"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Orthodox Church -- Incarnation, Jesus Christ the Victor or Victim?

"The Incarnation is an act of God's philanthropia, of His loving-kindness towards humankind."

Orthodox belief is that God becoming human was part of His plan from the beginning and wasn't simply "an answer to the fall." 

Yet because of the fall, the Incarnation became an act of love and an act of salvation.  "Jesus Christ, by uniting humankind and God in His own person, reopened for us humans the path to union with God.  In His own person Christ showed what the true 'likeness of God' is, and through His redeeming and victorious sacrifice He set that likeness once again within our reach.  Christ, the Second Adam, came to earth and reversed the effects of the first Adam's disobedience."

You know, I've never thought of God coming to earth as something God had planned all along, but it does make sense if God wanted to fellowship with His creation. Yet doesn't Genesis 3 say God walked in the garden in the cool of the day thus implying that somehow He did fellowship with humankind even from the beginning.  Was taking human form to do so necessary prior to the fall?  Hmmm, it's an interesting thought!

"'Behind the veil of Christ's flesh, Christians behold the Triune God'" said Bishop Theopan the Recluse.  "Perhaps the most striking feature in the Orthodox approach to the Incarnate Christ [is] an overwhelming sense of His
divine glory."  This divine glory was especially shown during the Transfiguration (remember when Jesus went to the mountain with a couple of disciples and was observed talking to Moses and Elijah?  Peter later recalled it as a time he was an eyewitness of Christ's majesty.)  and Resurrection (Jesus' triumph over death.)

I totally loved when the author wrote about Orthodox accounts of remembering the Resurrection with "sheer joy." I felt joyful just reading about this!

Re: The Crucifixion:  The author says the east has often focused on Christ the Victor - triumphant over evil powers and death - while the west tends to see Him as Christ the Victim - "an act of satisfaction or substitution to propitiate the wrath of an angry Father." (pg. 229)

"The western worshipper, when he meditates upon the Cross, is encouraged all too often to feel an emotional sympathy with the Man of Sorrows, rather than to adore the victorious and triumphant king."  (pg. 228)

How do you think of Christ?


sanil said...

You know, I've never thought of God coming to earth as something God had planned all along

Really? Interesting. I guess I'd always taken it for granted that that was what all Christians believed. Huh. I was taught that since God knows everything, he always knew that people would sin, and so before the world was created, the plan for salvation was in place. Like it's something inherently written into the world, and that's why there were similar stories in pre-Christian cultures about gods that saved humanity by dying and then triumphing over death.

About the "walking in the garden" quote, my pastor actually always used to say he was in human form then. He said, not as a doctrine or anything but something he personally believed, that that was the Son before the incarnation. He thought "the angel of the Lord" was also Jesus in places where there is just one angel. He was a little odd, but I thought it was an interesting perspective.

Susanne said...

Sanil, I've heard that (second part) before too now that you mention it. :)

Well, I guess I have technically thought it was all in place before since as you said God knows all and He knew that salvation would be needed. When I read this in the book, however,I just thought of it differently. Like God had planned to come out of LOVE, but after the fall the salvation aspect was added. Maybe I totally misunderstood the book,but when reading that part I got the impression the salvation part was an addition.

Probably I just misread the author's intent and I don't know why my brain separated the two things. Maybe Orthodox believe there was a chance mankind would not choose sin. I really don't know enough about it to say. :)

Amber said...

re: the walking in the garden thing. You can go two ways with that, I guess. Angels are shown to have the ability to look like people. We know that they don't have physical forms, but people in the Bible are seen interacting with them, not realizing that they aren't other human beings. So you can say that God did the same thing at that point - put on a semblance of human form to interact with creation.

Or, and this is the one I think more likely - God exists outside of time, we know that. Once the Son Incarnated into a human body, it was His body for all time. So it's His body now, His body a million years from now, and His body a million years before now. So when He interacted with people, that's how He appeared. In His body.

The notes in my Bible indicate that when 'the Angel of the Lord' is used in certain places in the OT it's the Son as well. And I won't swear to it, but seeing as how it's in my Bible I'm going assume that that's Tradition.

sanil said...

Amber - We know that they don't have physical forms

How? Am I blanking on something, or is this a Tradition thing I wouldn't be familiar with?

Amber said...


How? Am I blanking on something, or is this a Tradition thing I wouldn't be familiar with?

Umm...because I say so? :D

I don't think it's a Tradition thing, since I was taught it as a kid, too. Angels don't normally have physical bodies. They're pure spirit.

Suroor said...

Interesting post, Susie! Thanks for sharing.

sanil said...

Umm...because I say so? :D

Good enough! :D

Amber said...

Good enough! :D


*runs off to test new Jedi mind control powers on unsuspecting boss*

Lat said...

Christ being both a victor and victim was an image I had Christianity.I didn't know there were two 'camps' but one :) Thanks for sharing this info.

To me I would say Jesus was a martry because of his heretic ways but how his martyrdom was eventually used to develop an organised religion is fascinating.

Susanne said...

Sanil and Amber, y'all are too cute! :)

Hebrews says angels are "ministering spirits" so I guess they are spirit that can take on human form when God sends them on missions. :)

Amber, I enjoyed your thoughts on the 'walking the garden' thing!

Good luck on the Jedi thing working on your boss! :-D

Suroor, thank you!

Lat, well, it's not so much two camps as the author stated that East and West both have elements of the Victim and Victor. I think they just focus more heavily on one or the other based on perhaps culture or what have you. I remember I touched on this a while back when saying the Latins and Greeks approached many things differently but before the schism they were able to balance each other and use elements of both instead of being polarized.

Thanks for sharing how you see Jesus.

I appreciate all the feedback!