Athanasian Atonement = Recapitulation (Irenaeus) + Satisfaction (Anselm)

I gave Athanasius’ De Incarnatione (hereafter DI, all quotations from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press 1997 version) a careful re-read on a flight the other day, in order to compare his treatment of atonement with those of Anselm and Irenaeus, which I outlined in my last two posts. In DI, the themes of satisfaction and recapitulation merge together. The treatment is somewhat like a blending together of the main emphases of Irenaeus and Anselm. With Irenaeus, Athanasius affirms that the incarnation accomplished the restoration of human nature from corruption to incorruptibility. Yet he does not follow Irenaeus’ doctrine of recapitulation exactly:…

Irenaeus’ Doctrine of Recapitulation

Now that the quarter is over, I had a free morning to give Irenaeus’ Against Heresies a quick skim. It was interesting to see how other doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth, the Imago Dei, creation by God alone (contra Gnostic views of creation), and the Holy Spirit all play into his understanding of recapitulation, as evidenced by the quotes below. It is evident also from these quotes that Irenaeus places a strong emphasis on Christ’s death as a crucial part of his recapitulation, although I think in the end he leaves the precise role of Christ’s death ambiguous. There…

Anselm, Irenaeus, and Recapitulation

A question that has emerged for me in the final few weeks of my atonement seminar is this: is it possible to affirm both an Irenaean/Athanasian view of Christ’s birth (recapitulation) as well as an Anselmian view of Christ’s death (satisfaction)? If so, what is their logical relation? Within atonement theology, there is a tension between approaches which emphasize Christ’s death exclusively, and approaches which emphasize the entire narrative arc of Christ’s incarnate life, including his death. Can we, for example, say that Christ’s birth, life, and resurrection are not merely saving, but in some sense atoning? Does atonement begin…

Barth on Atonement

Our second reading in my atonement seminar was paragraph 59 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, which deals with his doctrine of atonement. Each week all seven of us do the reading, and then one of responds to it with an assessment paper, which is read and discussed in class along with the reading. This week was my turn, so I logged in a lot of hour struggling with Barth and trying to respond to him sympathetically and critically, in light of his concerns and intended meaning. The focus of my response paper dealt with Barth’s understanding of the nature of…

The Structure of Confessions

As I continue to listen to Augustine’s Confessions, one of my recurring questions is why Augustine ends the book with a discussion of creation. It seems like a rather random transition, both in terms of content (from personal autobiography to external subjects like creation and time) as well as in terms of tone and method (from intensely spiritual to more detached and speculative). Henry Chadwick’s Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, which I’m reading in relation to my Augustine project, has an interesting answer to this question: “At first sight, the structure of the Confessions is puzzling. After nine books of autobiography…

Engaging with the Church Fathers

I recently got Hendrickson Publishers’ 38 volume collection of writings of the Early Church Fathers (pictured here on my desk stand). These will be reference works to have in my library for the rest of my life, but I’ve started dipping into the first two volumes just to get a feel for how the books operate, and to keep expanding in my knowledge of historical theology in preparation for my studies at Fuller this fall. So I’ve plowed my way through the introductions, and skimmed a bit the writings of Polycarp, Ignatius, Mathetes (the name given to an unknown author of a…

Brown’s Biography of Augustine (5): Augustine on Pelagianism, the church, and grace and predestination

One final post on Brown’s biography. Brown suggests that Augustine’s verdict against Pelagius was connected to his verdict against his own past – that the vehemence of his own struggles with sin and experience of grace contributed to the vehemence of his opposition to Pelagianism. As he puts it, “the certainty with which he picked out the weaknesses of the idealistic message of Pelagius, is perhaps a symptom of the silent ferocity with which Augustine had continued to criticize his own past” (371). To the extent that this is true, I think it helps direct attention toward the larger context…