Salvation- Something Outside of God that God must Fulfill?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC δοῦλος, Aug 5, 2016.

  1. JonC

    JonC
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    I picked up an article (by Patrick Oden, Fuller Seminary) exploring the Atonement through the relational motif of re-establishment of trust. I admit that as I read I did not remain as attentive as I initially purposed (no fault of the author), and what caught my interest was towards the conclusion. Oden made the comment that understanding God’s intent in salvation to be itself relational may change how we interpret issues such as sin, judgment, and wrath, thus also salvation and sanctification. “Rather than seeing salvation in terms of honor or law, for which a price must be paid upon violation, in a related approach, there is not something outside of God that God must fulfill.”

    When we view salvation in terms of the law (or a law) for which a price must be paid upon violation, are we looking at God’s plan of redemption as something outside of God that God must fulfill? At this time, my answer is that this law (or standard) is not “outside of God” but rather reflective of His character/nature (our Sin runs deeper than transgressing a law). But I also know that several disagree with me and hold sin as transgressing the Law (God's command) which would be external to God.

    I know there are various views here regarding the nature of the Atonement (or Reconciliation), and there are various views of sin. Do you believe that Oden is correct, that seeing salvation in terms of a law for which a price must be paid upon violation presents something outside of God that He must fulfill?



    (Oden, Patrick. 2015. "“Obedience is better than sacrifice״: atonement as the re-establishment of trust." Wesleyan Theological Journal 50, no. 1)
     
  2. Martin Marprelate

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    Not at all. His holiness, righteousness and justice are attributes of God and are therefore integral to Him. He is necessarily separate from sinners. God lacks nothing and needs nothing (Acts 17:25), certainly not our company in heaven; therefore our salvation is an act of pure grace. But He cannot be reconciled to sinners until His justice is satisfied (Romans 3:25-26). Pink's Doctrine of Reconciliation goes into this in great depth.
     
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  3. Van

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    I was hung up right away with the use of the term "law." Was God's nature or attributes what you termed the "law." God put the tree in the garden, and told Adam he would die (be separated from God) if he ate of it. Are we not looking at God as holy and separated from unholiness? Reconciliation results in the unholy being made holy and therefore able to be united with God.
     
  4. JonC

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    Oden speaks of “honor or law”, so I think that he is referring to Anselm’s theory of atonement (which had in mind God’s honor) and the shift from honor to law in the development of Penal Substitution Theory. Either way, I think he is speaking of an interpretation where salvation is viewed as mending a law or standard which is broken in comparison to strictly mending a trust lost or a relationship damaged.

    The difference in my understanding is that salvation is not God taking the punishment for our violations of the law. If we keep the law (or Law...either one) in mind we risk missing that it should be God in view. I did not need to be saved because I broke a Commandment (or because I broke a command). I broke a command because I needed to be saved (I was unholy and needed to be made holy and therefore able to be united with God). My lawlessness pointed to my unholiness. I don't think that Oden is correct that the traditional understanding makes God fulfill something outside of himself.
     
  5. Van

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    Adam chose to violate what God told him not to do. Thus Adam became a corrupt sinner. The result was he was separated from God, and the many (mankind) were made corrupt sinners at conception. Thus before we had done anything good or bad, we were separated from God because of our unholy condition. We could not restore our holiness. But we can trust God to restore it and reconcile us to God.

    So again, God's attribute (holiness) is what requires separation from unholiness. And God knew we would be put in that hopeless condition before creation, because He chose His Redeemer, His Lamb before creation. And as I said before, God put the tree in the garden.

    We bring God glory when, in our sinful corrupt condition, we repent and turn to God, fulfilling the purpose of creation. Salvation is therefore God using the means of reconciliation, to overcome our unholiness by the washing of regeneration.

    The answer to the OP question is no.
     
  6. JonC

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    I agree.
     
  7. JonC

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    Thanks for the reference.

    I agree except for the statement that God cannot reconcile sinners until his justice is satisfied. I've read much of Pink, and there are areas where I agree with his doctrine and areas where I disagree. I don't believe that God is limited by his attributes (to include justice). Instead those attributes are how he is defined. God is just so any reconciliation will also be just.
     
