Thursday, February 8, 2007

Roundtable 5: The Son of God

Enough of this dreariness about our miserable condition inherited from Father Adam. Let's move to the Second Adam, the new Head of humanity, Jesus Christ, the Word become Flesh, the incarnate Son of God and Savior from sin and death.

Article III of the Augustana reads as follows (from the Triglotta):
Also they [our churches] teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin.

The same (idem) Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.


I offer just a few comments on this article to kick things off. As we have noted before, the Augsburg Confession wants to demonstrate the utter catholicity of our churches, over and against Eck's slanders. The article rests squarely on the Apostles' and Nicene symbols - the Christology is clearly Chalcedon's confession of the personal union of the two natures - divine and human in one Person. Again we encounter the totum/totum paradox of one Person being fully God and fully Man.

For Lutherans, the word "Word" refers first and foremost to the incarnate Word, who assumed (assumpserit) the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin. For the Latin "assumpserit" the German text reads simply "sei Mensch worden" (became Man). It comes from the Athanasian creed (line 33): Unus autem non conversione divinitatis in carne, sed assumptione humanitatis in Deo. It rests on John 1;14 - The Word became Flesh. The "inseparably" (one of the Chalcedonian adverbs) is clearly a reference to the 1528 dialogues with the Swiss, who in their denial of the Body and the Blood in the Lord's Supper became unwittingly Nestorian in their Christology, separating the two natures.

In Lutheran theology, the person and work of Christ are an organic whole. In the AC, the work of Christ flows as a dependant clause from the confession of the union of the two natures. The wording is clearly the Apostles' creed. What catches the eye is the statement regarding Christ's sacrifice, "not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men." Only Christ as true God and true Man can atone for sin, and this atonement is universal - once for all people (hyper panton) and one time for all times (ephapax). Clearly Article 24 on the Mass is being anticipated here, over and against the papal understanding that the Mass is an atoning sacrifice. While the Confutation denies this, Trent (XXII) contradicts the Confutation and teaches that the Mass is truly propitiatory and is rightly offered for sins. (See Leif Grane, "The Augsburg Confession - A Commentary" p. 52).

The "descent into hell" (zur Helle, ad inferos) begins a new sentence, thereby rightly treating Christ's descent as part of His exaltation (Phil 2). The "descent" reappears in the Formula (Article 9), where I'm sure we'll have a fun discussion. It is noteworthy that the Holy Spirit should play such a large part in an article devoted to the Son of God. The outpouring of the Spirit is a direct consequence of the reign of Christ, and is therefore inseparable from it. Pneumatology is Christocentric in orthodox, trinitarian theology. There is no separate article on the Holy Spirit; rather the entire Confession is an exposition of the Holy Spirit's work (Grane, 51)

In the same sense, the visible coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead is mentioned in this article as well, noting that this is the "same Christ" (idem), that is the One who is at once true God and true Man who suffered, died, rose, and reigns. Eschatology is similarly Christocentric, or it is not true eschatology.


William Weedon said...

You didn't comment on the one part that just about shook my faith in the Lutheran Symbols to the core last year: that Christ by His sacrifice "reconciled the Father."

I struggled with how to hold this together with the clear fact that it is the Father's love for us that sends His Son into the flesh in the first place. As Gerhardt sang and we with him: "Love caused thine incarnation; love brought thee down to me." It is not the Son's death that CAUSES the Father to love us; rather the Son's death DEMONSTRATES the unspeakable depth of the Father's love. Think of Romans 5: "But God SHOWS His love in this, that which we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

I've my own thoughts on how AC is still a faithful confession of the truth of God, but I wonder if anyone else has struggled through that particular problem and what conclusions they have come to?

Mike said...

I understood "reconcile" in this sense as it refers to the Father's righteous hatred of sin.

While it is true that God loves everyone of us, without the sacrifice of Christ there could be no salvation. The payment of sin on the cross "reconciles" our blood guilt in the face of God's perfect holiness. To me, this reconciliation must occur not because the Father is without love or mercy (on the contrary!), but because He is just.

"Reconciled the Father" fits perfectly with the idea that Christ is our advocate and intercedes on our behalf. The role of an advocate is to defend one party by reconciling them with the offended party. It goes hand in hand with the concept of being redeemed by Christ.

