Atonement


#1

A Baptist friend of mine and I somehow got on to the topic of atonement.

My Baptist friend said that;

“While Jesus was on the cross, God the Father poured out his wrath on His Son, and turned His back on Him.”

While saying that Jesus went down to Hell with all our sins and suffered there until Easter.

I refuted the second point with the verse in Peter where Jesus is “teaching the spirits”, not suffering in pain. Yet I was unsure on how to attack the first point. Something sounds fishy, but I can’t find the Catholic answer.


#2

This is an intriguing question, for which there do not seem to be good answers.

Harold Camping of Family Radio is probably the chief proponent of this perspective. He asserts that, for instance, if a billion people are ultimately saved, Christ endured the pain of eternity in Hell x 1,000,000,000.

The math ultimately doesn’t seem to work. Infinity is infinity. It goes on forever. Somehow cramming forever into three days seems to violate “God-ness.”

Additionally, 1,000,000,000 eternities in Hell, crammed into the time on the cross, seems to make His scourging and crucifixion pale by comparison – a VACATION, for Heaven’s sake!

Yet, Christ suffered from something in the Garden. He sweated blood, for Heaven’s sake. Was He contemplating having the skin ripped off his back and front by the flagrum? DID God the Father somehow cut Him off. When Christ prays in Gethsemane, we do not witness the customary response from Heaven.

My answers here aren’t clear. Are anyone’s?


#3

First issue – God pouring out His wrath on Jesus.
Jesus willingly suffered and died for our sins in cooperation with Our Heavenly Father, out of love for all of us, His children. The Father did not and could not abandon Jesus, for Jesus said that wherever He was, so was the Father. As part of the Holy Trinity, they were always connected through their Divinity. When Jesus calls out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He is actually quoting Psalm 22, which was a common Jewish practice (to recite the first verse of the Psalm since many memorized these prayers). If you read the entire Psalm the despair is turned into joy as salvation is accomplished.

Second issue – Jesus going to Hell.
The Church teaches that Jesus “descended to the dead” often called Gehenna, sometimes incorrectly interpreted as hell. He did so to offer the message of salvation to all who had already perished in order for them to make their final decision for heaven or for hell.


#4

[quote=SwordofLight]A Baptist friend of mine and I somehow got on to the topic of atonement.

My Baptist friend said that;

“While Jesus was on the cross, God the Father poured out his wrath on His Son, and turned His back on Him.”

While saying that Jesus went down to Hell with all our sins and suffered there until Easter.

I refuted the second point with the verse in Peter where Jesus is “teaching the spirits”, not suffering in pain. Yet I was unsure on how to attack the first point. Something sounds fishy, but I can’t find the Catholic answer.
[/quote]

You have his words to use against himself if he tries to use the thief on the cross to argue against purgatory.

God did not punish Christ on our behalf. Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins and to save us from death.

It is not a ransom. It is more saving us from our sins and its consequences.

Payment is not required for the forgiveness of our sins because justice, along with everything else, is relative to God. There is nothing higher than God, so there is nothing that requires anything for God. God could have just said, “you are forgiven”, but he did not for several reasons. St. Thomas Aquinas writes about this and gives several reasons why Christ died for our sins.

The first one is because it shows us how much God really loves us. If Christ did not sacrifice himself on the cross we would never have the comprehesion of how great his love is. Sacrifice is the greatest way to show ones love for another, so this is a great way to see it.

The second reason is because by coming down to earth Christ set us a perfect example of all the virtues that we need in life. Christ showed Sacrife, Obedience, fortitude, and every other virtue when he was on earth.

The third reason is that by the passion, Christ not only saved us from sin, but he also merited us justifying grace. This grace is what saves us. By Christs sacrifce on the cross he gave us grace.

The fourth reason is that man is bound by this sacrifice to do the will of God. By sacrificing himself on the cross, Christ payed a great price to save us. He suffered and died so that we would not have to experience this. So we have a very good reason to do his will and to follow every one of his commandments.

The fifth reason is because it appeals to mans dignity. It was a man who fell to the devil and caused the rest of the world to lose its grace. Therefore it should be a man that would save the world from the devil and death. It was a man who brought sin and death to the world, and it was a man that vanquished sin and death.

ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa…ml#TPQ46A3THEP1


#5

Dear Didi,

I understand what you are saying about the rest
of that psalm.
I have to ask myself: Jesus was dying in agony,
and to taste the cup of bitterness to the full,
did He not experience the worst a human can
endure…the human emotion of feeling abandoned
by God? [No, God does not abandon us in
fact, but a human being sometimes experiences
the emotion of abandonment…a truly dreadful
thing.] I’m speaking of Christ’s human nature.