  8. Martin Marprelate

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    Exactly so. Hence Romans 3:25-26. God will not make any reconciliation that is unjust. So far as being 'limited' by His attributes, God is holy, and therefore 'cannot look upon evil.' God is a God of truth and therefore 'cannot lie.' God is complete in Himself and therefore 'cannot deny Himself.' If you choose to call these perfections 'limitations,' then I suppose God is limited by His attributes. If God were evil, I suppose it would save Him a lot of bother.
     
  9. JonC

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    Maybe we are just looking at this in different ways. When I read that God “cannot look upon evil” I find the context to be a prophet appealing to God’s nature. The same is true of God not telling a lie. I think that we are saying the same thing, but with different nuances.

    God may appear to be limited by his attributes, but in truth those attributes are how we understand God and his character. I do not choose to call these perfections limitations (hence my response earlier). And that is my caution about saying that God cannot reconcile until his justice is met. What we may see as limitations (God cannot until) are in truth descriptive of anything God does (God is just, and his actions are always just). And I think that this is what Oden is pointing to with the comment "seeing salvation in terms of honor or law, for which a price must be paid upon violation, in a related approach, there is not something outside of God that God must fulfill.”
     
  10. The Biblicist

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    I think you need to consider what many theologians regard as the non-communicable attributes of God, one of which is immutability. He cannot lie because his attribute of holiness is immutable. He cannot create another god equal to himself, he cannot create a rock heavier than he can lift, because all of these things contradict his essential immutable nature. So the attribute of immutability does restrict God within the framework of his moral and inherent nature. Such a restriction is indeed essential to the very aspect of immutable righteousness or holiness.

    Paul makes it clear as one can make clear that the Law of God is nothing more or less than the revelation of the righteousness of God's own nature (Rom. 3:21-22). Thus violating the Law of God is violating the very nature of God as the whole law can be deduced to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and will thy mind, and strength and life and your neighbor as yourself. Violation of the law is an expression of "enmity towards God." Reconciliation with God necessarily means satisfaction of the Law of God both with regard to its righteous standard and penal demands against sin or else God's very nature is violated and thus an eternal penalty of separation from God ensues.
     
  11. JonC

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    I agree with your post (except where I need to consider divine immutability as I'm already in agreement there). But I have found some cases where God is limited by his qualiuties (God "cannot until", for example, is not descriptive but limiting language.....God "will not until" may be better but then the point is lost). I think that we can be on the same lines, but such explanations and expressions can present a skewed picture of God's actions being determined by or in reacton to something external to himself (as evidenced by Dr. Oden's comment).

    I agree with your second paragraph entirely. What I speak of in terms of sin is not the law but the God that law reflects. That is my objection to Oden's comment. Rightly understood, sin is more than transgressing a command.It is rebellion against God.
     
  12. The Biblicist

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    In other words, the mutability is found in the creature's changing response or prophetic completion rather than in some change in God's attributes?

    God is free to be holy and just but is God free to be contrary to his own revealed standard of righteousness which in principle is called "love"? Some believe God's own revealed standard of righteousness is something God is not necessarily subject to, but whatever he chooses to do becomes his standard of righteousness, regardless if it contradicts his written revelation of righteousness.
     
  13. JonC

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    I believe that innutability of being and nature means that God does change relationlly (it is not that men move into Gods wrath, but God exercises that wrath as an expression of his nature).

    God does not act contrary to the way that God has shown himself to be. He is not bound by those standards. Those standards reveal God to us. The notion that God cannot act contrary to his standards mistakes those standards to be external to God. Those standards reveal God and God will always be God.
     
  14. The Biblicist

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    I can't agree with your assessment. The change is found in men not in God. The sin by man does move him into God's wrath because it moves him under the penalty of God's law which is an expression of his immutable attributes of holiness.

    Again, I can't agree with this assessment. His revelation of Himself is inseparable from Himself, and if he can be different or contrary or not subject to what he is revealed TO BE than we have no true revelation of God or God ceases to be immutable and thus ceases to be God.

    It is not a matter of external standard separate from God as the revelation IS the standard by how God is defined and understood or it is a deceptive revelation.
     
