Author Topic: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?  (Read 1169 times)

Mbecker

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 1207
    • View Profile
Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« on: November 01, 2018, 11:57:08 PM »
Over on another ALPB FO thread, David Garner made a passing assertion that I thought would surely elicit a response from those in this discussion who are students of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. So far, no one has posted anything in reply.

Since his statement deals with an important theological/ecumenical issue that goes beyond the focus of that other thread, I'm taking the liberty of starting a new thread here on the basis of David G's comment:

"I look at this much like the theological discussion between Orthodox Christians and other Christians about atonement.  Call it penal substitution, call it "Western anthropology" -- none of that matters.  What we reject (and where I think we find common ground with Lutherans, at least those who take the Confessions seriously) is we are not saved from the Father.  We are not saved from God Himself." You can read the full post here: https://alpb.org/Forum/index.php?topic=7036.msg452672#msg452672

As someone who tries to take the Lutheran Confessions seriously (I read from them daily and have taught them at the university level for nearly 25 years), I am struck by these assertions, namely, that "we are not saved from the Father" and we "are not saved from God Himself."

These are truly tricky matters, but I wonder if David's assertions don't assert too much? Or, put slightly differently, do they not rub against some Scriptural and confessional texts that seem to teach otherwise? Do not the Scriptures and Confessions teach that in a very important sense, we do in fact need to be "saved from God," namely, from God's wrath and judgment, just as we need to be saved from our sins, death, the power of Satan, hell and damnation?

This seems to be a consistent theme in the Scriptures. Just this morning I read from the psalms how Moses, God's chosen one, "turned away God's wrath from destroying" the "fathers" of Israel (Ps. 106.23). Those fathers surely needed "saving from God" in that situation. Thank God for Moses! See the many other OT passages that refer to God's wrath that burns hot against sinners, even against God's own people (e.g., Ex. 32.10-12; Num. 1.53; Dt. 9.7-8; Ps. 2.5, 12; Ps. 78.21; Is. 59.18; etc.). The Gospels also refer to the wrath of God (e.g., Lk 21.23; Jn 3.36; etc.), from which people need to be saved or delivered. Paul, too, taught about the wrath of God that is leveled against sinners, including ultimately Jesus, "the greatest sinner" (Luther) (cf. Rom. 1.18; 2.5; 3.5; 3.25; 5.10-11; 9.22; 2 Cor. 5.21; Eph. 5.6; etc.) "The law brings wrath" (Rom. 4.15). See also Rev. 6.16 and several other similar NT passages. We are by nature "children of wrath" (Eph. 2.3). The wrath is coming (Col. 3.6). Because of our sins, God is our enemy (Rom. 5.10). Thank God, Jesus delivers us from God's coming wrath (1 Thess. 1.10; cf. 1 Thess. 5.9). "Since we are now justified by [Christ's] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For while we were enemies [we were enemies of God, and God was our enemy] we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5.9-10). That surely sounds like Paul is teaching that we need to be saved from God, i.e., from God's wrath. Cf. Heb. 2.17; 1 Jn. 2.2; 1 Jn. 4.10.

The Lutheran Confessions, too, teach that we need to be saved from God's wrath, i.e., from God's anger and judgment against sinners. "For as long as God terrifies us and appears to be casting us into eternal death, human nature cannot bring itself to love such a wrathful, judging, and punishing God.... For the law always accuses and terrifies consciences.... Therefore, because people cannot by their own powers live according to the law of God and because all are under sin and guilty of eternal wrath and death, we cannot be set free from sin and be justified through the law. Instead, what has been given us is the promise of forgiveness of sins and justification on account of Christ, who was given for us in order to make satisfaction for the sins of the world, and who has been appointed as the mediator and propitiator" (Apol. IV.36-41). All people are "under sin and subject to eternal wrath and death" (Apol. IV.62; cf. SD V.20: all "are subject to God's wrath, to death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell"; cf. FC SD XI.60). The human creature apart from Christ is to be regarded "as a child of wrath" (FC Ep I.12). The greatest evil is "to be a victim of eternal wrath and death" (Luther, as quoted in FC SD I.62).

"Therefore, Luther concludes, we are 'by nature children of wrath' [Eph. 2.3], of death, and of damnation, if we are not redeemed from them through Christ's merit" (SD FC I.6). Just as we need to be redeemed from death through Christ's merit, so we need to be redeemed from God's wrath and damnation, i.e., from God. "When a human being is justified through faith (which the Holy Spirit alone bestows), it is truly a rebirth, because a child of wrath becomes a child of God and is therefore brought from death to life" (FC SD III.20; cf. Eph. 2.5).

