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Unread 07-13-2016, 06:58 AM   #1
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Forensic thinking in soteriology/hamartiology, aka "Sin is not a Legal Problem"

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Sin Is Not A Legal Problem - Athanasius and the Atonement | Glory to God for All Things

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Unread 07-13-2016, 07:17 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing that, Isaac. I think, in spite of one of the reader comments, it is a pretty good explanation about the root of man's sin problem. It isn't necessarily the breaking of "rules" but the condition/position Adam put us in that is the problem. Thank you Jesus for giving us a renewed relationship with the Father.

I meant to add that Watchman Nee in his book The Normal Christian Life does a great job of explaining where we are positionally in relation to our "old self" and the New Man we become in Christ.
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Unread 07-13-2016, 03:33 PM   #3
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Isn't this a flattened reading? Language and metaphor of legal and penal, and of merit and gift, are present along with death and corruption.

Why be exclusive?
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Unread 07-13-2016, 05:46 PM   #4
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Isn't this a flattened reading? Language and metaphor of legal and penal, and of merit and gift, are present along with death and corruption.

Why be exclusive?
Well, leave y'all to it. You just exceeded my intellectual capacity.
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Unread 07-14-2016, 01:19 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by cubeguvna View Post
Well, leave y'all to it. You just exceeded my intellectual capacity.
Sorry if my wording drove you away! I don't think this is overly intellectual.

By "legal and penal" I mean that the Bible talks about commands, the law, about punishment on account of the law, of justice for sin, acquitting the guilty, and so on. Likewise, "merit and gift" are throughout scripture as obedience, grace, work, rest, and literally gifts. When we talk about sinners being reconciled with God, we look to Christ's life, death, burial, and resurrection and find all of these categories I just listed.

Of course, the Bible talks about corruption, death, life, being "made well" (healthy, among other things), sickness, healing, and so on -- and Christ is definitely seen there too. By his stripes we are healed. ... My concern is why we must exclude some of these categories, or what motivates excluding a "forensic" (think: courtroom, or rule of law) account of reconciliation?
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Unread 07-14-2016, 02:43 PM   #6
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No worries, athonatos. I'm sorry you had to take something well said in so few words and stretch it back out for me, but thanks for taking the time to do so.

Thinking I have a better understanding of what you are saying, I would say that makes sense and, if I'm understanding correctly, I would I agree we can't omit the fact that there is merit in obedience beyond just being "good" in the form of blessings in time and rewards and decs in eternity.

Hopefully I'm at least in the ball park there.
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Unread 07-15-2016, 05:37 PM   #7
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Good points, Athanatos (it's been awhile, I forgot your real name - forgive me, brother!). Father Stephen actually spoke a little bit about your objection in a follow-up post, because people were asking about it in the comments.

The point is not to militate against the use of forensic language: Scripture uses plenty of it (1 John 3:4 comes to mind), as do the Fathers and the Church's hymnographic tradition.

Rather, one must not read this legal language in a manner which is alien to the Tradition. What Fr. Stephen is arguing against is viewing the legal language of scripture in terms of a modern forensic framework, in which law is simply a social and mental construct. That is, the law of the land has no inherent basis in reality - if a person steals, there is nothing inherent in the statutes on the books against stealing which will come around to them and punish them for lawbreaking if they are not caught.

Rather, Fr. Stephen argues, the lawlessness that Scripture speaks of is an offense against man's telos - the end to which he was created. Sin, in this understanding, is an introduction of chaos - of corruption - into man's very being, corrupting him and turning him away from the order unto which he was created - namely, fellowship with his Creator.

Thus, even the juridical and forensic language in scripture is not rightly understood within a context of laws abstract from reality. Here, nominalism - the idea that there is no inherent reality behind things that exist - falls flat when it informs our theology in any way, especially our understanding of sin. Ultimately, if God's laws are just abstractions, then we are corrupted because God thinks we are corrupted and not actually because we are corrupted. It's massively problematic.

Secularized Sin | Glory to God for All Things
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