Should I focus on Discipleship or Evangelism?

This seems to be the perennial question for most leaders, especially those who are trying to be missional – where should I spend the majority of my time and energy?

Should I focus on discipleship or evangelism?

Andreas Kostenberger addresses this question in an essay in a new book titled Shepherding God’s Flock. Here is what he has to say (regarding the themes of Luke 15):

The figure of the “seeking shepherd” also makes clear that the dichotomy between pastoring God’s flock of those already saved and evangelizing those who are still lost is an unfortunate and unbiblical one. The seeking shepherd combines both functions in one He cares for the sheep who are already in the flock and provides for them spiritually (and if need be physically) and keeps them safe, but he is also concerned for those in the world who are lost in their sin. Not only does he lead by example in reaching out to the lost, he also seeks to mobilize the church to be moved with compassion for the lost and to take the gospel to them. This calls for wisdom and discernment, and wise shepherd guided by the Holy Spirit, will strike the right balance between caring for the saved and seeking to reach the lost.

So there you have it!

Discipleship vs. evangelism is a false dichotomy!

15 Life Giving Habits for Ministry

I really didn’t expect things to be like this – but its simply the way things turned out. Not that it was necessarily a bad thing – it was just unexpected.

You see – this weekend is my friend’s birthday, and every year he plans a snowboarding/ski trip to either Big Bear or Mammoth. I really look forward to these trips. However this year I was coming off a really bad flu; so I figured that it was probably wise if I didn’t spend two whole days doing intense activity in freezing cold weather. So the whole crew went up the mountain and I walked (a few mile) over to one of my favorite coffee shops in the world, Looney Bean.

I started out doing my morning scripture reading and moved into reading some stuff on the Trinity by Stephen Holmes, then I made my way back to reading scripture. I was reading Psalm 23, sitting in a quaint little coffee shop, staring out the window at the beautiful Eastern Sierra Nevadas. And then I realized – I have just entered a 3 day period of forced sabbatical.

For the next 4 days I have no responsibilities at church. I have no real agenda. I get to hike, work out, read, spend time with God, and just relax. Its a time to recharge!

I started journaling about this – how the Lord has given me a few days to just be and not do. My tendency is to always do – in fact I originally brought my computer with me in order to get ahead on some work. But no – the Lord had other plans. He gave me time to rest and time to stoke the fire within me for Jesus. Those are two crucial habits that pastors/leaders need to cultivate if they are going to make it for the long haul. I admit I’m really bad at stopping and doing those things – I tend to do them on the go. Anyway, there are many habits that pastors/leaders need to cultivate in order to maintain a healthy walk with God in ministry.

Justin Buzzard recently wrote a blog in which he listed out 15 of these life saving habits – here are a few:

Prioritize friendship
Most church planters are lonely, and it’s most often their fault! Don’t settle for superficial relationships or building a church where everyone has deep friendships and you sit alone at the top. If Jesus needed close friends, then so do you. It’s how God made us. So make pursuing and enjoying real friendships a normal part of your week. Perhaps you should put it in your job description. I think planters/pastors should be men who have incredible friendships, there’s just no way to navigate this calling well without great friends.
➔ Action Question: Who are your friends?

Disciple men
Jesus invested his life in a handful of men and changed the world. As the lead guy, investing your life in a handful of guys will set the culture of your church. Don’t spread yourself too thin, pick a few guys who will invest in others and invest yourself them (2 Tim 2:2).
➔ Action Question: Who are your guys?

Church planting is a creative profession. If you do not rest and refill yourself along the way, you will burn out. Find your own rhythms to rest daily (unplug/play for some portion of each day), rest weekly (sabbath), rest monthly (I take a monthly headspace day where I get away to fill up), and rest annually (my family gets out of town for the entire month of July). For more: See my interview on Sabbath/rest here.
➔ Action Question: How are you resting?

Play big
Too many church planters settle for a ministry that can be explained by their own resources and abilities. Jesus loves your church/city more than you do (Matt 16:18). Push into the impossible and trust God to show up. This is the kind of ministry worth giving your life for.
➔ Action Question: Does your current ministry require a supernatural explanation?

