Tuesday, November 12, 2013

                                           byArchbishop Lazar Puhalo
While Anselm of Canterbury, basing himself on one of Augustine of Hippo’s heresies, developed the “atonement” doctrine of redemption, this idea is alien to Orthodoxy. The doctrine of Atonement suggests that Christ saved us from God. The doctrine teaches that the purpose of the incarnation (“Cur deus homo” – why God became man) is this: God is infinite, so sins against Him are infinite. All the suffering of all of humanity throughout the ages could not satisfy God so that He would be able to save us. God has established a just death penalty over all mankind, and man has also inherited a personal guilt for the sin of Adam. It was necessary for someone equal to God to suffer to that God would be able to forgive those who accept the sacrifice as a vicarial death to pay off our debts and atone for our sins. This heresy is based in the dialectic of the Roman law courts and the rationalism of Aristotle. More directly, regarding Anselm, it mirrors the medieval law of the duel.
St Gregory the Theologian, on the other hand, sums up the purpose of the Incarnation as God, by overcoming the tyrant, set us free and reconciled us with Himself through His Son. It is clear that the Father received the sacrifice of Christ, not because He Himself demanded or needed it, but on account of His divine Plan...that He Himself might deliver us from the devil and his power, and by the mediation of His Son bring us back to Himself (Oration 45).
Despite faulty translations, the word “atonement” is nowhere found in the Scriptures or the Fathers. At Romans 5:11, for example, we read: “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received reconciliation (kattalagyn).” In many translation this word (kattalagynJ) is erroneously translated as “atonement, “ and given a purely juridical connotation.
St Irenae says of this, “ Truly, He Who is the Almighty Word, and true man, in redeeming us reasonably by His Blood, gave Himself as a ransom for those who had been carried into captivity” (Against the Heresies , 5, 1, 1). He affirms the words of the Scripture, “The Son of man is come...to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45) (i.e., for all). Evangelist Mark is making a direct reference to the prophecy of Hosea 13:14, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.”1 St Basil the Great repeats this in his Great Eucharistic Prayer in the Divine Liturgy “He gave Himself a ransom to the grave.”. Hosea's prophecy sums up the Orthodox doctrine of the ransom quite well, though we add to it the revelation of “Theosis.”