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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Substitutionary Atonement and The Nicene Creed

How could one Man die for another's sins?

The Creed, though brief, makes specific references to The Passion of Christ within it's first sentence. It is the
last sentence however, that makes reference to the “forgiveness of sins” that is associated with Jesus's death. Many question how it is that another man could die for another persons transgressions against God. There are several different approaches to that subject.

St. Paul believed that it is not God who needs to be mollified for the wrongful conduct of man, it is man who needs to be cured of his apostasy; “God is aggravated by sin, but, like a caring parent, God continues to love the sinner... it is not God's wrath that needs to be propitiated, but the vicious cycle of our rebellion and rage against God that needs to be expiated (Marthaler 156).” Paul also believed that through original sin Adam had doomed himself and his descendents to slavery through sin. It was with Jesus's sacrifice at Calvary that purchased our freedom from sin.

St. Anselm's Theory of Satisfaction is another path to the sentiment of Jesus's dying for “our sake.” Anselm's Satisfaction theory, in essence, posited that the lowly status of man, in comparison to God, would make it impossible for him to truly recompense for his transgressions. Man's punishment could not possibly meet that standard. It was only when God became flesh that he was able to atone both as a man and as a God.

There are also those who believe that to view Christ's sacrifice as purely objective lessens the importance of the subjective nature of what it was he actually did. This does not change the fact that His Crucifixion was something that He did for man, it does alter the emphasis. It takes the emphasis from being on what His sacrifice accomplished as far as reconciliation for sins, and placed it on the fact that Christ lay down His life for those who believe in Him. Theologians seem to agree that Christ's sacrifice must be viewed as both subjective and objective.

Source: Marthaler, Berard. The Creed. 2nd ed. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty Third Publications, 1993. 156

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