I site 1 John 2:1-2 where it says that "we have and Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He Himself is the PROPITIATION for our sins..."

Propitiation (n): to win somebody's favor: to appease or conciliate somebody or something

This part of the Article clearly passes Biblical muster because it supports the righteousness and mercy of God who cannot abide sin, but does not desire the death of the sinner.

wcwirla said...

I've always simply understood this in terms of 2 Corinthians 5:19: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them..." (also Rom 5:10; Eph 2:16; Col 1:20,22).

Again, I believe we've bumped into another both/and paradox, here of God's wrath and His mercy. The previous article spoke of the "eternal wrath of God" under which all are condemned who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit (AC II).

Ultimately, I believe this to be the inherent paradox of the Law and the Gospel, that we can be both under wrath in need of reconciliation and under mercy as objects of His love. Very few have been able successfully to hold this paradox without caving in to the temptation of harmonizing Law and Gospel or resolving the inherent tension between divine wrath and mercy.

I'm also reminded of the ancient Easter sequence hymn Victimae Pachali:

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
The Lamb the sheep has ransomed:
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciling sinners to the Father.

Or the more contemporary Paul Speratu (1484-1551), a contemporary of Luther:

Yet as the Law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing
Christ came and has God's anger stilled,
Our human nature sharing.
He has for us the Law obeyed
And thus the Father's vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.

William Weedon said...

Interesting though that in 2 Cor, it is the world that God reconciles to Himself (not Himself to the world), and similarly in the Victimae Paschali:

"reconciling sinners to the Father"


"reconciling the Father to sinners."

But I agree the key is in Law/Gospel, and I'd also suggest in the fact that the Law is NOT God's opus proprium; the weight rests solidly on the Gospel.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Wolfhart Pannenberg makes the same equivocation in his Systematic Theology (vol. 2, I think). With Pannenberg, though, it seems (in my opinion) that his problem is that his soteriology, defined primarily in terms of participating in the Trinitarian life of God as "sons" in filial trust with the Father through our adoption as "sons" in the Spirit, is motivating this move. Similarly, he is conceiving of sin almost exclusively in the sense of "alienation" from God, rather than in the terms of transgression. Because he, probably through some influence from the East, also equivocates between this view, and a vicarious satisfaction atonement motif, he's forced to understand the notion of "reconciliation" primarily in terms of participation in the Trinitarian life of God, which he understands as paradigmatic for the meaning of "love." It is a potential problem in any systematic theology -- that one's "system" becomes a controlling factor, and things end up getting rejected more because it doesn't fit neatly enough into the "system," or shows some deficiency with the system itself to "comprehensively" articulate the Christian faith, than because there is any real contradiction.

Ultimately, though, it seems like speaking of reconciling "sinners to the Father" and "the Father to sinners" is the same thing, only a difference in perspective. Can "reconciliation," by definition, be a one-way thing? When person "A" is reconciled with person "B," can you then say that person "B" is not reconciled with person "A"? Perhaps, rather than equivocating between the "direction" of reconciliation, conceiving of it more in terms of a relationship between individuals helps to see how reconciliation functions in AC 3.

What happens when two parties are "reconciled"? It means that the two parties, who were formally at odds with one another (regardless of who is to blame for the "dispute"), are no longer. In that sense, it isn't wrong to say that the Father was "at odds" with sinners, not in the sense that he did not love sinners, but in the sense that the relationship between the Father and sinners had been broken. Thus, while the issue that divided the Father and sinners was sin, as AC 3 puts it, both "original guilt" and "all actual sins of men," the notion of "reconciliation" is not immediately sin. Sin is, rather, that which had broken the relationship and caused the need for reconciliation. Thus, if "sin" is conceived not in terms of transgression, but as alienation itself, then the notion of "reconciliation" and the "direction" of reconciliation would be a concern; particularly if participation in the Trinitarian "love" of the God is the "controlling" understanding for what drives "reconciliation." If, however, "alienation" and "transgression" are both valid conceptions of our sinful condition, and we're operating with a "forgiveness of sins"/vicarious satisfaction soteriology, along with understanding the wrath/punishment of God as a reality of our fallen state, reconciliation can be spoken of in terms of "reconciling the Father to sinners" in the sense that our transgression, which evokes his righteous wrath, needs forgiving if we are not to suffer his wrath. Now, if this is the exclusive motif in which we conceive of the atonement (and itself becomes a principium in the theological system), there are other aspects of the cross and resurrection that are lost, including any real significance to eschatology in terms of our relationship to the Triune God. It's a basic "temptation" in systematic theology -- trying to make all the pieces fit too neatly.