While God is not the cause of sins or the cause of wrath or condemnation (cf. FC SD XI.81), God's wrath and judgment are real consequences of sin and evil, as is spiritual death, eternal wrath, and hell. In view of these realities, it is appropriate to say that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are saved from God through the God-Man for God. This is what makes Christ the propitiator of God's wrath, and thus the mediator and reconciler between God and sinners. Apart from Christ and his propitiation, human beings are the enemies of God and God is the enemy of sinners.

Much more could be written in this regard, but I'll leave it at this. I need to return to Schlink, who also stresses that an ecumenical dogmatics needs to take seriously just how much of a problem and threat God is for us in view of evil, our sins, our death, the coming wrath, and divine damnation. We do, in fact, need to be saved from God through the God-Man for God. Thank God for the propitiation of the Son of God and for the working of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.

Matt Becker

David Garner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7525
    • View Profile
    • For He is Good and Loves Mankind
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2018, 07:14:41 AM »
I don't have time to respond to this in detail now.  I may return to it if time permits later.  I think you're taking my point to an extreme that is well beyond what I intended by it.

First, we do not deny God's wrath and judgment, but we do put them in their proper place.  "Wrath" in particular is an anthropomorphism.  And so it is easy for us to take such a word and apply it to God the way we would apply it to ourselves.  I think that is a mistake.  God's wrath is no more than the consequences of separation from Him.  He does not choose that, nor does He wish it (see, e.g., I Tim. 2:4).  So we would not say God is "wrathful" in any way that would deny that God is loving.  To do so is the error of the Calvinists. 

To give an example of this, let me offer 2 passages from the Confessions:

"In the mean time they do not see the First Table which commands that we love God, that we declare as certain that God is angry with sin, that we truly fear God, that we declare as certain that God hears prayer." (Ap. IV:29)

"But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it."  (LC IV:66).

I assume we can all agree that these two selections do not use "angry" in the same sense, right?  That is, we would never say that God's anger is "that which is born in us from Adam . . . and having by nature nothing good in it?"  If so, then you can readily see the distinction I make between what we call God's "wrath" and my wrath or yours.

If not, I think the failure to make such a distinction is heretical and sends souls to hell.

When I say we are not saved from God, what I mean is that God is not the source nor the cause of our damnation.  Satan is the accuser.  We are responsible for our own condition.  We are responsible for our own sins.  God is the One Who saves us from those things, not the one who damns us.  We damn ourselves. God wishes us to be saved.  As we say in our liturgy, "forasmuch as He is good and loves mankind."  That doesn't mean we can't talk about God's wrath in a proper sense.  It does mean we dare not take that to conclusions that refute Who God is as He is described in the rest of the Scriptures.

You give a litany of Scriptural passages that I, again, cannot delve into sufficiently this morning, but I want to take one as an example of where I think we disagree.  Romans 5:10 says "for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  You say, quoting here, that this means "God is our enemy."  I could not disagree more strongly with this.  It is the same error that reads Genesis 2:17 and instead of hearing "in the day that you eat of it you will surely die," hears instead "in the day that you eat of it I will kill you."  You turn God into the problem, where the passage does no such thing.  Yes, WE were enemies.  That does not mean God is our enemy.  It means we are disobedient and unworthy servants.  We hate God.  He never hates us.
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Donald_Kirchner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 11776
    • View Profile
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2018, 09:13:20 AM »
  When I say we are not saved from God, what I mean is that God is not the source nor the cause of our damnation.  Satan is the accuser.  We are responsible for our own condition.  We are responsible for our own sins.  God is the One Who saves us from those things, not the one who damns us.  We damn ourselves. God wishes us to be saved.  As we say in our liturgy, "forasmuch as He is good and loves mankind."  That doesn't mean we can't talk about God's wrath in a proper sense.  It does mean we dare not take that to conclusions that refute Who God is as He is described in the rest of the Scriptures.

Something I wrote elsewhere years ago, FWIW.

