atonement new testament Patristics salvation

Irenaeus and two Early Atonement Theories

At long last it is time to launch into one of the theories of the atonement, or more correctly one of the early church Father’s writings about atonement. In study group one of these went down very easily, and the other required a bit more wrestling. I could see that their horizons were being opened up – which is exactly what happened to me when I first heard these ideas too. On reflection though, as I look back, it seems to me that I was being in introduced to ‘a half remembered tune’ playing ‘softly in my mind.’ [1] … See what you think!

The very early church certainly proclaimed the cross, yet seemed to not spill much ink explaining how it provided salvation[2]. Sure, the New Testament (which they didn’t have then of course) mentions various metaphors as we have seen. From the second century Irenaeus (130-202) and others began to think of cross in terms of conflict with the powers of the day. This goes beyond the ‘Jesus is Lord’ vs ‘Caesar is Lord’ that we might think we understand, off into the spiritual, cosmic realm.

Devotional Patristics salvation

Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa

This was a stonker of an essay, which was both a joy and a pain to write. Both of these theologians wrote masses of material. Augustine is in some sense known as the Father of the Western Church, and much of what we believe in the West goes back to him. Interestingly, I recently heard some Orthodox Theologians expresses the opinion that Augustine was a heretic … when considering some of his views. Gregory was new to me, and I was so impacted by him that I am considering doing something on him for my dissertation.

The subject matter of this essay is not for the timid evangelical who doesn’t want to have their reading of scripture challenged. When the eastern and western churches ‘branched off’ they each took some unique theology with them. In my opinion the east has A LOT to teach us.

I couldn’t get enough of the Gregory of Nyssa. What a depth. What an insight. Perhaps the same is true of Augustine, but given the subject matter I’d take the East any time.

Read on… if you dare (well kind of)

Analyse and evaluate critically Eastern & Western views of human nature, sin and salvation evident in Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa as they write on the nature of the fall & God’s response.