27 February 2007

Looking East

There's a new discussion list out specifically for Lutherans who are "looking East." You can read about it here:

click here

I see from their public page that some of my good friends are hosting the list. Yet, make no mistake about it: this is no open forum. Specifically excluded is the possibility of any Lutheran rejoinder to Orthodox apologetics. It's for hearing THEIR side of the story. Period.

What is a great shame is that Orthodoxy would seek to grow at the expense of converting Lutherans. Are there not more than enough who have never even heard the saving name of Christ that we should fill our churches with Christians lured from other confessions? Yes, I know that condemns Lutherans as well. Look at the people who tend to make up any adult catechism class among us!

There was a time when the Orthodox AND the Lutherans both took Romans 15:20,21 seriously: "and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'" May God grant both our Orthodox sisters and brothers and we ourselves the grace of repentance, that we might not confuse proselytism with the task of evangelism which the Lord of the Church has laid upon us.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Please be very careful about assigning motives. Be very careful about assuming what's going on is Orthodoxy seeking to grow.

I, for one, have no interest in "growing Orthodoxy," that being the job of the Holy Spirit. Yet I have decided to participate in that list. Why? Because when so many Lutherans, as so many Episcopalians, are staring at shipwreck ahead and are proactively seeking safe haven, conscience forbids I should keep the lighthouse dark.

love in Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

I want to second Anastasia's thoughts. The list is for Lutherans who are considering the East, not to make those who are not considering it, to consider it.

And why should such people not have a place to go and ask? If they listen to "Issues etc." they will be offered pat answers and nostrums.

If they go to the Lutheran/Orthodox dialogue list they will doubtless leave more confused than when they started, since they will be told, by the Lutherans there, either:

1. "We believe that too," and then have something re-explained or re-interpreted (e.g. the ongoing discussion of sola Scriptura); or
2. "The Orthodox don't agree with each other on this, because I have a book or article where someone who's Orthodox doesn't agree with with the Orthoodox on this list say," or
3. "The Orthodox Church of today does not believe the same as the early church," or
4. "You can teach x, but you can't teach x as doctrine," etc.

Since I became Orthodox, no one else from my former parish has come along. And that's ok with me. I've had people ask about it, but I haven't encouraged them. It's not my place to pull anyone away from where they are--our mission is targeting pagans--but neither is it my place to forbid those whose hearts the Holy Spirit has stirred. And that's how I understand the list in question. Those who want to debate, can go elsewhere. Those who want to inquire, are welcomed.

The list also gives Orthodox believers, many of them Lutheran converts, an opportunity to reflect on issues arising from Lutheranism, and to acquire an Orthodox mind with respect to those issues. That, too, is a good thing.

Wishing you every blessing and salvation in Christ Jesus, and asking your prayers for mine, I am

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Rev. A Bergstrazer said...

It appears Brother Weedon has struck yet another Orthodox nerve.
It's a wonder that Fr. Hogg has any left for Will to get on.

LoL'd at;
"Those who want to debate, can go elsewhere. Those who want to inquire, are welcomed."
Oh that so much better than 'pat answers and nostrums.'

Chaz said...

To summarize what I read from Anastasia and Hogg:

The list is for those who have already decided to abandon the purity of the Gospel, not for those who are struggling with it.

christopher3rd said...

As the one who started the Lutherans Looking East (LLE) list, I should probably explain the motives behind starting it since Pr Weedon has brought it up and has therefore publicized it to the Lutheran community much more than I had ever planned to do.

LLE is simply a resource for those from a Lutheran background that may be looking at the Orthodox Church – for any number of reasons. There are specifics about Lutheranism that are not well understood by many Orthodox priests, or by converts from other Protestant denominations. Therefore, this is a place where Orthodox Christians who speak "Lutheran" can try to explain Orthodoxy, their personal motivations for having converted, etc.

LLE is a passive, self-selecting resource list for those from Lutheran backgrounds who are already interested in Orthodoxy, to some degree, have found this list on their own or by word of mouth, and would like some explanation and answers to their questions. How often have I heard from critics of Orthodoxy or inquirers into Orthodoxy from Lutheranism that the Orthodox critiques of "Lutheranism" are in fact critiques of Calvinists, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pietists, etc.? LLE is a passive forum for people to raise these specifically "Lutheran specific" questions and get appropriate, self-consciously, openly Orthodox answers.

Fr. Gregory hits on a good point as well regarding the Orthodox-Lutheran Dialogue list. First, it defines Lutheranism according to the LCMS and WELS standard of quia subscription to the Book of Concord. LLE is also a list for those who may self-identify as Lutheran because that is what they were raised. It is also true that many from a Lutheran background have fallen away from their faith and may not wish to return to it. Since Lutheranism is their only point of reference to Christianity, they obviously ask questions arising from a Lutheran paradigm. So, pagan former Lutherans are also welcome to this list.

The Lutheran participants also tend to be out of the mainstream even within their denominations, so the discussion often becomes about teaching 'real' Lutheranism to Lutherans, as well as to the Orthodox and converts from Lutheranism. This is an interesting exercise in better understanding for all involved, but is more academic than practical.

