Friday, June 27, 2008

Coming Soon...

…to a blog near you!

Many non-Orthodox, hearing the Orthodox take issue with Penal Substitutionary Atonement, have been scandalized and suppose we have rejected the notion of atonement altogether, or that we have emptied the Holy Cross of all meaning. Or at most, they think, we ascribe to the Cross some sentimental meaning, or admit that it showed forth exemplary love.

Of course the reverse is true: we recognize layer upon layer of deep, theological, personal meaning in the Cross, as attested by the fact that the Orthodox Church has not one, but two days devoted to the commemoration of the Holy, Precious, Life-giving Cross – and those are in addition to Thursday and Friday of Holy Week! (I refer, of course, to September 14, when the feast of the Cross kicks off the entire ecclesiastical year, and the Third Sunday of Great Lent.)

In fact, the Cross is so rich in meaning for us that I estimate it may take somewhere between 8 – 12 blog posts just to touch on them all, as well as to clear up some of what we do not believe happened there.

I’m going to try. And I'm going to try to make it readable, unlike (I'm told) some of the other things I've been writing.

Look for the first in this series on about Monday, God willing and there are no family emergencies. I'll call it, "Why Did Jesus Die?"

P.S.) Tad's comment to the previous post reminds me that we also recall Chist's Passion and Crucifixion every week as we fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.



JTKlopcic said...

And I'm going to try to make it readable, unlike (I'm told) some of the other things I've been writing.

Unreadable?!? Says who?

William Weedon said...


I look forward to reading your discussion of this - you know how dear this particular point is to my heart.

FWIW, Lutherans also observe Holy Cross Day on September 14th (and Holy Cross is one of the more common name for Lutheran parishes). Although the vicarious atonement is one way in which Lutherans understand and rejoice in the Cross, it is not the only way. It might be instructive to study how we sing about it:

Drawn to the cross which Thou hast blessed
With healing gifts for souls distressed,
To find in Thee my life, my rest,
Christ crucified, I come.

Thou knowest all my griefs and fears,
Thy grace abused, my misspent years,
Yet now to Thee with contrite tears,
Christ crucified, I come.

Wash me and take away each stain,
Let nothing of my sin remain,
For cleansing, though it be through pain,
Christ crucified, I come.

And then for work to do for Thee,
Which shall so sweet a service be,
That angels well might envy me,
Christ crucified, I come. (LSB 560)

Now from that tree of Jesus' shame,
Flows life eternal in His name;
For all who trust and will believe,
Salvation's living fruit receive.
And of this fruit, so pure and sweet,
The Lord invites the world to eat,
To find within this cross of wood,
The tree of life with every good. (LSB 561)

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world's redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee! (LSB 454)

On whose hard arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world's ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

O tree of beauty, tree most fair,
Ordained those holy limbs to bear:
Gone is thy shame, each crimsoned bough
Proclaims the King of Glory now. (LSB 455)

Upon the cross extended
See, world, Your Lord suspended.
Your Savior yields His breath.
The Prince of Life from heaven
Himself has freely given
To shame and blows and bitter death.

Who is it, Lord, that bruised You?
Who has so sore abused You
And caused You all Your woe?
We all must make confession
Of sin and dire transgression
While You no ways of evil know.

I caused Your grief and sighing
By evils multiplying
As countless as the sands.
I caused the woes unnumbered
With which Your soul is cumbered,
Your sorrows raised by wicked hands.

Your soul in griefs unbounded,
Your head with thorns surrounded,
You died to ransom me.
The cross for me enduring,
The crown for me securing,
You healed my wounds and set me free.

Your chords of love, my Savior,
Bind me to You forever,
I am no longer mine.
To You I gladly tender
All that my life can render
And all I have to You resign.

Your cross I place before me;
Its saving power restore me,
Sustain me in the test.
It will, when life is ending,
Be guiding and attending
My way to Your eternal rest. (LSB 453)


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Tad -- says my children.

William -- thanks for sharing these well-loved (I'm sure!) hymns. I'll look forward to your feedback as I post this series.

I do realize you have various ways of approaching the subject of the Cross. But I think Pen-Sub is still the controlling model for Luthernas, isn't it? The framework into which all your other imagery is fitted? Because most Lutherans I read don't seem to think the Cross would really make sense apart from Pen-Sub.

William Weedon said...


I think we regard it as crucial (pardon the pun) component - and we can't imagine the faith without it; but it never seems to stand alone for us without all the other meanings clustering together. So I'm eager to see what you'll write about it.

Just Mairs said...

Ooh, looking forward to this series! I never quite wrapped my mind around the whole thing as either a Protestant nor a Roman Catholic so maybe as Orthodox I'll finally "get" it! lol (or at least glimpse it)

Chris Grindstaff said...

It was my experience as a Lutheran that the penal substitution model is indeed the controlling one for Lutherans. It is true, as Pr. Weedon pointed out, that it is NOT the controlling model in much of Lutheran hymnody. However, in sermons, bible classes, and "on line" writings, in my experience it is.

I think this is so because, for Lutherans, death is seen primarily as punishment from God. God, for Lutherans, is a source of death. Francis Pieper, in fact, states that God and the Devil are both considered sources of death. I can dig up the reference if need be. This is completely at odds with the Orthodox ubderstanding of death as seperation from God as Anastasia so aptly explained in her posts on Sin and Immortality.

Perhaps this was not the view of the Reformers - I cannot say. Though I must admit I was always a bit troubled with AC III which states that the Son reconciled the Father to us. Note the direction of the reconciliation: not man to God, but God to man. This seems to me to imply some "change" occuring within the Godhead - which cannot be.