Resist the devil
Satan hates you, and he is tricky. He will seek to breed disunity in your church, discouragement in you, speak lies, and seek to get at you through your family, etc. You have to be a fighter (1 Peter 5:8-9). Church planting will always feel like a fight. Embrace this reality, and fight.
➔ Action Question: Where do you need to resist the work of the devil?

Get your sermon done earlier
I have found it works much better for me to aim to get my sermon done by Wednesday afternoon, giving me the rest of the week to be with people, handle other responsibilities, and not have my sermon hanging over my head all week. Discover what works best for you, your family, and your church and do it.
➔ Action Question: What’s a good time of the week to finish your sermon by, a new deadline to aim for that would free you up?

Let God wreck you
Shortly before planting Garden City Church, I had my idolatry exposed and crushed as a result of some very difficult circumstances in my life. The Lord used that to build me into the man who is leading my church today. Church planting can be the best education/sanctifier of your life. Embrace what God is doing and you will be a better leader as a result.
➔ Action Question: What is God teaching you in your pain and weakness?

You can find the rest of these 15 Life-Giving Habits on Justin’s Blog.

Locating Atonement

[This is the final “Atonement Week” blog post.]

This past Thursday and Friday I attended The 3rd annual Los Angeles Theology Conference – the topic was “Locating Atonement.” I especially enjoyed Ben Myers’ Atonement & the Image of God and Michael Horton’s Atonement and Ascension. Ben’s lecture was really stimulating, especially in light of the research I’m doing on T.F. Torrance’s view on universals. Matthew Levering was a lot wittier Los Angeles Theology Conference - LATCthan I expected. Eleanore Stump’s lecture stumped me (how many times has that been said!), mainly because no body responded to her synergistic account of salvation. But Bruce McCormack’s lecture (by the way Bruce is gigantic, and not just compared to me…) elicited a concerned response from me. At one point in his lecture Bruce said that atonement is located in the crucifixion, and not in the resurrection. Initially that doesn’t seem so bothersome – of course atonement happens on the cross! Duh! But then I got to thinking (in a rather Torrencian fashion), “Doesn’t atonement happen over Christ’s the whole life lived? Isn’t the incarnation a part of atonement? Isn’t his life a part of atonement? Isn’t his resurrection and ascension a part of atonement?” I know I am making some rather Torrencian presuppositions (namely that atonement occurs involves union + recapitulation and can be cashed out in something like the vicarious humanity of Christ); but even for people who don’t follow T.F. Torrance’s logic it would seem to me that Atonement can’t be exclusively located on the cross!

Let me make my self clear – I’m not denying what P.T. Forsyth called the “cruciality of the cross” – I follow Paul in declaring that we are to preach Christ crucified. I too have chosen to know nothing but Christ crucified. But, that does not me that I believe atonement is located exclusively at the cross as Bruce McCormack wants to suggest.

Let me break this down….

Necessary and Sufficient Conditions

  • Necessary Condition: A necessary condition for some state of affairs S is a condition that must be satisfied in order for S to obtain.
  • Sufficient Condition: A sufficient condition for some state of affairs S is a condition that, if satisfied, guarantees that S obtains.

Here are a couple of examples.

  • Having gasoline in the gas tank is a necessary condition for me to drive to work.
  • Being 18 years old is a necessary condition for a person to serve in the military.


  • Being 18 years old is not a necessary and sufficient condition to serve in the military, one would need to meet certain health requirements too.
  • Having gasoline in the gas tank is not a necessary and sufficient condition to drive to work, one needs to have tires as well.

Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Atonement

Lets assume for a second that atonement literally means “at-one-ment.” It signifies something like the reconciliation between God and man. (I’m not going to explain the mechanism by which this happens, you can fill this out with your own mechanism/theory.) We might want to ask whether or not the crucifixion of Christ is a necessary condition for atonement to occur. I think the answer is a simple yes. I can’t think of a single (orthodox) atonement theory which would say that atonement can happen without the cross. Penal substitution, satisfaction, christus victor, moral exemplar, recapitulation, governmental theory, and vicarious humanity theories all make clear that the cross is crucial to atonement in some way. Alright, so we might now ask – is the crucifixion of Christ a sufficient condition for atonement? This is a crucial question, because if we answer in the negative, then we have to say that some other condition or event is necessary for atonement and then we can’t say that atonement is located solely on the cross. Well lets start with this question: If Christ was not tempted by Satan, and came out victorious would atonement have happened? Some theories would say no. Allright, now another question: If Christ had not undergone an unjust trial, would atonement have happened? Again, some theories would say no. If the ascension would not have happened would atonement have been made complete? Again, some theories want to say no! Now, one final important question: If Christ had been crucified and not resurrected would atonement have been made? Paul is clear in saying: No! If Christ is not raised then our faith is in vain. Why is it in vain? Because atonement has not been made! The resurrection is a necessary condition for atonement!

What does this all mean? It means that the crucifixion is not a necessary and sufficient condition for atonement (you at least need to add resurrection to it). Thus we can’t say that Atonement is strictly located on the cross. You cannot separate the cross from the resurrection when speaking of atonement. Sorry Bruce.

Atonement & Eucharist– Notes on Eleonore Stump’s LATC15 Presentation

Eleonore stump had the privilege of being the final plenary speaker at #LATC15 today. She presented a paper on the connection between atonement and the eucharist. She is best known for her work on the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and medieval philosophy. Here are my notes on her lecture.

Atonement and Eucharist

Eleonore Stump

Purpose: Explore the connection b/w Atonement and Eucharist

  • Reasonable to believe you would need a full account of Atonement and full account of Eucharist – yet this is impossible to fulfill. (Not a lot of agreement about these doctrines.)
  • In order to go around the differences:
    • Focus on the salvific effect of Christ’s death & the impact of atonement on human sinfulness. Assume the effects of his death have to be applied to the person.
    • Eucharist – adopt a minimalist account. At least it can be said that the rite reminds those who participate in it of the death of Christ. At least they are made mindful of the body and blood of Christ.


  • At-one-ment: making one of things that were not at one, namely God and human beings.
  • The process of atonement begins when a person ceases to resist God – i.e. surrenders to God – but its up to the person (e.g. Paula) alone to do that.
    • The passion and death of Christ can certainly be a catalyst in helping a person (e.g. Paula) surrender.
    • If anything can help Paula cease resisting God’s love it is the spectacle of the love of God for us on the cross.
  • If Paula surrenders – God will provide Paul the grace to will to will what God wills (2nd order willing)
  • As long as Paula continues to will to will – God can keep helping Paul in this trajectory.
  • Atonement has a role in helping Paul surrender – that surrender is the beginning of union with God that will fulfilled if Paula continues on this track.
  • Shared attention….
    • 2nd person experiences
    • 2nd person experiences (knowledge of persons) can be had through stories
      • A story of Jerome can connect someone like Paula in such a way so that Paula comes to know Jerome, not just facts about him.
      • If one day Paula meets Jerome, then there is some possibility of union because of the knowledge that Paul has about Jerome.
    • This point about stories matters very much for the purposes of this paper.
      • Everyone who responds to Christ’s death has to do so through a story.
        • His person and work is mediated to us through a particular story.
      • The story doesn’t act on her will with sufficient causation, nonetheless the story can move her to the melting of heart, the state where she can lay down her resistance to Christ
    • When this story results in the ceasing of the resistance to God – she meets God.
  • The story of Christ’s passion and death is central in bringing people into union w/God because the surrender which is the beginning of this union happens when we “hear” the story.
    • As long as she doesn’t return to her resistance to God.
    • Since this is so there are actually three parts that bring Paula to the complete and permanent union with God
      • The Beginning – her initial surrender
      • Sanctification
      • Perseverance (the continuation of the initial ceasing to resist God)
    • Perseverance is as delicate and tricky a matter as that initial surrender
  • If God were to give Paula a lifetime of perseverance – then God would be taking away her alternate possibilities (and hence the freedom of will necessary for union).
    • So, God can’t give someone the grace of a life time of perseverance.
    • Analogy of Marriage – Jerome can’t guarantee Paula won’t divorce him, but there are many things Jerome can do to help make it so that Paula wont divorce him.
      • Something similar occurs with our perseverance…
      • The Eucharist is one means through which God helps perseverance happen