Besides, the charade of 'not proselytizing' which is explicit in the rules of the list becomes tiresome when in fact all sides are attempting to do just that – this is especially difficult when internecine rifts are exposed within each group. Additionally, it is neither useful nor wise to 'argue' about faith with the same people over and over again as this oftentimes only reinforces error. LLE offers nothing other than Orthodox answers to questions raised by those who approach the list of their own accord to learn more about Orthodoxy. I expect that Prs Weedon and Williams give Lutheran answers to questions posed by those who find their churches, too, and so it should be.

Paul T. McCain said...

It is as Pastor Weedon says it is. Great Bible passage, Bill.

This is sheep-stealing and proselytizing, but it is not surprising really since this is the chief method by which these upstart American Orthodox communions grow: with disaffected former-whatevers who leave for a whole host of issues, real or imagined.

One can only but imagine the response that would be elicited from these very same men and women if a Lutheran were to start up an active site to proselytizing Orthodox leaning toward Lutheranism.

The explanations offered for this activity are, to put it politely, disengenous.

And, to make it even worse, baiting people to sell their Gospel-centered birthright for the pottage that is so-called "Orthodoxy" is a scandal.

William Weedon said...

Let the readers note, though, that my post was critical of both Orthodoxy AND the Churches of the Augsburg Confession. Both, I think, find it easier to "evangelize" among other confessions than to reach out to the unbaptized pagan. St. Paul's words in Romans challenge settling for that.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Chaz, what you say you got out of my comment is the very opposite of what I said!

My point was *not* to assign motives to people, whose hearts we do not know. That means not saying they have already decided to abandon the Pure Gospel.

Maybe it's the opposite. Maybe they are have more and more trouble finding the Pure Gospel preached in Lutheranism, and/or maybe they are thinking it will soon become impossible. Maybe they are therefore exploring to see whether the Pure Gospel might be found elsewhere, or whether it is the exclusive possession of Lutheranism. Maybe. I do not know. The point is, neither do you.

Let's simply and lovingly commend these people to the care and guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who will not forsake them. And let's all leave the accusations to the devil, and the judgments to Christ, Who, being both God and Man, alone has both the ability and the right.

love in Christ,

christopher3rd said...

Actually, Pastor McCain, I can show you how to start a list on Yahoo!Groups for Orthodox who may be leaning toward Lutheranism. It's easy and you can contact me off-list. I don't fear information, and I don't begrudge a Lutheran pastor from giving Lutheran answers to anyone asking him what Christianity it - even if that person be Orthodox. I don't think there is much to worry about, in fact, being one who did make the move.

Your unswerving opinions are one way to present the faith, and I wish you well as you attempt to follow your conscience.

Chaz said...


To not put too fine a point on it, you can't find the pure proclamation of the Gospel in Orthodoxy because the legalistic and nearly-crossless theology found there doesn't have it.

I can't commend people to the Holy Spirit when they're running away from the place where He proclaims Christ to a place where Christ is subjugated to false, errant, and diabolical teachings that destroy the very Gospel that He (the Holy Spirit) delights in.

On the point of proselytization... I am not one to go out and try to convert Catholics, Anglicans, etc. to Lutheranism, but if they recognize the bankruptcy of the theology they are hearing and come, fine. I will teach them and welcome them with open arms. Why? Because Lutheranism does have the purity of the Gospel. Those other religions don't. And least of all... Orthodoxy.

William Weedon said...


One does not defend the Churches of the Augsburg Confession by slandering the Churches of the East. And it is slander, because it is not true, to speak of the Eastern Churches as having a theology that is nearly "crossless." I'm sure the Orthodox who follow this wonder what on earth you are talking about. I think I've shared it with you before, but I'll share it again. It's a sermon I was privileged to hear by Fr. Steven Salaris of the Antiochians in St. Louis. You read it and tell me again about being "crossless"?

