justin Martyr says: “So we, who through the name of Jesus have believed as one man in God, the Maker of the universe, having divested ourselves of our filthy garments, i.e., our sins, through the name of His first-born son, and having been refined by the word of his calling are the true high-priestly race of God” (Dialogue, cxvi). Irenaeus says, “all the disciples of the Lord are Levites and priests;” Origen writes that “(the Lord’s) disciples are true priests.”

In Greek and Latin the words for “priest” are hiereus and sacerdos, whereas ecclesial elders were designated by the Greek word presbyteroi (presbyters or elders). It was not until late in the third century that priestly terms were used for Christian clergy. Origen is the first of the “fathers” to imply them to any degree. In the decree of the council at Antioch the clergy are called a hieration or body of priests.

Article here.

Article: Losing the Faith (11/22)

Development of the Clergy


The Apostolic Direction

The ecclesias, as the apostles left them, were autonomous and self-governing. There were bishops and traveling overseers selected for their duties by the apostles, but there was no provision for the continuation of a hierarchy. Bishops (overseers), elders and deacons appear in the apostolic church, and since qualifications are given for the guidance of the ecclesias in choosing their elders, it must be assumed that they would be assigned to their positions by the will of the membership.

In the New Testament the words bishop and elder seem to be used interchangeably, as in The Epistle to Titus, 1:5-7. “Ordain elders in every city, as I appointed thee … for a bishop must be blameless …” I Tim. 3:1-13 qualifies both bishops and deacons, emphasizing that those who serve the ecclesia must be responsible and dedicated disciples.

The Second Century

At the beginning of the second century the same order prevailed. Presbyters (elders) were elected in some manner by their respective ecclesias. The larger ecclesias would have a bishop who was also one of the presbyters. There were also deacons (and deaconesses) who took care of various arrangements, and looked after the welfare of the individual members. Each of the ecclesias was independent, though they formed a collective body. Letters of exhortation, sometimes containing reproof, were sent between the ecclesias, but one did not exercise authority over another.

Article here.

Article: Losing the Faith (10/22)

Be Not Conformed to this World



Justin Martyr writes: “We who hated and destroyed one another, now, since the coming of Christ, pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope” (First Apology, ch. xiv). Tatian (AD 150) confirms, “I do not want to rule, I do not wish to be rich, I reject military command, I have hated fornication” (Address to the Greeks, ch. xi). And Origen (AD 230) testifies that “Christians decline public offices not in order to escape these duties but in order to keep themselves for a more divine and necessary service in the church of God for the salvation of men” and “We do not fight under him [Caesar], although he require it; but we fight on his behalf … by offering our prayers to God” (Against Celsus, Book VIII, chs. lxxiii, lxxiv).

Despise Foolish Spectacles

There are many witnesses to the fact that believers, as a people apart, avoided “the racecourse and the theatre” and the spectacles of the coliseum, refusing to take part, even as spectators, with the evil practices of their day. “And ease of mind is not to be purchased by zealous pursuit of frivolities, for no one who has his senses will ever prefer what is pleasant to what is good” (Clement of Alexandria: The Instructor, Book III). “We ought to detest these heathen meetings and assemblies, if on no other account than that there God’s name is blasphemed” (Tertullian: De Spectaculis). Athenagoras, late in the second century, comments that “we have renounced such spectacles” (A Plea for Christians, ch. xxxv).

Article here.

Article: Losing the Faith (8/22)

June 3, 2007 2 comments

Infant Baptism

We could find no direct references to the baptism of infants in the second century. There is a statement of Irenaeus that has been taken to refer to the practice, but there is some question that it was so intended. Irenaeus writes: “For he came to save all by means of himself – all, I say, who by him are born again to God – infants, children, adolescents, young men and old men.” From its context, it is doubtful that the writer meant to countenance infant baptism, or that the practice was known to him (Against Heresies, II, xxiv.4).

The following note may be of help with this quotation: “The context of Irenaeus’ statement is his doctrine of recapitulation according to which Christ summed up all of humanity in himself. Involved in this conception for Irenaeus was the idea that Jesus passed through all the ages of life, sanctifying each. There is nothing specifically about baptism, but ‘born again’ makes one think of baptism. ‘Regeneration,’ a different word from what is used in the passage under consideration, regularly means baptism for Irenaeus” (Everett Ferguson: Early Christians Speak, p. 59).

Tertullian, early in the third century, writes of the baptism of infants, thereby indicating that it was done in his day; but he does not approve of it. We would assume from his comment that it was not the general practice. “Let them become Christians when they are able to know Christ. In what respect does the innocent period of life hasten to the remission of sins? Should we act more cautiously in worldly matters, so that divine things are given to those to whom earthly property is not given? Let them learn to ask for salvation so that you may be seen to have ‘given to him who asks’” (Tertullian: On Baptism, xvii).

Article here.