Martin Luther - Lesson 9
Christ and the Atonement
Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.
Christ and the Atonement
Christ and the Atonement
Luther, the Pastor: Romans 3:20
I. Luther fights against certain fixed positions in the Scholastic tradition
A. fides charitate formata, faith formed by love. LW 26:88;90;268;279
1. Excerpt from Commentary on the Galatians, LW 26:88
Luther - Faith has Christ as its object vs. scholastic view that has the Law as its object. The scholastic view leads to an uncertainty of our salvation. If one is saved on the basis of what is going on in your heart right now, it is not complete. The question becomes what do I have to add to it. Righteousness comes from outside of us.
B. The tendency to defend Christ from the curse LW 26:276ff
Luther- Galatians, Christ was accursed on a tree. Rather important note that by denying this we forget that his work was for us.
II. Three Classical Views of the Atonement
A. Latin Anselm 11 Century - Sin honor of God violated. In order to repair then satisfaction had to be made. Either condemn the world or find a worthy sacrifice.
B. Patristic Fathers - Action of God in Christ through which all the forces of evil are overwhelmed by Christ's triumph.
C. Abelard, Peter - Christ is an example. He is in perfect harmony with God the Father. Not so much that God is mad at us but that we need to be reconciled to God in friendship.
III. To what view of the Atonement does Luther hold?
A. The source of the controversy
B. Some say vicarious satisfaction theory
C. Gustav Aulen asserts the Christus Victor motif
IV. Luther's view of the atonement is conditioned by his theology of the cross.
A. Luther rejects the idea that God is one who can be bargained with in the commercial fashion or satisfied with a mere payment.
B. Luther's criticism of Anselm's Theory
C. In the theology of the cross it is only the resurrection that gives his death significance.
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Introduction to the life and theology of Martin Luther.0% Complete
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Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.0% Complete
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Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.0% Complete
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When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.0% Complete
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Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.0% Complete
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Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.0% Complete
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The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.0% Complete
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Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).0% Complete
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Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.0% Complete
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Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.0% Complete
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Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.0% Complete
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Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.0% Complete
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Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.0% Complete
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The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.0% Complete
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Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.0% Complete
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Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.0% Complete
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The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.0% Complete
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Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.0% Complete
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Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.0% Complete
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Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.0% Complete
This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Dr. Gordon Isaac
Christ and the Atonement
[00:00:02] Today we're going to be talking about Christ and the Atonement. Today we are going to to deal with the righteousness of God in terms of our readings and Luther, and we'll be dealing with this particular topic. So as we do. Let's get underway with a brief exposition of this passage in Romans. Romans 117 reads in the following way for In the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith. For faith as it is written, the one who is righteous will live by faith. He is not righteous who does much, but he who without work believes much in Christ for the righteousness of God, is not acquired by means of acts frequently repeated as Aristotle taught, but it is imparted by faith for the one who, through faith is righteous, shall live, and one who believes with the heart and so is justified. Romans ten. Therefore, I wish to have the words without work understood in the following manner. Not that the righteous person does nothing but that the works. Do not make the person righteous. Rather, that the righteousness creates, works for grace and faith are infused with our works after they have been imparted, the works follow. Thus Romans 320 states No human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law. And for we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans three. In other words, works contribute nothing to justification. Therefore, believers know that works, which they do by such faith, are not theirs. But God's. For this reason, they do not seek to become justified or glorified through them, but seek God.
[00:02:12] Their justification by faith in Christ is sufficient to them. Christ is their wisdom, righteousness, all things as First Corinthians 130 has it that they themselves may be Christ's vessels and instruments. Let's pause for prayer. O Lord, I am your sin, you are my righteousness. Therefore I triumph and am secure for my sin cannot overpower your righteousness, nor can your righteousness let me be or remain a sinner. Blessed Lord God of mine, my mercy and my Redeemer in you only do I trust. Never. Let me be ashamed. Amen. Okay. Today, we're going to be taking up this topic of Christ and the Atonement, and we'll be dealing with how Luther deals with this topic. Now, a couple of sessions ago, we talked about the theology of the cross, and we contrasted that with a theology of glory, trying to determine how God is in heaven through speculation. Is the manner of theology rising that Luther eschews? He says, No, no, no, no. That's not the way to do your theology rising. Rather, one needs to become a theologian of the cross, viewing God as he's revealed himself in Christ Jesus on the cross through suffering and death. The theology of the cross, then, is a very distinct way of doing theological work, and it implies a death and a resurrection in the religious subject. We saw how that worked. Now, last time we talked about Luther's view of Scripture, and one of the things that we said is that in dealing with that critical passage of second Corinthians chapter three, verse six, the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. In that passage, we saw that Luther was actually creating his whole approach to Scripture through that lens, because that passage of Scripture teaches about the preaching office.
