Eastern Apologetics and Penal Substitution

 Eastern Orthodox Apologists talk and dress like they are Jedi Knights fighting the  Sith Lords of the Reformation while Traveling in the strange Tatooine- like land of America. They will stop at nothing to bring us Reformed people of the dark side back to the Energetic Knowledge of the Force. They will stop at nothing to put on full display their mastery and knowledge of the Force. Even if it means doing absolutley NO book reviews of any Reformed literture and making highly extended paraphrastic inferences of what they think Puritan Theology is. On the Called to Communion blog a couple weeks ago I had an exchange with Perry Robinson on the penal aspects of the Bible and the Atonement. I said,

“I simply do not see the Eastern Orthodox ontological soteriology as being something that can explain the New Testament due to all the forensic language about a paraclete, an advocate, a certifcate of debts being nailed to Christ’s cross, etc. Uh, I think it was Meyendorf that I was reading a number of months ago that stated that seeing only one aspect to God’s works is the primary error of a theologian. I have to agree with him which is why the Ontological-aspect-only Theology of the East does not satisfy me.”

Perry Replied, [and try to hear it in the weird half mouth, half nasal-like speech of Perry after he's been up all night at a local Star Wars Collector's Club meeting and written Drake an email using every foul word imaginable while teaching Christian doctrine]

“I grant that the NT has plenty of legal language in it, but it is also has language of being made free, being made clean, and being made immortal, glorified with divine glory and escaping corruption. And none of those things can be done by a legal flick of the cosmic wrist. More to the point, you seem to assume that the presence of legal language entails a specific theory of law, one that finds its home in the 16th century and not that of the first century world of Jesus and the Apostles. So I simply reject the implied claim that the NT has “forensic” language all over it, whereby is meant language of being classed as such apart from any internal state. The publican had the right disposition, which is why he went down to his home vindicated by God.”


Then to reiterate a complaint that he has used a number of times now he says in an email to me:

“Lots of different theories of law can have a system of penalty and reward, even non-vindictive theories do. It all depends on what penalty and reward mean.”

Whenever you bring up juridical aspects of the Bible this is his go to argument: that the world has a number of theories of punishment and reward. Here’s my problem, the world also has a number of theories of ontology. Does he seriously want us to believe that there is only one theory of “being made free, being made clean, and being made immortal, glorified with divine glory and escaping corruption”? Nope. His complaint is comical.   I was into the esoteric when I was in college and there are a ton of ways that Hermetic orders have used this language.

Second, if he admits that the Bible has “has plenty of legal language in it”, I ask, where is it then in his soteriology? Eastern Orthodox apologists that I listen to on Ancient Faith Radio have made a hobby out of convincing Western Christians that the West has made just this mistake in seeing  juridical aspects to the Atonement.  You can’t have it both ways guys.

Third, I acknowledge that the New Testament teaches the infusion of righteousness and the victory of Christ over Satan in our lives individually and nationally. The problem is, that is called sanctification not justification. The Bible also talks about the Imputation of righteousness (Rom 4:6, 4:11)  and this righteousness Rom 3:21-22 justifies freely by his grace vs 24. Perry and the East simply do not know what to do with these passages. They will set up camp on the issue that the New Testament teaches an infused righteousness. Great! We Calvinists understand that to be sanctification. But what will they do with imputation? It remains a mystery.

Fourth, our justification did not come by a flick of the cosmic wrist. It came by the God-man’s perfect life and his laying down of it, as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy divine justice. Having imputed Christ’s righteousness to us God declares us righteous as we represented by Christ in the Covenant of Redemption. Not even close to a flick of the cosmic wrist.

Fifthly, I attended the Spring Theology class at the Eastern Church here in Louisville, Ky last spring. This issue was developed in detail and one huge point surfaces when Eastern Orthodox people apply this to morality: there is no distinction in sins. All sins become equally heinous in themselves in the sight of God. Why is that? Because the legal ledger language is removed from Eastern Soteriology. In the West when someone asks if all sins are the same we say that in the legal sense, yes, in that if you break one of God’s laws you have broken them all and broken the Covenant of Works, meriting God’s juridical wrath and eternal punishment. However, in the sight of God some sins are worse than others. The Westminster Larger Catechism Answer to question 150 says,  All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others. When I was attending the Eastern Theology class there was an older Anglo-Catholic gentleman present who took the Priest to task on this issue. At that moment I was reminded of John 19:11. Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. I quoted it to the Priest and he couldn’t say anything in response. The Anglo-Catholic gentleman gave me an Amen but the other teacher said that the Eastern Church teaches that sins have different consequences in civil society but that they are all equally heinous in the sight of God. Overall the issue was overwhelmingly embarrassing for the Priest.

