Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 2nd, 2016 by Joel Watts

Guroian (and Florovsky) on why PSA fails

Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt ...

Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt an ontological argument for God’s existence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know me. You know I don’t like the PSA model. I do not disagree, wholly, with substitution but find that as a general heading, it fits. However, I cannot subscribe to the theory that we need to satisfy God’s honor. Nor do I believe atonement is a transactional process — but rather is a change in being.

The twentieth-century Russian theologian Georges Florovsky sums up this alternative way of understanding salvation in two powerful statements. First, “the death of the Cross is effective, not as the death of an Innocent, but as the death of the Incarnate Lord.” In other words, Christ is victor, not victim. As victor, Christ turns the lethal instrument of the Cross into the medicine of new life for us. He reveals the dead wood of the cross as the tree of life and himself as lifegiving fruit. Second, “the Cross is not a symbol of Justice, but the symbol of Love Divine.” This theology of salvation wholly rejects the idea, which Anselm embraced, that God’s mercy is conditioned by God’s need to have his honor satisfied. The paradoxical nature of the Cross signifies that salvation is a profound mystery, a precious, impenetrable gift wrapped in the limitless, unqualified, and unceasing love of God. Salvation is not simply a forensic transaction that changes our legal status before God, but also a transformation of our very being that imparts to humankind a share in God’s own Triune life.1

By the way, <i>The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key</i> is a truly marvelous book.

  1.  Vigen Guroian, The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 52–53.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


2 Responses to “Guroian (and Florovsky) on why PSA fails”
  1. Well-said; I firmly resonate with this interpretation!

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