Moving East

The following passage describes the shift I have experienced in my understanding of Scripture. I find it interesting that Eastern Orthodoxy and Anabaptists, both traditions that were marginalized by western christianity, are beginning to become more widely acknowledged for their contributions to doctrine and theology.

In the Western churches, both Catholic and Protestant, sin, grace, and salvation are seen primarily in legal terms. God gave humans freedom, they misused it and broke God’s commandments, and now deserve punishment. God’s grace results in forgiveness of the transgression and freedom from bondage and punishment.

The Eastern churches see the matter in a different way. For Orthodox theologians, humans were created in the image of God and made to participate fully in the divine life. The full communion with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed meant complete freedom and true humanity, for humans are most human when they are completely united with God.

The result of sin, then, was a blurring of the image of God and a barrier between God and man. The situation in which mankind has been ever since is an unnatural, less human state, which ends in the most unnatural aspect: death. Salvation, then, is a process not of justification or legal pardon, but of reestablishing man’s communion with God. This process of repairing the unity of human and divine is sometimes called “deification.” This term does not mean that humans become gods but that humans join fully with God’s divine life.

Beautiful! and not new or unorthodox.

(Quote from ReligionFacts.)


14 thoughts on “Moving East

  1. A wonderful and beautiful statement. And certainly not new or unorthodox. Have you read McKnight’s “A Community Called Atonement”? I like his concept of cracked Eikons.

  2. I’ve always found it fascinating that so many of the key theologians of the Western tradition were trained as lawyers (Luther and Calvin come to mind). I think those roots not only defined the way we think about salvation, but also influence the argumentative, line-drawing way we so often behave as a church culture.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this too lately… I’ve been wondering about my own stepping away from viewing atonment as a legal concept, and my total rejection of penal substitution in favor of restorative healing, and something like a Christus Victor view focussing on resurrection and victory over death.

    I don’t fel like my new theology is unorthodox, and probably it’s more in line with the orthodox and old church fathers, but is very unprotestant I guess, and maybe basicly un-augustinean… so that would be a parting ways with 1500 years of western Christianity…

    does such a thing as non-augustinean protestantism exist?

  4. Yes, EO has much to tell us.

    An acquaintance of mine said it this way;

    “What makes Jesus unique is not the fact that he overcame all temptations, a rather Pelagian view, but rather that he is wholly divine and wholly human, with his humanity being wholly deified–without change, admixture, separation or division of his Person.

    Nor is he our savior because he never sinned. He is our savior because he unites, in his one Person, full divinity and full humanity. Even if each of us had never sinned, we, as creatures, could not be united to God. Only through Christ’s bridging the gap between Creator and creature, can we truly be one with God (this is what Jesus is talking about in John 17, for instance).

    This moralistic view that somehow Jesus saves us because he never sinned is very problematic. For if that is the basis for our salvation, then any human could have saved us, and there was no need for God to be incarnate.”

    The Penal Substitutionary theory is a valid motif of what happened on the cross, but it isn’t the only valid motif through which we should look at the Cross. Each of the other theories/motifs supplies us with a necessary aspect of understanding something of the grandness of God’s extravagant love for us.


    (Linda, are HTML codes valid in replies?)

  5. i like the idea of Jesus being the divine antidote to our terminal self-preservation default; spiritual sickness, incompleteness or inability. if sinlessness were the benchmark, then Adam & Eve were incapable of bringing the original fulfillment of humankind to fruition. sinlessness insufficient to maintain the intimate relationship God intended from the beginning. even a garden paradise planted by the Grand Gardener Himself insufficient to keep His crowning creation in relationship with Himself. what was missing in those first humans was a character tested by temptation. with the qualities God incorporated into our humanness, the perfect environment incapable of forging such tested character into us. i think God knew just how fragile we were once He endowed us with the divine qualities setting us apart from the rest of creation. there was no ‘what ifs’ in my theological conclusion. maybe if no rebellion in heaven & satan not cast down to earth Adam & Eve’s progen could have worked thru generations of “do not eat of the Tree of Good & Evil.” i believe ‘we’ (collectively) would have failed at some point only because we are not ‘perfected’ yet. so my thoughts go back to the importance of this life & how Jesus reversed the Adamic failure with His obedience. and this life is necessary to be tested just as Jesus was. i do not believe we have that chance in the next life. Jesus was intent on correcting the original boo-boo & offers to mankind the antidote thru sharing in His sufferings. the next life not going to be subject to this existence & its fallen condition. this is where the transformation must happen in preparation for the next fulfillment of perfected existence. god bless the universalists amongst us, but unless we do have a reincarnation redo option, i believe the rules of cause+effect dissimilar to the ones we deal with here…

  6. A good friend of mine spends a lot of time in an Eastern Orthodox seminary. He finds it compelling and refreshing.

    I too have learned quite a lot from Anabaptists, my favorite being Scot McKnight.

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