Lastly, it is a common straw man used by the East that Penal Substitution is a juridical doctrine only, i.e. Christ dies only to suffer the penalty for the sins of the world. This is also comical. When I was in college attending a Calvinistic Baptist Church I started reading Puritan Literature on Eschatology. I read Brian Schwertley’s [He is a popular Puritanical Apologist] paper, The Premillennial Deception. In that paper he gives a standard exposition of Christ’s Victorious Defeat of Satan as the basis for a Post-Millennial view of Eschatology. Schwertley says,

“When Jesus instructed His disciples regarding His coming crucifixion, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself” (Jn. 12:31-32). In Revelation 20 Satan is bound so that he will no longer deceive the nations. In John’s gospel Jesus says the same thing in different language: Satan is cast out and Jesus will draw all people to Himself. Jesus’ binding of Satan enables Him to plunder Satan’s house. Christ’s victorious death and resurrection enabled Him to conquer (spiritually) all nations. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). When the twelve apostles returned from a preaching mission in which they had authority to cast out demons, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk. 10:18-19, cf. 9:1).

The author of Hebrews taught that through Christ’s death “He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). The verb translated destroy (katargein) means literally to render inoperative, to nullify, or to render ineffective. “As incarnate, then, Christ was able to die; and it was his incarnation that set the stage for the performance of that great cosmic drama which is at the center of human history and the means of man’s deliverance from his fearsome enemy. At the cross, the place of death, the decisive encounter between God and Satan occurred. The Son came into the world precisely for this purpose, that through death, his death, he might render ineffective our enemy the devil who wields the power of death.” Christ definitely defeated Satan and limited his power at the cross. “In Rev. 20, one particular aspect of that binding is before us, namely, the limiting of Satan’s power to deceive the nations as he did before the coming of Christ. From that time forward during the whole of the interadvental dispensation Satan is defeated in fact. He can still go about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, but in this particular respect he is a caged lion.” The Apostle Paul concurs: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). Paul describes Christ’s work of redemption as leading “captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8). The Bible teaches that Satan received his death blow at Christ’s first coming (Gen 3:15).

The binding of Satan so that he would not deceive the nations occurs as a result of Christ’s death at Calvary and coincides with the spread of the gospel to all nations. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:18-19). Christ defeated Satan and bound him; this restraining of Satan’s power to deceive the nations is what makes the Great Commission possible. Before Christ came, God’s Word and salvation were, with rare exception, limited to the tiny nation of Israel; Satan had religious control over the vast reaches of the earth. After Christ came, Satan was definitively defeated, and continues to be restrained as the gospel spreads throughout the whole earth. Satan can no longer deceive the nations by keeping them from hearing the gospel.” http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/milenium.htm

I remember having my hair blown back at being introduced to the Christus Victor aspects of the Atonement.  It was the Puritan groups that introduced this to me first in my Christian life. When I started reading Eastern Apologetics I would have a good laugh when they would criticize Reformed Theology for denying Christus Victor. 99% of the Polemics that I have read from Eastern Apologists are presumed paraphrastic clap-trap. When do Eastern Polemicists actually do a book review of a Puritan book? The stuff on Origen and Monothelitism are correctly aimed at Hyper-Calvinists but most everything else is a prima facie waste of time. I spend my time reading and writing articles where I am dealing sentence for sentence with books written by Eastern Apologists. They spend their time with clichés and paraphrases.  Any well read Puritan that is considering Eastern Apologists needs to demand more of them than what he has read himself. When you read an Eastern Polemicists on the Sacraments, ask yourself, has he done a book review and refutation on Robert Bruce’s Sermons on the Lord’s Supper? If Ecclesiology, has he read James Bannerman’s 2 Volumes and refuted them? If Justification, has he refuted James Buchanan? If Worship, has he refuted George Gellespie’s English Popish Ceremonies? Has he refuted Rutherford’s Lex Rex, William Whitaker’s Disputations, Isaac Taylor’s Ancient Christianity, and Calvin’s The Necessity of Reforming the Church ?   These are distinctive Protestant books that changed the world and rescued nations from poverty and tyranny. I have yet to meet a single Eastern Apologist that has a rudimentary understanding of what a Puritan is.  If you are an Eastern Orthodox Apologist, this is not a movie guys, these are people’s lives and souls at stake. Please take that a bit more seriously.

I don’t take these pre-adolescent wanna-be, half Christian - half Jedi posers seriously at all, and I have read and understood most all of their nonsensical insanities. I don’t know anyone who is still Reformed that has read these guys much but if you are out there I welcome your comments and any insight you may have.