Khanya (Khanya e isoe ho Molimo holimo - Orthodox Christians in South Africa)
In the previous post
I questioned the belief of some theologians that “theology of religion”
was all about whether one could find salvation in other religions. The
question assumes that “other” religions have a similar notion of
salvation to Christianity, and that “salvation” is what they are all
about. I pointed out that the concept of “salvation” is not central to
all religions, and that even Christians can’t agree about what
In at least some parts of the Christian blogosphere there has been
considerable discussion about the “penal substitution” theory of the
atonement (“penal” was the “p” word that I couldn’t remember in my
previous post). As an Orthodox Christian I have found the discussion
somewhat unreal, as Orthodoxy has never had the juridical understanding
of the atonement developed by Anselm of Canterbury, nor the penal
substitution refinement of it, developed by Calvin. As Stamoolis
(1986:9) puts it, following L.A. Zander, “The East was not influenced by
Anselm: its soteriology is different from that of the West”. As I wrote
in my doctoral thesis on Orthodox mission methods:
The schism of 1054 took place in the lifetime of Anselm of Canterbury, and he wrote his Cur Deus homo? a few years later. While the schism of 1054 appears to have been mainly about the Western addition of the filioque clause to the Symbol of Faith,
and its attempt to impose that on the East (Runciman 1988:90-91), the
heritage of Anselm is at least as significant in accounting for the
differences in the style and method of mission following the eleventh
century. Yet even this goes back a long way. At the root of the
different understanding of soteriology is a different understanding of
sin, and especially a different understanding of “original” sin. Again,
as Stamoolis (1986:9) puts it, following L.A. Zander, “The East was not
influenced by Augustine; its anthropology is different from that of the
And, because I’m lazy and don’t like typing lots of stuff, much of
what follows is also taken from my thesis, though I haven’t bothered to
indicate all the quotes.
A favourite verse of evangelical Protestants in evangelising is
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of
God”. For the evangelical Protestants, the emphasis is on the “all”.
They tend to use the verse in support of the contention that there are
no exceptions to the universality of sin; all men are sinners, therefore
all men need to repent. For Orthodox Christians, however, the emphasis
is on the glory of God. The verse is almost tautologous, because to
“sin” means to fall short, to miss the mark. In the Protestant use, the
verse is ripped out of its context, and interpreted in individualistic
terms. Evangelical Protestants interpret “all” to mean “every single
individual”, though from the context it is clear that St Paul was
comparing and contrasting Jews and Greeks — those who had the benefit of
the Mosaic law and those who did not. For Orthodox Christians, this
verse means primarily that we have all missed the mark, and the aim, the
target that we have missed is the glory of God. And the very word
“Orthodox” itself implies the remedy — instead of the curved path of the
arrow veering from the target, or falling short of it, Orthodoxy is the
straight (orthos) path to glory (doxa).
Man is created in the image and likeness of God, and the Greek
fathers distinguished between these. The image of God in man is that of a
unique person, free autonomous and creative — and this is a
characteristic that we as human beings still possess. The image of God
in man was not destroyed in the Fall. The likeness of God has, however,
been distorted or lost through sin — kindness, gentleness, generosity,
patience, joy, peace, love (Oleksa 1993:355). This likeness of God was
not a static condition in Adam and Eve — it was something they were to
grow into. What sin has done is to reorient us in harmful and
self-destructive directions. Sin has distorted, but not destroyed, the
image of God in man. And because of the effects of sin, we cannot reach
the likeness of God by our own efforts. God has revealed himself to us
as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, yet undivided. No
individual can be “like God”, because God is a communion of persons, and
Orthodox teaching therefore asserts that salvation is personal but not
individual. And this understanding is also, to some extent, found among
the Western fathers too, who speak of us dwelling in the land of unlikeness.
Salvation is the restoration of the likeness of God in man, becoming,
by grace, by God’s energy and power, like God. This process is called theosis or divinisation in Orthodox theology, and it is one that catechumens are invited to begin at baptism (Oleksa 1993:356).
In Western theology, especially since Anselm, the juridical
understanding of the atonement had been based on the idea of sin and
evil as being primarily something that God punishes us for (Rodger 1989:28). In the Orthodox view, however, sin and evil are primarily something that God rescues us from.
Salvation begins with being released “from the bondage of the enemy”.