[00:04:25] Scripture is used rightly when it puts to death the old Adam and raises to new life of faith. So once again, we see this theme of of the theology of the cross coming through and how Luther does his work. Now, today, when we deal with Christ in the Atonement, we'll see once again that as we enter this particular locus of systematic theology, we'll find that we come across Luther and his theology across here as well, and we'll find that as he develops his understanding or as he sets forward his understanding of the atonement, we'll find that to be the case, will try to pull the strings together, the themes together toward the end of class today. But I want to set that before you so that you're thinking in terms of theology of the cross, theology of the Cross, and trying to understand Luther everywhere in terms of this rubric, this way, this manner of going about the theological task. Okay. One thing that we need to say here is that Luther fights against certain fixed positions in the scholastic tradition. Luther is known for setting forward an understanding of justification by faith. We are placed into rights standing before God through faith alone. Sola Friday. And it is that sola, that alone which brings Luther hard up against the Roman Catholic tradition and the Roman Catholic tradition. While they said that faith is necessary and is the foundation for salvation. It is not faith alone which saves, but it is rather faith which has been formed by love, which is which is then the fullness of what the Christian life is about. And therefore, that is the very specific form that faith takes. It is a faith formed by love. In Luther's case, what Luther is trying to indicate with his understanding of faith is that the faith is that gift which comes from God in which Christ himself is present.
[00:06:51] Faith is not the exercise of one's freewill in deciding for Jesus. But faith for Luther is a gift granted by God coming through the word which embraces the whole Christ. Christ is present in faith, or to put it in other words, the struggle that God is in the midst of pursuing in your life and in mine is to create people of faith. That's the whole point, because as sinners, we are faithless and we go about our infidelities of one sort or another, and we do not allow God to be our God. And so it is that God is in the midst of a divine battle to win over your heart and my heart so that we will serve him in gladness, in obedience and cheerfulness, in ready acceptance of his will at every point. And what Luther says is that's the whole point, is to bring sinful people who are wandering in astray to that place that we call faith. And that is the transaction. That's the fight that God is waging in our world. Now we see that Luther then coming up with, you know, having a very different point of view here and having a different formulation, which he is receiving from the Apostle Paul in particular, Romans and other passages. We find him coming up hard against the Roman Catholic tradition and their concept of faith formed by love. Let's just take a little a look at a passage here that that will perhaps help to highlight and illustrate this a bit for us. In his commentary on the book of Galatians, he sets out this little passage. It's about a page in length, and I thought that it would kind of help us focus and get to some of these issues.
[00:08:58] I'm also pulling this material from the commentary in Galatians because unfortunately in our class, as short as it is, we won't have the chance to read that significant work. Luther's works. Yes, this is simply the accepted way of citing the American edition of Luther's works. The LW stands for Luther's Works. The first number is the volume number. This is volume 26, page 88. Sometimes you'll also see references to Luther with w a that stance that stands for the Weimar Aus GABA, which is the critical edition of Luther's works in Latin and German. And we you'll find that in some of in some of your readings you'll have reference. And normally what they do is they have a volume number, a page number, and then a line number. So they're usually three reference points there. So thanks for that question. Let's just hear out Luther here and then we'll kind of trace him back and see what what light this sheds on things. Luther says this The truth of the gospel is this that our righteousness comes by faith alone without the works of the law. The falsification or corruption of the gospel is this that we are justified by faith, but not without the works of the law. The false apostles preach the gospel, but they did so with this condition attached to it. The scholastics do the same thing in our day. Now notice here he's making a reference to the false apostles. He is making exposition of the book of Galatians. And you remember where Paul refuses to have Titus circumcised? Remember their meeting? And you know, the Jews are taking a look and they're pointing their finger. Well, he's just a gentile. Let's get this guy circumcised. He needs to accept the law before he can become a Christian.