"Forde helped me to understand the seeming contradiction of the Calvinists embracing Luther’s Bondage of the Will as support for their theology. I'm reminded of Forde's quote:

"[Theology] must not tell sweet lies about God. It must a--e-- the true nature of the battle so that it can be joined in proper fashion. Ironically, a theology that sets out to protect the proclamation by tying the absolute [hidden] God to the revelation only undercuts the proclamation itself and bowdlerizes God. Small wonder that we find ourselves today with only tenuous belief in a platitudinous God and little consciousness of what God wills to say to us. So we talk mostly about ourselves. Where the distinction between God not preached and God preached is not observed, we are gradually reduced to complete silence." [Theology Is for Proclamation, 1990 Fortress Press, p. 30]

Part of the problem in seeing natural law merely as a prerequisite to the Gospel might be that it's a change in our material principle, justification by grace through faith in Christ, to the Calvinist God's sovereign will. Looking to God's sovereign will can get you dead, for no one can be in the presence of God and live. Only in Christ, God veiled in flesh, can one then live.

Lutherans understand and confess what Luther stated regarding the masks (larva) of God, which he explained in The Bondage of the Will. Those masks of the hidden God (deus absconditus) and the revealed God (deus revelatus) are a paradox and acknowledge the tension between them. But that is why the cross is paramount, for it is only because of the cross that we can live. To deny the hidden God (deus absconditus) of wrath is to "disfranchise God and water God down" thereby minimizing the revealed God (deus revelatus).

Forde states that Luther left the "specter of the absolute God alone [due to] his knowledge that we as sinners live under the wrath of God. Our efforts-even the best of them-afford no escape. Theology, no matter how cleverly devised, cannot deliver us from the wrath of God. It may twist and turn to remodel God, try every artifice to fashion less frightening masks, but in the end such masks only turn on us. We are sinners confronted by masks we cannot see through. We cannot see God." [p. 29]

Hence only the cross, the Gospel proclamation, saves. The revealed God, revealed in Christ, must be preached. "God preached is the only defense against God not preached."

A paradox? Yes. Does one attempt to solve it? Never. The tension between the hidden God and the revealed God must remain unresolved. To focus on the hidden, sovereign God leaves us in the Law. If we remain in the Law, as Forde says (a statement that simply was jaw-dropping the first time I read it), "We are delivered willy-nilly into the hands of 'the judge' or perhaps Satan, the accuser, the attorney for the prosecution.' For apart from the proclamation [God preached] the masked God and Satan are virtually indistinguishable." "'One dare not peer', as Luther warns, 'into the hidden majesty of God.'" [p. 20]

On the other hand, we do not deny the Deus Absconditus. As Luther said, we as sinners always live under the wrath of God. To deny the hidden God of wrath is to "disfranchise God and water God down" thereby minimizing the revealed God (deus revelatus).

So what do we look to? The God revealed in Jesus Christ. Yes, we look to the cross, because only through the cross can unclean sinners approach a holy God and live. Only through the cross is the propitiation revealed. Jesus, therefore, is not a way. He is the only way. For we cannot approach a holy God, period. To think we can is the height of arrogance. No, God condescended to come down to us, to reveal Himself to us poor sinners, trapped in death, through His only-begotten Son. "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity!" "Born that man no more may die."

This is what Luther believed, taught, and confessed. This is what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess. The Bondage of the Will, incorporated by reference into the Confessions, truly is one of Luther's best works and quite Lutheran."

To which Will Weedon responded:

"A bit more from p. 190:

'Admittedly it gives the greatest possible offense to common sense or natural reason that God by his own sheer will should abandon, harden, and damn men as if he enjoyed the sins and the vast, eternal torments of his wretched creatures, when he is preached as a God of such great mercy and goodness, etc. It has been regarded as unjust, as cruel, as intolerable, to entertain such an idea about God, and this is what has offended so many great men during so many centuries. And who would not be offended? I myself was offended more than once, and brought to the very depth and abyss of despair, so that I wished I had never been created a man, before I realized who salutary that despair was, and how near to grace.'"
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it’s not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

David Garner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7525
    • View Profile
    • For He is Good and Loves Mankind
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2018, 09:45:05 AM »
Pastor Kirchner, (I am refraining from quoting you to simply conserve space), first thank you very much for your response.  I very much appreciate the distinction between the "hidden God" and the "revealed God."  We too make such a distinction, specifically in works like Lossky's "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church."  It is the same distinction the recently departed Father Thomas Hopko made when he made the too-cute statement "you cannot know God, but you have to know Him to know that."