Christ Crucified at Epiphany

On this day, Orthodox Christians gather together for the Feast of Epiphany or Theophany. This feast is often referred to as the third most important feast day in the Orthodox Church after Pascha and Pentecost. Yes, it’s even more important than Christmas! Today, we commemorate and celebrate the events that occurred at Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan. One of the main questions that arises during this festal season is, “Why was Jesus, the sinless Word of God made flesh, baptized by his cousin John the Baptist?” There are, in fact, several theologically correct answers. Many church fathers refer to the cosmic significance of Jesus’s baptism. In today’s troparion of the feast, we sing that Jesus’s baptism renewed all creation. We also sing that in His baptism the worship of the Trinity was made manifest. Thus, Theophany is also about the revelation of the tri-hypostatic divinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, that is not what we are going to focus on today. In keeping with the theme that began with the Nativity sermon, let us look deep into this feast day and into Scripture to preach ‘Christ crucified’ at Epiphany. For in His baptism we can actually see the promise of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of His sacrificial death on the Cross.
First, let’s take a look at John’s baptism. It was not the same as our baptism today. When you and I were baptized, we were cleansed of original sin, illuminated, justified, and given the seal of the Holy Spirit, and made complete and full members of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. This is baptism’s function in the post-Resurrection and post-Pentecost Church. But John’s baptism was before all this. So, what was it? In Mark 1:4-5 we read, “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and all were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” The gospels also tell us that John the Baptist was the voice crying in the wilderness that prepared the way of the Lord as it was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. At the sound of that voice, the people came to John, confessed their sins, and were baptized promising to change their ways and to bear fruit worthy of repentance. In other words, John’s baptism was a type of Jewish purification ritual in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
So again, the question arises, “If Jesus is God incarnate, and sinless, why does He need to enter into this purification ritual for sinners?” Even John didn’t want to baptize Jesus, but stated that he should be baptized by Jesus. In Matthew 3:15, though, Jesus states, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus says to do it so that all things can be made right with God and then Jesus submits to baptism at the hand of John the Baptist. The meaning behind all this can be made clear for us if we turn to the Old Testament.
In Leviticus, chapter 16, we read about the Day of Atonement. This religious ceremony involved the sacrifice of several animals, including two goats. In the text we read that Aaron the high priest is to “…take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot shall be for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. (…) Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. So shall he make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins… (Lev. 16:7-8, 15-16). So, we learn from this passage that the first goat was a sin offering that was offered on behalf of the sinful Israelite people.
A few verses later we read, “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat into the wilderness” (Lev. 16:20-22). This second goat was the scapegoat. It was not killed, but rather, hands were laid upon it, sins confessed, and the goat was then driven into the wilderness. In Old Testament times, banishment into the wilderness meant certain death. The scapegoat symbolized for the Israelite people the removal of sin by the placing of the sin on some other entity so that it became the bearer of sin. In the New Testament, it is Jesus who takes on the roles of both of these sacrificial animals.
Jesus is our scapegoat. At his baptism, the Sinless One took upon Himself, willingly and voluntarily, all of the sins of man – past, present, and future. Every sin, every transgression, every fault, and every error of fallen humanity is now laid upon Jesus’s head. In doing this, He fulfills the function of the Levitical scapegoat and after being baptized and assuming the burden of humanity’s sins, He exits to the wilderness for 40 days. The new scapegoat is now the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
But wait, there’s more! Jesus is also the fulfillment of the sin offering – the other goat from the day of Atonement. Unlike the scapegoat, Jesus doesn’t die in the wilderness. As we are told in the Gospels, He goes into the wilderness for 40 days to fast and to defeat the temptations of the devil. But remember the baptism itself involves water. This is important, because in the Old Testament, water is very often a symbol of chaos and death! Thus, in his descent into the waters of the Jordan River at the hands of his cousin John the Baptist do we see the coming death of Jesus on the Cross at the hands of his own people. By His death on the Cross does Life-Giving Divinity itself enter into the chaotic waters of death, subdue it, and destroy it. Then, just as Jesus arises from the waters at His baptism, so to does He rise from the chaotic waters of death at His resurrection on the third day.
The good news for us on this feast day of Theophany is this: No longer do we have to offer goats and banish goats year after year which, as it states in Hebrews 10, can never make the offerers perfect. Now we have the perfect sacrifice – a perfect someone – to lay our blame on. Unlike the old Adam who tried to make Eve and the serpent his scapegoats and thus caused mankind to be cast out of the Garden of Eden, Jesus, the new Adam, comes and takes responsibility for sin and suffers God’s wrath against sin so we don’t have to and opens the gates of paradise for who believe. By becoming the perfect and sinless scapegoat and sin offering, He takes away sin and the resultant sting of death and opens to way to the unending presence of the light and love of God. So, let us lay our sins, our failures, and our despairs on Jesus so that He can drown them by the virtue of His baptism. Then, just as those priests in the Old Testament partook of the flesh of the sin offering, let us, with joy in our hearts, as the priesthood of all believers, partake of the Body and Blood of Him who deigned to be baptized in the Jordan River for our salvation. Glory to Jesus Christ!

Chaz said...

That sermon is an aberration within Orthodoxy. The place of the cross within Orthodox theology is, well, obscure. If there is no wrath to be propitiated, the cross makes no sense. If Jesus' death accomplishes nothing, it is nothing.

That's the pervading view of the cross I see in the Orthodox literature I read. The sermon above sounds good, and heard by Lutheran ears, it can be understood rightly. But destroying death does us no good without the forgiveness of sin, and outside this sermon, that's what I most often hear from the Orthodox. Christus Victor is useless without justification.

I don't think we can get around this. And I think the cross as the Orthodox normally proclaim it is not the cross at all.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I don't think calling Orthodox theology nearly crossless is slander. On the contrary, I think it's rather generous to include the word "nearly."

Trent Sebits said...

"nearly-crossless theology"? You do a disservice to yourself by showing such ignorance. The following is just a sample from an Orthodox Orthos (Matins) service. I didn't even bother to count them all or those in the Divine Liturgy or Vespers.

"You were lifted up upon the cross of your own will, Christ our God. Grant your mercy upon the people that bear your name..."

"Of his own will he mounted the cross in the flesh, suffered death, and raised the dead by his glorious resurrection..."

"By your cross you destroyed death, and opened paradise to the thief...."

