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Salvation Reflection Paper

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The doctrine of salvation is at the core of the Christian faith and is a the heart of the work of Jesus. This paper is going to summarize the doctrine of salvation from two authors that the author of this paper read and studied and then give his subjective view or opinion of what each author presented in their explanations of the doctrine of salvation. The first of these authors is Alister E. McGrath from his book Theology:The Basics. The second author is Dr French Arrington from an essay he wrote in Transforming Power: Dimensions of the Gospel. Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath in the beginning of his discourse states that ” a central theme of the Christian message is that of the human situation has, in some way, been transformed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is often described as salvation”(McGrath 77). McGrath in his discourse on salvation doesn’t seem to take a stance on any particular theory or doctrine of salvation but lays out three separate theories of atonement. These three theories that McGrath lays out are the cross as sacrifice, the cross as victory, and the cross and forgiveness. Before we dig into what McGrath says about these different theories we need to first understand what atonement means and where the word comes from.

McGrath says that the word atonement “can be traced back to 1526, when the English writer William Tyndale was confronted with the task of translating the New Testament into English”(McGrath 83). At this time there was not a word for reconciliation in the English language and Tyndale had to come up with a word for it. This word that Tyndale came up with or invented was at-one-ment today know as atonement. McGrath states that “this word came to bear the meaning the benefits which Jesus Christ brings through his death upon the cross”(McGrath 83). Today, McGrath says the word is pretty much out of use so theologians just call this “the doctrine of the work of Christ”(McGrath 83). The Cross as Sacrifice

The first theory of atonement that McGrath presents is that of Christ’s death on the cross as a sacrifice. McGrath states that this approach or theory is “associated with the Letter to the Hebrews, presents Christ’s sacrificial offerings as an effective and perfect sacrifice, which was able to accomplish that which the sacrifice of the Old Testament were only able to imitate, rather than achieve”(McGrath 83). McGrath says this idea was developed inside of the Christian tradition and it is best summarized by saying that “in order for humanity to be restored to God, the mediator must sacrifice himself; without this sacrifice, such restoration, is an impossibility”(McGrath).

McGrath goes on to quote two early church fathers, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo, and one Medieval church theologian, Hugh of St. Victor, to describe how they viewed or helped develop the atonement theory of the cross as a sacrifice. McGrath uses two quotes from Athanasius to show how Christ’s sacrifice is superior to the sacrifices of the Old Testament and how Christ’s sacrifice can be viewed as the foreshadowed Passover sacrifice of the lamb. McGrath quotes Augustine of Hippo showing how he showed how Christ was both the priest who offered the sacrifice and was himself the pure victim that was sacrificed for our sins. Lastly McGrath uses a quote from Hugh of St. Victor to show how the cross worked through Christ’s humanity to make a connection with us so that as a human he could be that sacrifice.

The Cross as Victory
The second theory of atonement that McGrath discusses is that of the cross as a victory. McGrath states that “the early church gloried in the triumph of Christ upon the cross, and the victory that he won over sin, death, and Satan” and that the “Christian writers of the first five centuries were deeply attracted by the imagery through the cross”(McGrath 86). Again McGrath quotes two early church fathers, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo, to further demonstrate the idea of the cross as a victory. McGrath says these two patristic fathers use several images to “explore the nature of human captivity to sin, and the manner in which we have been liberated by Christ’s death and resurrection. We are held in bondage by the fear of death. We were imprisoned by sin.

We are trapped by the power of the devil”(McGrath 86). McGrath further states that since humans are held captive, they are not able break out on their own, so they are in need of someone to free them. This outside help is Jesus and the cross shows how he confronted and dismantled those forces that held humans captive. McGrath further states that “the cross and resurrection represent a dramatic act of divine liberation, in which God delivers his people from captivity to hostile powers, as he once delivered his people Israel from bondage in Egypt(McGrath 87). The Cross and Forgiveness

Lastly, McGrath discusses a third approach that deals with Christ’s death with that of judgement and forgiveness. This theory was developed by Anselm of Cantebury because he felt there was a need to understand why God would wish to redeem humans and how Jesus figured into the redemptive process. His approach was that humans were created to have fellowship with God but when sin entered into the picture it created a barrier between man and God. Because of this barrier God had to design a way in order to restore man to their original state. So in order for redemption to take place, God could not restore man unless He first dealt with human sin because of His nature of being both merciful and righteous. So because of sin, God must make good or satisfy His need for justice.