I guess my point is, if I understand St.Paul’s
referring to "making up the suffering lacking"
then I can rejoice that those who experience
mental illness can identify with Jesus’
cry of abandonment, realizing that their
suffering can be enjoined with Christ’s in
a unique way. [The opportunity of a lifetime,
in some sense…to make golden so much
psychological pain, in union with Christ’s
own.]
Having suffered lifelong, chronic depression
for over 50 years, it is easy to understand
why I can imagine Jesus experiencing this…
for my sake and many others.
I’m thinking of writing a book on prayer for those
who suffer psychologically.
reen12


#6

[quote=jimmy]God did not punish Christ on our behalf. Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins and to save us from death.

It is not a ransom. It is more saving us from our sins and its consequences.
[/quote]

I am uncomfortable with your terminology here. I feel that “ransom” is quite consistant with Catholic usage. CCC below

**601 **The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant. After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.


#7

Dear Pug,

Didn’t C S Lewis name the main character in
his triology “Ransom”?
Wasn’t the concept of ransom highlighted in
Lewis’ story in the Narnia series where Aslan,
the Christ figure, turns himself over to the
forces of evil to ransom one of the children,
to take his place in fact?
Thought this might pertain to the discussion.
reen12


#8

posted by Didi

When Jesus calls out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He is actually quoting Psalm 22, which was a common Jewish practice (to recite the first verse of the Psalm since many memorized these prayers). If you read the entire Psalm the despair is turned into joy as salvation is accomplished.

Also Psalm 22 contains the prophecy of the crucifixion.

Verse 16…for they have pierced my hands and feet

verse 18 … and cast lots upon my vesture.

I found this from This Rock online here By Mark P. Shea, July-August 1998 catholic.com/thisrock/1998/9807fea4.asp

When Jesus is sold for thirty pieces of silver or his hands and feet are pierced on the cross, the disciples do not discover this by sticking their noses into the book of Zechariah or Psalm 22. Rather, after Jesus is raised, they remember that these things were written and, blinking their eyes in amazement, say, “It was staring us in the face all along, and we didn’t see it!” The Old Testament is not the basis of their belief in these things; it is the witness to these things.

Jesus was letting His apostles know that He knew what was to come, pointing them to the prophecy of what had to come.

Does part of it mean that God turned His face from Christ because of the sins He bore? That is what I learned, from Protestant Bible studies. I have not read anything Catholic that says that turning away was not part of the meaning of His words. But I am interested in knowing.

posted by Didi

The Father did not and could not abandon Jesus, for Jesus said that wherever He was, so was the Father. As part of the Holy Trinity, they were always connected through their Divinity.

Is there a Catholic Source on this where I can read more? I did a search on This Rock and did not find anything.

God Bless,
Maria


#9

[quote=Pug]I am uncomfortable with your terminology here. I feel that “ransom” is quite consistant with Catholic usage. CCC below
[/quote]

There is quite a bit of confusion regarding this issue. But yes, ransom is consistent with the Catholic teaching. In this usage, it refers to a redemption or “buying back”, similar to the usage according to the Law of Moses that all first-born children had to be “ransomed” from the Lord.

Now, the question of substitutionary atonement. This is a uniquely Protestant doctrine. It seems to me they took St. Anselm’s “theory” and went hog-wild with it. It basically suggests that our Lord bore all our sins with him on the cross in the sense that he was a substitute for our sinfulness; a scapegoat.

As a result, all of our sins are “covered”, there is nothing else that we need to do (except accept Jesus as “our personal Lord and Savior”). Of course we know that this Sacrifice did not “cover” or make total satisfaction for our sins, since after the Resurrection, our Lord told us how our sins are to be forgiven (Jn 20:22-23). If His death on the cross covered all our sins, there would be no need for them to be forgiven. There would also be no need for us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1) or to make “what is lacking” in our Lord’s Sacrifice (Col 1:24).


#10

SwordofLight,
I do realize that this is written for your Baptist friend, but in my experience, many of the baptists I know do not understand OSAS like Calvin. So if I did not think some of these questions may come up from your Baptist friend, or I would make a new thread. If you come back before my questions are answered, and think this is throwing off the answers you need, please just say so. I will be glad to start a new thread.

