06 September 2005

Questions for the Day

Did the cross *change* God's disposition toward us or *manifest* His disposition toward us? Think of the difference it makes.

Did our Savior die to reconcile God to us or to reconcile us to God? What does 2 Cor. 5 actually say in that regard?

Is the problem that God was our our enemy or that we were HIS enemies?


Chris Jones said...

2 Co 5 actually says that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself". So the Saviour died to reconcile us to God, not the other way around.

That is, it is we who were in need of change, not He. He Who loves mankind has loved mankind from all eternity. Indeed, our very creation was an act of that love of mankind. So yes, the Cross manifests, rather than changes, His disposition towards us.

If, then, it is we that are God's enemies and not He ours, and if His disposition towards us does not change, then how is it that the Cross is a propitiatory scrifice for sin? How can the sacrifice make Him change His attitude towards us sinners, when His attitude is already one of love and mercy?

Of course, this is just another form of the question raised by St Gregory of Nazianzus in his 45th Oration: To whom, and why, is this blood, the great and most precious blood of God the High Priest and Victim, poured out for us and shed?

William Weedon said...

Bingo, Christopher. And St. Gregory's question is basically insoluable - for Scripture does not give us that data.

Perhaps Schmemann's words would help clarify a tad though:

Here, in relation to this single and all-encompassing sacrifice of Christ, is disclosed the "harmfulness" of the identification, inherent in the dismembering school theology, of the sacrifice that Christ offers for us only with the suffering and death on the cross. This harmfulness is rooted, of course, in the first place in the one-sided juridical understanding of the very idea of sacrifice as an atoning act, correlative to evil and sin as their expiation, and thus as an act that according to its very essence demands suffering and ultimately death. This understanding, however...is precisely onesided and in its onesidedness, false. In its essence sacrifice is linked not with sin and evil but with love: it is the self-revealation and self-realization of love. There is no love without sacrifice, for love, being the giving of one's self to another, the placing of one's life in another, the perfect obedience to another, is sacrifice. If in "this world" sacrifice is actually and inevitably linked with suffering, it is not in accordance with its own essence but in accordance with the essence of "this world," which lies in evil, whose essence lies in falling away fromthis world....

For Christ is perfect love and therefore perfect sacrifice. He is sacrifice not only in his saving ministry, but above all in his eternal Sonship, his giving of himself in love and in perfect obedience to the Father. Indeed we can, without fear of falling into contradiction with the classic doctrine of the complete beatitude of God, trace sacrifice to the very life of the Trinity, and even moreso, we can contemplate the very beatitude of God in the perfection of the all-holy Trinity as the perfect self-giving of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to each other, as perfect love and, hence, perfect sacrifice.

The Son offers this eternal sacrifice to the Father, transforming it through obedience to the Father in giving himself for the life of the world. He offers it through his being made man, taking on human nature, and becoming for all eternity the Son of Man. He offers it in receiving baptism from John and in taking on himself all the sin of the world. He offers it through his preaching and miracle-working. And he fulfills this offering by manifesting and granting to his disciples at the last supper the kingdom of God, the kingdom of perfect self-renunciation, perfect love, perfect sacrifice.
(Eucharist, pp. 207, 208)

Jon Townsend said...

Funny - if one answers the questions backwards, one might stumble onto the correct view of justification.

Is the problem that God was our our enemy or that we were HIS enemies?
Because we sinned we are His enemies.
Did our Savior die to reconcile God to us or to reconcile us to God?
We are the ones who are the "prodigal sons". God never moved away from us, but we from Him - so it is we who must be reconciled to God.
Did the cross *change* God's disposition toward us or *manifest* His disposition toward us?
Since through Christ's death we are washed in the blood of the lamb, and it is certainly God who is doing the washing, He moves to us, not we to Him. It is we who are changed not God.

I'll have to remember these three questions next time I discuss justification with someone.