atonement: recapitulation

Previously, I covered the three largest theories of atonement in Christianity, and today I want to look the one I believe holds the most promise, at least it is an understanding of atonement that I find more and more meaningful: recapitulation. just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it: must be holy. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons was s disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, so you know he was connected. He lived in the 2nd century and is best known for his work, Against Heresies, where he took it to the early Gnostic influences. P.S. - The Gospel of Thomas is not a new, secret gospel- Irenaeus blasted it in the 2nd c.

Briefly, Irenaeus drew upon Paul and reasoned that the atonement, really the salvation, that occurred through Jesus occurred in Jesus. God's plan for humanity, having been interrupted by the Fall, was restored when Jesus took up this soiled flesh and passing through death, rose again in renewed humanity. In Christ all things were taken up into God himself and reborn anew in Christ. Iranaeus writes:
"God recapitulated in himself the ancient formation of man, that he might kill sin, deprive death of its power and vivify man" (Contra Heresies, 3.18.7)
Whereas penal substitution tends to (some would say inevitably) emphasize the cross and the death which satisfies, recapitulation really highlights the resurrection in a new, er light. The cross, for Iranaeus was one of many important aspects of living - dying specifically, that Jesus went through and redeemed. Jesus conquers death, reverses the curse, and is the new Adam. Where the first brought corruption and impotence, the New Adam (Jesus) is a rebirth for humanity as he is the firstborn of a new family - the perfected family of God. The resurrection ushered in a new era of humanity which will be finally and ultimately consummated one day.

Recapitulation has a number of advantages, not least of which is that Church fathers 1 generation removed from the apostles believed it! Iranaeus also had a very organic approach to scripture, and was able to see the intention of God from the Old Testament to the End. You should know, too, that the Eastern Orthodox church holds this belief - always has, I believe. I love the Eastern Orthodox Church. Evangelicals in the US often divide the world neatly into "us, Catholic and pagan," but it is a shame when we overlook the church's history and current vitality in the Eastern Orthodox church. They are in many ways, a protestant catholicism, though of course only a protestant could describe them as such! They are really the oldest Christian church tracing its roots straight back to Jerusalem, Rome having split from them. If the only good that comes from this series on atonement is that you investigate Eastern Orthodoxy, then it was worth it! And just to be clear, Eastern Orthodoxy does not refer to Pre-Milleniallists East of the Rio Grande.

saved from: death
scripture: Romans 5:15
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!


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