I find this a very interesting thing and was not aware that Catholic teaching did not say that God turned away from Christ because of the sins he bore for me, as in a substitute for me.

posted by mtr01
Now, the question of substitutionary atonement. This is a uniquely Protestant doctrine. It seems to me they took St. Anselm’s “theory” and went hog-wild with it. It basically suggests that our Lord bore all our sins with him on the cross in the sense that he was a substitute for our sinfulness; a scapegoat.

Yes, this is what I was taught while in fundamental churches (AoG, Nazarene, and Evangelical), minus the word scapegoat. Did not know it was St. Anselm’s theory. Do you know if this will be available to look at at New Advent?

As a result, all of our sins are “covered”, there is nothing else that we need to do (except accept Jesus as “our personal Lord and Savior”).

Also what was said. But in truth not what was practiced since we were taught that one must confess our sins if we “backslide”.

Of course we know that this Sacrifice did not “cover” or make total satisfaction for our sins, since after the Resurrection, our Lord told us how our sins are to be forgiven (Jn 20:22-23).

Yes, I see the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. I understand that my sins are not just covered. They will be cleansed and I will be made Holy not just covered in holiness.

But how does this mean that Jesus did not atone for my sins by bearing them on Himself? Why did God not turn away from Him on the cross?

If His death on the cross covered all our sins, there would be no need for them to be forgiven. There would also be no need for us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1) .

In the denomination I was in one needed to ask forgiveness of sins, one could “backslide” and need to “lay it at the foot of the cross” again. Holiness and making ourselves a living sacrifice was emphasized. And while I was taught incorrectly the sins were “covered”, it still does not answer why Christ did not bear them on Himself. A few of my baptist friends would use different words, but mean basically the same thing.

or to make “what is lacking” in our Lord’s Sacrifice (Col 1:24)

And this completely sets my back up. My fundamental roots are yelling "there is nothing lacking in the Lord’s Sacrifice." I read the verse but once again, those roots are yelling, “there is a different interpretation than what you are saying. I don’t know what it is, but you are wrong. There was, and is nothing lacking in the Lord’s Sacrifice.”

Note to all: Truly, my entire being is so shocked by that statement, if I were still in those circles, I probably would not hear anything that was said after you said something like this. May not want to address this with these words or right away.

Now however, I am just going to wait for the explanation.

Please help me to understand the Catholic interpretatin of why the Lord was not a substitute for my sins, past, present and future as long as I continue to lay them at the cross (repent). Why God did not turn away from Christ because He bore my sins and God could not stand to gaze upon Him.

God Bless,
Maria


#11

“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, the church.” Col. 1:24

We are to imitate Christ in all things. Christ is the head of the church, we are the body. Christ, the Head, has fully completed His own perfect sacrifice. We, the body, must follow Him and add our own sufferings to complete His work on earth. His sacrifice was indeed complete and perfect; we just need to add our own to His.

Psalm 22
I do believe that Jesus had human feelings as we all do, so in His humanity he probably did indeed feel abandoned to some extent; however in His Divinity He knew exactly what He was doing and knew the Father was with Him every step of the way. Suffering is an important part of our understanding of sacrifice and selfless giving; a better understanding of Jesus’ love for us.

Reen 12 –
I think your idea about writing a book on emotional and mental suffering is a great idea! The Catechism has a lot of wonderful teaching on redemptive suffering. There’s also a great little book called “Suffering: A Key to the Meaning of Life” by John Downs, who became quadraplegic at age 15 and went to live over 40 more years. You can get this book and read a sample chapter at his website: www.johnfdowns.com

One last comment on the earlier question of God pouring out His wrath on Jesus. Jesus agreed to take on His suffering out of love for us, as it says in John 10:15-18:

“…I lay down my life for my sheep. …For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. **No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; ** this charge I have received from my Father.”


#12

*posted by Didi:

The Father did not and could not abandon Jesus, for Jesus said that wherever He was, so was the Father. As part of the Holy Trinity, they were always connected through their Divinity.

Is there a Catholic Source on this where I can read more? I did a search on This Rock and did not find anything.

God Bless,
Maria*

Maria –

There is a lot of information on the Trinity in the Catechism:

242, 246, 253-267

Scott Hahn also wrote a book on the Trinitarian relationship and how it fits into the family relationship; I think it’s called “First Comes Love.”

Father Corapi also speaks about wherever the Father is, there also is the Son and the Holy Spirit; wherever the Son is, there also is the Father and the Holy Spirit; wherever the Holy Spirit is, there also is the Father and the Son.