Since man doesn’t have the ability to make satisfaction in of themselves and because God isn’t obligated to make satisfaction even though He could. McGrath states that “Anselm argues, if God were to become a human being, the resulting God-person would both have an obligation as a human being and the ability as God to make he necessary satisfaction. Thus the incarnation leads to a just solution to the human dilemma”(McGrath 90). McGrath further states that ” the death of Jesus Christ demonstrates God’s total opposition to sin, while at the same time providing for the means by which sin could be really and truly forgiven, and the way opened to renewed fellowship between humanity and God”(McGrath 90).

McGrath then outlines three ways to understand how what Christ did on the cross affects the believer. These three ways are participation, representation, and substitution. The way believers participate is through their faith in Christ, which gives them the benefits that Christ won. The way in which believers are represented is through Christ in covenant through faith. Finally the way in which believers have substitution is that Christ takes our place and was crucified in our place taking upon Himself the penalty of sin, so that Christ’s righteousness is imputed on the believer through faith.

Dr. French Arrington
Dr. Arrington starts off his paper on salvation by telling the reader what salvation signifies. Arrington states that salvation “signifies all that God has done to set us free from the bondage of sin and guilt in order to bring us to the glorious condition of blessedness that Christians enter when Christ returns from heaven”…[and]…”Christ is the One through whom God offers us salvation”(Arrington 21). So how does God provide the provision through Christ? Arrington says that it is through the cross and that “the cross can only rightly be understood as God’s way of dealing with sin and providing deliverance from it. No one can earn salvation. Salvation is solely a matter of a free gift, divine grace based on the saving power of Christ’s death”(Arrington 23). So if the cross is God’s provision for salvation, how does the cross provide this provision? Arrington lays out three ways it provides provision, the cross as the atoning sacrifice, the cross as penal substitution, and the cross as the demonstration of God’s love.

The Cross as the Atoning Sacrifice
To illustrate that upon the cross Jesus was our atoning sacrifice, Arrington makes it clear that “Jesus Christ as the perfect priest who offered the perfect sacrifice”…[and]…”since Christ died for our sins, His death was a sacrifice”(Arrington 25). Arrington then goes on to show how Jesus death is a sacrifice by connecting two sacrifices from the Old Testament, the sin offering and the Passover. The sin offering in the Old Testament was a way that God made a provision for a sinner to have communion with God and forgiveness of sin. In the Old Testament Arrington states that ” the death of an animal was was accepted by God in place of the death of the sinner, providing the offering expressed his repentance”(Arrington 26).

Arrington then goes to shows how the sacrifice of Christ is accepted by God in our place, He died so that we do not have to, He receives the judgement we deserve and we receive His righteousness. The Passover is the other sacrificial type of Christ’s death on the cross. The parallels between the Passover and Christ’s death on the cross is that Jesus is the unblemished Passover lamb that is sacrificed that saves us from sin and estrangement from God like the Passover lamb save the Egyptians from death and bondage to the Egyptians. Arrington goes into detail of five aspects of Christ’s death.The first aspect of Christ’s death is that “Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice”. Secondly, “Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all”. Thirdly, “Christ’s sacrifice was without blemish”. Fourthly, the sacrifice of Christ brought Him to a violent death. And lastly, “the sacrifice if Christ was a victory over Satan”(Arrington 26-33).

The Cross as Penal Substitution
Arrington in the beginning of this section states that the Bible never uses the penal substitution but states that is not difficult to show that there are several Bible versesin the New Testament and Old Testament including the prophecy in Isaiah 53 in the Old Testament pointing to the suffering servant to demonstrate Christ vicarious suffering for what the sinners deserve and this taking their place. Arrington states that “by sinning, people became liable to punishment; thus, as transgressors, their death was demanded by the law of God, but as the fulfillment if Isaiah’s prophecy, The Lord willingly suffered the death that they deserve”(Arrington36). Arrington also state that “our sins were nailed to the Cross, Christ bearing them as our substitute and declaring the debt of sin against us null and void”…[thus]…”His righteousness becomes our righteousness, God accepts Christ’s death instead if ours and releases the need to suffer that death”(Arrington 36-37).