  • God’s love is most manifest in God’s passion and death.
  • One way to think about the Eucharist is that the bread and wine are eaten during the rite – for a person who participates in the rite, some things are brought entirely in that person by being eaten.
    • The imagery is of a union (union b/w thing eaten and the eater)
  • Increased union and increase love is the result of the rite
  • For virtually all people – the ceasing of resistance must come through a story (Gospels)
    • On every occasion which a person participates in the Eucharist with faith, she is brought back into that story of the love of Christ
    • When Paul participates in the rite, she will remember her need for help and she will remember, vividly, God’s perfect love for her
  • Every time Paula participates in the right, she is reminded of the reason why she should persevere – God’s love for her


  • Salvation has three parts – Surrender, Sanctification, Perseverance
  • God can’t get what he wants by acting directly on the human will – or else union would be lost.
  • By means of the story of the Passion and Death of Christ – Paula comes to know Christ.
  • By means of the remembering of the story – participation in the Eucharist – she reenacts (in a renewal of a marriage vow sort of way) that initial encounter and surrender to God – hence ensuring perseverance.


Atonement & Ascension – Notes on Michael Horton’s LATC15 Presentation

Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westmister California. He is author of The Christian Faith and editor of Modern Reformation magazine, and co-host of the White Horse Inn. At LATC 15 he presented a wonderful paper on Atonement and Ascension – with special attention being paid to Patristic and Reformation theology.


Atonement and Ascension

Michael Horton


Ascension is as constitutive as atonement for the redemption of humanity.

  • The Ascension highlights what he has saved us for.

A Tale of Two Ascensions

  • Origen’s or Irenaeus?
    • Origen’s Doctrine of Ascension
      • It is the ascent of mind rather than the body – this thesis is founded upon his cosmology which originates in 1st Principles
      • This world was created as a “school” to gain back our “wings”
      • Logos casts of his body – passes from physical to ethereal body
      • To Origin – all rational creatures will be saved and restored to their original goal of contemplation of God.
      • He has a tri-partite ontology: Body, Soul, Spirit
        • Applies this to Scripture as well
      • In Medieval Theology – the doctrine goes back and forth between internalization & marginalization
      • In Renaissance – Resurgence of Platonism & Origen – Resurgence of a split between Flesh & Spirit.
    • Irenaeus Doctrine of Ascension
      • The body of Christ did ascend to the height above – giving to the Father his human nature as the first fruits of the resurrection of humanity. – Christ carried our flesh into heaven.
      • The Reformation – critical of the Origenest trajectory. Contra the ascent of mind.
    • Von Balthasar: Protestants can’t follow Irenaeus when it comes to Ascension
      • Horton Disagrees

Recapitulation – the Two Adams

  • Protestant theology reflected the Irenean concern about the redemption of the whole of human nature.
  • Ireneaus – Recapitulation : Father sends son to be reunited in his workmanship…
    • First covenant with Adam & Gospel covenant
    • A consummation is never a return to a beginning but an entrance into a state of glory to which no human has ever known
      • This is not an allegory referring to something else
    • Calvin says – it is the Son’s union with us and our union with him
    • Takes Adam’s place in obeying the father
      • Calvin – How does Christ abolish sin? Incarnation & course of whole life lived
    • Sin Calvin says does not spring from a lower faculty (the impulses of the senses)
    • What Adam lost is communion with God.
    • Its not just in his divinity that Christ is life-giving – in his human nature too.
    • Origen concerned with ascent of mind – Ireneaus focuses on His descent to us and our ascent in Christ.
      • Calvin follows Ireneaus’ emphasis on the Humanity of Christ
      • The Reformed view – Christ is the mediator in accord with both natures. The exaltation is a state gained, or a reward, for his obedience.
      • Christ earns his exaltation through his obedience
        • B/c of this our humanity is exalted above its prior dignity.
      • This exaltation does not change the divine nature as such
    • Explaining away Christ’s ascension in bodily form diminishes the importance of Pentecost
      • For Zwingli – omnipresence of divinity
      • For Luther – omnipresence of flesh
      • For Calvin – H.S. – Spirit is not the replacement for Christ but the way to Christ

