Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Gospel In Chairs

Back on January 10 in a post entitled "A Careful Turn" I mentioned something called "penal substitution," the idea that Jesus, on the cross, "took upon himself the wrath of an angry God."

I've been doing some serious study on that idea and have come to the point where I need to talk with other Christian leaders, because I'm moving away from that "theory of the atonement," and toward one that could be described as the "Orthodox View of Salvation."

Our son Dan found a video that gives a quick summary of the two. The video begins with a robed and bearded man by the name of Steve Robinson describing the typical protestant view of salvation--a view that comes out of the Roman Catholic Church. (You can see the video the at the end of this blogpost, or watch and listen to it by clicking here.) Here's how it starts:

"Hi, my name is Steve Robinson, and many of you know me from my podcast, My Life in Christ, and for many years I’ve been looking for a real succinct illustration of the difference between the Protestant view of salvation and the Orthodox view of salvation. I’m stealing this from Fr. Anthony Karbo, and he knows it, so this is the gospel in chairs.

"The Protestant view of salvation goes something like this: in the beginning, God created man. Man had perfect fellowship with God. [Chairs are facing each other, inward.]
"But then in the garden, man sinned. [Dark chair faces away.]
"And he turned away from God. Then, because God is so holy and righteous, he could not look upon man any longer, because man is sinful. [Light chair faces away.]
"No matter what man does, no matter how hard man tries, no matter how righteous man is after he has sinned [Dark chair faces inward],
"God still could not look upon him in his righteousness and holiness, because man is still sinful, and no amount of good works can repay God for the offense that man has given him. So man is in a constant state of separation from God..."
As the video continues, Mr. Robinson describes what most protestants believe Jesus did to solve this problem, dying for us, suffering the wrath of God in our place. But let's stop here for just a moment.

Let's think about those chairs... the light one representing God, turning away from sinful people, and the other one, representing human beings who just can't get God's attention... not until Jesus comes, according to the protestant view, to change God's mind and turn him toward sinful people with grace and love.

Is that true? Does God turn away from us? Does Jesus need to come and change God's mind about us? I don't think so. I'm not sure I ever did. There are several "theories of the atonement" and the "penal substitution" model always seemed to be wrong in some way, but I haven't had the chance to think carefully about this until recent months.

I'm hoping to talk with other Christian leaders about this soon, but I've come to realize that a whole "branch" of the Christian Church, the "Eastern Orthodox," has a quite different understanding.

Take a look at the video below or go to it here. The Eastern Orthodox view will say that God has always consistently loved sinful people. The problem has always been on humanity's side. When Steve Robinson gets to the Orthodox view, you'll see that God's chair never turns away.

I'll try to say more at a later date.

By the way, just because I'm intrigued with the Orthodox view of salvation doesn't mean I'll soon be growing out my beard or putting on a black robe. If you were looking forward to seeing me that way, sorry to disappoint. :p


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