Salvation is in the first place a liberation from bondage (Hayes
“Original sin”, in the Orthodox view, is therefore not a kind of genetic
inheritance, something carried with us, that we are born with,
inherited from our ancestors, as Western theology tends to assert (Cross
& Livingstone 1983:1010). It is better to picture original sin as
something external, something environmental, not something that we are
born with, but rather that we are born into (Cronk 1982:45; Hopko
1983:30; Davies 1971:205-205). We are born into a world that has been
stolen from God, and has become a prison. We are born into a world that
lies in the power of the evil one. We are citizens of the kingdom of
Satan by birth. We are among the goods that the strong man holds in his
palace. We are born literally possessed by the strong man (Lk 11:21). In the exorcisms preceding baptism the devil is dispossessed of his ill-gotten gains.
One manifestation of this difference in understanding of “original
sin” between the East and the West can be seen in the Roman Catholic
doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. According to
this teaching, God miraculously intervened to remove the stain (macula)
of original sin from Mary at the moment of her conception. Orthodox
theologians have generally rejected this teaching — not because they
believe that Mary was conceived sinfully, but because they do not
believe in the maculate conception of the rest of us (Ouspensky
1987:338; Hopko 1984:42). For Orthodox Christians, original sin is not
so much a “stain on the soul”, as a condition of the world into which we
are conceived and born. We are not conceived maculate, but we become
maculate by our collaboration with the evil around us (Hopko 1983:30;
If sin is falling short of the glory of God,
salvation is being redirected or reoriented towards the target, the
glory of God, or the likeness of God. As Oleksa (1993:356) notes,
catechumens are invited to begin this process at baptism. Before being
baptised, the catechumen stands at the entrance to the church, facing
east, bareheaded and unshod, and the priest breathes three times in his
or her face, and makes the sign of the cross on the catechumen’s
forehead and breast, and then prays that the catechumen’s delusions will
be removed, that they will be filled with faith, hope and love, and
will come to know the Holy Trinity, that they will walk in God’s
commandments and be pleasing to him, that their name will be written in
the book of life and that they will be joined to the flock of God’s
inheritance, that God’s name will be glorified in them and that they
will rejoice in the works of their hands and their generation so that
they may praise, worship and glorify God all the days of their lives
(Hapgood 1975:271). This is a prayer for restoration and reorientation,
for salvation and wholeness. But it is immediately followed by four
prayers of exorcism.
In the exorcisms the present condition of the catechumen is sharply
contrasted with the future condition envisaged in the prayer described
above. Before God can receive the catechumen into his heavenly kingdom,
he or she must be delivered “from the bondage of the enemy” (Hapgood
1975:273). “Conversion” therefore, is not merely a mental activity, an
exchange of one set of ideas for another, an acceptance of a new
worldview or a new ideology. Conversion is “fleeing from ‘this world’
which has been stolen from God by the enemy and has become a prison”
(Schmemann 1974:20). The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One
(I John 5:19).
Salvation as liberation
The English words “redemption” or “liberation” can be used to translate the Greek apolutrosis, which means a loosing, unbinding or setting free. Apolutrosis
could refer to the setting free of a slave or prisoner. In the Orthodox
understanding, there are two aspects of this liberation or freedom: the
“freedom from” and the “freedom to”. We are freed from bondage to sin,
evil, the devil and death. We are freed to become what God intended us
to be — free creatures created in his image and likeness. These freedoms
are inseparable. “Liberation from demonic power is the beginning of
man’s restoration. Its fulfilment, however, is the heavenly kingdom into
which man was received in Christ, so that ascension to heaven,
communion with God and ‘deification’ have truly become man’s unique
destiny and vocation” (Schmemann 1974:26). Because we are in bondage to
the devil, evil and death, we cannot attain the life of God. But by his
Death and Resurrection Christ has bound the strong man, set us free from
sin and death, and opened the way to the heavenly kingdom. As St John
of Damascus put it in his joyful Paschal hymn, sung by Orthodox
Christians at the Paschal Vigil:
This is the day of Resurrection. Let us be illumined, O
people. Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord. For from death to life and from
earth to heaven has Christ our God led us, as we sing the song of
victory (The Paschal service 1990:30).
