Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Satisfying the wrath of God?

OK. We have been here before at ADU (e.g. first of four 2010 posts here, this year here and here, the latter responding to Liturgy's posts, e.g. here). Lately I have sung 'In Christ Alone' in two versions. The one which excites controversy, "the wrath of God was satisfied," and one which attempted not to, by substituting the cited words with (from memory) "the love of God was full magnified."

Benjamin Myers, an Australian theologian of note and burgeoning reputation, has posted something interesting in relation to the question of what happened on the cross on his blog Faith and Theology. Asking the question "How does Jesus save?", he summarises the "typology" or categorisation of salvation theories by Gustav Aulen and then offers an alternative set of six explanations, grounded in Scripture and in the writings of the Fathers:

"1. Christ the Second Adam. A major theme most powerfully developed by Irenaeus in his account of recapitulation. Christ restarts the human race from the beginning and sets it on a course towards life. Christ replaces Adam as the new life-giving head of the human family. (Main scriptural source: Romans 5.)

2. Christ the Sacrifice. This is an important background theme that becomes explicit mainly in liturgical texts. Melito of Sardis' On Pascha provides the most vivid elaboration of sacrificial imagery, artfully interwoven with a plethora of other Old Testament themes and images. (Main scriptural source: the Pentateuch and the Gospel of John.)

3. Christ the Teacher. A characteristic theme of the Alexandrian tradition. Christ is the divine pedagogue who, by a slow and patient process, leads human souls up into the presence of divine wisdom. In some accounts this process extends into the afterlife. Clement of Alexandria developed this theme explicitly. The same theme supplies the basic architecture of Origen's thought. Many accounts of deification are really just elaborations of the end result of this educational process: life is a school, and deification is the graduation prize. (Main scriptural source: the four Gospels.)

4. Christ the Brother. The adoption theme is prevalent in early Christian writing. Christ becomes our brother. Through him we become members of God's family. What he is by nature, we become by grace. It is often in this context that language of deification is used: Christ is God by nature, and as his brothers and sisters we become gods by grace. Adoption language is especially pervasive in Origen. By the fourth and fifth centuries the emphasis tends to fall more on deification, but the deification theme should still be understood as a subset of either the adoption theme or the education theme (#3 above). (Main scriptural source: Romans 8.)

5. Christ the Life-giver. One finds this theme everywhere in early Christian liturgical and theological texts. It is developed with an impressive systematic rigour in the work of Athanasius. The divine Logos had to become incarnate in order to become capable of dying; by entering into death, he absorbs death into the divine life, thus draining away death's power; and by rising again, he transforms corruptible human nature into a glorious incorruptible nature. Here Christ's death and resurrection are equally emphasised as the two poles of the saving event. (Main scriptural source: 1 Corinthians 15.)
6. Christ the Healer. My impression is that this theme recurs more than any other soteriological theme in patristic writing, even though it is seldom developed in much detail. Very frequently Christ is described as a physician who cures our illness. Often he is also described as medicine. Gregory of Nazianzus speaks of the incarnation as a healing of human nature. Augustine is particularly fond of the healing theme, and it is a constant refrain in his sermons. He speaks of Adam as infecting the human race with the disease of pride, and of Christ's humility as the medicine that cures us. (Main scriptural source: the four Gospels.)"

There is food for thought here. Soteriology is a diamond with many faces!

Incidentally, Googling up the previous ADU posts led me to this brilliant post by Scot McKnight [corrected from earlier attribution to Michael Bird], in which he sets out the late, great Charlie Moule's argument for 'expiation' rather than 'propitiation' being the correct interpretation of those NT passages featuring hilasterion or related words.

What do you think? Should we still sing 'the wrath of God was satisfied' when we sing this popular hymn?


Anonymous said...

The post is by Scot McKnight, not Michael Bird. I don't know what Bird has said on the subject, but he's a fairly conservative writer.
The agument doesn't just turn on the meaning of the hilasmos word group but on Paul's use of 'orge', where Dodd (Leon Morris's sparring partner in 'The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross) was not so convincing.