Arrington lays out three points to demonstrate the biblical basis for penal substitution, which are that the death of Christ upholds the justice of God, the death of Christ reveals the gravity of sin, and that the cross was unique. To show that Christ upholds the justice of God, Arrington tells the reader that God is a just God, sin has to be paid for and so Christ bears that penalty for us thus upholding God’s justice and dealing with the penalty of sin. To show how grave sin is Arrington shows biblically how sin causes alienation from God and that sin has to be punished.

Since Christ lived a sinless life and bore the believer’s punishment taking their place it shows that sin has to be dealt with and if it wasn’t for Christ substitutionary death on the Cross, the penalty would have to be bore by the sinner which would be eternal death and an eternity from the presence of God. Lastly, Arrington shows that Christ’s cross was unique because Christ’s death was just a mere physical death but that though sinless Christ who became sin for the sinner and thus also felt God the Fathers presence withdrawn experiencing spiritual death as well. The Cross as the Supreme Demonstration of God’s Love

Arrington uses several verses to demonstrate God’s love for us by Christ dying on the Cross. Arrington shows how the death that Christ died shows that God takes our sins seriously but because of His love He provided away through Christ took upon Himself the consequences of our sin that we deserved.Arrington tells us that the cross of Jesus reveals that God’s love is universal and that God’s love is manifested in in the cross. Arrington also shows that the cross discloses that basic to salvation is the love of the Trinity, that the Holy Spirit through the cross opens the eyes of God’s love and that the cross is the way in which God provides the way for sinners to have right standing with God. Personal Reflections

I felt that there were a few points that Arrington made that made me think and do quite a bit of research elsewhere. The two points that I really was able to identify with were Christ as a sin offering sacrifice and Christ as our Passover bit especially Christ as our Passover. The impact of looking at Christ as our Passover lamb holds so much meaning to me in that I am able to relate with how the Israelites were Passed over from the angel of death by the covering of the lamb’s blood and how this led to the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of the Egyptians. I am able to relate how Christ’s blood covers me from spiritual death and because of his death and sacrifice I am set free from the bondage of sin, death, and the Devil. I was however unable to relate with Christ as penal substitution. I am unable to see how God is a just God if we are trapped in our sins and are unable to keep the law, so God must punish someone to appease His righteous anger.

I see sin as us turning away from God and not the other way around. I feel that God is love and that if we see Jesus we have seen the Father. In Jesus, I see a loving God who doesn’t turn His back on sinners, but who sought them out, loved them, and forever changed them. I also had a problem understanding how if Christ had to appease God wrath to gain our forgiveness, then there is no forgiveness. The teachings of Christ hold that you are to let go of in forgiveness and to freely let go. I see it as if someone owed me money and I only forgave their debt because someone else paid it off, I never truly forgave the debt because I was paid. Lastly I see a problem with this theology because as far as theories of atonement goes it is a later development. It began to be developed by Anselm of Canterbury 1000 years after Christ died and was further developed by John Calvin during the reformation.

I prefer to get my theological ideas from the early church fathers but I appreciate further ideas developed or rediscovery of biblical truths. In McGrath’s text the idea of the Cross as victory over sin, death and the devil. This idea really spoke to me and is probably the theory of atonement I adhere to the most. This method to me expresses God’s love to me more than any other atonement theory because God wants us to free from sin, death, and the power of the devil so that we can be restored to the way we were created and have communion with God. This idea of victory seems to me what Jesus was talking when He quoted Isaiah 61:1 “The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound”(Isaiah 51:1 ESV).

Christ death on the cross and His resurrection was the good news, are broken hearts are bound up because we are restored to God, and we are set free from the dominion of satan which is sin and death. I enjoyed both of these essays but was particularly impressed with McGrath’s essay. I enjoyed McGrath’s essay because he wasn’t so dogmatic in setting only one theory of atonement as valid and gave a fair and balanced view of the different theories. I learned a lot from Arrington’s essay because it spurred me to search deeper and study soteriology more thoroughly in the future. I enjoyed how he employed scripture to “prove” his doctrine, however I feel that he held a little to closely to doctrines of the Reformed Church for my taste. I may come around to penal substitution but I’d have to see that the early church believed this as well see more convincing scriptural proof and it not be so based on legalism.

Works Cited

Arrington, French L. Christian Doctrine: A Pentecostal Perspective. Cleveland: Pathway Press, 1993.Print
McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2001. Print

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