If you start with the notion of God's love, understood in the terms of the relationship between the persons of the Trinity, eventually you have to come to terms with "messy" passages about God's wrath, and "hating" sinners, and the like. If you start with the vicarious satisfaction atonement motif, eventually you have to deal with issues of God's "justice" and risk a view of the Father that makes it look like he's got a temper, and needs to be "calmed down" by throwing sacrifice at Him. That's because the Word of God is "incarnate" in human language -- that's where Luther's theologia crucis comes in. While our words, even in the form of systematic "explanation," can express things that are "true" of God (and in proclamation, actually deliver what is incarnate within such words), human words are incapable of exhausting the truth of God. In "words" the truth of God is both hidden and revealed, just as the cross of Christ (and his very person) is both the very revelation of God, while also "veiled" in human flesh, suffering, the cross, etc.

Just a few ramblings that, I think, weigh in on the issue presented by the equivocation between the "directions" of reconciliation.

Mike said...

I believe that we are talking about two different portions of the same reconciliation.

I agree with william and wcwirla that we are reconciled to God by Christ's sacrifice. In this case making us the subject of the reconciliation is entirely appropriate. We do nothing, God does everything. It would follow that we are the ones being reconciled because we are the ones at fault.

But along with that truth, there is Article II which speaks of the heavy price of sin and the total depravity of man. Under those conditions, God's righteousness and demand for justice must be reconciled by the sacrifice of the cross. The wages of sin is death.

The Bible speaks of both parties being reconciled in too many places to site in this post. I think the best summary of this "double perspective" for the reconciliation is found here:

Romans 3:22-27

"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus...."

[i.e. Christ reconciles the Father]

"....God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

[i.e. Christ reconciles man]

We are now reconciled by the removal of our guilt. Because the debt is paid, the Father is now reconciled because the atonement for all sin (which must occur) had been made through Christ. The payment of the debt is the Father reconciled. The payment was Christ's sacrifice which reconciles us by faith in His blood. This makes Christ a true Mediator between God and man.

"that Christ by His sacrifice reconciled the Father" must be true because it removes the wrath of Final Judgement. I think it is important to state that none of this is our work. We are reconciled by Christ's sacrifice and God the Father is reconciled by Christ's sacrifice. In the end, it is all God [John 3:16].

This discussion has opened my eyes to the broad scope of the mystery of my Savior's death on the cross. If both the Father and man are reconciled, then Christ's death really is a total redemption. We truly have a God of love.

wcwirla said...

Wow. In the time it took for me to figure out my password, Fouts writes a dissertation. I have no idea what brother Fouts is talking about, but it sure sounds good. It reminds me of a quote by Chesterton: "When I wanted to impress the theologians, I said something not even I understood."

"Interesting though that in 2 Cor, it is the world that God reconciles to Himself (not Himself to the world)..."

As a former and recovered systematician, I find the distinction iinteresting, though I don't think it makes much of a difference. (I think Fouts and I agree on that point.) The Scriptures seem to be able to run reconciliation both ways, even in consecutive verses:

The prior verse (2 Cor 5:18) reads: "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation..." This would be the same as "reconciling sinners to the Father."

For what it's worth, the equivalent German phrase in AC II for "reconcile the Father to us" is "to propiate God's wrath."

I wholeheartedly agree that the Law and its consequent wrath are not God's opus proprium, and further that the Law is the pentultimate accent to the Gospel and God's love for the sinner in Christ.

And whatever Fouts said.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...


