Truth and Struggle

I was reading a bit about Luther the other day. I really admire him. I was especially struck this time by the intensity of the struggle that preceded his so-called “tower experience” in which he came to understand the doctrine of justification by faith from Romans 1:17. I cannot figure out whether this experience came after his posting the 95 theses in October 1517 or before, but it does seem to have come after a great deal of struggle and courage. I’m researching and writing much about Anselm these days, and I’m also struck by the intensity of the struggle he…

Staking Down Olympus

I’m reading a lot of Anselm these days for my current PhD reading. This is one my favorite Anselm quotes. I think it so helpfully captures the attitude appropriate for theological defense and disputation. “If I, a trivial and inconsiderable fellow, should try to write something to add strength and support to the Christian faith, when there are so many holy and wise people all over the world, I would indeed be judged arrogant, and could appear worthy of ridicule. For if other people were to see me well-supplied with stakes and ropes and other things, by which we often…

Gottschalk of Orbais

As I continue the explore the fascinating world of medieval Christianity, I have come across a very interesting theologian from the 9th century, Gottschalk of Orbais. (When Esther and I were considering baby names for our forthcoming son, I thought Gottschalk should be in the running, but shockingly, Esther was not with me.) Over Christmas break I read a bit of Victor Genke and Francis X. Gumerlock’s Gottschalk & a Medieval Predestination Controversy (Marquette 2010), which has a helpful introduction to Gottschalk’s life and theology (written by Genke) as well as the translations to a number of key texts concerning the…

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…