Atonement Theory 4

“The Penal Substitution Theory sees Christ’s suffering and death as the price for man’s sin.”

 

The Penal Substitution Theory sees Christ’s suffering and death as the price for man’s sin.  In many ways, the model for Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a courtroom.  Due to his sin, man needed to be made right with a perfect and just God.  Therefore, Christ came to suffer and pay the price in our place, i.e., He substituted Himself for us.  Now, in the courtroom of God, those who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior are judged innocent.  They have a forensic righteousness imputed upon them.

Clearly, Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Latin Christianity have significantly different theories of atonement as part of their respective soteriologies (doctrines of salvation).  The contemporary Orthodox Recapitulation Theory agrees with Western Satisfaction and Penal Substitution theories in so far as God needed to deal with man’s sin.  Man was separated from God as a result of the fall and, left to his own devices, was incapable of returning to God.  However, the Orthodox see God’s model of dealing with man’s sin as a hospital rather than a courtroom.  This stands in sharp contrast to the forensic, legalistic models of Roman Catholic Satisfaction and Protestant Penal Substitution.

Instead of viewing the atonement as Christ paying the price for sin in order to satisfy a wrathful God, Recapitulation teaches that Christ became human to heal mankind by perfectly uniting the human nature to the Divine Nature in His person.  Through the Incarnation, Christ took on human nature, becoming the Second Adam, and entered into every stage of humanity, from infancy to adulthood, uniting it to God.  He then suffered death to enter Hades and destroy it.  After three days, He resurrected and completed His task by destroying death.

By entering each of these stages and remaining perfectly obedient to the Father, Christ recapitulated every aspect of human nature.  He said “Yes” where Adam said “No” and healed what Adam’s actions had damaged.  This enables all of those who are willing to say yes to God to be perfectly united with the Holy Trinity through Christ’s person, the Logos, the Son.  In addition, by destroying death, Christ reversed the consequence of the fall.  Now, all can be resurrected.  Those who choose to live their life in Christ can be perfectly united to the Holy Trinity, receiving the full love of God’s grace.  However, those who reject Christ and choose to live their lives chasing after their passions will perceive the love of God as torment, as hell.

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