What I meant to say was this:

To "be reconciled" is a two-way deal -- you can't have a "one way" reconciliation. If we are reconciled to the Father, then the Father is reconciled to us. The one necessitates the other -- its only that saying "the Father is reconciled to sinners" sounds a bit sticky, if pressed, leaves you wrestling with God hidden.

William Weedon said...


I love the way Pannenberg expounds it - and frankly that's most often my own way of preaching and teaching - but I agree that it does give short-shrift to the wrath. For the wrath is not merely divinely passive - but divinely active. And the terror of that wrath, I think, is the only way to understand the terror of our Lord in Gethsemane. He KNOWS what awaits the Sinner before the All-Holy, for He IS that All-Holy.

So, even though there are, well, dueling metaphors here (and nowhere does it show up more clearly than a comparison of "Salvation unto Us" with "Dear Christians, One and All"), the truth is that they are BOTH given with the full authority of the Word of God.

I wonder if this way of thinking about it helps at all: the only life there is the life that is in the Triune God. But because of our sin, that life has become toxic to us. It will destroy us who are already dead and dying. Think Indian Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark. You can't bring sinners into the presence of that holiness without major KA-BAM! So what can be done? We can do nada to remedy this. We dead and dying without the LIFE that alone is LIFE but that LIFE will destroy us. In unspeakable love in the eternal council of the Trinity, the way is planned and executed for that LIFE to be rendered non-toxic to sinful human beings. Or better, to de-toxify the human race. The Son assumes the likeness of our human nature and as the God-Man, with all the sin of the race imputed to Him, bears that sin in his flesh before the All-Holy, and because that flesh is the flesh of the Eternal Word, what would have destroyed us does NOT destroy Him, but it does destroy the sin. He endures fully the big "D" death on the cross, and then gives Himself into the little "d" death of the body that He might through both open the way for our sinful humanity to exist in the presence of the All-Holy and find that presence to be Life, destroying the sin, the corruption, but not the nature that was corrupted by the sin.

Bill, also notice that in the verse you cite, God remains the DOER of the verb of reconciliation, and we remain its object. That's the NT pattern, I believe. The AC in Article III makes Christ the doer and the Father the object.

Mike, that passage from 1 John 2 is vital, I think, for demonstrating that AC III is not wrong, but do note that Loew & Nida (who, I do not think have a dog in this hunt) argue that it should not be rendered "propitiation" in the sense of "winning favor" since the Father is never against us. Not a terribly logical approach to the passage, I agree, but one that gives some pause.

William Weedon said...

Also, just to add resources to the discussion, it is at times asserted that this whole way of speaking was a novelty introduced into the Church by St. Anselm in the Middle Ages and there is a whole school of Orthodoxy (principally surrounding Romanides) that insists that it is a horrific Western corruption of the faith.

What is interesting is this list of citations from the Fathers on Divine Justice. It was put together by the Orthodox blogger Ephrem Bensusan and I found it to be very helpful in seeing that at very least the AC is not speaking in any novel way here, but a way that is grounded in the Fathers:

St. Athanasios the Great, Contra Arianos I.41,60 “[T]he Word, being the Image of the Father and immortal, took the form of the servant, and as man underwent for us death in His flesh, that thereby He might offer Himself for us through death to the Father…Formerly the world, as guilty, was under judgment from the Law; but now the Word has taken on Himself the judgment, and having suffered in the body for all, has bestowed salvation to all”.

St. Athanasios the Great, De Incarnatione, 20 “But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.”

St. Athanasios the Great, De Decretis, 14 “Now as to the season spoken of, he will find for certain that, whereas the Lord always is, at length in fulness of the ages He became man; and whereas He is Son of God, He became Son of man also. And as to the object he will understand, that, wishing to annul our death, He took on Himself a body from the Virgin Mary; that by offering this unto the Father a sacrifice for all, He might deliver us all, who by fear of death were all our life through subject to bondage.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XIII “If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?…Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?…Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also…These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth. For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness.”