#13

Hi MariaG,

You said exactly what I’ve been thinking and trying to figure out. The Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins on the Cross. This does not invalidate the Sacraments. We receive grace through them.

There seems to be a negative reaction in Catholic and especially Orthodox circles to substitutionary atonement. But, since the Catechism tells us that Christ is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, it would be a good idea for all of us to re-read (or read for the first time) Isaiah 53. Is anyone on this thread willing to give us a word study on this great chapter?

Maria, as a Catholic who “had a radical encounter with the Risen Christ” outside the Church but has now returned, I have the same feelings that you do about some of the things said in this thread and on the Forum against, or trying to explain, the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

We need to look more closely. I think we’re getting a lot of personal opinions and not the official teaching of the Church. I’ve learned that the Church sometimes leaves certain doctrines open to belief or not, but will definitely tell us what is heresy and therefore not to be held.

I would like to know, once and for all, what the official teaching is on substitutionary atonement.

Blessings to you,
Jacobaer

P.S. I put the quote “radical encounter with the Risen Christ” in quotes because it was said by Bishop Nicholas DeMarzio of the diocese of Brooklyn in one of his pastoral letters.


#14

Darn. let’s try this again. So many problems posting lately.

[font=Arial]

posted by Didi[/font]
[font=Arial]
[font=Verdana][font=Arial]Maria –

There is a lot of information on the Trinity in the Catechism:

242, 246, 253-267

Scott Hahn also wrote a book on the Trinitarian relationship and how it fits into the family relationship; I think it’s called “First Comes Love.”
[/font]

Thanks Didi. I have read the CCC but I will reread it and see if I can see this more clearly. At this point, I do not see why God could not have turned His back on the human nature of Christ because of the sins he bore for me.

Maybe I am trying to incorrectly separate things. I know He is one person with two natures. Is it that there is no way God can turn His back on the human nature, without turning away from the whole person? And because of the nature of God, it is impossible for Him to turn His back on Himself?

I will also get that book by Scott Hahn. He explains things in a way that those of us who have Protestant slants, (even when not aware of it!) can really grasp the Catholic position.

“I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, the church.” Col. 1:24

We are to imitate Christ in all things. Christ is the head of the church, we are the body. Christ, the Head, has fully completed His own perfect sacrifice. We, the body, must follow Him and add our own sufferings to complete His work on earth. **His sacrifice was indeed complete and perfect; we just need to add our own to His.
**

Okay, this I understand. Some of my former Church mates might not, but the concept of suffering and sacrifice is incomplete in those churches.

But please note all who care to. My emotional response to the words lacking in any way in conjunction with Christ’s sacrifice were very intensely negative. I can see where any and all dialogue trying to clarify this would be useless with some people.

Thanks for the explanations.

God Bless,
Maria [/font][/font]


#15

:wave: jacobaer,

I love that radical encounter with the Risen Christ!:amen:

There seems to be a negative reaction in Catholic and especially Orthodox circles to substitutionary atonement. But, since the Catechism tells us that Christ is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, it would be a good idea for all of us to re-read (or read for the first time) Isaiah 53. Is anyone on this thread willing to give us a word study on this great chapter?

Sounds like a good thread to start maybe over in Scripture?

I have the same feelings that you do about some of the things said in this thread and on the Forum against, or trying to explain, the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

I don’t think this can be emphasized enough. Whereas as a Catholic, I know the Church is right, and whether I like the way and explanation “feels” if it is the official teaching of the Catholic Church, I can trust it.

Other Christians, and for me it was the fundamental branches, putting the word lacking in the same sentence with Christ’s Sacrifice, I immediately just forward to whole works salvation. I have to earn heaven.

It does not matter if a person is theologically right if the person you are talking to has stopped hearing what you have to say.

We need to look more closely. I think we’re getting a lot of personal opinions and not the official teaching of the Church. I’ve learned that the Church sometimes leaves certain doctrines open to belief or not, but will definitely tell us what is heresy and therefore not to be held.

Yeah, I am definitely not going to just leave it here. I will look into the CCC and any other official church documents would be greatly appreciated.

I would like to know, once and for all, what the official teaching is on substitutionary atonement.

Well I won’t say once and for all, since I just became aware of the word defining what I had been taught, but I definitely would like to find out exactly what the offial teaching is!

And I absolutely love that I have to say it again.

