Irenaeus and the Atonement  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Today we commemorate Irenaeus (130-202), a Greek who became bishop of Lugdunum (Lyons) in Gaul. He was a native of Smyrna in Asia Minor and was a disciple of Polycarp, who was in turn a disciple of John the Evangelist. He is best known for the five-volumne On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-called Gnosis (better known as Adversus Haereses) which is an anti-gnostic tract.

Irenaeus has recently become controversial within some circles of the Episcopal Church because of his use by the Rev Kevin Thew Forrester, bishop-elect of the diocese of Northern Michigan. Forrester stresses Irenaeus' references to deification, while downplaying what is said about Jesus and his atonement for sin. (A good reference to the controversy can be found here).

I throw in a few quotes from Irenaeus touching upon both theosis and the atonement. They are found in David W Bercot (ed) A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs Peabody, MA Hendrickson 1998 p 44.

In this manner, the Lord has redeemed us through His own blood, giving His soul for our souls and His flesh for our flesh. He has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man, actually imparting God to men by means of the Spirit. On the other hand, He has joined man to God by His own incarnation. And He will truly and lastingly bestow immortality upon us at His coming--through communion with God.

The Word of the Father and the Spirit of God had become united with the ancient substance of Adam's formation. So it rendered man living and perfect, receptive of the perfect Father, in order that as in the natural Adam we were all dead, so in the spiritual Adam we may all be made alive.

To do away with that disobedience of man that had taken place at the beginning by means of a tree, "He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross". He thereby rectified that disobedience that had occurred by reason of a tree, through that obedience that was upon the tree...In the first Adam, we had offended God Himself. For Adam did not perform God's commandment. However, in the second Adam, we are reconciled to God, being made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to no one else but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning...By transgressing God's commandment, we became His enemies. Therefore, in the last times, the Lord has restored us into friendship through His incarnation. He has become "the Mediator between God and men", propitiating indeed for us the Father against whom we had sinned. He has cancelled our disobedience by His own obedience. He also conferred upon us the gift of communion with, and subjection to, our Maker.

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at Sunday, June 28, 2009 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



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