Deification & Ascension

  • Deification needs the Ascension
    • Deification – we keep the same nature
      • Renders us like unto Christ
    • Contra Origenist views of deification
  • Spirit lifts us up into the life of God
  • Glorification & Deification are interchangeable for the Reformers.
  • Glorification is our true humanization.
  • Like Ireneaus – Calvin fleshes out ascent and descent in thoroughly Trinitarian terms
    • Christ Descends to us
    • Calvin says that there is a manner of Descent by which Christ lifts us up into himself.
    • Spirit raises us up in Christ after Christ has accomplished what needed to be accomplished in our humanity
  • Calvin – If we are members of Christ we must be raised to heaven
  • To be made like God is not to be less human but more fully so.
    • Christ is son by nature, we are sons by adoption
  • The end of the gospel is to render us eventually conformable to God, and if we may speak this way to deify us.
    • Though this does not mean a change in our nature – not a loss of who we are as human beings.
    • Calvin is fond of the image of “ingrafting” to explain this
  • To be united with Christ is to be in communion with his body. (Church)
    • The mystical union is so real – Calvin can say that this is the highest honor of the church.
    • Not until we are together with him is he “complete.” (Totus Christus)
    • Day by day Christ grows into one body with us until he becomes one with us.
  • The identification of the ascension and resurrection of the dead (i.e. us) into one event.
    • This follows from the fleshly ascension of the resurrected Christ


  • Contra Von Balthasar – Protestant theology can indeed follow Irenaeus on ascension.
  • The ascension forces us to lay our metaphysical cards on the table.
  • With the asecntion it is not only God with us and God for us but us with God.

Atonement & Human Suffering – Notes on Bruce McCormack’s LATC15 Presentation

Bruce McCormack is the Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton. During the 3rd plenary session of LATC15 he presented a paper on Atonement and Human Suffering. Here are my rather shabby notes (it was harder for me to see the structure behind this lecture than the other two lectures).


Atonement and Human Suffering

Bruce McCormack

Objection: If God himself is capable of willing the death of his human son – then this allows violence into the life of God.

  • This is the most important critique of atonement.
  • Question: So how can we establish that God willed the death of his son without allowing violence into God’s inner life?

Human suffering is at best an analogy to the death of Jesus Christ.

  • The difference b/w Christ’s suffering & our suffering is not quantitative, its qualitative.

Three Main Sections

  • Gospel Narratives & Death of Christ
  • Critical Engagement w/ Hans Urs Von Balthasar
  • Problem of Suffering

The Death of Christ in the Gospel Narratives

  • Christ in his death is “the Sinner.”
  • Mark’s Rendering is the briefest, most raw, most tragically beautiful
  • In Mark the darkness ends @ the death of Christ – it’s a symbol of the outpouring of the wrath of God
  • What’s going on in the cry of dereliction?
    • List of several views
    • The abandonment itself is “all too real” – more than that cannot be said exegetically
      • Death and God- abandonment is not saving just b/c a human experienced it
        • Every human could and should experience it. If it is merely a human experience, it should not have value for all.
      • The “victory” happens in and through this abandonment