    #14 The Biblicist, Aug 7, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2016
  15. JonC

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    We may disagree on these points (which is fine), but to clarify - my assessment is not that man moves God to action. It is that God's "actions" in the lives of men are not in reality the product of mankind against the backdrop of a stagnant God. I believe in a God who acts in accordance with His immutable nature, that action being an expression of God’s nature (not a reaction to man) as nothing exercises power over God. Your interpretation of my position is only valid if I believe things occur outside of divine providence, which is an assumption I don’t hold.

    I’m not sure where we disagree unless you are saying that God does act contrary to what he has revealed of himself or that God’s revealed nature is not descriptive of God but instead some sort of cosmic bonds that hold him in check. I don't believe you hold either to be true, but if not I don't see where we disagree.

    My point here is that what is revealed of God is that we may know him. It is not some rules by which God must abide, but instead it is a revelation of God himself. I hope that we agree on this point, but if we don’t then this is another example that falls within Dr. Oden’s charge.
     
  16. The Biblicist

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    I agree that God is not stagnant and that God acts in accordance with his immutable nature, but it is not a contradiction to claim that God's nature as revealed is inseparable from what God is by nature and therefore there is no outward versus inward reality as the revelation is realty.

    Agreed!

    Here is where we may have some difficulty and it is probably with regard to proper wording. You have substituted attributes for "rules" and yet God's true freedom is only within Himself as revealed by attributes so there is no contradiction between Himself and his revelation of himself but there is a contradiction if you suppose he has the freedom to act contrary to what He reveals himself TO BE. So if we consider his revealed attributes as RULES or BORDERS then his true freedom exists only within those revealed borders or else those attributes misrepresent him and thus are deceiving.
     
  17. JonC

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    I grant that we are probably talking past each other a bit as I believe we agree (or mostly agree). As an illustration, the prophets pointed to Jesus. Jesus fulfilled prophesy. But Jesus was not bound by prophesy, they were not boundaries or boards of what Jesus must do– they were about him and looked foward to him (He did not read the OT to see what he would do next, so to speak).

    The law, laws, standards, and even "attributes" that we list all point to God. His "freedom" does not exist within these borders. There are no boarders - those attributes show us who God is.

    I did not mean to have submitted God’s attributes for “rules”. What I mean is that Oden speaks honor and law being a motif in salvation that is external to God. I believe that the law (law, a set of standards, commandments, etc.) serve to reflect God’s nature. So I take Oden’s comment that law is external to God as not acknowledging that law serves to point to God Himself. I disagree with Oden when I use my position. There are others, however, who do take the Law as an external “something” that God must fulfill in salvation.
     
  18. The Biblicist

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    The problem with your analogy is that prophecy is abstract to who he is by nature whereas the revelation of his attributes is who he is.

    He does not exist outside who he is and the revelation of his attributes is who he is.

    Agreed that "the law" reflects his own righteousness in an abstract sense rather than inseparable from who he is. However, the revelation of his attributes define who he is and as such define who he is not and that by its very nature is a border or else God is completely unknowable.
     
  19. JonC

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    Yes, there are always issues when we analyze illustrations. But I think it a good one here as the law looks to God, God does not look to the law. I have been addressing the comment that Dr. Oden – “seeing salvation in terms of honor or law, for which a price must be paid upon violation, in a related approach, there is not something outside of God that God must fulfill".

    My position is that God is not, in the traditionally Reformed positions, paying a price that stems from something outside of himself. Of course God does not exist outside of who He is. But God is/was God apart from that revelation to man. God DOES exist apart from his commandments (here, we’ve been talking about the law, or “moral standard”). God did not need man to make him complete. The law looks to God - God does not look to the law.

    My answer was that it is wrong to see salvation in terms of law, for which a price must be paid upon violation, as if that law was something outside of God. Men are condemned for rejecting God. This is revealed in our disobedience (if we love Him, we would keep His commands).
     
  20. The Biblicist

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    Ok, I agree that God is complete in Himself and that sin is against the Person of God and the law as a revelation is an external means to define sin and reveal sin is against the Person of God.
     

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