"You were nailed upon the cross willingly, merciful One, and were placed in a grave as dead, O giver of life...."

"Christ has invaded Hades, as the only powerful and mighty One who raised with him all those who were corrupt and with the power of the cross, removed the fear of condemnation...."

"You were nailed upon the cross, O Life of all, and were numbered among the dead, O immortal Lord...."

"Let us laud the cross of the Lord, and honor his sacred burial..."

"We the faithful praise and worship your cross and tomb, O giver of life, for you have chained Hades, O immortal one..."

"We venerate your cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify your holy resurrection...."

Trent Sebits

christopher3rd said...


That sermon is an aberration within Orthodoxy.

With all due respect, what would you really know of what is normal or regular in Orthodoxy? Remember, reading books isn't Orthodoxy, and I'm sure you haven't spent a great deal of time between seminary classes attending the Great Canon.

However, this exchange is an example of why a faux attempt at unbiased dialogue - at least on a self-selecting online list - so often ends in failure. People have to be in a place where they are able to consider the veracity of the other side's opinion for this to be possible. Going into a dialogue convinced you are Right is debate, not dialogue.

LLE is a place for people to get the Orthodox answer to their questions. Pr McCain is more than welcome to provide Lutheran answers to those same questions. We are all required to weigh the reliability and veracity of a given source, so it is best to be upfront about where we are coming from. In faith, as in all things, 'buyer beware'.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear Chaz,

Christ died to go down into Hades, which could not contain Him, and burst it open, and release death’s captives. (And this began the moment He died; Matthew 27:52)

He died to be our Passover Lamb. That’s why He died at Passover. The Passover Lamb died to provide its flesh to feed God’s people, and its blood to ward off the angel of death. Our Passover Lamb feeds us on His glorified flesh and gives us to drink from the Fountain of Immortality.

He died to share our human lot to the last, bitter dregs, and to redeem it. “Whatever is not assumed is not healed.”

He died to tread that dark path before us, so that now, when we walk it, we find it full of His Light, full of His Love, full of Himself. That makes of it something that is NOT death as we had known it, at all! That transforms death into the gateway to new life.

He died to exercise *perfect* love. Love cannot be said to have been perfect unless it has been tested to the fullest.
Similarly, obedience cannot be said to have been perfect unless it is tested under the most extreme conditions.

He died to exercise obedience and love and faith to the point of perfection. Now nobody can say, “Oh, yes, He seemed like a very good man, but He didn’t have to DIE like the rest of us! What would have happened if He must die? THEN how would He have behaved?” In short, He died to defeat satan, because satan cannot be said to have been utterly defeated unless you have let him throw his worst weapons at you.

He died to be a sin offering; that is, to offer to God this perfect love and perfect obedience and perfect faith, on behalf of all.

He died so that we could one day be baptized into His death (Romans 6:3,4) and so that having died with Him, we might also rise with Him, and live (Romans 6:5). He died to escape from the Law’s jurisdiction, not because He needed to, but because we need that place, which is within His bosom, where the Law cannot reach. (See the first half of Romans 7.) That’s how He took the handwriting that was against us and nailed it to the Cross.

In short, He sacrificed Himself to give us LIFE. He Himself says it is for our life. John 3:14-15; “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” For emphasis, He repeats this in the next verse, the famous verse 16.

I could go on and on. The Orthodox have many ways, rather than a single one, of understanding the Holy Cross.

love in Christ,

Fed Up said...

What I find to be most shocking in all of this is the insecurity of LCMS Lutherans. I mean geez... Give it a break.

McCain: If you are so convinced about the "rightness" of Lutheranism (especially manifested in the LCMS) over Orthodoxy, and if it so plain to see (like the nose on your face) then I can draw only one conclusion: the training of the LCMS seminarians and your efforts at continued 'indoctrination' via blogs must not be very effective means of convincing Lutheran pastors that they have the 'goods'.

And please cut the sheep stealing imagery. Someone else, we might say someone very wise and authoritative once said, "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd". While I give no specific interpretation to this verse, the plurality of "folds" might allow us to be a bit more lenient in our polemics.

William Weedon said...


That was beautiful. Thanks for writing that.

Fed Up,

Note that the big point of the original post pointed to what I believe is a problem not only in Orthodoxy but in Lutheranism - the tendency to count getting the baptized to alter confession as "evangelism" or "mission."

Joel said...

The Scriptures teach that Christ suffered to save us from our sins and bring us to God. They never teach that Christ died to pay a debt of suffering owed to placate an otherwise implacable Deity. In this, the patristic view of the atonement, more or less perpetuated in Orthodoxy, is more Biblical than the usual Lutheran teaching. Although Gustav Aulen was a Lutheran, I believe.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Paul McCain wrote: The explanations offered for this activity are, to put it politely, disengenous.

And you know we are lying, rather than merely showing love to those *who approach us*, and you know this how?

love in Christ,

William Weedon said...

