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.

Salvation from an Orthodox perspective

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)

Combatting St. Anselm, since the 4th century….

Salvation is not merely a juridical change in our status from guilty under the law to justified in God’s sight (though it includes that). It is not accomplished just by the substitution or sacrifice of the wholly innocent God-man for sinful humanity. More important, a ruined, mortally wounded humanity needs to “be sanctified by the Humanity of God” in order to be restored to wholeness and perfected in God’s true likeness. First and foremost, salvation is an ontological event in our human nature that re-establishes the “original” possibility; the inherent, ingraced capacity of the human person for unobstructed communion with God.1

The bit about the “ontological event” sounds a lot like Wesley’s view that we are called to Grace in order to have free choice — that “‘original’ possibility.”

  1.  Vigen Guroian, The Melody of Faith: Theology in an Orthodox Key (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 48–49.