Martinos Eirenopoion.


Peter Carrell said...

I stand corrected, Martin, and will correct the post.

Eric said...

If we're fiddling around with our songs, there are plenty of them far more deserving of alteration.

Peter Carrell said...

A moderated comment from Ron. I have removed that bit of it which is ad hominem.

"Peter, to me, the very thought of a God with a wrath that needs to be 'satisfied' by a self-inflicted penalty is against all the loving precepts and accumulated wisdom of 'The God Who Saves'.

The very qualification of the words salvation and redemption seem based on - not wrath - but the extension of unremitting mercy and grace.

Salvation and redemption is, one has to grant, the prerogative of the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ; who "loved the world so much....." - not to assuage God's own anger, but to provide an example of selfless offering.

Only amongst the Baals of the heathen does one find the full extent of those negative traits that forces their devotees into lives of abject abasement to their lordly influence.

After a life-time of Christian allegiance and devotion to 'The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ; I am more than ever convinced that God has not a spiteful or wrathful streak in His nature. Wrath, it seems to me, does not belong to the nature of a Loving, Compassionate Redeemer God.


I've just been reading a book by American journalist and avowed Gay Christian, Jeff Chu, entitled: "Does Jesus really love me?" - (Harper.Collins) - in which he has canvassed the religious right constituency in the US for signs of any breakthrough in institutional homophobia.

Although he finds many pockets of hatred still surviving in that particular evangelical world, Jeff has found that the situation is changing - towards a growing understanding of the need to accept that sexual sins are not the worst category of human shortcomings, and that Jesus was more concerned with injustice - towards women, the dis-enfranchised, the marginalised and the poor of society, than seemingly with sexual sins that had little or no effect on society at large.

Jesus' anger - at least, from the evidence in the gospels - was usually reserved for the legalists - those waiting to pounce on others for their perceived 'breaking of the Law'. In fact, Jesus Himself was accused of breaking the Law, in instances where he found the Law to be wanting in charity or justice. Jesus was, in fact, crucified for his tolerance of sinners!

If a loving God was really wanting to find scape-goats for His wrath, is it possible that this 'wrath' had to be visited upon his Only-Begotten Son - in order to teach us a lesson? Surely any loving fealty involved in this would have been wiped out by the exaction of God's devastating wrath?

Yes. The Sacrifice of Jesus was real. And it would appear that it was required of Him by His Father. But not for reasons of appeasing and angry God. I was a self-offering of a perfect human beings - for the sake of all humanity - an action that only a loving, merciful God could have been willing to make on behalf of His erring children.

Christ's offering on the Cross was and oblation - a gift - not an act of vengeance by an Angry God! And what needs to be remembered was that it was not the Father who put His Son on the Cross. That was US.

Anonymous said...

No you haven't Peter. The post still contains accusations of hatred and homophobia. Why are you posting abusive remarks aimed at your fellow Christians? Enough is enough. Ron may write these personal attacks, YOU repeatedly post them. And your excuses do not any longer wash. You ae the Director of Theology House. You have a responsibility to all of the Anglicans in this diocese, and your blog has become a source of hate speech against other Anglicans in this diocese who do not share Ron's views.

Which part of STOP do you not understand?

You only have two choices. Ban Ron permanently, or take this blog down. Warnings do not have any effect on Ron. Temp bans have no effect. Since his week long ban he has simply carried on with personal attacks and accusations of hatred. The week ban had zero effect on his behaviour. So half measures do not work. Moreover, your posting his accusations and attacks. So you are as much responsible.

STOP. Before it's too late. I'm not the only one who is fed up with this. The Anglicans in this diocese who do not agree with Ron's views deserve better.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
What precisely in the above comment is a 'personal attack'?