By his Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit Christ has raised
our human nature to the heavenly places, and sent the indwelling power
of God himself to enable us to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe
1:4). We enter the heavenly kingdom by baptism.
In the first exorcism the priest says
The Lord layeth thee under ban, O Devil: He who came into
the world and made his abode among men, that he might overthrow thy
tyranny and deliver men; who also upon the tree didst triumph over the
adverse powers, when the sun was darkened and the earth did quake… who
also by death annihilated Death, and overthrew him who exercised the
dominion of Death, that is thee, the Devil (Hapgood 1975:272).
In the exorcisms preceding baptism we are first prised free from the
power of the Evil One, and then, facing the west, the direction of
darkness, renounce his kingdom. This turning to the West and
renunciation of the Satan is thus “an act of freedom, the first free act
of the man liberated from enslavement to Satan” (Schmemann 1974:27). We
then turn (convert) to the East, and accept Christ as King and God
(Hapgood 1975:274). This is very similar in form to a secular
naturalisation ceremony in which one applies for citizenship of another
country. One first renounces one’s old citizenship, and then accepts the
citizenship of the new country. So we renounce our former citizenship
in the Kingdom of Satan, and accept new citizenship in the Kingdom of
God. In the world there is a difference between citizenship by
naturalisation and citizenship by birth. In baptism, however, we are
born again by water and Spirit (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). We are not
second-class citizens of the heavenly kingdom. “What you have come to is
Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where
the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole
Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born son’ and a citizen of heaven”
The declaration of allegiance is completed by the recitation of the Symbol of Faith, and the catechumens then bow down before the Holy Trinity.
The point here is that the candidate for baptism is not free to
voluntarily renounce Satan until he or she has been prised from Satan’s
clutches by the exorcism. Liberation precedes renunciation and the
declaration of allegiance. The people of Israel could only enter into
the covenant with God at Sinai after they had been rescued from the
clutches of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (Hayes 1992a:55).
Then follows the blessing of the water for baptism. Schmemann
(1974:39) notes that water has a triple symbolism. Firstly, it is the
symbol of life. Water is an essential element of life in the world, and
so it has cosmic significance. Secondly, it is a symbol of destruction
and death; it is the dark habitation of demonic powers. Thirdly, it is a
symbol of purification, cleansing and renewal. And so the water is both
exorcised and blessed. In the fallen world, matter is never neutral; if
it is not used as a means of communion with God, it becomes the bearer
and locus of the demonic (Schmemann 1974:48). In the preface to the
blessing of the water, the priest says “Thou didst hallow the streams of
Jordan, sending down upon them from heaven thy Holy Spirit, and didst
crush the heads of the dragons who lurked there” (Hapgood 1975:278).
This is typical of the multi-level scriptural references in Orthodox
liturgy. It is a reference in the first place to the Theophany, the
feast of the baptism of Christ, when the Holy Spirit descended (Lk
4:22). But the Theophany is seen as a fulfilment of the Exodus,
announced in Isaiah 52:9-11:
Awake, awake! Clothe yourself in strength,
Christians “experience matter as essentially good, yet on the other
hand as the very vehicle of man’s enslavement to death and sin, as the
means by which Satan has stolen the world from God. Only in Christ and
by His power can matter be liberated and become again the symbol of
God’s glory and presence, the sacrament of His action and communion with
man” (Schmemann 1974:49).
There is thus a link between our baptism and Christ’s baptism in the
Jordan. But there is also a significant difference. Our baptism is for
the remission of sins (Ac 2:38), but Christ had no sins to be remitted.
He went into the waters of the Jordan, at the lowest place on the
surface of the earth, not to have his sins washed away, but to crush the
heads of the dragons that lurked there, and to reclaim the world, and
water in particular, for God. In a sense, he allowed himself to be fully
immersed in the evil of this world, and threw down the gauntlet in a
challenge to the powers of evil. His baptism was followed immediately by
his temptation, in which Satan met him and responded to the challenge.
Arm of Yahweh.
Awake as in the past,
in times of generations long ago.
Did you not split Rahab in two,
and pierce the Dragon through?
Did you not dry up the sea,
the waters of the great Abyss,
to make the seabed a road
for the redeemed to cross?
Those whom Yahweh has ransomed return,
they come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy in their faces;
joy and gladness go with them,
sorrow and lament are ended.