“Note carefully in the above the words, “I gave to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for the blood shall make atonement for the soul.” He [Moses] says clearly that the blood of the victims slain is a propitiation in the place of human life. And the law about sacrifices suggests that it should be so regarded, if it is carefully considered. For it requires him who is sacrificing always to lay his hands on the head of the victim, and to bear the animal to the priest held by its head, as one offering a sacrifice on behalf of himself. Thus he says in each case: “He shall bring it before the Lord. And he shall lay his hands on the head of the gift.” Such is the ritual in every case, no sacrifice is ever brought up otherwise. And so the argument holds that the victims are brought in place of the lives of them who bring them…While then the better, the great and worthy and divine sacrifice was not yet available for men, it was necessary for them by the offering of animals to pay a ransom for their own life, and this was fitly a life that represented their own nature. Thus did the holy men of old, anticipating by the Holy Spirit that a holy victim, dear to God and great, would one day come for men, as the offering for the sins of the world, believing that as prophets they must perform in symbol his sacrifice, and shew forth in type what was yet to be. But when that which was perfect was come, in accordance with the predictions of the prophets, the former sacrifices ceased at once because of the better and true Sacrifice.

“This Sacrifice was the Christ of God, from far distant times foretold as coming to men, to be sacrificed like a sheep for the whole human race. As Isaiah the prophet says of him: “As a sheep he was led to slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before her shearers.” And he adds: “He bears our sins and is pained for us; yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and he was made sick on account of our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripe we are healed. …And the Lord hath given him up for our iniquities …for he did no sin himself, nor was guile found in his mouth.'’ Jeremiah, another Hebrew prophet, speaks similarly in the person of Christ: “I was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” John Baptist sets the seal on their predictions at the appearance of our Saviour. For beholding Him, and pointing Him out to those present as the one foretold by the prophets, he cried: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.'’

“Since then according to the witness of the prophets the great and precious ransom has been found for Jews and Greeks alike, the propitiation for the whole world, the life given for the life of all men, the pure offering for every stain and sin, the Lamb of God, the holy sheep dear to God, the Lamb that was foretold, by Whose inspired and mystic teaching all we Gentiles have procured the forgiveness of our former sins, and such Jews as hope in Him are freed from the curse of Moses, daily celebrating His memorial, the remembrance of His Body and Blood, and are admitted to a greater sacrifice than that of the ancient law, we do not reckon it right to fall back upon the first beggarly elements, which are symbols and likenesses but do not contain the truth itself. And any Jews, of course, who have taken refuge in Christ, even if they attend no longer to the ordinances of Moses, but live according to the new covenant, are free from the curse ordained by Moses, for the Lamb of God has surely not only taken on Himself the sin of the world, but also the curse involved in the breach of the commandments of Moses as well. The Lamb of God is made thus both sin and curse—sin for the sinners in the world, and curse for those remaining in all the things written in Moses’ law. And so the Apostle says: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”; and “Him that knew no sin, for our sakes he made sin.”For what is there that the Offering for the whole world could not effect, the Life given for the life of sinners, Who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a lamb to the sacrifice, and all this for us and on our behalf? And this was why those ancient men of God, as they had not yet the reality, held fast to their symbols.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, I.10 “He then that was alone of those who ever existed, the Word of God, before all worlds, and High Priest of every creature that has mind and reason, separated One of like passions with us, as a sheep or lamb from the human flock, branded on Him all our sins, and fastened on Hirn as well the curse that was adjudged by Moses’ law, as Moses foretells: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This He suffered “being made a curse for us; and making himself sin for our sakes.”And then “He made him sin for our sakes who knew no sin,”and laid on Him all the punishments due to us for our sins, bonds, insults, contumelies, scourging, and shameful blows, and the crowning trophy of the Cross. And after all this when He had offered such a wondrous offering and choice victim to the Father, and sacrificed for the salvation of us all, He delivered a memorial to us to offer to God continually instead of a sacrifice.”

Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, X.1 “And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down on Himself the apportioned curse, being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And so the oracle says in our person: “By his stripes we were healed,” and “The Lord delivered him for our sins,” with the result that uniting Himself to us and us to Himself, and appropriating our sufferings, He can say, “I said, Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.”