I would say this -- and I don't assume you think otherwise, I merely wish to clarify for myself -- we have no problem with the wrath of God at all.  We acknowledge and confess it.  And we fear it.  And as you note, we do not attempt to resolve that tension, only to confess it.  As I've said elsewhere, the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts from the 5th week in Lent makes this clearer than anything I could tell you:

I have wasted my whole life with harlots and publicans.
Will I be able to repent of my many sins even when I grow old?
I cry to You, the Creator of all and Healer of the sick:
“Before I utterly perish, save me O Lord!”

I cry to Thee, O Lord; I say: “You are my hope, my portion in the land of
the living.”

Weighed down with indifference, I wallow in sin.
Pierced by the devil’s darts, I have defiled Your image in me.
Yet You convert the heedless and save the sinful.
Before I utterly perish, save me O Lord!

            Give heed to my cry, for I am brought very low!

I have become a stumbling block.
Born of earth, I have remained attached to earthly things.
Wed to Your commandments, I transgressed them and defiled my bed.
Yet do not despise the creature whom You formed of earth,
but before I utterly perish, save me O Lord!

            Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!

Obsessed with the flesh, I have murdered my soul.
I have become the demons’ toy, the slave of lusts.
In Your compassion, spare me! Put the demons to flight!
Before I utterly perish, save me O Lord!

Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks to Your name!

More than all men I have willfully sinned,
and this has left me helpless and forsaken.
As the enemy of my own soul, I have carnal thoughts that darken it.
O Light of those in darkness, Guide of all who go astray:
“Before I utterly perish, save me O Lord!”

The righteous will surround me; for You will deal bountifully with me.



-- from the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, 5th Sunday in Lent

Which is why I said Dr. Becker's original post took things far further down the road than my short statement in the other thread ever intended.  It is not the notion that our sin separates us from God, nor that the consequences of that separation are horrifying, that we reject.  It is only the notion that God Himself is the author of either the separation or of the consequences that we reject (and again, I think you do as well).  The consequences simply are what they are, but God does not will our destruction.  The Scriptures make that clear.  But the consequences are there, which is why I gave the quote from Genesis above.  God promises Adam and Eve in the day they eat of the fruit they will surely die.  He does not say "I will kill you."
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Dan Fienen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 12771
    • View Profile
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2018, 09:59:09 AM »

There is a longstanding tradition in Lutheran theology (going back to Luther) of distinguishing between God's proper work (that of loving, caring for and saving humanity) and His alien work (His wrath over and punishment of sin).  See for example "God's Alien Word and His Proper Work" by Gene Veith, "'God's Alien & Proper Work' (Deuteronomy 3236-39), Palm Sunday March '16" by Rev. Taggatz, "The Proper Work of God and the Alien Work of God" posted by Andrew Grams, or "Kansas District Reformation 500 Essays: God's Alien Work: The Condemnation of the Law" by Pr. Jon Bruss, numerous other articles may be found.


One of the arguments that has been used against Christianity is the accusation that God as portrayed in the Bible is a capricious, petty and petulant taskmaster who imposes arbitrary rules and then flies into a rage when His petty rules are not followed.  See for example the writings of Richard Dawkins.  In talking about the wrath of God, the need for atonement, God's whole salvation plan, we need to be careful that do not give credence to this misunderstanding of the wrath of God.


Part of the problem, I feel, is that as sinful human beings we have a tendency to view any rule or law that interferes with our desires as an arbitrary and unnecessary infringement on our freedom.  Law is the enemy, to be ignored when possible, gotten around when possible, or grudgingly obeyed when necessary.  A reading of Psalm 119 would be salutary.  Related to this is the image of God as some old curmudgeon going around looking to see if anyone is having fun and putting a stop to it.  Rather we should emphasize that God's Law is His understanding of how life actually works and His advise to us based on that knowledge.  Good advise carries with it a warning.  When good advise is ignored Bad Things Happen.


Recently in the news there have been reports of several deaths of visitors to Yosemite National Park.  People taking selfies at popular scenic overlooks have ventured too close to the edge, slipped and plunged to their deaths.  There are rules against going too close to the edge.  How should we view these rules and the potential death penalty for violating those rules?  Park management being spoil sports and trying to keep people from once in a lifetime pix, or an attempt to keep people safe from a danger they may not realize?


Far too often Christians have used fear to try to keep people in line.  Whatever else the sermon may contain, Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is in the popular imagination an example of threatening with hell any who would cross God.  The Fear of God is a difficult concept for people to fully grasp.  Too often the image it conveys is of God as a capricious, powerful being who is touchy and liable to fly off the handle at anyone who dares to question much less disobey His arbitrary and unnecessary dictates.  We know that is not the case.  We are to fear God much as we should fear the scenic overlooks at Yosemite.  Not that the overlooks are just looking for people that they can dump over the edge to their doom, but that we need to be careful of them, treat them with respect and enjoy them properly. 


