31 January 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day (and a few thoughts)

“And if any were to cast in prison a person who owed ten mites, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the king’s courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honour and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been. For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop.” - ST. John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily X, Rom 5:17

The problem with thinking the narrow definition of justification is "the lot" is to miss out on the goodies that follow: (using the above) the gift of all that gold, being led to the throne of the highest power, given a seat at the Table of the Maker of the Universe and a place in His eternal palaces forever.

All these are founded in the payment of the debt owed, but my goodness, our Giver God goes so, so far beyond just declaring us "not guilty!" I can't help but wonder if he might think that we're being ungrateful when we fixate on that to the exclusion of what He has brought us into in Christ Jesus!


William Weedon said...

Indeed it does:

Adopted! Beloved! Welcome home! Mine forever! Life unending! Joys abounding! etc.

His Word creates what it says, delivers what it promises, and for this, all glory be to Jesus Christ!

Elihu, the young said...

Is the declaration "not guilty," or "righteous!"

Maybe both.

God's Word creates what it says.

Anonymous said...

This is a good way to put it. It also helps to explain much of the substitutionary language in the Fathers, while recognizing that the way they discuss substitution is different than the way it developed with Anselm of Canterbury and reworked ad infinitum in the West, being the only paradigm available. It isn't that we are not ransomed, or that the justice of God is not offended and appeased, it is that salvation is not solely defined as "forgiveness" (or, justification in particularly Lutheran terminology).

It's like a kid at Christmas playing with the box and wrapping paper instead of the $500 gift they contained.

Wartburg said...

On this Earth The Lutheran Confessions are THE very best in explaining and saying what GOD'S WORD says concerning JUSTIFICATION. I hope Lutherans are not growing tired of the best food in town (thier own Confessions).We may quote here a well-considered judgment of Dr. Dorner, one of the ablest and profoundest evangelical divines of Germany, who says in a confidential letter to his lifelong friend, Bishop Martensen of Denmark, —
“I am more and more convinced that the deepest defect of Lutheran churchism heretofore has been a lack of the full appreciation of the ethical element of Christianity. This becomes manifest so often in the manner of the Lutheran champions. There is lacking the tenderness of conscience and thorough moral culture which deals conscientiously with the opponent. Justification by faith is made to cover, in advance, all sins, even the future ones; and this is only another form of indulgence. The Lutheran doctrine leads, if we look at the principle, to an establishment of ethics on the deepest foundation. But many treat justification, not only as the begin-ning, but also as the goal. Hence we see not seldom the justified and the old man side by side, and the old man is not a bit changed. Lutherans who show in their literary and social conduct the stamp of the old Adam would deal more strictly with themselves, and fear to fall from grace by such conduct, if they had a keener conscience, and could see the neces-sary requirements of the principle of justification; for then they would shrink from such conduct as a sin against conscience. But the doctrine of justification is often misused for lulling the conscience to sleep, instead of quickening it.”

Petersen said...

The narrow view of Justification, whose weaknesses Pastor Weedon warns us about, is not the view of the Book of Concord. Rather this narrow view is that which is often called the "forensic" model. Certainly this, "not guilty," is the dominent way of speaking the Scriptures. The Temple sacrifices were mainly about payment for sins and the pronouncement of "not guilty." So also much of the Psalter. This is also St. Paul's main way of speaking about salvation as well. But it is not the only way the Scriptures speak. It is the main way, and arguably the most important way, but not the only. If it is the only way we speak then we miss a great deal of comforting nuance. As to the Book of Concord consider Art 4 of the Augsburg Confession where it is stated that those who are justified are "recieved into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake." The Augsburg Confession sees more than just "not guilty." They understand the decree is "righteous" and that includes being brought into God's favor. But there is no favor without "not guilty." They can't be separated and there is also a logical chronology to consider as well.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Petersen,

The court metaphor is good and useful and gets across something essential; but to stop with it and miss the home metaphor and all its richness is to cut short the Gospel, as you imply. The Gospel embraces "not guilty!" The Gospel embraces: "Holy!" The Gospel embraces: "My child! My beloved! Welcome home!"

Anonymous said...


You wrote, "But there is no favor without "not guilty." They can't be separated and there is also a logical chronology to consider as well."

Unfortunately, this chronology makes God a hater of men prior to Christ's work, and only after we deserve his love, through the admittedly free gift of forgiveness, is he even able to love us. This is a fatal flaw that has at its root a misunderstanding of the Trinity. "God" and Jesus are the One Nature. Will is proper to Nature and not to the Person. Therefore, if Jesus so loved the world that he united Himself to us and saved us BEFORE our justification (chronology!) then Jesus and God would have different wills. Jesus is the revelation of God's eternal and unchanging favor for us.

Additionally, the Temple sacrifices themselves offered no salvation or Christ would not have needed to come. They were prophecies and foreshadowings of the work that God was going to do for them and the world. Similarly, we place ourselves before the not-yet-come Judgement Seat of Christ now, in expectation and proclamation of its coming.

Anonymous said...

Clarification: When I said that Will is proper to nature, it is not my opinion. This is the Christology that Lutherans share with all other orthodox, catholic Christians. It was expounded by St. Maximus Confessor and ratified by the 6th Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) against the christological heresy of Monothelitism.

The Monothelites taught that Christ has one will becuase he is one person, the orthodox (and Lutheran) doctrine of dyotheletism teaches that Christ has two wills because he has two natures in the same way that the Trinity has only one will due to the shared, single nature of the three Persons.

Eric Phillips said...


No, that chronology does NOT make God a "hater of man," not ever. That's patent nonsense. A hater of men does not sacrifice His One and Only Son for their salvation.

Eric Phillips said...

Great quotation, by the way.

Anonymous said...

You are right, of course God is not a "hater or men" but the way that salvation is laid out skews traditional triadology. If we are "recieved into favor" because of Christ's work, then we had been "out of favor" prior to Christ's work. What does it mean then that the Triune God in the Person of Jesus Christ united himself personally with those who were "out of favor" so that God the Father could commune with them? The implication is that God the Father can't have anything to do with sinful humanity until His Justice is appeased by God the Son. So, God the Son can be born of a sinful human, but the Father has to stand back. This borders on tritheism, of a kind.