Joel, as to the patristic provenance of the teaching, you might find these citations (check out St. Cyril especially) compiled by my Orthodox friend, Ephrem Bensusan, of great interest:

Patristic Citations Regarding Divine Justice, Substitution and Propitiation
as Aspects of the Atonement
Compiled by Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, L.Th.
St. Athanasios the Great, Contra Arianos I.41,60 “[T]he Word, being the Image of the Father and immortal, took the form of the servant, and as man underwent for us death in His flesh, that thereby He might offer Himself for us through death to the Father…Formerly the world, as guilty, was under judgment from the Law; but now the Word has taken on Himself the judgment, and having suffered in the body for all, has bestowed salvation to all”.
St. Athanasios the Great, De Incarnatione, 20 “But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.”
St. Athanasios the Great, De Decretis, 14 “Now as to the season spoken of, he will find for certain that, whereas the Lord always is, at length in fulness of the ages He became man; and whereas He is Son of God, He became Son of man also. And as to the object he will understand, that, wishing to annul our death, He took on Himself a body from the Virgin Mary; that by offering this unto the Father a sacrifice for all, He might deliver us all, who by fear of death were all our life through subject to bondage.”
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII “If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?…Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?…Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also…These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness.”

“Note carefully in the above the words, “I gave to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for the blood shall make atonement for the soul.” He [Moses] says clearly that the blood of the victims slain is a propitiation in the place of human life. And the law about sacrifices suggests that it should be so regarded, if it is carefully considered. For it requires him who is sacrificing always to lay his hands on the head of the victim, and to bear the animal to the priest held by its head, as one offering a sacrifice on behalf of himself. Thus he says in each case: “He shall bring it before the Lord. And he shall lay his hands on the head of the gift.” Such is the ritual in every case, no sacrifice is ever brought up otherwise. And so the argument holds that the victims are brought in place of the lives of them who bring them…While then the better, the great and worthy and divine sacrifice was not yet available for men, it was necessary for them by the offering of animals to pay a ransom for their own life, and this was fitly a life that represented their own nature. Thus did the holy men of old, anticipating by the Holy Spirit that a holy victim, dear to God and great, would one day come for men, as the offering for the sins of the world, believing that as prophets they must perform in symbol his sacrifice, and shew forth in type what was yet to be. But when that which was perfect was come, in accordance with the predictions of the prophets, the former sacrifices ceased at once because of the better and true Sacrifice.

“This Sacrifice was the Christ of God, from far distant times foretold as coming to men, to be sacrificed like a sheep for the whole human race. As Isaiah the prophet says of him: “As a sheep he was led to slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before her shearers.” And he adds: “He bears our sins and is pained for us; yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and he was made sick on account of our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripe we are healed. …And the Lord hath given him up for our iniquities …for he did no sin himself, nor was guile found in his mouth.'’ Jeremiah, another Hebrew prophet, speaks similarly in the person of Christ: “I was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” John Baptist sets the seal on their predictions at the appearance of our Saviour. For beholding Him, and pointing Him out to those present as the one foretold by the prophets, he cried: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'’

“Since then according to the witness of the prophets the great and precious ransom has been found for Jews and Greeks alike, the propitiation for the whole world, the life given for the life of all men, the pure offering for every stain and sin, the Lamb of God, the holy sheep dear to God, the Lamb that was foretold, by Whose inspired and mystic teaching all we Gentiles have procured the forgiveness of our former sins, and such Jews as hope in Him are freed from the curse of Moses, daily celebrating His memorial, the remembrance of His Body and Blood, and are admitted to a greater sacrifice than that of the ancient law, we do not reckon it right to fall back upon the first beggarly elements, which are symbols and likenesses but do not contain the truth itself. And any Jews, of course, who have taken refuge in Christ, even if they attend no longer to the ordinances of Moses, but live according to the new covenant, are free from the curse ordained by Moses, for the Lamb of God has surely not only taken on Himself the sin of the world, but also the curse involved in the breach of the commandments of Moses as well. The Lamb of God is made thus both sin and curse—sin for the sinners in the world, and curse for those remaining in all the things written in Moses’ law. And so the Apostle says: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”; and “Him that knew no sin, for our sakes he made sin.”For what is there that the Offering for the whole world could not effect, the Life given for the life of sinners, Who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb to the sacrifice, and all this for us and on our behalf? And this was why those ancient men of God, as they had not yet the reality, held fast to their symbols.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, I.10 “He then that was alone of those who ever existed, the Word of God, before all worlds, and High Priest of every creature that has mind and reason, separated One of like passions with us, as a sheep or lamb from the human flock, branded on Him all our sins, and fastened on Hirn as well the curse that was adjudged by Moses’ law, as Moses foretells: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This He suffered “being made a curse for us; and making himself sin for our sakes.”And then “He made him sin for our sakes who knew no sin,”and laid on Him all the punishments due to us for our sins, bonds, insults, contumelies, scourging, and shameful blows, and the crowning trophy of the Cross. And after all this when He had offered such a wondrous offering and choice victim to the Father, and sacrificed for the salvation of us all, He delivered a memorial to us to offer to God continually instead of a sacrifice.”

Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1 “And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.”

