Athanasius on Recapitulation and Penal Substitutionary Atonement
[The following post was originally published on 11/13/09.]
Theologians who deny that Jesus on His Cross effected Penal Substitutionary Atonement for sinners [more on that HERE] often argue against Penal Substitution by: 1. Claiming that a Penal Substitutionary model of the Atonement was unknown in the ancient Church, and was only conceived during the Reformation period; 2. Setting other models of the Atonement against Penal Substitution.
The Son of God “when he became incarnate, and was made man… commenced afresh [i.e. summed up in himself) the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus” (3.18.1). “But what he did appear, that he also was: God recapitulated in himself the ancient formulation of man, that he might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore his works are true” (3.18.7). “So did he who was the Word, recapitulating Adam in himself, rightly receive a birth, enabling him to gather up Adam [into himself]… making a recapitulation in himself… that the very same formation should be summed up [recapitulated] in Christ” (3.21.10). [From class notes by Dr. Wellum.]
Jesus “surrendered his body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This he did out of sheer love for us, so that in his death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in his body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men” (2.8). In this way did he become “in dying a sufficient exchange for all” (2.9). “For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word’s indwelling in a single body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all” (2.9). Christ, the incarnate Word, himself offered “the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering his own temple [body] to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression” (4.20). If then, “any honest Christian wants to know why he suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that was on us; and how could he ‘become a curse’ otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree’” (4.25). [Emphases added.]
“Christ endured death for us, inasmuch as he offered himself for the purpose to God” (1.41). He “takes our sufferings upon himself, and presents them to the Father, entreating for us that they be satisfied in him” (4.6). “Laden with guilt the world was condemned of law, but the Logos assumed the condemnation, and suffering in the flesh gave salvation to all” (1.60). [Emphases added.]
Labels: Reformation Theology