Why should we want to obey God's law?  Because we love God and obedience pleases Him.  Because we trust that God does know best and the law that He has laid down is really a guide to a good life.  And because we know if we violate God's law Bad Things Are Likely to Happen.  And ultimately, if reject God's Law it can lead to rejecting God and separating us from God for eternity.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2018, 10:04:32 AM by Dan Fienen »
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43483
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2018, 10:16:20 AM »
Douglas A. Campbell in his 1200+ page book, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul, argues that the idea of "justification" requires a set of ethical demands (whether known innately or through divine revelation, e.g., Mt. Sinai) that we are to perfectly obey.


Reward and punishment will be apportioned by God in relation to individuals' fulfillment or not of God's ethical demands, that is, in accordance with righteous actions, which constitute righteousness, or their converse, and hence on the basis of desert. "If you do x, then you will be rewarded; if you do not, and/or do y, then you will be punished."

… In a very real sense, ethical legislation based on retributive justice is the fundamental structure of the universe, as well as of the divine nature. (p. 17 italics in original)


The justification model requires God to judge and condemn our sinful behaviors. It is from God's judgment and punishment for our sins that we need to be saved - a salvation that comes only from God. We turn to God's grace to save us from God's wrath (that we all deserve).


Campbell argues that this view of God meting out retributive justice comes from Paul's opponents and he is quoting them in the opening chapters of Romans. That isn't Paul's view of God that comes in chapters 5-8.


It is impossible to try and summarize his detailed arguments (especially since I haven't finished reading the book). However, it seems clear to me that the model of justification requires God to be a bad guy who will punish folks for their misdeeds. (Certainly, in our Lutheran understand, that is not all that God is and does.)
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2018, 12:03:47 PM »
There is tension here in Lutheran theology reflected also in Lutheran hymnody. Ponder these two hymns, that live happily next door to each other in LSB.

Yet as the law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and has God’s anger stilled
Our human nature sharing,
He has for us the law obeyed
And thus the Father’s vengeance stayed
Which over us impended. LSB 555:5

vs.

God said to His beloved Son,
It’s time to have compassion!
Then go, bright jewel of My crown
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free,
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever. LSB 556:5

David Garner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7525
    • View Profile
    • For He is Good and Loves Mankind
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2018, 02:47:44 PM »
It might be helpful to note that rather than seeing wrath as part and parcel of justice (and therefore judgment), we in the Orthodox Church see divine wrath as being part and parcel of God's holiness.  It's a fine distinction, but an important one I think.  The former seems to constrain God, as if He must will wrath on us because He, being just, cannot help but punish sin.  The latter seems to suggest that God's will is not constrained, but rather He is utterly holy, and therefore sin cannot abide in His presence.  That is why we view the Sacramental life as so important -- we seek not only to have sin overlooked, but healed and purged.  And we still sin.  It's not that we think God makes us sinless, only that He is the physician Who heals our sin rather than the judge Who punishes it or overlooks us.  And sin itself, our sin, separates us from Him, when He wants us to be reconciled and united to Him.

In that sense, we have no issue discussing divine wrath.  But it is generally in that light that we see it.  God loves us.  As sinners, even His love is terrifying.  Which is why the Bible is replete with instances where sinners are terrified in God's presence, and He must tell us "do not be afraid."
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2018, 06:13:52 PM »
It is worth noting that the fathers do sometimes speak along these lines:

For our sins, says the Apostle; we had pierced ourselves with ten thousand evils, and had deserved the gravest punishment; and the Law not only did not deliver us, but it even condemned us, making sin more manifest, without the power to release us from it, or to stay the anger of God. But the Son of God made this impossibility possible for he remitted our sins, He restored us from enmity to the condition of friends, He freely bestowed on us numberless other blessings. – St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Galatians 1

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.--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII

