August 30, 2003

Salvation and Atonement

Orthodox priest Fr. Theodore Pulicini writes that he always found the view of salvation that Christ paid the penalty for sin and removed a just sentence unsatisfying and legalistic. "Why would a loving God require such a price? Was the Father really so angry and vengeful that he would require the death of his own Son in order to be appeased?" he writes.

Way beyond my ken, obviously, and it is a mystery as to exactly how it works, but it is a fact that Christ reversed the disastrous sin of Adam. I accept it on faith. But I see it as love rather than appeasement. The study of anthropology (as well as any college fraternity) suggests that what binds humans is the presence of a scapegoat. God became the scapegoat in order that we might love each other (and not scapegoat each other) and that we might understand his tremendous love for us in dying for us.

The key loss over the past three hundred years might not so much be a loss of faith in a Divine intelligence but in a Divine intelligence that loves us. The 18th century Deists began a downward spiral from which we have not recovered. When I look at the Cross and understand that He would have done it for me alone (ala the parable of the good shepherd going in search of the one lost sheep), I am blown away at the extreme God would go to to show his love. How non-Christians believe in a loving God in a world of suffering is not something I fully comprehend.

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