St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31 “A sacrifice was needed to reconcile the Father on high with us and to sanctify us, since we had been soiled by fellowship with the evil one. There had to be a sacrifice which both cleansed and was clean, and a purified, sinless priest…. God overturned the devil through suffering and His Flesh which He offered as a sacrifice to God the Father, as a pure and altogether holy victim – how great is His gift! – and reconciled God to the human race…Since He gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil’s tyranny. The devil was caught by the bait. It was as if he opened his mouth and hastened to pour out for himself our ransom, the Master’s Blood, which was not only guiltless but full of divine power. Then instead of being enriched by it he was strongly bound and made an example in the Cross of Christ. So we were rescued from his slavery and transformed into the kingdom of the Son of God. Before we had been vessels of wrath, but we were made vessels of mercy by Him Who bound the one who was strong compared to us, and seized his goods.”

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Nobody denies that Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to the Father. It was an offering of perfect obedience, on behalf of us all. (Hebrews 10 something)

The problems arise when we take that to mean that God was literally punishing Him.

That, as you've heard said before, runs into all sorts of contradictions. Starting with the fact that the Law requires perfect obedience OR punishment, not both. Both would be UNJUST and illegal.

That belief also makes God the Father into the Judge, Who moreover has already passed sentence. But in the Creed, we confess that Christ is the Judge, and that He will pass judgement on the Last Day: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." That hasn't happened yet. The world hasn't yet been hauled up to the Throne of Justice.

And of course there are a host of other, even worse contradictions -- far worse. And when you get one "Christian teaching" contradicting another "Christian teaching," and both are backed by someon'es reading of Holy Scripture, you've got a huge problem, because every heretic comes to us with some contradiction of Christian teaching -- and Scripture allegedly backing it up. So if we start accepting ANY contradiction, on what basis shall we know WHICH contradictions to accept?

love in Christ,

Chaz said...


You've illustrated the very reason why I identify Orthodox theology as crossless.

If God's wrath is not propitiated on the cross, then you're denying what was accomplished there.

It's not in any way a stretch to then call your theology crossless.

Orthodox theology doesn't become about the cross simply by the fact that it uses the word. It has to actually teach what the Scriptures teach about the cross, that Christ is a propitiation for our sins.

That, by your own admission, Orthodoxy does not do.

I stand by my original statement.


William Weedon said...


It is up for grabs, so it seems to me, whether or not on this particular point Anastasia is actually representing Orthodoxy itself. But, as always with the Orthodox, depends a lot on whom you read and whom you talk to. As you could see, Fr. Salaris did not hesitate to speak of our Lord's cross as the place where the Savior bore "God's wrath against us." And he is not an Orthodox convert, but a life-long Orthodox - a Greek who ended up serving with the Antiochians. I believe that Ephrem Bensusan said his priest teaches the same way - and he was from Syria originally, I think.

So, much as I love Anastasia, on this point I take her words for what they are: the passionate belief of one laywoman in the Orthodox communion. FWIW.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"So, much as I love Anastasia, on this point I take her words for what they are: the passionate belief of one laywoman in the Orthodox communion. FWIW"

WZ, my dear friend, except for the love, which is WE (Worth Everything).

While you can always find people who speak differently, it is not difficult to determine the teaching of the Orthodox Church -- you look for the overall consensus down through the ages, not at individuals. Not even at given periods, but at the whole historical picture.

Chaz, I never denied, nor does any Christian deny, that Christ was set forth as the propitiation for our sins. We just understand that word, "hilasterion," in Greek, very differently. It always refers the Mercy Seat, you know, where the blood was sprinkled once a year. Christ was set forth as the new Mercy Seat.

Or there are other levels, too, upon which we can think of that word, "propitiation"; like the Holy Cross, it's rich in meanings. Those meanings of "propitiation" just don't include Jesus becoming His Father's Whipping Boy in our stead, at least not literally. We believe the Crucifixion was actually the devils's doing, although God turned it into the greatest good for the whole world.

William, that bit about not taking it literally is to be kept in mind when reading Orthodox writers. The Orthodox readers as a whole do not take the punishment language literally, any more than we take the biblical language about God's eyes and ears and nostrils and arms and feet literally. Each of these, instead, refers to some deeper, spiritual understanding; God is Spirit.

love in Christ,

George Schmidt said...

I find it interesting that part of the original post was bemoaning the sad state of affaris (recognized by both Lutherans and Orthodox) that Christians seem to be growing their own "neck of the kingdom" by bringing in already baptized Christians instead of unbaptized unbelievers. Part of the intent was to call Christians to wake up and focus their attention on converting the world.

But instead of picking up this thread, Chaz has decided to assault the Orthodox for being "crossless". And so the original part of the post that was labelled as the unfortunate part has actually become the unfortunate part of this whole thread: Christians concentrated on taking their brothers and sisters to task instead of taking the world to task. Intersting!

Joel said...

Rev. Weedon,

those are wonderful quotes from the Fathers. But here's the thing: Lutherans (I'm an LCMSer myself) tend to approach such quotes, and even more so the Scriptures behind them, with an already preconceived notion that the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement is true. That's of course problematic. Secondly, in all the quotes, except perhaps the latter two by Eusebius, what you do not find expressed is the kernal of the PSA theory, viz., that suffering in itself is an offset for sin.