And so the human race was lying under a just condemnation, and all men were the children of wrath. Of which wrath it is written: "All our days are passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told." Of which wrath also Job says: "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." Of which wrath also the Lord Jesus says: "He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." He does not say it will come, but it "abides on him." For every man is born with it; wherefore the apostle says: "We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Now, as men were lying under this wrath by reason of their original sin, and as this original sin was the more heavy and deadly in proportion to the number and magnitude of the actual sins which were added to it, there was need for a Mediator, that is, for a reconciler, who, by the offering of one sacrifice, of which all the sacrifices of the law and the prophets were types, should take away this wrath. Wherefore the apostle says: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Now when God is said to be angry, we do not attribute to Him such a disturbed feeling as exists in the mind of an angry man; but we call His just displeasure against sin by the name "anger," a word transferred by analogy from human emotions. But our being reconciled to God through a Mediator, and receiving the Holy Spirit, so that we who were enemies are made sons ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"): this is the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. – St. Augustine, Enchiridion 33

And finally, even so late a theologian in the East as Gregory Palamas can write:

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.—St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31


Donald_Kirchner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 11776
    • View Profile
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2018, 07:00:08 PM »
Augustine's comments on anger appear to be what Mr. Garner was getting at.

Love that taste of Gregory Palamas' homily!  :)
Don Kirchner

"Heaven's OK, but it’s not the end of the world." Jeff Gibbs

readselerttoo

  • Guest
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2018, 11:05:29 PM »
It might be helpful to note that rather than seeing wrath as part and parcel of justice (and therefore judgment), we in the Orthodox Church see divine wrath as being part and parcel of God's holiness.  It's a fine distinction, but an important one I think.  The former seems to constrain God, as if He must will wrath on us because He, being just, cannot help but punish sin.  The latter seems to suggest that God's will is not constrained, but rather He is utterly holy, and therefore sin cannot abide in His presence.  That is why we view the Sacramental life as so important -- we seek not only to have sin overlooked, but healed and purged.  And we still sin.  It's not that we think God makes us sinless, only that He is the physician Who heals our sin rather than the judge Who punishes it or overlooks us.  And sin itself, our sin, separates us from Him, when He wants us to be reconciled and united to Him.

In that sense, we have no issue discussing divine wrath.  But it is generally in that light that we see it.  God loves us.  As sinners, even His love is terrifying.  Which is why the Bible is replete with instances where sinners are terrified in God's presence, and He must tell us "do not be afraid."

But if Christ takes upon himself our sin in his death on the cross, have we not become sinless in Christ?  Sure we have.  Faith and God's word (here 2 Cor. 5) take us into this, imo.

David Garner

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7525
    • View Profile
    • For He is Good and Loves Mankind
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2018, 11:12:33 PM »
It might be helpful to note that rather than seeing wrath as part and parcel of justice (and therefore judgment), we in the Orthodox Church see divine wrath as being part and parcel of God's holiness.  It's a fine distinction, but an important one I think.  The former seems to constrain God, as if He must will wrath on us because He, being just, cannot help but punish sin.  The latter seems to suggest that God's will is not constrained, but rather He is utterly holy, and therefore sin cannot abide in His presence.  That is why we view the Sacramental life as so important -- we seek not only to have sin overlooked, but healed and purged.  And we still sin.  It's not that we think God makes us sinless, only that He is the physician Who heals our sin rather than the judge Who punishes it or overlooks us.  And sin itself, our sin, separates us from Him, when He wants us to be reconciled and united to Him.

In that sense, we have no issue discussing divine wrath.  But it is generally in that light that we see it.  God loves us.  As sinners, even His love is terrifying.  Which is why the Bible is replete with instances where sinners are terrified in God's presence, and He must tell us "do not be afraid."

But if Christ takes upon himself our sin in his death on the cross, have we not become sinless in Christ?  Sure we have.  Faith and God's word (here 2 Cor. 5) take us into this, imo.

“Sinless” was probably inartful. What I meant was we still continue to sin, not that God doesn’t heal our sin sufficiently (He surely does).
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Mbecker

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 1207
    • View Profile
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2018, 05:55:20 PM »
I think you're taking my point to an extreme that is well beyond what I intended by it.

First, we do not deny God's wrath and judgment, but we do put them in their proper place.  "Wrath" in particular is an anthropomorphism.  And so it is easy for us to take such a word and apply it to God the way we would apply it to ourselves.  I think that is a mistake.  God's wrath is no more than the consequences of separation from Him.  He does not choose that, nor does He wish it (see, e.g., I Tim. 2:4).  So we would not say God is "wrathful" in any way that would deny that God is loving.  To do so is the error of the Calvinists.

...When I say we are not saved from God, what I mean is that God is not the source nor the cause of our damnation.  Satan is the accuser.  We are responsible for our own condition.  We are responsible for our own sins.  God is the One Who saves us from those things, not the one who damns us.  We damn ourselves. God wishes us to be saved.

