Eastern Orthodox view of the atonement
One key difference between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western Church, including both Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism, is their view of sin and Christ’s atonement. In the west, we have adopted a “Satisfaction View” of atonement, as formed by Anselm of Canterbury and later refined by St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.
The idea of the western Satisfaction View is that sin is a moral debt owed to God that must be paid through punishment. It is the understanding that because we are sinful, we deserve hell and must be justified, or made right, with God through punishment, a blood sacrifice. The western understanding of grace, then, is that God sent His Son, Jesus, to endure His wrath and anger and receive the due punishment on our behalf, thereby justifying us with Him.
The eastern view of sin is quite different. The Orthodox Church views sin not as a debt needing to be paid to God, but as a sickness causing us to be incomplete in God’s purpose. Therefore, in the east, repentance is not remorse for breaking a rule. It is a healing process, a renewed desire to become more than the desires of our flesh. The eastern understanding of grace, then, is that God sent His Son, Jesus, not as a ransom for our sin, but as a manifestation of His love for humanity. The atonement in Christ’s death is not God’s wrath being poured out in justification, but His unending love being made complete for our reconciliation.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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