[00:11:01] And that was a big fight in the early church, as you remember. Of course, it's waged throughout the book of Acts, you know, the Jerusalem Council, a whole shot. And then, of course, it comes up again in the book of Galatians. Now, the fossil pastors preach the gospel, but they did so with this condition attached to it in the case of first century Christianity. Then what we see is that the condition attached to you can be a Christian, you can be saved by Jesus. You're saved by Jesus and Torah. So there was an addition to the Gospel, Jesus and the Torah in the case of 16th century Christianity. Well, Luther is saying, Yeah, the scholastics say you're saved by Jesus. And you see, Roman Catholics could always say we are saved by grace alone. Sola Garcia Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And they would also say that faith is necessary, but they would say that it's not faith alone, you know, apart from works the law, but they would say it's faith formed by love. Because faith without works is not full faith. That's what they would they would claim. So the false apostles says the scholastics do the same thing in our day. They say that we must believe in Christ and that faith is the foundation of salvation. But they say that this faith does not justify unless it is formed by love. This is not the truth of the gospel. It is falsehood and pretense. The true gospel, however, is this works or love are not the ornament or perfection of faith. But faith itself is a gift of God, a work of God in our hearts, which justifies us because it takes hold of Christ as the Savior. Human reason has the law as its object.
[00:12:45] It says to itself this I have done this I have not done. But faith in its proper function has no other object than Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is put to death for the sins of the world. It does not look at its love and say, What have I done? Where have I send? What have I deserved? But it says, What has Christ done? What has he deserved? And here, the truth of the Gospel gives you the answer. He has redeemed you from sin, from the devil and from eternal death. Therefore, faith acknowledges that in this one person, Jesus Christ, it has the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Whoever diverts his gaze from this object does not have true faith. He has a fantasy and a vain opinion. He looks away from the promise and at the law, which terrifies him and drives him to despair. Okay, so here in this passage, you see what Luther is up to. He is trying to set forward, on the one hand, the gospel faith alone, apart from the works of the law phrase, which comes right out of the book of Romans. And he is contrasting it with the Roman Catholic understanding of faith formed by love. Now, of course, there are a whole complex of things that are going on here, and in some ways there is a certain approximation of what the Roman Catholic tradition is attempting to say is that, look, faith alone without works is dead. It's ineffectual. Now, Luther says the same sort of thing all through his writings, he's saying a mere historical faith is not enough. Yeah, even the devil believes that Jesus is the Son of God, but it does him no good. So an historical faith won't get you where you need to go.
[00:14:45] But what Luther is trying to say is that faith resides in the heart. And insofar as faith is resident, Christ is resident. So faith has Christ as its object. And that's the point. Now, what Luther is saying is, look, if you set forward an understanding of faith formed by love, what you're saying is that ultimately. The object of your works is law. You always measure law according to works. Works according to law. They go together. And so human reason here he says it in this way human reason has the law as its object. And it says to itself, this, I've done this. I've not done. Okay, So there's all this human reason and law which goes on. But what Luther is trying to say is, look, the gospel is a new thing. It's not regulated by law. The gospel frees us from law. And this kind of calculation in terms of redemption, in terms of the righteousness of God. The gospel is a new thing because it takes hold of Christ who is himself, our righteousness. As according to First Corinthians chapter one, verse 30. So Luther is fighting against this fixed point within Scholasticism, and he's saying, Look, you set forward this concept of faith formed by love. But essentially what you're doing is you're saying that it is through love, then love is what really saves us. If your love is complete, then that adds to your faith. And that is ultimately what says this is a no no. It will never be that. And you know what this does in terms of pastoral care issues. What this does is this It puts you in a place where you can never be certain of your salvation. If you are saved on the basis of what's going on in your heart right now.
