Bishop Kallistos Ware on Christus Victor in Eastern Orthodoxy

Christ Pantocrator, detail of the Deesis mosaic
Image via Wikipedia

I have the book – haven’t read it yet, but I will – by ]] which is the book to read I’ve been told. Anyway, where is a new interview with now Bishop Ware, and I’ve highlighted a part of it pertinent to a conversation on this blog:

In 1960, Penguin Books asked the 26-year-old Timothy Ware to write a book on his newfound Eastern Orthodox faith. His first reaction was to say no; he had been Orthodox for only two years. But a friend urged him to try and so he set his pen to paper. Now nearly 50 years old, The Orthodox Church remains the go-to book for people who want an introduction to Orthodoxy. Since that first book, Ware became a monk, took the name Kallistos, became a lecturer at Oxford University, and was made Metropolitan Bishop of Diokleia for Greek Orthodoxy in Britain.


Evangelicals agree with everything you have just said. But we tend to focus on a transaction that happened at the Cross and a transaction that happens when the believer puts faith in what happened at the Cross. We take up Paul’s courtroom metaphors. How would you describe the East’s way of looking at it?

It’s true, we Orthodox would, on the whole, not use the word transaction. It’s also certainly true that we do not emphasize legal language.

We prefer the image of Christ as victor over death, love stronger than death, the kind of victory that we sense at the Paschal service Easter midnight in the Orthodox Church, when there is a constant refrain, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs he has given life.” That is the image of Christ’s work that we chiefly stress.

But certainly within the New Testament there is a whole series of images. There is no single systematic theory of the Atonement, and we should make use of all these images. So, yes, we should find a place for the idea of substitution, which the Orthodox don’t stress so much. It is there in the New Testament, in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He who was without sin was made by God to be sin for us, that we in him might become righteousness.” The idea of the sacrificial Lamb is also a profound scriptural image. We should make use of those images as well as Christ the Victor.

I don’t care so much for the idea of satisfaction. Satisfaction is not a scriptural word. The legal imagery, I think, should always be combined with an emphasis upon the transfiguring power of love. The motive for the Incarnation was not God’s justice or his glory, but his love. That was the supreme motive. “God so loved the world.” That is what we should start from.

via Q & A: Bishop Kallistos Ware on the Fullness and the Center | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

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