In a sermon entitled Justice, George MacDonald noted, in a way reminiscent of Orthodox teaching, that:
"Punishment, deserved suffering, is no equipoise to sin. It is no use laying it in the other scale. It will not move it a hair's breadth. Suffering weighs nothing at all against sin. It is not of the same kind, not under the same laws, any more than mind and matter. We say a man deserves punishment; but when we forgive and do not punish him, we do not always feel that we have done wrong; neither when we do punish him do we feel that any amends has been made for his wrongdoing. If it were an offset to wrong, then God would be bound to punish for the sake of the punishment; but he cannot be, for he forgives. Then it is not for the sake of the punishment, as a thing that in itself ought to be done, but for the sake of something else, as a means to an end, that God punishes. It is not directly for justice, else how could he show mercy, for that would involve injustice? Primarily, God is not bound to punish sin; he is bound to destroy sin. If he were not the Maker, he might not be bound to destroy sin-I do not know; but seeing he has created creatures who have sinned, and therefore sin has, by the creating act of God, come into the world, God is, in his own righteousness, bound to destroy sin."

Here I find expressed the notion so prevalent in the Psalms that God saves us, not damns us (per the usual Lutheran teaching), by virtue of His righteousness.

I believe the strength of the PSA theory is its tidiness in explaining Christ's suffering. It nicely takes all the mystery out of the equation. However, at what cost to the character of God who is love and seeketh not His own? I believe it is this poor character attributed to God by Lutherans that explains their almost neurotic obsession with forgiveness.

William Weedon said...

Dear Joel,

I don't think that vicarious satisfaction is very tidy in explaining our Lord's suffering. If anything, I think it is an indication that we are the brink of an unfathomable mystery. "Eli, eli"? I don't know about you, but here there is mystery so deep we can only drop to the knees in awe and worship.

God making Him who had no sin to BE sin for us?

Christ becoming Himself a curse upon the Cross for us who were cursed for not having kept the law?

"He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all... Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief."

And what it is that lies behind this dreadful suffering, this unfathomable self-giving? Love. Love of the Father for the fallen race of men. Love of the Son for the work of his hands. Love of the Holy Spirit for those whom He created. The Love of the blessed Trinity.

To recognize Christ bearing the divine wrath (the wrath of the Son no less than the Father) in the unity of His person is not to look upon hatred, but upon love. And it shows us in a way that we can never forget what is the price of sin.

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed!
See who bears the awful Lord;
Tis the Christ, the Lord's anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God. LSB 451:3

William Weedon said...

See who bears the awful LOAD.

Lord, forgive me! My bad typing.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"I don't think that vicarious satisfaction is very tidy in explaining our Lord's suffering. If anything, I think it is an indication that we are the brink of an unfathomable mystery."

Yes. The mystery is the one Joel explicated: how the God Who is Life, Who is Love, could possibly take satisfaction (of any kind) from suffering and gruesome dying. That's the mystery, or rather, contradiction.

"God making Him who had no sin to BE sin for us?"

Again, we must be careful to interpret this in a spiritual, and not a carnal way. God made Him to be sin for us *Who knew no sin*.

It doesn't mean God regarded Him as sinful when He wasn't. (That would not be justice at all.) He knews no sin.

It doesn't mean Christ morphed into a thing, sin. No, He remained a Person, a Divine and a Human Person.

No, the spiritual meaning of this is that Christ loved us so much He chose to die, although death is otherwise he penalty for sin (though not in His case!). He not only died, but died an ignominious, public, and criminal's death, crucifixion, for us, so much did He love us.

Ditto the Isaiah passage. Yes, Christ's suffering is all for us, but just not in the sense of God walloping Him instead of us. Rather, in the sense that this was the way to *destroy* sin, as distinct from exacting retribution for it (as if God were unable to forgive). His *destroying* sin is what heals us.

(Besides, what sin was there to punish, if we truly believe Christ was offering God perfect obedience *for all mankind*?)

"To recognize Christ bearing the divine wrath (the wrath of the Son no less than the Father) in the unity of His person is not to look upon hatred, but upon love."

Actually, it's to look upon both, allegedly co-existing somehow in the same God. That's because only hostility, hostility alone, could ever take any kind of satisfaction from another's suffering, agony, dying.

love in Christ,

Chaz said...

It pleased God to afflict Him, and cursed by God (See Deuteronomy 21:23) is anyone who hangs upon a tree.

Anastasia, I think you need a little more Isaiah 53 to go along with your Wisdom 2.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

How interesting that in citing Deut. 21, St. Paul leaves out the "by God."

And when Isaiah says it pleased God to crush him, the context shows that God is not pleased in the crushing _per se_, but in the results it brings: "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand." It would be as if I said, "I am pleased to cause my wife to undergo labor, because through that labor she will bear a child."

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Chaz said...

Fr. Hogg,

You are creative in your not listening to the text.