If you haven’t already, may God bless you with a radical encounter with the Risen Christ!:amen:

Your sister in Christ,
Maria


#16

Dear Didi,

thanks for your encouragement towards my writing
a book on mental suffering.
I’ve been having a series of exhcanges with
Fr. Ambrose on the spirituality forum [St. Simon
Stylites]. We were discussing the words of
Christ: "My God…why have You abandoned Me?"
Father said:

“…it is better to say, as did St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, that, “so as to feel the full weight of the consequences of sin, the Son of God would voluntarily allow His human nature to feel even the horror of separation from God” (“What Did Christ Pray About in the Garden of Gethsemane?” Living Orthodoxy, Vol. XV, No. 3 [May-June 1993], p. 6”

See? That would cover both the divine and human
natures of Christ. I thought it was a wonderful
reply.
Hope this is pertinent to the thread.
reen12


#17

Hi MariaG,

You’ve said everything I’m thinking on this subject, the substitutionary atonement of our Lord on the Cross. I think we’re getting a lot of personal opinion and not the official teaching of the Church here in this thread and on the Forum. Since Protestant theology places a high value on subsitutionary atonement, we’re getting a knee-jerk reaction against it. Yet this is an important topic and I think the key to renewal in the Church depends on a new emphasis, especially in homilies. When the faithful hear exactly what our Lord went through for us on the Cross, taking our place, hearts will be turned to Him in conversion.

As I’m delving into Church dogma, I see that there are a lot of areas where the Church hasn’t defined doctrine down to the last detail but will tell us emphatically what is heresey and cannot be believed.

I know the Catechism says that our Lord is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Why not have those on the Forum interested in this topic do an in-depth study of Isaiah 53. This chapter is loaded with substitutionary language.

What do you think?

Blessings you and everyone else on the Forum,
Jacobaer


#18

I am not saying that Christ did not suffer to save us or that he didn’t suffer instead of us. What I am saying is that it was more to save us rather than to appease a wrath by God.

Substitutionary attonement is taken to an extreme alot of times. People come up with the idea that God had to punish us to satisfy his anger. It is perfectly orthodox Catholisism to say that he died to save us from our sins and to save us from death. God did not pour out his wrath on the Son.

God could have just as easily saved us in any number of other ways, as Aquinas and Augustine say. But he chose the way he did because that is the way that best saves us and exhorts us to change.

It was an act of mercy and love rather than an act of wrath.


#19

[quote=Pug]I am uncomfortable with your terminology here. I feel that “ransom” is quite consistant with Catholic usage. CCC below
[/quote]

It is a ransom in a sense. It is a ransom from sin and bondage and consequently death. These are what Christ saved us from. It is not a deal with the devil, as C.S. Lewis makes it. I love the C.S. Lewis books, but the way he portrays the meaning of the sacrifice of Christ is a little wrong. He portrays Aslan(who represents Christ) as making a deal with the white witch(who represents the devil). It is an appeal to God. Just look at the words in the mass, “may the Lord accept this sacrifice for the praise and glory of his name and for our good and the good of all his Church”. We are asking God to accept it, not the devil.


#20

[quote=mtr01]There is quite a bit of confusion regarding this issue. But yes, ransom is consistent with the Catholic teaching. In this usage, it refers to a redemption or “buying back”, similar to the usage according to the Law of Moses that all first-born children had to be “ransomed” from the Lord.

Now, the question of substitutionary atonement. This is a uniquely Protestant doctrine. It seems to me they took St. Anselm’s “theory” and went hog-wild with it. It basically suggests that our Lord bore all our sins with him on the cross in the sense that he was a substitute for our sinfulness; a scapegoat.

As a result, all of our sins are “covered”, there is nothing else that we need to do (except accept Jesus as “our personal Lord and Savior”). Of course we know that this Sacrifice did not “cover” or make total satisfaction for our sins, since after the Resurrection, our Lord told us how our sins are to be forgiven (Jn 20:22-23). If His death on the cross covered all our sins, there would be no need for them to be forgiven. There would also be no need for us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1) or to make “what is lacking” in our Lord’s Sacrifice (Col 1:24).
[/quote]

You hit upon one of my main problems with substitutionary attonement. The protestants actually take the idea of the atonement and they say that Christ was actually made sinfull when he was on the cross. They say that our sins were made his and that he was guilty of them. It is a very unCatholic thing to say.

When it says that Christ was made sin, it is referring to him becoming man. Aquinas affirms this. The flesh of man is sinful in nature. Yes, Christ was free from Original Sin, but that does not refer to the body as much as it refers to the divinity. His divinity was always in control of his flesh and sin never could touch the soul of Christ.


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