...I want to take one as an example of where I think we disagree.  Romans 5:10 says "for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  You say, quoting here, that this means "God is our enemy."  I could not disagree more strongly with this.  It is the same error that reads Genesis 2:17 and instead of hearing "in the day that you eat of it you will surely die," hears instead "in the day that you eat of it I will kill you."  You turn God into the problem, where the passage does no such thing.  Yes, WE were enemies.  That does not mean God is our enemy.  It means we are disobedient and unworthy servants.  We hate God.  He never hates us.

Dear David,
Thank you for this reply. It helps me to understand your understanding better.

I did not intend to take what you wrote to an extreme that you do not accept. I was simply trying to understand what you meant by those assertions. You appeared to be saying that we do not need to be saved from God, i.e., from God's wrath, and that confessional Lutherans would agree with this. I'm saying, "Wait a second. Not so fast," at least with respect to confessional Lutheran theology.

What you write above aligns closely with Johannes v. Hofmann's teaching about the atonement, which I analyze in my first book, The Self-Giving God and Salvation History, see esp. pp. 173-203. Hofmann grounded the atonement in God's eternal will of love and self-determination that was actualized and fulfilled in Jesus, enabling Jesus to live his life on behalf of the well-being and salvation of humankind. This divine self-giving is the ground of Jesus' human being. He restores humanity to fellowship with God. He reveals and actualizes God's will to embrace all human beings in the divine love. In Hofmann's view, the atonement of Jesus was not to propitiate the wrath of God but to actualize God's loving grace for all of creation and, in the process, to remove the obstacles (sin, death, the power of Satan) that separate sinners from God. Through the course of his life, Jesus expressed God's will of love. Through his suffering and death, Jesus suffered the ultimate separation from his heavenly Father and thereby removed the opposition between God's eternal will of love and God's historical wrath against temporal humanity. He suffered the anti-divine forces in himself and thereby overcame them (but not in the place of sinful humanity as a whole). Hofmann, too, would never have admitted that "we need to be saved from the Father" or that "we need to be saved from God." (While he, too, acknowledged and affirmed, as do you, that the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions teach about the need to be freed from "the divine wrath," he maintained that such "wrath" is merely an historical phenomenon that has resulted from human sins. The "wrath" of which the Scriptures speak is not at all grounded in God's essence.) Hofmann thus transferred the doctrine of the atonement out of a juridical framework (i.e., a scheme of forensic justice) and into terms of the historical realization of God's eternal will of love. For Hofmann, neither God's law nor the divine wrath are eternal, but merely temporal, historical developments (passing moments, really) in God's eternal plan of salvation.

By re-visioning the doctrine of atonement, Hofmann invited criticism from his fellow German Lutherans. In fact, in the wake of his reflections on the atonement, several other confessional Lutheran theologians wrote entire tomes against his views. These other theologians stressed that God's law is eternal and that God's wrath is grounded in the very justice and holiness of God, which are also eternal attributes. These confessional Lutherans (e.g., Philippi, Kliefoth, T. Harnack, Thomasius), to varying degrees of clarity and forcefulness, stressed that one cannot prioritize any of the divine attributes over another; they are all equally true with respect to the divine essence. For example, one cannot rank God's "love" above God's "justice," or God's "love" above God's "holiness." (These theologians, too, were aware of the anthropomorphic nature of all human terms for the divine essence and attributes. This limitation of human language vis-a-vis the divine essence and attributes is as true of the words "love" and "mercy"  as it is of other words, "justice," "wrath," "wisdom," holiness," "one," and so on.) Harnack's study of Luther, in particular, is a careful analysis of all of Luther's statements about "the wrath of God" (irae caelestes; der Zorn Gottes) and why Luther thought that teaching about the wrath of God is essential for clearly preaching the good news about all that from which Christ redeems us. According to Harnack's study of Luther, the wrath of God is a far greater threat and consequence to sinners than physical death (little "d" death, as my teacher Norman Nagel used to say) and the power of Satan. Thank God, Christ suffered the divine wrath and damnation--that are truly and rightfully against us--in our place on the cross, and has borne them away. He did this for our salvation. According to these confessional Lutheran theologians, at any rate, the death of Jesus is crucial, for it alone bears away the wrath of God that is justly leveled against us sinners.