The Death of Christ: An homage to Von Balthasar & a Bit of a Critique

  • Basic to VB’s Christology is that Christ’s person just is his mission. “He is the task.”
    • It follows that God’s being really undergoes development… It is also clear that being and becoming in the incarnate one express a single being which is the streaming forth of eternal life.
  • What fails to convince is his talk of being and becoming.
    • God does not cease to be God – does not become anything other than what he eternally is.
  • (What motivates me & everything I do – is the coherence of the church’s confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. – Bruce McCormack)
  • VB – personhood & task go hand in hand.
    • Person is being employed to speak of the man Jesus – who as human is divine
  • VB – cannot free himself from a two subjects Christology – this undermines his treatment of the atonement.
  • VB in Lusterium Paschale – His most important work on Atonement
    • The early VB knew that real substitution would be impossible unless one of the trinity has suffered – both in his human nature and divine person.
    • What takes place in the Cross of Christ = turning point of old age and new
    • Describes passion in kenotic terms
    • Reaches climax in the Garden of Gethsemane
    • VB interprets the cup as the chalice of the eschatological wrath.
    • His obedience is not cheerfully offered – but something to which he is reduced.
    • In the event of the cross God condemns sin in the flesh
      • It is not just any suffering but the suffering of the eschatological wrath of God.
    • Primacy must go to the words of the cry of abandonment
    • VB believes that the Holy Spirit is “freed” when Jesus breathes his last.
      • Whatever happens next – Jesus is alone – alone in death and alone in his experience of hell.
    • Really Important – Theology of Holy Saturday
      • Hell for VB is not a place but a condition of the soul.
      • Hell is a timeless experience – not hope for change
      • The dead don’t do anything – complete and total passivity
      • Thus Jesus did not engage in any activity on the 2nd day
      • The Spiritual condition to which Christ enters is not simply going to sheol but gehenna.
    • What is hell? The deprivation of the seeing of God. It is the visio mortis – the contemplation of the pure substantiality of hell which is sin in itself.

Problem of Human Suffering

  • Much suffering isn’t due to sin. Suffering in and of itself is natural. So what can we say about the relationship b/w suffering and atonement?
  • Death of Christ does not remove suffering – only new creation does.
  • Christ’s resurrection is a proleptic in time of the end of suffering.


  • Has God made an inner peace with the violence of this world? Not at all
    • The physical suffering is not redemptive
  • Divine judgment is an act of mercy – it’s the destruction of the old world for the establishment of the new

Atonement & the Image of God: The Patristic Atonement Model – Notes on Ben Myers – LATC15 Presentation

Ben Myers – well known for his Faith-Theology blog – lecturer in Systematic Theology at Charles Sturt Univsersity’s School of Theology presented a paper at LATC tonight titled – Atonement and the Image of God: The Patristic Model of Atonement.

Ben Myers – Author of Christ the Stranger, Salvation in my Pocket, and Milton’s Theology of Freedom.

Here are my notes (sort of incomplete notes) on his lecture and the Q & A time after the lecture

Atonement and the Image of God

Ben Myers

The Patristic Atonement Model

No Explanation?

  • The how of the operation remains a mystery – or so say most modern theologians. Most are content to settle for a restatement rather than an explanation.
  • Gustaf Aulen – the Patristic Model has no mechanism; it defies systematization
    • The teaching is internally contradictory
    • The Anselmian model is disreputable b/c its structure is too rational
    • Christus Victor is not a model at all….
    • Anti-Mechanism

Thesis: Christian antiquity did indeed develop a model of atonement – and it does indeed have a mechanism behind it.

The Model – 12 Steps

  1. Humanity, created in the image of God is loved by God.
    1. Assumption 1: There is one human nature. All individual human beings participate in this universal (realism).
  2. But human nature has succumbed to the power of death.
    1. Assumption 2: Death is and a positive quality but a privation of being (privation).
  3. Divine impassibility.
  4. ???
  5. What is God to do?
  6. In Christ, God becomes incarnate: the divine nature is united with human nature.
    1. Assumption 4: Exactly how this union occurs is unknowable. (Hypostatic Union)
  7. In this union each nature retains its own distinctiveness while participating in the properties of the other.
  8. In Christ’s death – death dies (the mechanism).
  9. Christ resurrection is the inevitable consequence of his death.
  10. What happens to human nature in Christ happens to humanity as a whole (because of m1) (The universal effect)
  11. Human nature is now freed from the power of death and is restored to its created position. This is a good thing. (The solution)
  12. Human nature is now united to God and receives far surpassing its created position. This is a very good thing. (The surplus)

