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First published January 1, 1930
Man had been created by God that he might have life. If now, having lost life, and having been harmed by the serpent, he were not to return to life, but were to be wholly abandoned to death, then God would have been defeated, ad the malice of the serpent would have overcome God's will. But since God is both invincible and magnanimous, He showed His magnanimity in correcting man, and in proving all men, as we have said; but through the Second Man He bound the strong one, and spoiled his goods, and annihilated death, bringing life to man who had become subject to death. For Adam had become the devil's possession, and the devil held him under his power, by having wrongfully practised deceit upon him, and by the offer of immortality made him subject to death. For by promising that they should be as gods, which did not lie in his power, he worked death in them. Wherefore he who had taken man captive was himself taken captive by God, and man who had been taken captive was set from the bondage of condemnation" (as quoted on 9-10).Irenaeus wrote:
God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man” (Against Heresies, ed. Paul A. Böer, Sr., (Veritatis Splendor Pub., 2012), III, XVIII, 7, p. 273).For Irenaeus, ‘recapitulation’ means Christ gathering up the old humanity in order to ‘recapitulate’ or ‘sum up’ (by way of repetition as done in a rhetorical summation) the humanity into a new and complete formation. See below:
He was not to be born but that, according to the promise of God, from David’s belly the King eternal is raised up, who sums up all things in Himself, and has gathered into Himself the ancient formation [of man] (Id., III, XXI, 9, p. 283).Or,
… it is He who has summed up in Himself all nations dispersed from Adam downwards, and all languages and generations of men, together with Adam himself. Hence also was Adam himself termed by Paul ‘the figure of Him that was to come,’ because the Word, the Maker of all things, had formed beforehand for Himself the future dispensation of the human race, connected with the Son of God; God having predestined that the first man should be of all animal nature, with this view, that he might be saved by the spiritual One (Id., III, XXII, 3, p. 285).The Incarnation is part of God's atoning work. He must become man to rescue man from the bondage of the evil. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death," the Eastern Orthodox Easter hymns goes. By death death is conquered. By the Second Adam's obedience the first Adam's fall is corrected. Salvation is effectuated by "recapitulation," where the fallen or lost creation (to the devil) is restored and perfected. (The Hebrew word "tikkun olam," repairing the world, has the same idea, except that there is no 'fall' in the Hebrew conception of redemption and that we are the co-creators with God in the ongoing creation of the world, as in the prayer of blessing that endows God's creative power in the creaturely beings.) If Christ's death on the cross defeats the power of death, His resurrection perfects the creation through the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the entire life of Christ--from his birth to death and through resurrection and ascension--is the work of atonement through which God reconciles himself with the redeemed world.
[Dualism] is used in the sense in which the idea constantly occurs in Scripture, of the opposition between God and that which in His own created world resists His will; between the Divine Love and the rebellion of created wills against Him. This Dualism is an altogether radical opposition, but it is not an absolute Dualism; for in the scriptural view evil has not an eternal existence (5, n.).Luther is a master of juxtaposing the opposites: between God's Love and Justice, God Wrath and Mercy, Freedom and Bondage, the Law and faith, etc.--the rhetorical skill that he employes to retrieve the forgotten classical view of atonement that the Greek Fathers, whom he read and frequently quoted, held. For example, Luther wrote:
What is it now to be a 'Lord'? It is this, that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death and all oe. For before, I had not yet had any Lord, nor King, but had been held captive under the devil's power, doomed to death, ensnared in sin and blindness... Now, therefore, those tyrants and gaolers are all crushed, and in their place is come Jesus Christ, a Lord of Life, righteousness, all good and holiness, and He has snatched us poor lost men from the jaws of hell, won us, made us free, and brought us back to the Father's goodness and grace (quoted on 105).In summarizing Luther's view of atonement, Aulén makes the following two observations:
First, that we are again listening to the classic idea of the Atonement--indeed, we get the impression that it is being presented with a greater intensity and power than ever before; and, second, that the dramatic view of the work of Christ, which Luther so emphatically expresses, is organically and inseparably connected with his doctrine of Justification. That we are justified through Christ is, he says, one and the same thing as to say that He is the conqueror of sin, death, and the everlasting curse (107).Irenaeus and Luther's view of atonement is to be contrasted with Anselm's view, which Aulén labels the "classical" view. It is a familiar idea we hear in Protestant churches. Aulén summarizes:
Men are not able to make the necessary satisfaction, because they are all sinful.Aulén emphasizes, "the whole structure [of the argument] is built on the basis of the penitential system" (86). Someone must pay the wages of sin. Since man sinned, man must pay it. But no man can pay because no man can carry the weight of sin of the entire humanity. Thus God becomes a man and offers himself to propitiate for human sin. The Reformers later rationalized further and reduced the Latin or judicial theory of atonement almost to a science. Crucial to Aulén is the shift of the work of atonement as from God's action to human action. It is humanity in Christ that atones for sin. Christ's sacrifice is the penance offered to God for human sin: "... it is absolutely necessary that satisfaction be made by man to God's justice" (89). The Latin view also isolates Christ death from the rest of his life as the atoning work. The Incarnation or resurrection does not figure into the work of salvation. In short, "[t]he relation of man to God is treated by Anselm as essentially a legal relation, for his whole effort is to prove that the atoning work is in accordance with justice" (90). The Latin view was held by the later medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and is dominant in Catholic theology, as is expressed in the Mass. It was still later developed into a tight rationalistic system by the 18th century Protestants (132).
If men cannot do it, then God must do it. But, on the other hand, the satisfaction must be made by man, because man is guilty. The only solution is that God becomes man; this is the answer to the question Cur Deus homo? [which is his book title ("Why God-man?")] (86)
Atonement, or Reconciliation, becomes essentially a sense of being at home in the cosmos, gained through the uplift of the soul, or a new attitude to life, characterised by harmony with the universe. Man comes to understand that all things are dependent on God, and, therefore, that which seems to disturb the harmony of things does so only in appearance (137).The work of salvation thus rest entirely on man. In 1906 the Swedish Archbishop Ekman proposed, as Aulén quotes:
...'it is simply the conversion of men that effects the Atonement;' hence 'God gives up His displeasure against a man, and reverses His sentence of judgment, when the man confesses his sin and asks for pardon, recognizes that he has rightly deserved to suffer for his sin, and earnestly applies himself to do God's will' (140).Billy Graham falls squarely within this "subjective" view of atonement with his emphasis on the conversion that he seeks to bring about by his famous 'altar calls.' Salvation is entirely a matter of subjective conversion that must be renewed and re-affirmed and thus creating perpetual insecurity with regards to one's assurance of salvation. One can never be sure of his salvation because it is entirely dependent on human's subjective or psychological process: "... the extent to which 'atonement' is effected depends upon that which is done in and by men, on their penitence, their conversion; therefore God's attitude to men is really made to depend on men's attitude to God" (142).