SALVATION AND EVANGELISM IN EAST AND WEST
I have noted that the difference between the Western and Orthodox
understandings of sin was that Western theology tends to see sin
primarily as something that God punishes us for, and that Orthodox
theology tends to see sin primarily as something God rescues us from. I
also noted that Protestant theology has tended to divide salvation into
two dimensions or processes: justification and sanctification, while in
Orthodoxy the dimensions were liberation and deification. Where Orthodox
and Protestants have discussed these matters, much of the discussion
has tended to revolve around the contrast between justification and
deification in salvation. This has led to much misunderstanding on both
sides. In part it is a result of the difference in the style of doing
Western scholars who have been influenced by the Enlightenment tend
to misrepresent Orthodox theology at this point. Bosch (1991:394), for
example, quotes such scholars as saying that the Orthodox understanding
of salvation was a “pedagogical progression”. Aulén (1970:13), however,
points out that “the interpretation of the Christology of the period as
‘a work of the Hellenistic spirit’, intellectualistic and metaphysical
in character, and of its doctrine of salvation as ‘naturalistic’, rests
rather on the presuppositions of nineteenth-century theology than on an
objective and unprejudiced analysis of the actual work of the Fathers.”
The Western misunderstanding of Orthodox theology is even clearer in
Bevans and Schroeder (2004), two Roman Catholic missiologists. They
analyse mission history in relation to six theological “constants”:
Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, salvation, anthropology and
culture. They interpret these in terms of three theological models,
which they call A, B and C, and there is a key figure who characterises
each type. For Type A the key figure is Tertullian of Carthage; for Type
B it is Origen of Alexandria, and for Type C it is Irenaeus of Lyons.
The understanding of salvation in Type A is satisfaction, in Type B an
exemplar model, and in Type C it is liberation (Bevan & Schroeder
If one examines the six constants in terms of each model, it is clear
that their Type C is closest to Orthodoxy. Type C’s Christiology,
ecclesiology, eschatology, view of salvation, anthropology and view of
culture are all Orthodox. This is not surprising, since Irenaeus is a
saint of the Orthodox Church, and is regarded as one of the fathers of
the Church, while Tertullian and Origen are not. What is surprising,
however, is that Bevans and Schroeder, when looking at the constants in
six different historical contexts, consistently assign Orthodox mission
theology to Type B in all six.
For Protestants the emphasis is on the Word. Theologians
have written about deification because it was the subject of argument
and debate. But liberation (or redemption) was not debated or argued:
for Orthodox Christians it was simply assumed. It is found primarily in
the liturgy and ikonography of the church rather than explicitly stated
in works of dogmatic theology (Hayes 1992a:56). Protestant theologians
who read books about Orthodox theology without participating in Orthodox
worship can therefore easily miss the point entirely. The experiential
and enacted theology of Orthodoxy does not seem to them like theology at
all, because it is not “systematic”. Again, to quote Stamoolis, “The
East was not influenced by Aquinas, its methodology is different from
that of the West.”
Schmemann (1974:21), writing about the exorcisms preceding baptism, notes this:
It is not our purpose to outline, even superficially, the
Orthodox teaching concerning the Devil. In fact the Church has never
formulated it systematically, in the form of a clear and concise
“doctrine.” What is of paramount importance, however, is that the Church
has always had the experience of the demonic, has always, in plain
words, known the devil. If this direct knowledge has not resulted in a
neat and orderly doctrine, it is because of the difficulty, if not
impossibility, rationally to define the irrational. And the demonic and,
more generally, evil are precisely the reality of the irrational.
Like Schmemann, I do not intend to systematically formulate the
Orthodox teaching concerning the devil. But if liberation from the power
of the devil is an essential part of the Orthodox understanding of
salvation, then it is also an essential part of the Orthodox
understanding of mission and evangelism, and will, or ought to,
influence Orthodox mission methods. I believe that it also illustrates
some of the differences that can be discerned between Orthodox and
Western mission methods.
Bosch (1991:411ff) lists eighteen different understandings or
definitions of evangelism that have been common in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries. Most of the debates, however, have been about
evangelism as an activity. Evangelism is the proclamation of the evangelion, the good news, the gospel. But there has been very little discussion about what actually constitutes this evangelion. What is the content of the proclamation? What is the news, and why is it good? (Hayes 1992a:50).