Divine Impassability

  • Divine impassibility is the reason for the incarnation (see Athanasius)
    • For this reason he takes on a body capable of death – to snatch humanity out of the grip of death.
    • Communication of properties makes it so that God can be capable of tasting death…It was God’s body that suffered and no one elses.
    • The problem that the incarnation solves is the problem of impassibility
      • God is “touched” by suffering without being changed by it.
    • The Son’s human nature is the doorway into death – but who “steps through the word is the eternal logos.”

Death and the Devil

  • Assumption: Death is a privation of being.
    • Non-being is defeated when it comes into contact with the Divine Being.
      • e. light darkness disappears when light comes on
    • That evil & death is a privation is axiomatic w/in Patristics & early theologians
    • The atonement is not a struggle b/w God and Satan
      • The struggle w/ demons is strictly b/w us and Satan/Demons
    • The point of these metaphors is not to show that Christ defeats the devil
      • The mechanism behind these metaphors is about the possibility of the impassible nature going into death and defeating it from within.
    • Gregory of Nyssa – The Fishook Passage
      • The real problem is not Satan but Death
      • Death is not a positive power, but a privation of life
    • The Mechanism – Divinity touches death and death is no more (i.e. putting being into non-being)
      • Death is an absence that Christ fills

Realism and Human Nature

  • The view that humanity is essentially one – universal human nature that all humans participate in –
    • Use metaphors and analogies to depict this
      • Ireneaus – Single book Metaphor
      • Athanasius – A Town that a King lives in
      • Gregory – Kitchen and yeast in the dough or a curdling agent for milk
    • They assert this view – and don’t give much of an explanation for this assumption
    • See Athansius – On Incarnation, pg 9, sacrifice language is “one and the many” language.
      • Not a depiction of the mechanism but a depiction of the universal effects
      • This answers the question – not how it works – but for whom it works.
    • The Language of sacrifice is used to depict how Jesus death counts for us.

The Solution and the Surplus

  • Christ wraps himself in our falling human nature – takes us higher than we started.
  • Dying human nature is infused with Divine life.
  • The surplus factor belongs to the atonement model proper.
    • It communicates human qualities to divine nature
    • It communicates divine qualities to human nature – thus elevating it.
  • We rise up to an honor that is above our nature (when we were created).



Q1- I’m interested in this assumption that there is one human nature that all individual human beings participate in. Could you elaborate a little bit upon what you think forms the background for this philosophical assumption…

  • OT Models (Adam & Humanity, Sacrifice & One Representing Many)
  • NT Pauline Descriptions of Adam & 2nd Adam
  • Ireneus sees human nature as being instantiated throughout history, beginning with Adam, Israel, and Finally Christ. Human nature is a thing that unfolds through time.
  • Some others see human nature as a more abstract universal. (Almost in a Platonic way.)

Q2- Where does Sin fit into this Patristic Model?

  • I’m not persuaded that there is an integration with Anselmian models.
  • In Patristic theology the emphasis is on the problem brought about by Sin i.e. Death – not on sin itself.

Q3-What are the implications of the realism assumption. How can the son assume sinful human nature? Assuming that he can – why isn’t incarnation in itself enough for atonement?

  • Because there was a fall with death – there must be a death in the life of Christ or else Christ cannot lift us up from it.

Q4- Given modern discussions about anthropology – the idea that there is no one thing which we man by “human nature” i.e. the plurality of the human species – how does this idea that there is a universal nature affect your view?

  • I don’t quite see how you can hold to the gospel without having some way of talking about humanity as a whole. The NT itself has ways about talking about the whole of humanity.

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