St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 16, 21, 24, 31 “A sacrifice was needed to reconcile the Father on high with us and to sanctify us, since we had been soiled by fellowship with the evil one. There had to be a sacrifice which both cleansed and was clean, and a purified, sinless priest…. God overturned the devil through suffering and His Flesh which He offered as a sacrifice to God the Father, as a pure and altogether holy victim – how great is His gift! – and reconciled God to the human race…Since He gave His Blood, which was sinless and therefore guiltless, as a ransom for us who were liable to punishment because of our sins, He redeemed us from our guilt. He forgave us our sins, tore up the record of them on the Cross and delivered us from the devil’s tyranny. The devil was caught by the bait. It was as if he opened his mouth and hastened to pour out for himself our ransom, the Master’s Blood, which was not only guiltless but full of divine power. Then instead of being enriched by it he was strongly bound and made an example in the Cross of Christ. So we were rescued from his slavery and transformed into the kingdom of the Son of God. Before we had been vessels of wrath, but we were made vessels of mercy by Him Who bound the one who was strong compared to us, and seized his goods.”

wcwirla said...

Oh, my aching....
(And they called CFW Walther a "citation theologian.")

Right you are, brother William, in 2 Cor 5:18-19, "we" and "the world" are reconciled to God in Christ. Brain glitch. They are happening at more frequent intervals.

(Hey -how come Weedon gets to be "William" and I'm "Bill"? I'm older than he is. I think I'm going to give myself a cool new name like Ephraim or maybe Polycarp. Polycarp Cwirla. I like the sound of that already. But I digress....)

I'm relieved to see that someone in antiquity affirmed the wrath of God under the Law seeing as how it is a major biblical theme. (I think metaphor might be a bit soft in this regard.)

I'll spare the catena of verses my concordance generated save this one:

Rom. 5:9 Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

William (of the Weedon variety),

That last Palamas quote sure is intriguing. It certainly is interesting that he who is often thought to be the "big" emphasis on the Eastern conception of Theosis would be willing to speak of reconciling the Father to sinners. Fascinating.

With regard to the Holy Spirit which William (of the Cwirla variety) aptly discussed in the initial post, it is rather interesting that this article attributes the "sending" of the Spirit to the Son.

Another interesting clause which I recall once evoking a rather lengthy conversation in one of my seminary classes is in the German, "der reinen Jungfrau Maria." While the Latin, initially quoted above, uses the word "blessed" to refer to the virgin, the German uses "reinen" or "pure." If you recall, Tappert simply didn't translate "reinen" here! Thus, the casual reader of the English wasn't forced to wrestle with this (and it was likely "missed" in most seminary classes) until Wengert translated it as "pure" in the K/W edition. So, what ought we make of this?

wcwirla said...

"Rein" can be translated "chaste," as it should have been here. It's a common usage in German referring to Mary. "Pure" was not the best choice on the part of K/W.

Speaking of Palamas, am I imaging things or do I catch a bit of Origen's "fish hook" theory of the atonement, wherein the devil bit on the cross only to be snagged by it?

Paul T. McCain said...

I'm wondering what the difference between "chaste" and "pure" when referring to the Virgin Mary. The "Concordia" edition brings out a nuance in the Formula that other translations do not; apparently, an assumption that Mary remained ever-virgin. Weedon, no doubt, can tell us all about it, and no doubt, will.

William Weedon said...


No, the assumption is a different mystery than the perpetual virginity. My suggestion, though, is that we leave the PV until we come across the way that teaching plays out in later Symbols.


But who denies that the Son sends the Spirit? If you were thinking filioque, remember that the East sharply distinguishes between the ontological procession and the economic sending. They have no problem with the latter.

William Polycarp Ephrem,

I'm not sure metaphor is a problem. It's just a way of confessing that our linguistic images all fall short of describing the reality. With our God it's invariably the case that the reality is not LESS but MORE than the word/images. Like in The Horse and His Boy: "He's not a real lion, you know." ROAR! ;)

William Weedon said...


The more I think about it, though, the freight of "rein" I wouldn't think of as PV, but likely the notion that Mary was preserved from actual sin. Like Luther expounds this in *Personal Prayer Book* AE 43:39,40.

wcwirla said...

"With our God it's invariably the case that the reality is not LESS but MORE than the word/images."

As long as it's the "more" that's being confessed with the metaphor, I have no problem and speak in precisely the same way, as you know. Some use "metaphor" as an excuse for denial, since all analogies have a melting point, metaphorically speaking.