[00:17:00] That's an ongoing work. It's not complete. It's not done. You're always adding works. You're always adding new expressions of love. It's not complete. And if you're if you're saved on the basis of faith formed by love, then the question comes, Well, how much love do I have to have in order for my faith to be completely formed? What do I have to add yet still over and above what I've already done? Well, I already go to church. I've taken the sacrament. I believe the priest. Oh, yeah. Everything's set in place. Hey, I even go to your life or I went to your life when I was in college. But, you know, I've been there. I sing the songs. I even raise my hands when we sing those choruses. What else do I have to add? If salvation comes by faith, form by love, then you are concerned about infused righteousness. What is inside you? Luther's point is to say this Righteousness is an alien righteousness. It comes from outside of us. As a matter of fact, Christ is the one who is righteous and therefore our righteousness proceeds on a very different basis. It's not on the basis of law, but it's on the basis of the gift of God. And so we see here operating the distinction between law and gospel, which Luther is so famous for and which every good theologian needs to know the, you know, the difference between us. So this is what Luther is up to in terms of this business of faith formed by love. Okay. So in terms of assurance, Luther is setting forward his understanding of the righteousness of God. Christ is our salvation, precisely so that pastoral speaking, he can get to the issue of assurance.
[00:18:52] That's one of the consequences. He's not motivated by that, but that's one of the consequences of the preaching of the true gospel, because it sets us free and it sets us free from those nagging doubts, Well, am I religious enough? And in essence, what God is saying, you know, stop worrying about that. I took care of that a long time ago. Now move ahead and move in freedom, because Christ, now is your life. You keep asking, what do I have to do in order to win salvation? What works do I have to do? And God, in essence, is saying, stop it. I don't need your works. I don't want you to do your religious actions for me. I choose to be a God who will give. And your problem as a sinner is you won't take anything. And that's what God wants to change in us. God wants to be a God of grace. We want him to be a God of some celestial bookkeeper up there. You know where he's counting our good works? Oh, well, you know that person. Well, they're doing pretty good. No, no, no, no. That's not God. Time out. And what Luther's trying to get at is to blast this whole scheme of trying to make a transaction with God, spiritually speaking. And that's why Luther is trying to move to his understanding of grace in this way. Now, there's an interesting little bit in Luther's Galatians commentary, where it comes up on this passage where Paul is dealing with Christ and saying that Christ has become a curse for us. Christ has become a curse for us, has become sin for us. And this Christ redeems from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written cursed by everyone who hangs on a tree.
[00:20:46] Now, here is very interesting. Luther starts to get heated up, and this is a wonderful little passage to read some time, and I give you the reference for that. But here he begins to complain about Jerome and the Sophists, the scholastic theologians. And he says that they really go through all kinds of contorted efforts in order to say that, well, well, really, Christ doesn't become a curse. That's a terrible thing to say about Christ, isn't it? We don't want to say that about our Jesus, do we? And Luther's saying, Well, that's what Jerome does. He says that, Well, Paul was not speaking in earnest here. And they go on to say, Well, he is just used. A particular rhetorical phrase for this passage in Scripture, and we can't really take this literally. But what Luther wants to say is no, on the contrary, that this is rather rather important. He is not simply using hyperbolic language here. He is speaking in earnest. And while Jerome and the scholastics seem to be very pious in trying to defend the honor of Christ, by so doing, they deprive us of his saving work and draw attention away from the fact that he is doing this for us. The work of Christ is done for us, and He has become a curse for us. And if we do not let Christ be a curse for us, then we must wrap ourselves in sin. Listen to this little passage. The knowledge of Christ and most delightful comfort that Christ became a curse for us. To set us free from the curse of the law of this, the sophist deprive us when they segregate Christ from sins and from sinners, and set him forth to us only as an example to be imitated.
[00:22:48] Imitation, piety. You see, that's part of and you know, there's there's a particular view of the atonement that says Christ came as an example that we should follow. We should be won over. It's not that God's really angry at us, it's that we haven't fully perceived who God is, and therefore Christ is the example that helps us to overcome that problem. But notice in this way they make Christ not only useless to us, but also a judge and a tyrant who is angry because of our sins and who damns sinners. But just as Christ is wrapped up in our flesh and blood, so we must wrap Him and know Him to be wrapped up in our sins, our curse, our death and everything evil. It's an interesting way of putting it, isn't it? Luther claims, Look, we have to recognize that Paul really is in deadly earnest here. Christ has become a curse for us. He comes down once again to speak about this. And he says that the scholastics dream about a kind of faith formed by love through this, they want to remove sins and be justified. This is clearly to unwrap Christ and to unclothed him from our sins, to make him innocent, to burden and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins, and to behold them not in Christ, but in ourselves. This is to abolish Christ and make him useless. For if it is true that we abolish sins by the works of the law and by love, then Christ does not take them away. But we do. But if He is truly the LAMB of God who takes away the sins of the world, who became a curse for us and who is wrapped in our sins, it necessarily follows that we cannot be justified and take away sins through love for God has laid our sins not upon us, but upon Christ.