For those who believe in the penal substitution of the atonement, the
“good news” is that God isn’t going to thump you for your sins because
he has already punished his sinless Son for the evil deeds of his sinful
To Orthodox Christians, this looks like a disagreement between the
persons of the Holy Trinity. In the Orthodox understanding, mission is
trinitarian. The Father sends the Son and the Holy Spirit into the world
to liberate it from bondage to the evil one.
Orthodox evangelism is thus different from the evangelism of those
who believe in the penal substitution theory of the atonement. The
content of the evangel, the good news, is different. The strong man
holds his goods in peace until one stronger than him comes, not as a
conquering hero, but in the guise of one of the prisoners, one of the
inmates of the concentration camp. He breaks the gates of the prison
with its bolts and bars (depicted in the ikon of the resurrection, where
Christ tramples upon the doors of hell, while raising Adam and Eve from
The good news is that
Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
Aulén, Gustaf. 1970. Christus victor. London: SPCK.
Bevans, Stephen B. & Schroeder, Roger P. 2004. Constants in context. a theology of mission for today. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Bosch, D.J. 1991. Transforming mission: paradigm shifts in theology of mission. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Cronk, George. 1982. The message of the Bible: an Orthodox Christian perspective. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Davies, J.D. 1971. Beginning now: a Christian exploration of the first three chapters of Genesis. Philadelphia: Fortress.
Hapgood, Isabel Florence (ed). 1975 . Service book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church. Englewood, NJ: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.
Hayes, Stephen. 1992a. Evangelism and liberation, in Theologia Evangelica, Vol. 25(2) June. Page 49-57.
Hayes, Stephen. 1992b. Mission as African initiative. Pretoria: University of South Africa. (Study Guide for Missiology IIIB Course, MSB302-G).
Hayes, Stephen. 1993. The IViyo loFakazi bakaKristu and the KwaNdebele
Mission of the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria. Pretoria: University of
South Africa, M.Th. dissertation.
Hayes, Stephen. 1998. Orthodox mission methods: a comparative study. Pretoria: University of South Africa. D.Th. thesis.
Hopko, Thomas. 1983. The Lenten spring. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Hopko, Thomas. 1984. The winter Pascha. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Oleksa, Michael (ed.). 1987. Alaskan missionary spirituality. New York: Paulist.
Oleksa, Michael. 1992. Orthodox Alaska: a theology of mission. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Ouspensky, Leonid & Lossky, Vladimir. 1989. The meaning of icons. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Ouspensky, Leonid. 1987. Iconography of the descent of the Holy Spirit, in St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly. Vol. 31(4). Pages 309-337.
Rodger, Symeon. 1989. The soteriology of Anselm of Canterbury: an Orthodox perspective, in Greek Orthodox Theological Review. Vol. 34(1). Pages 19-43.
Runciman, Steven. 1988. The great church in captivity: a study of
the Patriarchate of Constantinople from the eve of the Turkish conquest
to the Greek war of independence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schmemann, Alexander. 1973. For the life of the world: sacraments and Orthodoxy. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Schmemann, Alexander. 1974. Of water and the Spirit: a liturgical study of baptism. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Orthodox theology, atonement, missiology, penal substitution
The significance of the “Antilytron” [*]
distanced itself from the Orthodox faith of the Church, its
understanding of important issues pertaining to salvation was lost.
Totally ignorant of how these issues can be misleading, Protestantism in its turn “inherited” the fallacious Papist positions and in fact, it quite often made them even hazier.
One such issue, which has been misconstrued to the point of blasphemy by the Westerners, is the issue of the “Antilytron”.
In their pursuit of Thomas Aquinas’ erroneous theories, Westerners
developed their own juridical system by which they explain the
‘function’ of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in the salvation of
Although there may be small differences between the various Western religions, they make the following, general assertions:
“Adam sinned, therefore in his person, all of mankind after him partook
of sin. Everyone consequently had to undergo death, as they too were
deemed guilty of the original sin. However, no sinner was as worthy as
the relatively sin-free Adam to pay for the sins of all mankind. Thus,
in order to satisfy His sense of justice, God sent the sinless Jesus
Christ to suffer death in the place of mankind. This was the way that He
“paid for the release” of mankind –as Adam’s equal- and whomsoever
believes in His sacrifice, is released from death.”