"Rein" means chaste, as in "I have not known a man" (Luke 1:34). Having Scripture-based doctrine, the BoC thankfully has no article concerning the blessed Virgin other than the fact of her blessed, chaste, pure virginity which ensures that the incarnate Son does not have the inherited disease of Adam since he is not conceived "according to the course of nature" (AC II). I will eagerly await the fanciful speculations that read more into Mary than the Scriptures give us to say.

Interesting how an article about the person and work of the incarnate Son of God can easily divert into a discussion of His mother. "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it" (Lk 11:28).

Paul T. McCain said...

Stepping back a moment from our own interests and issues in this article, I just want to say that we who "naturally" just embrace this material, even as fathers did, as the Roman opponents did, do not fully comprehend the depth to which these fundamental articles of the faith are denied. I am often startled at just how "radical" it is for these orthodox truths to be asserted in the context of American mainline scholarship and churches. The Virgin Birth is held in contempt by the "Academy." The assumption that Jesus is in fact the second person of the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity is something many pastors in many congregations do not in fact embrace, but rather may reference it in a nod to tradition, and to keep the sheep to whom they preach in the dark, but in their hearts and minds, they have been schooled to move on from these "antiquated" notions. It is frightening to me and my heart hurts for those who are made victims of this falsehood and deception.

All the more reason for us to pray always, "Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word."

Mike said...

I grew up in the church (not LCMS) and was a part of the music ministry for years. I was in a denomination that adheres to an operating constitution but not a written confession of faith. I heard the Creeds for the first time 25 years later when I became a Lutheran.

When my mother overheard me reciting the Apostles Creed, she remembered some of it from when she was a child. It had never occured to her that it would be something important and she had never even realized that the church she attended did not teach it.

My wife grew up in various churches, but when I started teaching the catechism to her ("as the Head of the Family Should Teach"), she stopped me in the middle of the Apostles Creed and said, "Wait, Jesus went to hell?"

A Roman Catholic friend of my wife and I visited our Lutheran church because she could not get her child baptized at the local cathedral. Her mom found out she was hanging out with drunk heretics and was livid. When they talked about it, our friend mentioned the Holy Trinity and her mother said, "Trinity? We're Catholic, we don't believe in that kind of stuff." It turned out that mom had no idea what Trinity even meant and had assumed it was bad because several of the protestant churches in the area are named that word.

These are just a few personal examples of the unwashed, unchecked, broken-down state of basic doctrine that infects every part of the church.

It offends me that, in an age where it is assumed that everyone can read, where the internet has libraries of theology available to anyone, where a minimum wage earner can buy a BoC on with their first paycheck, where almost all churches (even RC) not only hold services in your language but also in other native languages to make it more accessable, and where we have so much free time on our hands we invent new forms of entertainment daily to keep us from being bored... with all of that, American Christians today know less about what they beleive than the illiterate, impoverished peasants in Europe in the 1500s.

I have seen cases where these fundamental teachings are denied and held in contempt, but the larger problem in Christendom seems to be ignorance and/or indifference on the part of congregations and pastors. It is clear that we can never gloss over these commonly understood articles of faith because they are NOT commonly understood.

wcwirla said...

Denials abound with respect to this article. Not only the immaculate conception of our Lord, but also His death as an atoning sacrifice, His bodily resurrection, His present reign at the right hand of God; virtually every sentence of the 2nd article of the Creed is diminished or denied in some darkened pulpit of "Christendom."

I appreciate Lief Grane's comment on this article:

"The intimate connection between Christology and the doctrine of the atonement forbids any attempt to isolate the teaching on Christ's person, and this is why the reformers reject speculation. This does not mean, however, that it is essentially the "work" which constitutes the "person," but rather that the "person" is known only in the "work." In addition, the doctrine of Christ's comprehended only in the statement of purpose in Article 3, which presents the goal of the incarnation - that Christ should be "a sacrifice for all our sins." (Grane, 57)

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...

Helpful thoughts...