[00:24:38] His Son. So this is an interesting way of arguing the fact and once again, a place where Luther, very interestingly comes up against the Roman Catholic tradition. Let's just take a quick move here. The second point to what view of the atonement does Luther hold? I had thought of regaling you with something I had written before about this matter, but decided that I would just try to summarize it a bit for you so that you wouldn't be you wouldn't glaze over. But essentially, there's been something of a controversy in Luther studies trying to determine what view of the atonement Luther really held and how he understood the atonement to take place. Many have said that Luther believed in vicarious atonement and they have assigned Luther that understanding of the nature of the atonement. And that has kind of held the day for quite some time. There is the source of this controversy. There are other voices now, Gustaf Alleyne, with his little book, Christus Victor, set forward another theory. He says, No, no, no, no. Luther is not taken up with the Latin view of the atonement. The view of the atonement that comes from Anselm. He rather has a classical view of the atonement and understands the atonement primarily in terms of overcoming the forces. Let's go through the three basic views of the atonement just so that we're on the same page. Okay. The first view of the Latin view is the proponent of that is usually said to be so sin and so 11th century. And he believed that through sin the honor of God was violated and that in order to retrieve or to repair the just or the injustice done to God's honor, that it would take a satisfaction, satisfaction had to be made.
[00:26:51] And God had two options. Either he could punish humanity or he could find someone to take punishment for humanity. Well, he looked out over the possibilities. Should an angel take this? Well, no. There's no angel that was worthy of such a role. And finally, Anselm comes down to say that he sends his only son, who, because of his divine nature and his sinless life, is a worthy sacrifice, and thus can make satisfaction for the sinfulness of the human race. That's the first view of the atonement. The Latin style or vicarious atonement is another way, vicarious satisfaction. It's another way of putting it. The second view of the atonement actually comes out of the Patristic Fathers. This is a view of the Atonement, which understands the atonement to be primarily the action of God in Christ, through which all of the forces of evil that are arrayed against us are overwhelmed, and Christ leads them in triumphant procession. So we can talk about sin. We can talk about death. We can talk about the devil. We can talk about all of those forces. And, you know, there's very interesting passages in Colossians, in other places where it talks about the forces that are arrayed against God. So Christ overwhelms the powers that would keep us from returning to the living God. That's the second form of the view of the atonement. This also the fathers used to like to talk about how the devil was tricked or Christ in his humanity hid his divinity. And so when the devil came after him, the devil was thwarted by this immortal who could not die. So it's very interesting. Makes for very interesting reading. That's a good book, Christus Victor. I do recommend it to you. The Third view of the Atonement.
[00:28:53] The primary proponent is Peter Abelard, who maintained that, after all, what's really going on here is, is this that Christ is an example. He is the one who is in perfect harmony with God, the Father. He has a perfect undefiled relationship of harmony with God, the Father. And the fact of the matter is this It's not so much that God is angry with us, but it's that we have to be reconciled in friendship to God. So the problem that has to be overcome is not the wrath of God, but the fact that we are not reconciled. The change doesn't take place in God. The change takes place in us. And crisis. The example, and he shows us how to do that. Now, what's very interesting about Luther is that it seems as with much of the medieval tradition, he was able to use the language of all three different forms of the view of the atonement. He could talk at times about God being satisfied or Christ making satisfaction for us on the cross. He could also talk about Christ as triumphing over the devil on the cross. And there's a marvelous passage in the Galatians commentary once again, it's just great, great stuff where he talks about the devil coming after him, the law accusing him. And little does the devil know that this one cannot be rightfully accused. And so Christ, in his death and resurrection, then overcomes all of the forces of evil. And also, we can find that Christ is our example. So all this kind of terminology we can find in Luther. So that's where the controversy comes from. Gustav Arlen says no to Paul Althouse. Althouse claims that, well, you know, Luther actually holds to both of these views.