But if we observe these assertions more carefully, we will realize that
they are also irrational, and have nothing to do with the Christian
faith, and especially with God’s justice and the incarnation of the
The problems with the juridical position
First of all, let’s take a look at some of the initial problems that the above positions create:
a. If Adam was the one who sinned, why did God consider all of mankind guilty? Isn’t that unfair?
b. If, however, God didn’t consider all of mankind guilty, then what
kind of justice was that which had to be satisfied, by demanding the
death of someone who is not guilty?
c. Was Jesus Christ truly an equal to Adam, who was a mere creation?
d. What kind of judge is so unfair, as to consciously condemn someone
innocent to death, in order to save someone guilty? This act would have
been the pinnacle of injustice! It would have been far easier and more
generous, to grant absolution to the guilty party, rather than allow
someone innocent to die unjustly.
e. If the ‘offer for release’ (=the Lord’s self-sacrifice) was in fact
the offering demanded for the freeing of mankind from death (as in cases
of abduction and the ransom demanded), then to whom was this ‘offering’
f. If this ‘offering’ was made to God, then God must be identified as
the ‘abductor’ who demands an offer for the release, and who would also
be satisfied by one’s condemnation to death.
g. If the ‘offering’ was made to the Devil, then it must have occurred,
despite the will of the just Lord. So, how did the Devil compel God to
deliver His innocent Son to death, as an ‘offer for the release’ of
mankind? That would mean the Devil has power over God!
The significance of the word “Lytron” (an offer for one’s release/freedom)
The various misinterpreters of this topic say that “Lytron” implies the
compulsory payment of a certain sum of money for the release of a
captive. But let’s see what the word really means, in the Holy Bible:
“When these things begin, you must rise up, and lift up your heads, for your final release is imminent” (Luke 21: 28).
“….we sigh, in anticipation of the adoption, of the release of our bodies”. (Romans 8: 23).
that the above words are used in reference to the Second Coming of the
lord, they cannot possibly imply a payment of any kind. It is therefore
obvious, that the expression “final release” signifies a setting free,
without any payment demanded.
”Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He visited and implemented the release of His people..” (Luke 1: 68).
In this excerpt also, it indicates that the “release” has already taken
place (text is expressed in the past tense), before the time of the
Lord’s sacrifice. We see therefore that nothing was actually “paid”,
and that the word “lytron” is used in the sense of “releasing” or
the word “lytron” when used in reference to the Lord’s sacrifice,
doesn’t necessarily imply the payment of a certain amount; it bears the
meaning that this sacrifice released/liberated us, WITHOUT A PAYMENT
being involved, to anyone.
Was Jesus Adam’s equal?
Heresies that do not admit the divinity of Jesus Christ are somewhat
justified in making this mistake, hence, they are not able to comprehend
the true meaning behind Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as analyzed below.
Those however who are entirely inexcusable are the ones who –although
admitting Christ’s divinity- maintain that Adam was the Lord Jesus’
Let’s take a look at a few Scriptural excerpts on this topic, where the
superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice as compared to Adam’s disobedience is
made very evident.
Romans 5: 15 - 20
ουχ ως το παράπτωμα, ούτω και το χάρισμα. Ει γαρ τω τού ενός
παραπτώματι οι πολλοί απέθανον, πολλώ μάλλον η χάρις του Θεού, και η
δωρεά εν χάριτι τή τού ενός ανθρώπου Ιησού Χριστού, εις πολλούς
ουχ ως δι ενός αμαρτήσαντος το δώρημα. Tο μεν γαρ κρίμα εξ ενός εις
κατάκριμα, το δε χάρισμα εκ πολλών παραπτωμάτων εις δικαίωμα. Ει γαρ τω
τού ενός παραπτώματι ο θάνατος εβασίλευσε δια τού ενός, πολλώ μάλλον οι
την περίσειαν τής χάριτος, και την δωρεάν τής δικαιοσύνης λαμβάνοντες,
εν ζωή βασιλεύσουσι δια τού ενός Ιησού Χριστού.
ουν, ως δι ενός παραπτώματος εις πάντας ανθρώπους εις κατάκριμα, ούτω
και δι' ενός δικαιώματος εις πάντας ανθρώπους εις δικαίωσιν ζωής. Ώσπερ
γαρ για τής παρακοής τού ενός ανθρώπου αμαρτωλοί κατεστάθησαν οι πολλοί,
ούτω και δια τής υπακοής τού ενός, δίκαιοι καταστάθησαν οι πολλοί.