I guess I was mostly objecting to your assertion that all serious confessional Lutheran Christians would agree that we do not need to be saved from the Father or "from God." The confessional theologians who wrote against Hofmann all stressed that an important aspect of the gospel is that Christ has saved us from God, that is, from God's just judgment and eternal wrath (both of which are grounded in God's eternal justice and holiness). If Christ has not suffered the divine wrath in the place of sinful humanity--and saved us from God's just judgment--then his suffering is no different from all other human suffering. If the divine will of love is the foundation of Christ's suffering and death on the cross, then Christ has not truly suffered away all that he must suffer in order to expiate all that is truly against human beings. That "all" includes God because God is just and holy, and his law is eternal--and all human beings are in bondage to sin and cannot free themselves. A true mediator between God and sinful humanity must satisfy and propitiate God's wrath (cf. the cry of dereliction from the cross).

Harnack's study is also helpful for explaining how our experiences of the deus absconditus, the threat of absolute predestination, Anfechtungen and fears of the divine, "fate," injustice, unjust suffering, and death, also play a role in evangelical preaching concerning that from which we need "saving."

It's a scandalous teaching, one that finds many critics today, but it is a teaching that I think is consistent with the teaching of the Scriptures and clear emphases in the Lutheran Confessions. According to the gospel, through the death and damnation of Christ on the cross we are "saved from God," namely, from God's wrath and eternal judgment that are arrayed against us sinners.

Matt Becker
« Last Edit: November 03, 2018, 10:54:00 PM by Mbecker »

Mbecker

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 1207
    • View Profile
Re: Do Sinners Need to Be Saved from God?
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2018, 11:44:00 PM »
When I say we are not saved from God, what I mean is that God is not the source nor the cause of our damnation.  Satan is the accuser.  We are responsible for our own condition.  We are responsible for our own sins.  God is the One Who saves us from those things, not the one who damns us.  We damn ourselves. God wishes us to be saved.  As we say in our liturgy, "forasmuch as He is good and loves mankind."  That doesn't mean we can't talk about God's wrath in a proper sense.  It does mean we dare not take that to conclusions that refute Who God is as He is described in the rest of the Scriptures.

You give a litany of Scriptural passages that I, again, cannot delve into sufficiently this morning, but I want to take one as an example of where I think we disagree.  Romans 5:10 says "for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  You say, quoting here, that this means "God is our enemy."  I could not disagree more strongly with this.  It is the same error that reads Genesis 2:17 and instead of hearing "in the day that you eat of it you will surely die," hears instead "in the day that you eat of it I will kill you."  You turn God into the problem, where the passage does no such thing.  Yes, WE were enemies.  That does not mean God is our enemy.  It means we are disobedient and unworthy servants.  We hate God.  He never hates us.

David,
I'm sorry that I didn't have an opportunity before now to reply to this other part of your reply from a few days ago.

I am curious to learn from you, in light of your above comment, how you interpret "the rest of the Scriptures," e.g., the several passages in the Scriptures wherein God orders the total destruction (cherem) of entire cities, i.e., the extermination of the men, women, and children in those cities.

For example, in my devotion this morning I read this passage:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, "I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing him on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1 Sam 15.2-3; cf. Dt. 25.17-19). Saul didn't spare the women and the children; he didn't have mercy upon them. But he did spare the king and the best of the livestock. He refused "to devote" them to the LORD. The latter wasn't pleased: 1 Sam. 15.10ff. Cf. 1 Sam. 13.8-15 for another reason why the LORD was displeased with Saul.

This is not an isolated incident. See also Josh. 6.17ff.; 7.10f.; 8ff.; 10.8ff.; 11.6ff. ("And the Lord said to Joshua, 'Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel; you shall hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire"... "And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who smote them...."); Jds. 1.17; 21.11; Dt. 20.10-18  ("you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall utterly destroy them....") etc. See also Isaiah 34.5ff. ("The LORD has a sword...."); Zech 14.12ff. ("...the LORD will smite all peoples...."); Mal. 3.5ff.

Was not God "a problem" for the Amelekites and the inhabitants of the other cities mentioned in these passages? Did God wish those people to be saved? How so? They ended up dead. By the swords of the Israelites who slaughtered them. In response to the command of the LORD. Those enemies of the Israelites (of the LORD?) were smitten.

What about that "fear of the LORD," to which the biblical prophets refer and to which Dr. Luther refers in his exegetical comments on these passages and others, and in his explanations to the Ten Commandments?

Matt Becker
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 11:48:01 PM by Mbecker »