[00:31:03] Clearly, he leans on the side of Saint Anselm and vicarious atonement, but he does so also using this terminology of Christus Victor. And there are other voices, but we pass those voices simply to say that Mark Lenard, in his work on Christ the Witness, claims that Luther, we should be very careful that we not talk about a particular theory of the atonement in Luther because he holds all of these things together in a manner which we, in our modern setting have had the tendency to split apart. So there is a very interesting controversy that takes place Now. Where do I come out on this? Where do you come out on this? You'll have to make your own decisions. But I really think that in many ways, Gustav Eileen has a very good point to make. I think that there is much in Luther that kind of leans towards Christus Victor, and there is some in Luther that also critiques the theory of the atonement as set forward by CNN's CNN's. But I think that it is possible, if one simply talks about a view of the atonement to fall back into a theology of glory. And that's what we can't let happen when we deal with Luther. What Luther is after in terms of the atonement is something much more than just a theory about how it happens in heaven that God is placated that we come into reconciliation. But what's important for Luther is that satisfaction take place actually in time through the preaching of the word that sins are forgiven and that there is a new relationship which is established. So what we find here is that in the first instance, Luther rejects the idea that God is one who can be bargained with in commercial fashion or satisfied with a mere payment.
[00:33:10] Now, it's interesting to note that if you take if you take the the theory of Saint Anselm and vicarious atonement, what's necessary is that there be a payment made to God. But if after the payment is made. Yeah, well, what I'm trying to say here is this. A payment is made. The death of Jesus accomplishes that payment. It's not necessary according to the system or according to the theory in the way it works, that there be an empty tomb. The death of Jesus in this particular theory, in some senses, is cut off from the resurrection. And Luther finds himself unsatisfied with the notion that atonement could be explained simply by means of payment. Rather, it's absolutely critical for Luther that there be a resurrection. That's one other reason why I think Gustav Alleyne is closer to the truth. The problem with Allen's proposal, you see, it is necessary for resurrection in Allen's view, because the resurrection is precisely what declares Jesus victory over the forces. But what's absent in Gustav Allen's understanding of the atonement is that we might be part of the forces that need to be overcome. The forces, if they're only in always external to us. Don't affect our new relationship with God. And that's ultimately what Luther is trying to get at. I really like very much the way that Gerhard Flaherty sets this forward. Flaherty likes to talk about the different theories of the Atonement and how Luther deals with it. Luther abounds with statements to the effect that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God bore the curse of law. At the same time, Luther vehemently rejects the idea that God is one who could be bargained with in commercial fashion or satisfied in the sense that amends may be made to him.
[00:35:35] It means that Luther understood these things differently than we do. He would never have dreamt of saying that God could be bought off according to some scale of value. God's Majesty was much too great for that. It is rather that man, having sinned, has fallen under divine wrath and the curse of the law and needs to be rescued. If Jesus death had been merely a payment to God, he would not have done enough wrath and law would not have been satisfied in actuality. They're not satisfied, actually, until the end, until we don't feel or hear them anymore. Until God acts to put the old atom to death and to raise up to a new life. Satisfaction or fulfillment in Luther's terms means truly bringing to an end. Filling up, stopping the fulfillment of the law, he says, is the death of the law. So the truth, therefore, is that Luther rejected the usual ideas of vicarious satisfaction because in the end he found them too trivial. This is shown in the way that he critiqued Saint Anselm in his book Courteous Homo. Saint Anselm developed the idea of vicarious satisfaction. He said, God, he said, had two choices to repair the damage done to his honor by sin. He could either punish man or he could demand satisfaction. A Saint Anselm reasoned that if God took the first course and punished man, that would mean the destruction of man and consequently the end of God's plans for his creation. Therefore, God, according to Saint Anselm, took the second course. That is satisfaction He arranged for someone worth more than all the weight of man's sin to make satisfaction to pay the price instead of man. From this kind of thinking arose the idea of vicarious satisfaction.