Also, in what sense is what Ron writes 'hate speech' from a liberal perspective when I allow many comments about homosexuality and homosexuals here which people from a liberal perspective could consider to constitute 'hate speech'?

It is difficult to be fair and evenhanded in moderation. But one way could be to permit no comments here from anyone, lest unwittingly someone is offended.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I appreciate a comment you have just made but I will treat it as a personal communication to me, save that I offer this citation from it to others,

"I cherish the debate that your blog allows to all of us on this site. I feel that yours - apart from Fr. Bosco's site at liturgy.co.nz, and perhaps my own poor substitute at kiwianglo - is the only accredited New Zealand web-site that actually engages in the conversations that the title of this thread seeks to encourage."

Peter Carrell said...

A comment from Martin was recently published here but on further reflection I need to excise some ad hominem material from it. Here is the moderated comment:

"Peter, I have long since ceased to read or care about or read what Ron Smith writes, not least because it would sorely try the patience I should have with a man ....

But you have made a serious tactical error allowing him every so often to appear on your blog, only to infuriate someone new with his half-baked commentary and ignorant ad hominems.

He has his own forum where he is free to say whatever he likes without editorial censorship; why are you not content to direct him to tend to his own cistern? If anyone wants The World According to Ron, they know where to go.

Tim, Shawn, myself and others who participate here certainly don't agree on everything, but I think we do so in a spirit of mutual respect. I fear that your failure to direct Ron permanently elsewhere (i.e., to tend his own vineyard) is one reason why more people don't participate in your blog. This is a great shame and it reduces the usefulness of what you are seeking to do.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
You make some good points in your reply to my challenge above but you allow some words which are not conducive to good debate, so some moderation below.

I would also make the point that Ron cites someone working on evangelicalism in the States. My reading of what some evangelicals say on blogs there is that some extreme bigotry is a feature of evangelicalism there in ways which I do not find there. There is a reason why you do not find many citations here from posts, let alone comments on (e.g.) Virtue, Stand Firm.

I simply disagree that what Ron wrote was a straightforward accusation that all conservative evangelicals do not care for the poor.

Anyway, here is the moderated comment by you:

""Although he finds many pockets of hatred"

"institutionalized Homophobia"

And the accusation that conservative Evangelicals do not care about the poor.

Stop posting such accusations. Stop making excuses. Stop pretending your being even handed. You allow Ron far, far more leeway to make such accusations than anyone else here.

Stop allowing your blog to be a vehicle for Ron's []. The fact that you had to remove ad hominem before even allowing it through is surely proof enough that Ron is not listening to you. He has highjacked your blog and is making a fool of you. Every time you allow his accusations you show zero concern for conservatives in this diocese. Sooner or later you will "slip up" and allow through the kind of vile bigotry that spat on my family and culture, that brought about Ron's week long slap with a wet bus ticket. Well. NO. I won't let that happen again.

Stop allowing Ron to use your blog to make baseless attacks on other Christians.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
I do not want to ban you again if I can help it but things are heading that way. I suggest that you use your own blog to talk about homophobia [hint: use that word in a comment here and the comment will be deleted] or to talk about groups of Christians in detrimental or negative ways: it is your blog, you can say what you like.

Here you are not free to say what you like when what you like to do is to run other Christians down, even the great Saints such as Paul!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Getting back to your post. I was wondering whether more could be added to Myers list.

What about Christ as High Priest. As well as taking in Hebrews and the Pentateuch, it includes the ascension and heavenly intercession of Christ as well.

I also think that the scholastics, such as Anslem, still deserve a hearing in these matters - though I realise its not fashionable to do so. But surely, theological insights did not cease with the fall of Rome! Or are we still required to believe in the Dark Ages?

As for the song: I heard 4000 delegates at Lausanne II sing Christ Alone in full voice. The song has already crossed cultures and continents. It was then I realised that the world church will probably be singing this song 100 years from now - and I don't think they will be altering the words!


Peter Carrell said...