I should know... So am I.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

I'm sorry, Chaz. I don't understand what you mean. Paul's text omits the "by God." Why? And Isaiah expresses himself in means/end terms. Those are both features of the text.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Joel said...


it is precisely Isaiah 53, as interpreted by St. Matthew (8:16,17), that contradicts the PSA theory. There we learn how Christ "bore" our sicknesses, namely, by having pity on us and undertaking what was necessary to bring us healing. However, to accomplish this there was no need to "impute" our sicknesses to Christ. Just so with our sins. The same wording is used in Isaiah with regard to our sins as is used with regard to our sicknesses.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

I'm not sure I am following you here. The Apostle alluding to the passage evokes the whole of it, no?

Consider the words of St. John Chrysostom about the Galatians passage:

Ver. 10, 11. "For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law to do them. Now that no man is justified by the Law is evident." For all have sinned, and are under the curse. However he does not say this yet, lest he should seem to lay it down of himself, but here again establishes his point by a text which concisely states both points; that no man has fulfilled the Law, (wherefore they are under the curse,) and, that Faith justifies. What then is the text? It is in the book of the prophet Habakkuk, "The just shall live by faith," (Hab. ii: 4) which not only establishes the righteousness that is of Faith, but also that there is no salvation through the Law. As no one, he says, kept the Law, but all were under the curse, on account of transgression, an easy way was provided, that from Faith, which is in itself a strong proof that no man can be justified by the Law. For the prophet says not, "The just shall live by the Law," but, "by faith:" Ver. 12. "And the Law is not of faith; but He that doeth them shall live in them." For the Law requires not only Faith but works also, but grace saves and justifies by Faith. (Eph. ii: 8) You see how he proves that they are under the curse who cleave to the Law, because it is impossible to fulfill it; next, how comes Faith to have this justifying power? for to this doctrine he already stood pledged, and now maintains it with great force of argument. The Law being too weak to lead man to righteousness, an effectual remedy was provided in Faith, which is the means of rendering that possible which was "impossible by the Law." (Rom. viii: 3) Now as the Scripture says, "the just shall live by faith," thus repudiating salvation by the Law, and moreover as Abraham was justified by Faith, it is evident that its efficacy is very great. And it is also clear, that he who abides not by the Law is cursed, and that he who keeps to Faith is just. But, you may ask me, how I prove that this curse is not still of force? Abraham lived before the Law, but we, who once were subject to the yoke of bondage, have made ourselves liable to the curse; and who shall release us therefrom? Observe his ready answer to this; his former remark was sufficient; for, if a man be once justified, and has died to the Law and embraced a novel life, how can such a one be subject to the curse? however, this is not enough for him, so he begins with a fresh argument, as follows:- Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians 3

Ver. 13. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."82 In reality, the people were subject to another curse, which says, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in the things that are written in the book of the Law." (Deut. xxvii: 26) To this curse, I say, people were subject, for no man had continued in, or was a keeper of, the whole Law; but Christ exchanged this curse for the other, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." As then both he who hanged on a tree, and he who transgresses the Law, is cursed, and as it was necessary for him who is about to relieve from a curse himself to be free from it, but to receive another instead of it, therefore Christ took opon Him such another, and thereby relieved us from the curse. It was like an innocent man's undertaking to die for another sentenced to death, and so rescuing him from punishment. For Christ took upon Him not the curse of transgression, but the other curse, in order to remove that of others. For, "He had done no violence neither was any deceit in His mouth." (Isa. liii: 9; 1 Peter ii: 22) And as by dying He rescued from death those who were dying, so by taking upon Himself the curse, He delivered them from it.

Or the saint's words on 2 Corinthians 5:

And what has He done? "Him that knew no sin He made to be sin, for you." For had He achieved nothing but done only this, think how great a thing it were to give His Son for those that had outraged Him. But now He has both well achieved mighty things, and besides, has suffered Him that did no wrong to be punished for those who had done wrong. But he did not say this: but mentioned that which is far greater than this. What then is this? "Him that knew no sin," he says, Him that was righteousness itself, "He made sin," that is suffered as a sinner to be condemned, as one cursed to die. "For cursed is he that hangs on a tree." (Gal. iii. 13.) For to die thus was far greater than to die; and this he also elsewhere implying, says, "Becoming obedient unto death, yea the death of the cross." (Philip. ii. 8.) For this thing carried with it not only punishment, but also disgrace. Reflect therefore how great things He bestowed on you. For a great thing indeed it were for even a sinner to die for any one whatever; but when He who undergoes this both is righteous and dies for sinners; and not dies only, but even as one cursed; and not as cursed [dies] only, but thereby freely bestows upon us those great goods which we never looked for; (for he says, that "we might become the righteousness of God in Him;") what words, what thought shall be adequate to realize these things?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

Neither does St. Paul, nor does St. John Chrysostom, say that God cursed Christ, or that Christ was cursed *by God*. That is different than Deuteronomy, which explicitly has the phrase "by God." And the words which Paul omits fall right in the midst of the citation in Hebrew and in Greek.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Lutheran Lady said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

I very much appreciate that you pointed out that we all tend to neglect focusing on fishing among the unbelievers like we should. Thank you for this important reminder.

Many thanks to you for providing such an informative and interesting discussion. And a special thanks for helping keep the tone of the blog in an irenic spirit.