Atonement through Angels

My understanding about man is that he incapable of saving himself from judgement because he are incapable of avoiding sin. Therefore, God must step in and provide a perfect sacrifice in order to redeem us. God did this with Jesus, the only perfect sacrifice because he was sinless. I would think that there is criteria above and beyond “sinlessness” but all I hear is about in the Bible and elsewhere is that is the one requirement - a perfect sacrifice. “Only” Jesus was sinless… or was he the only one?

God’s elect angels seem to be sinless or were able to avoid sin, either through their own means of free will or some other process, which remains to be confirmed. If the elect angels are sinless, why couldn’t an angel have been incarnated and sacrificed on the cross for our salvation?

For what reason(s) could they not possibly be valid candidates from God’s sacrificial offerings to save humanity?

Human nature was fallen, and only a human undefiled by sin could redeem it. It’s not simply any offering, but an offering on the part of and by the nature that needed redemption.

And furthermore, God assumed a human nature such that human nature could be glorified: that He might make men gods. He wished to have man participate in His nature, not have men participate in angelic nature. That men might have life in Him, not life in angels. God and man are united through Christ, and we may participate in that union.

Well for one, because they are not human. I recommend reading the following:

Jesus is God. He alone is the Ultimate Sacrifice.

The Son of God was not human before the Incarnation. The Son of God took on human nature at the Incarnation, so why couldn’t an angel take on human nature through the mechanism of Incarnation?

God was always God. He can do as He pleases.
Angles have free will, but they do not create.
The Incarnation had a singular purpose. It’s not a mechanism of God. It’s His will.
The act you describe is one of vanity. God’s act was one of love.

The Son of God became human at some point to fulfill this requirement, so why couldn’t an angel become human at some point to fulfill this requirement?

This requirement seems to invalidate the possibility of angels, because it’s something that only God fulfill. I can’t help but wonder, however, what behavior God is trying to communicate to us. I would imagine that it’s behavior that would exemplify sinlessness, and since angels are sinless, why couldn’t they do the job?

I think this gets back to the issue about the atonement in that what above and beyond sinlessness (and human nature which it seems either The Son of God or an angel can take on) is required in order to save humanity?

Well Angels were tested as well, I don’t know if that means those who passed the test were sinless or not, but those who failed (Satan and his demons) obviously had sin.

Second, because God, even if a creature could truly atone for sin and pay the penalty, would not allow it. He loves us (all His creatures) so much that He would rather take the punishment and atonement on Himself that make one of His creatures do it. This is the love of the Father, would not a human father take suffering and pain of his child if he could, how much better is Our Father than a human father?

Some other things to consider:

  1. Jesus’ sacrifice was of infinite value, because He is God. No creature, human or angelic, partakes of God’s infinity.

  2. The goal was to bridge the gap that had been created between God and humanity, not between angels and humanity. Jesus is God reaching down to do just that.

  3. As noted earlier, saved and sanctified humans become “partakers of the divine nature,” members of God’s family above even the angels. An angel has no power to grant that connection.

  4. It is possible that the angels who remained loyal to God had the help of divine grace in making their decision, just as we do when we resist temptation. They then would be sinless not independently of themselves, but by God’s power, much as we believe Our Lady was.

Angels are creations, but they are not eternal.

Jesus is God and is eternal. His one sacrifice is eternal, spanning infinitely into past present and future.

Could you elaborate on what you mean by infinite value and how that is necessary for salvation?

How is eternality a necessary requirement?

I imagine that God was trying to communicate “godliness” to us, which is most exemplified through self-sacrificing love for God and those others created in His image. Jesus was showing us the divine way.

And as stated in my first post, God wished to united humanity with Himself. Not just a single human nature, but with all of humanity. Not by mixing His nature eith ours, but by calling us to participate in His divine life. Jesus is that bridge.

In addition to needing to be a perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice had to be eternal to reach all ages. If the sacrifice was not eternal, then we could not continue to offer the one eternal sacrifice today, and it would not be able to benefit those who had died before the time of the sacrifice.

The eternity of Christ’s sacrifice is important because it covers all of time. For example, Mary was saved from original sin in a preventative way because of her Son’s “future” sacrifice because it was an eternal sacrifice. Had it been temporal, it would not have had the effect of reaching back in time to her, or forward in time to us in the mass.

The sacrifice of the mass is not a new sacrifice each time that is being offered on our behalf, but instead is us partaking in the one eternal sacrifice of Christ that is made present to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“…that He might make men Gods…”??? I’m inferring from this that there is more than one God which is against Christianity as well as other traditions. What is the Christian way to understand this statement?

Our nature is not changed into a divine nature, but God allows us to experience and view His own divine life. We don’t become new infinite beings and creators, but God fills us with His glory and grace.

Divinization is a western doctrine. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:36

[INDENT][God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.37

2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life."60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts."62

460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81[/INDENT]

The Eastern churches also place a large emphasis on this, calling it theosis. That may be something to look into if you’re curious. This teaching goes back to scripture and to the early Church Fathers.

Excellent post :thumbsup:

Do you mean that the sacrifice needs to cover the time range in which saving was needed? I don’t see how it would be needed for ages in which saving wasn’t needed. Angels existed before man, and seem to be everlasting, so wouldn’t they “cover all bases”? :slight_smile:

In the old testament, we can see that God established covenants with humanity. Whenever humanity would fail to live up to their end of the deal and would break the covenant, their relationship with with God would be fractured.

Each time humanity would turn away from God, God would establish a new covenant with them. These covenants were not eternal though. Each time humanity would fall away, they were without a relationship with God until a new covenant was established.

In the new testament, we see the establishment of the new and eternal covenant in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, His self sacrifice on the cross establishes a new, perfect, and eternal covenant with God that is universal. All the previous covenants were with specific groups of people: One man, One family, One nation.

With Jesus, the eternal covenant is established on the behalf of all of humanity. His divinity allows for the covenant and salvation to cover the entire world: past, present, and future.

The old covenants were like a reset button, but they did not help those who lived in the times between the fracturing of one covenant, and the establishment of the next one. With the establishing of the new and eternal covenant, Jesus allowed all of humanity, past, present, and future, to have the opportunity to share in His salvic action.

Angels are creatures; they are neither eternal or divine. Because of this, any sacrifice offered by an angel or covenant established with an angel would not have an eternal, unbreakable effect. Any sacrifice or covenant established by an angel on behalf of humanity would take place at a certain point in time and would only continue until it was fractured again by humanity. It would also not have the power to reach back in time to provide salvation for those in the past, like Mary.

It is also important to see that all of the covenants are established between God and humanity. An angel is not human and has no human nature. They are pure spirit. Because of this, they cannot establish a covenant on behalf of humanity.

Through the Incarnation, Jesus has the unique ability to establish a covenant on behalf of both God and all of Humanity. Through the establishment of the Eucharist, we as humans of all ages are able to participate in His one and eternal sacrifice at every mass. No matter how many times we fall away, we can renew our relationship with God through the sacrament of confession, and again participate in the eternal covenant.

Its really pretty simple, all notions of the need for sinlessness and also forensic language/concepts as they apply to the atonement aside. Only God, man’s creator, can save man, His lost and wayward creation.

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