Comparing the views of Bonhoeffer`s “Life Together” and Zizioulas` “The Church”
Comparing the views of Bonhoeffer`s “Life Together” and Zizioulas` “The Church”Bonhoeffer and Zizioulas offer interesting perspectives for conceptualizing the Christian theology regarding theatonement. Indeed, one of the outstanding elements of Christianity practices, which sets them apart from other religions, is atonement. In this case, atonement can be defined as the process of sin reparation or expiation. There are four models of atonement. These include Christus Victor, Satisfaction, Exemplar and Penal Substitution. A look at the differences between these two theologians reveals a clear difference regarding their perspectives towards atonement, in which Bonhoeffer tends to orient himself towards the model of Christus Victor, while Zizioulas favors Satisfaction theory.Bonhoeffer`s Vs. ZizioulasBonhoeffer espouses himself to the atonement model of Christus Victor, which asserts Christ is the victor. Bonhoeffer notes, “…this whole world is sustained only for the sake of Jesus Christ, his Word, and his message”.He also writes, “at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to Him to whom our whole life belongs.”Here, the reconciliation is depicted as the divine victory and conflict over different hostile powers that are holding humanity back in sin. Aulen indicates that the ransom theory cannot be taken as a rational systematic account because it is a passion and drama or story of God`s reign and the triumph of delivering humanity from the bondage of sin while rising above all other powers. For about one thousand years of the early church, the Ransom Theory dominated in most regions where the church traces its roots. The dominance of the theory is attributed to the support that was offered by almost all fathers of the Greek Church, beginning from Father Irenaeus to John who ministered in Damascus. Other church heads that emphasized on the relevance of the Ransom theory include Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, Origen, John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus. Among the Latin nations, some of the notable fathers who propagated the teachings of the Ransom theory during the Patristic period include Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory the Great and Leo the Great[,].A major transition happened after the publication of Cur Deos Homo in 1097 AD by Anselm of Canterbury that marked a different understanding and perspective of the atonement. The period marked the adoption of the Satisfaction Doctrine by church of the Roman Catholic, after which it was also adopted by the protestant churches. It is worth noting that the Eastern Orthodox Church currently holds to the atonement views of Christus Victor or Ransom theory, which is built on the understanding of reconciliation as “recapitulation” as inferred by Irenaeus[,] .Zizioulas seems to espouse himself with the satisfaction theory. He writes, “In the Eucharist, we can find all the dimensions of communion …All this takes place in Christ and the Spirit, who brings the last days into history and offers to the world a foretaste of the Kingdom.” Anselm of Canterbury invented the satisfaction atonement model, also referred to commercial theory. Anselm who served as a medieval theologian between 1033 and 1109 documented the model in his book Cur Deus Homo. According to Anselm God`s offended dignity and honor could only be restored through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ[,].The model is based on the view that humanity could not deliver or provide to God beyond what was due to Him. He argues that the satisfaction that was brought about by God surpassed anything that His creatures can do because all created beings can only what is expected of them[,], (Sifton, 2013 Stephen, 2012 Metaxas, 2014). For this reason, Anselm notes that had to make his own satisfaction. However, he further narrates that since the satisfaction was for the sake of humanity, the plan had to be executed by a human. It is worth noting that the satisfaction could only be executed by a being that was both man and God to give Him honor that is due and satisfy Him as well. Anselm regards human sin as robbing God of the honor and respect He is due. The death of Jesus Christ symbolizes an act of obedience that is meant to restore God`s great honor. Anselm discusses that the role that Jesus played in the salvation of humanity was beyond his call of duty. However, the position gives Christ more honor[,].Bonheoffer atonement is based on the view thatJesus death on the cross acted as a substitute for all sinners. It affirms that God attributed the sins and guilt of humankind to Jesus, Who in place of man, received that punishment that humanity would have otherwise deserved. Jesus` actions signified the payment of the sins of humankind, which settled both the righteousness and wrath of God so that sinners could be forgiven without God Himself compromising His holy standard. In essence, according to the penal substitution theory of the reformers, Jesus died in place of man, in the process accounting for the sins of man and bearing them. The act of Jesus taking the sins of man indicates that Jesus carried the cross of every believer, setting him free and safe from all the penal demands of God`s law. In this context, the holiness of God and the righteousness of His law are accounted for by the substitution. Notably, in modern theology, the penal aspect has been a stumbling block despite being regarded as one of the dominant atonement in the bible. According to the model, Jesus paid man`s ransom on his crucifixion. However, this view only works because Christ was paying man`s penalty. Therefore, Christians should be inspired by the self-sacrifice acts of Jesus on the cross. In addition, Jesus` death and resurrection implied significant victories over death, hell, and sin in our union with him and God. Lastly, God accomplished his mission to reconcile the world with Him despite various trespasses by humanity.ReflectionClearly, the two figures are significantly different. On one hand, Christ Victors refers to the idea of the liberation of humanity from sin as “ransom” and should not be perceived as a commercial transaction as depicted by Anselm. Unlike the penal-substitution or satisfaction views of the reconciliation anchored in the idea of Jesus Christ dying and crucified to pay the penalty of our sin to conform to the justice demands. However, Christus Victor point of view is based on the incarnation[,]. Besides, it also rests on Christ`s entry into human wickedness and misery and hence redeemed it. As it is usually stated,”Jesus became what we are so that we could become what he is”. Christ`s death is portrayed as a ransom that was paid to free humanity from sin.It is also important to note that various reformers were concerned about its reference to God Himself, instead of His holiness and justice, portraying the Satisfaction theory being more of a commercial transaction as opposed to the intended meaning, which was a penal substitution, [,].The reformers in the protestant church changed the focus of the satisfaction theory and concentrated on divine justice and offense. Thomas Aquinas made some modification on Anselm`s theory by including the concept of the treasury of merit, which was later adopted as the general understanding of Roman Catholicism of atonement. It is established that the righteousness of God calls for punishment for sinners. Besides, the accomplishment of the death of Christ, which was sinless, balances out the sin of humanity, giving God room to restore his relationship with humanity, but that only comes through salvation[,]In this regard, it is clear that the death of Christ is substitutionary because Jesus paid the honor instead of leaving it to humanity. In addition, Anselm affirms that the substitution that occurs is not penal because the death of Christ pays for the honor of humanity, and not the penalty of humanity. Anselm discusses that penal substitution indicates that Jesus endured the penalty of sin for the sake of sinners who are united by faithand that those who do not believe in him will perish.ConclusionIn conclusion, the two theologians, Bonhoeffer and Zizioulas offer various interesting perspectives for conceptualizing atonement. The two theologians differ with regard to their atonement orientation. Bonhoeffer espouses himself to the atonement model of Christus Victor, which asserts Christ is the victor, while Zizioulas seems to espouse himself with the satisfaction theory.References
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