I have mixed thoughts on how to take "der reinen Jungfrau Maria." It would be an interesting "phrase" study in 16th Century German. If it were to be understood in the sense of "pure," the idea would probably be that she had been preserved from sin. If, however, it is taken as "chaste" it might simply be there to clarify what could be somewhat ambiguous in the literal meaning of "Jungfrau" (lit. young lady). In that sense, the German "reinen Jungfrau" would simply parallel what the Latin is able to do with "beatae Mariae virginis" without the same ambiguity. In other words, "reinen" here might function in the sense of "chaste young lady," which would be understood as a "virgin." Though, a study of how broad of a meaning "Jungfrau" has in 16th Century German would be necessary to say that this is what is going on conclusively.

Rev. Ryan Fouts said...


With respect to attributing the procession to the Son, how the East distinguishes between ontological and economic procession may not have been on the minds of the Reformers. My thought with respect to the significance to this little clause is how closely the Reformers are simply repeating what the Church confesses in the Creeds.

Rev. Robert W. said...

I'd like to take up a small thing with William (rather than Bill) -- "Oh, you can call me Willliam, and you can call me Will ...." My father, whose first name of William became my middle name, used to say that sing-song nonsense all the time. Anyway, now that I found out that the Paul figure takes up his scissors upon occasion on edits our contributions, I better get to the point.

I believe that it is precisely the ontological procession that the Western Church intentionally confesses in the filioque, which we didn't discuss much in A.C. I, and which seems to be important in the discussion of the person of the Word, even though the filioque is not cited here.

I should like to propose that we and the East have a different God. No, but rather, I should like to propose that we and the East conceive of the Godhead differently. Yes, that's better. And the filioque reflects this, perhaps even it could be said "reveals this." It is a different conception and description of the Godhead when one says that the persons of the Trinity, number Two and number Three, come forth -- in to motions called, respectively, "begotten" and "processing" -= rather than when one says that the begetting coming from the Father and the processing coming from the Father and the Son -- thus, reflecting an interpentration and an inner "dependence" (if you will) of the persons on each other, thus a true intertwined Trinity (both as to source and as to result) and not, shall we say, a single sourceless source who by Himself brings about the completion of the Triune God(from eternity) with the then ontologically inferior other persons, who have the same source, though in different manner.

Or would you rather just pass this discussion by, since some of us will live long enough for this discussion to reach the Apology, Art. I? :)

Robert. [Schaibley]

Paul T. McCain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Weedon said...


I agree with your revised assessment: a different conception of God. I've given a lot of thought over the years to your fight for the filioque (you know what I mean) and I think it has great merit.

What seems wrong to me is the notion that the Augustinian way of speaking the Trinity (which you espouse) and the Eastern way of the Cappadocians (finding the unity in the person of the Father) should be church divisive now - they were not church divisive then!

I think as long as we all have the humility to confess that when we are dealing with the mysteries of the interior life of the Holy Trinity every last one of us is in water so deep we'll never begin to plum its depths, we'll be okay.

The great thing about Filioque is the close connection of the Spirit with the Son, so that He can be called "the Spirit of the Son" and we can understand "all that the Father has is mine (except being Father)."

The point the East has in its favor about the whole topic is something we Lutherans can understand from the fight for the UAC: no one should change the Church's confession!

Thus, for me at any rate, the problem with filioque is canonical not theological. Does that make any sense at all?

By the way, Webber has an EXCELLENT paper on filioque on his website and he can fill us in on how the Ukrainian Lutherans preferred to use the NC in its "Greek" form (i.e., without it), but I think the ELS brought pressure to bear on them to make the Latin form normative.

wcwirla said...

Robert's comments remind me of something I read from Sasse, who noted that the East and the West have different starting points with respect to the Trinity. The East begins with the trinity of divine Persons while the West begins with the unity of the divine Essence. Where you start will determine where you end up, I suppose. In the paradox of God's tri-unity, one has to begin somewhere.

What troubles me about the East's insistence that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone (in response to the filioque) is that it makes the Spirit a kind of independent agent of the Father with no connection to the Son; it is vulnerable to subordinationism as the West is vulnerable to modalism.

I appreciate William's idea that this is a canonical issue though it is certainly not without theological content. It may indeed be a matter of perspective, based on where one begins in the discussion of the Holy Trinity.