Earlier I posted a comment from Shawn which included derogatory remarks about those who do not accept propitiation. In hindsight that was not fair of me to accept that comment unmoderated: here is a moderated version.

"Both propitiation and expiation are correct and both are necessary. Outside of those seeking a God [...], nobody has a problem with propitiation. And there was no controversy with that song outside of the [...] world of blogs. I asked widely, and not only could I find anyone who was concerned about it, nobody was even aware about the debate on the blogs involved.

As I said at the time, a storm (barely) in a teacup that did not exist outside the local blogosphere."

Shawn: I strongly disagree with you about the confined extent of the controversy over the song. That we recently sang a variation of the song on a diocesan occasion points to the fact that controversy over the song is NOT confined to blogs.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
You have sent a strong message to me.
Fair enough.
I am personally sorry that you are so unhappy with me, my moderation and my blog and blogging.
You are always welcome back here.

Joshua Bovis said...


It seems to be that every time the you blog a post about anything theological and/or pertaining to Anglicanism, Ron will invariably make it a post about LGBT rights and homophobia.


Peter Carrell said...

I know Joshua and have been remiss in not recognising the 'pattern'.

Tim Chesterton said...

I think we all need to recognize that each of us loves The Lord Jesus Christ, and that we all see part of the picture, and not the whole. And I also think that each of us needs to take responsibility for our own speech instead of blaming Peter all the time for what he allows and doesn't allow.

Part of the problem is that we are of differing temperaments and we come from different cultures. The working class culture I was raised in, in the English Midlands, considered it quite acceptable to insult people you loved - indeed, much of the humour turned on that. I've been away from that for many years how, so have a harder time with it, but I remind myself that it was not done originally to be unkind or vindictive.

I suppose Carl and I have some harsh disagree here, but I am not offended by the things he says to me and I consider him a brother in Christ nonetheless. If I was offended I would tell him, rather than slagging Peter for letting a comment through.

Finally, I think we need to listen to Ron at times, and consider the possibility that some of what he says about homophobia may be right. I used to categorically dismiss the idea that I was homophobic, but then the Lord opened my eyes and I came to see that of all the things I found scary ('phobic'), the idea that a gay couple might show up in my church was pretty high on the list. I had absolutely no idea how I might handle that, and I was terrified of my lack of confidence.

Peter, you run a good blog and you provide a good forum for us all. My suggestion to you is that you let us all take responsibility for our Christian behaviour toward each other. And my suggestion to the rest of us is that (a) we do our best to address each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, and (b) that occasionally we make the choice not to be offended.

Paul Powers said...

If someone has objections to this song as written, wouldn't it be better to respect its author(s) by not singing it at all?

Tim Chesterton said...

I love that Charlie Moule post; like Scot, I try to read everything of his I can get my hands on.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Tim for much needed advice re commenting!

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks for your comment, Tim. It just happens that I was brought up in the East Midlands too - although it wasn't called that at the time I'm referring to, during the Coventry blitz. I guess we wuz brung up pretty rugged then, needing to find expression for our profound disillusionment.

However, since being made a Freeman of the City of Coventry - post-engineering apprenticeship within the City boundary - I have grown into a wee bit of a curgmudgeon, eased, pro tem, by a charistmatic renewal in NZ in the 1960s, when my singing along with the Saint Paul's Singers (Aucvkland) helped to gentle my understanding of God's Love for all people. So, a seeming lack of this still gets my dander up!

I guess we sang some of the catchy associated hymns and new Songs with sometimes more affection for the tune than the words. I wonder how much of that fervour for 'the beat' still affects our spirituality?

I hope I haven't upset anyone by this unaccustomed candour!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

There is much in your post I agree with, that said, the reason I have been tough on Peter is that I have been pointing out the very pattern he says he is only just noticing for well over a year now, and have repeatedly asked that Ron's personal attacks cease for the same amount of time, with no results. I feel as though my concerns have simply been ignored, and I do not understand why. If this was just a matter of fierce debate it would be much less of a problem, but these attacks and insinuations have at times been extreme, well beyond what should be acceptable, especially on a Christian blog.