[00:37:23] Jesus is a substitute payment to God. Who makes it possible for a man to go on living. Luther, however, rejected this idea and chose instead the first course that of punishment, and some said that would mean destruction. Luther said, in effect, That's right. That's just what it does mean. Jesus was destroyed in our place. He entered the darkness of that punishment and forsaken us to do battle and wonder of wonders. He emerged victorious. It is not a transaction, but a battle between life and death that is joined. Nor is history, strictly speaking, a substitute for us. That idea is too trivial, as though he goes through it all instead of us in such a way as to leave us untouched or uninvolved. Rather, as we have said, he dies in our place. That is, he identifies himself with us by entering absolutely into that place where we must die. He does not die instead of us, but rather ahead of us, bringing it forward to us. His absolute identification with us puts to death the old Adam on us so that his death is our death. He dies ahead of us to bring us life here and now. And this identification with him in death leads to identification with him in the new resurrection life. The death and resurrection of Christ leads not only or not merely to a doctrine about atonement, but to an actual accomplishment of atonement. Looked at in this way, it's apparent that there's no real difference between so-called different pictures or theories of the atonement. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God or bears the curse of God or suffers the punishment at the same time as He wins the victory over demons and death. It is all of a piece, indeed, since his life, death and resurrection are ours, it's quite possible also to speak of him as our example.
[00:39:23] All the views come together and the language is verse virtually interchangeable. As long as we are talking about a theology of the cross and not a theology about the cross or a theology of glory, what is ruled out is only that kind of thinking that detracts from the real down to earth death of Jesus by translating it into a theory about something that took place in heaven. For once again, only the God who comes down to earth can really help us. Only the one who dies. The death that we must die and yet is not conquered by it can save us. Anything else, however pious or orthodox it sounds, is useless and vain. So that gives you little idea of where we're going with this understanding of Christ and the Atonement. The atonement, You see, then, for Luther really is yet another expression of his theology of the cross. We must be put to death before we can be brought to life. We must be declared sinners before we can be declared righteous. That is the alien work that God does so that He might do his proper work in the Atonement. And you see how then for Luther, it's an anti speculative theology. He's not interested in yet another theory about the atonement. That's simply another religious game that we can use in order to keep God off at arm's length. What Luther is interested in doing as a theologian of the cross is to speak in such a way that the atonement is accomplished in time through the preaching of the word, through the administration of the sacraments, and through the constellation of the brethren such as it is. This then gives us an insight then into Luther's understanding of the atonement. You see.
[00:41:13] One of the things that the stars do, you notice what we get back when we begin to view atonement in this way, we get back the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus is read as a real death. It's not a supposed or pretend death in which something else is going on, where Jesus is making a transaction with the Father. No, Jesus as the one who is truly human, suffers and dies on the cross and he cries out in agony. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And that is a real word. And it's only as Christ is a curse for us, that He enters into our existential problem, our problematic, so as to find a solution for it. To break away. Clear. See, I don't know about you, but I know that in reading much theology, I sometimes marvel at the way that the death of Jesus is handled. Systematic theologies. It's as though it's not a real death. Well, because Jesus is fully divine. Well, you know, he knew what was going to happen to him and all these kinds of explanations and things. And it makes him really very much less human. What's going on in that death is a real death because he enters into our situation, born of a woman under the law. That's us. And you see, the the atonement, then, is much more than dealing with our conditional anxieties. Oh, you had a you had an abusive father or or you have a terrible fear of heights or you've got agoraphobia. You can't go into a big place. So Jesus is going to take care of your your anguish or your particular problems. No, that's not it. The atonement takes, takes or addresses, the real existential, the real human issues that we all face death.
[00:43:25] We are all headed toward death, or death is headed toward us, however you want to view it. That is a real problem. And there are passages in Luther where Luther talks about the fact that death is the most horrible of punishments. And it's you see, only because Christ enters into our situation as one. The one who is truly human, that then he can provide a way of atonement, a way out. And it's not according to the law. It's a new thing. The Atonement, the gospel is something new. It's not there to prop up the law, but it is a new it's the beginning of the new creation. That's what it is. Christ is the first born from among the dead. He is the firstborn among many brethren. And we follow after him that. It's a very different way of viewing the atonement than what you might read in some systematic theologies.