...ού δε επλεόνασεν η αμαρτία, υπερεπερίσσευσεν η χάρις...
misbehaving is not the same as giving. Because, if through one’s
(Adam’s) misbehavior the majority suffered death, by comparison the
Grace of God and the gift in Grace of the one person, Jesus Christ, was
made abundant to many.
And the gift was not as though from one who had sinned. While the
judgment that befitted the one (Adam) resulted in condemnation, the gift
(Christ’s sacrifice) that sprang from the misbehavior of many, resulted
in vindication. For, if with the misbehavior of one (Adam), death came
to reign on his account, on the contrary, those who received the surplus
of Grace and the gift of justice shall reign in life, through the one:
So therefore, just as through one misbehavior (Adam’s) all people were
condemned, thus through one justice (Christ’s), all people were
vindicated for life. Because, just as through the disobedience of one
(Adam), many became sinners, thus through the obedience of one (Christ),
many became just.
Therefore, wherever sin was abundant, there Grace was excessively abundant.
What more can one say? It is clear here, that while Adam’s sin became
the cause of sin for many, the Lord’s sacrifice was obviously far
superior, in than it not only erased Adam’s sin, it erased all the
accumulated sins of billions of sinners!
betide, if the Lord’s sacrifice had only the same worth as the
imperfect Adam! Because the Lord, apart from being God, was also a
perfect person. Adam on the other hand had not been created perfect,
only “very good”. And the expression “very good” is a far cry from
“perfect”, just as the expression “in his image” is lacking by
comparison to the expression “in his likeness”. (Genesis 1: 31).
The recipient of the Lytron
If the Lord’s sacrifice was the “price” paid for the release of mankind
from the bonds of death, it could not have been paid to God, because
the one who reigns over death is the devil, and not God:
that through death, He (Christ) may abolish the one who held the power
over death - that is, the devil – and release those who, through fear of
death, were forever subject to bondage….” (Hebrews 2: 14 - 15).
then, if God had to pay something to the devil, it would mean that God
didn’t have the power to impose His will “for free”. That would have
made the devil a victor. However, the devil and all of his “crew” were
in actual fact defeated, when Jesus died on the Cross. (Colossians 2: 13
- 15). If Satan were to receive a ‘release payment’ in order to set
mankind free from the bonds of death, then Satan would have been
victorious, and not Christ.
At any rate, the Holy Bible says
that “God is Love”, not “justice”, so there is no chance that God would
have wanted to sacrifice Love for the sake of a supposedly offended case
of justice that required reciprocation. Not to mention that the death
of an innocent person in the place of guilty persons would have
signified injustice, and not justice.
God didn’t harbor any
hatred for mankind on account of their sins! It was mankind that
perceived God as a judge, on account of their own, unclean conscience:
“…for, although we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the
death of His Son….” (Romans 5: 10)
God always loved us as a
father, and never demanded satisfaction for any supposedly “offended
justice” of His. We see this, in John I, 4: 9. 10:
was God’s love for us made evident: that He sent forth His only Son into
the world, so that we might live, through Him. In this, is Love: it is
not because we loved God, but because He loved us and sent forth His Son
for the atonement of our sins.”
The significance of the Lord’s sacrifice
For Christians however, the significance of the Lord’s sacrifice is
already known. Christians do not equate the worthiness of the Lord with
Adam; they do not equate God with an unjust and insane assassin; they do
not become the devil’s advocates.
The Church teaches that the
Lord Jesus Christ became a perfect human so that - being one of our kind
- He would defeat all those things that defeated and brought about
sickness to human nature.
In His (Christ’s) person, human nature overcame sin, the devil and
death. Because whoever allows himself to be defeated by someone, becomes
that person’s slave”. (Peter II, 2: 19).
Therefore, in order
for the Lord to rise from the dead and thus defeat death, He first had
to die. But now, through faith in Jesus Christ, and in communion with
His Body –the Church- every person can partake of this victory!
Translation by A. N. Greek text
* Antilytron (Greek): anti (= in place of), lytron (= an offer for someone’s release/freedom)