The problem with homophobia, ignoring for the moment whether it is even a legitimate description of Christian concerns with changes to marriage, is that when aimed at participants on this blog it becomes a personal attack rather than a reasoned point, and is deeply unfair. Moreover, I have two family members who consider themselves gay, and my best friend committed suicide in part over struggles with his sexuality. So the accusation that I am phobic and merely expressing hatred when I question whether or not the Church can change it's understanding of marriage is extremely hurtful and offensive. I loved my best friend, and I love my two gay family members without reservation. So I do not believe it is a fair or compassionate accusation.

I have said all this before, yet nothing changes, thus my frustration with Peter, who is ultimately responsible for what is allowed here.

Nor is this just about homosexuality. Ron attacks those he disagrees with on a variety of issues. Ron's recent week long time out came after a bigoted attack on Southerners (USA) and military people. That attack occurred almost to the day, six months after I buried my Southern, military vet father. That lacks anything remotely like Christian compassion, and Peter allowed that to be posted, despite knowing that I am still grieving for my dad.

So I think I'm well within the bounds of reasonable to feel seriously angry and hurt.

I am a serious theology geek. I love discussing and debating theology, and this forum, run as it is by someone in my own diocese, should be a safe place to do that. It is not. So sadly I am done trying to effect change or hoping that the culture here will change.

I am actually pretty thick skinned, but there are limits to what anyone should have to endure, and I have long since passed those limits in my treatment by Ron.

Peter Carrell said...

I am happy to publish the responses to Tim's comment, by Shawn and by Ron, in the spirit of 'candour' and trust and hope that each accepts the other's posts in response to Tim in that same spirit ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, I regret that I might be the cause of your disaffection with our esteemed host, Dr. Peter Carrell. In my estimation, Peter has mostly proved a magnanimous host to me personally, and to others with whom he may not agree theologically.

I, (I'm pretty sure together with Tim and others whose comments sometimes question those of other contributors on ADU), am not intent on attacks upon the person, but rather upon what we may discern as in direct opposition to what I/we feel might further the cause of openness in the Church towards the marginalised (Gospel inclusivity?).

I humbly ask for your forgiveness for any hurt I have caused you, personally. I would not want words of mine to provoke truly righteous indignation on the part of whomever they are directed to.

Mea Culpa! Agape, Ron

In explanation to you about my reference to the American 'Good Ol' Boy', I had absolutely no idea that your father had recently died, nor that he was from the Southern States, so please accept my remarks as non-directed at you or your father. May your dear father now Rest in Peace and Rise with Christ!

Pax Vobiscum, Ron

Anonymous said...

Apology accepted Ron. Thankyou. For my part I apologize to Peter for my earlier comments, especially the way they were phrased, in very unChristian terms.

I have resolved not to attempt anymore to change anything or anyone here at ADU, but rather to pray through my own feelings, and to keep my responses to what I may perceive, rightly or wrongly, as personal attacks, to simple explanations of my own theological views, without any outrage or rancor. Hopefully that will help avoid any further problems for Peter, and any distress for myself and others.

Tim Chesterton said...

Ron, I was born in a working class area of Leicester, and my parents retired in Rutland, so yes, you and I probably understand the same slang. At least we know that Jesus probably fed the five thousand with five cobs and two fishes!

Peter Carrell said...

I accept you apology, Shawn!

Anonymous said...

Tim - probably - but did he really call his disciples with the words 'Ey up mi ducks?'

Martin de Montfort

Tim Chesterton said...

Martin - it's the NT in the original Leicestershire version. It was recently discovered under a parking lot beside the bones of Richard III.

Anonymous said...

People could read and write in Leics? Truly the age of miracles is not passed. ;)

Martin Bolingbroke