Monday, September 26, 2011

Bulgakov on the Atonement

The following is a magnificent passage from Sergius Bulgakov (1871 - 1944) The Lamb of God. trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s, 2008), 362. (Go HERE for Archbishop Rowan Williams' brief talk on Bulgakov's life.)

Certain authors (in particular, Socinus) have expressed doubts concerning the very possibility of redemption: How can the sin of one individual be pardoned in virtue of the sufferings experienced by another individual? The very manner in which this question is stated is marred by individualism and juridicism, however, for it considers only isolated individuals to whom the the principle of formal justice is applied. However, such a difference between ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ is overcome by love, which knows not only the difference between I and thou but also their identity. That which is absurd for abstract justice becomes natural for love. And, above all, Christ is by no means ‘another’ individual for every human being, for the New Adam includes in Himself every human individual. He is the universal man who includes every human being naturally in His essence and compassionately in His love. The sin He takes upon Himself by virtue of love is no longer a sin alien to Him; it is now His own sin, although not committed but only accepted by Him. Such is the power of identification that is manifested in the redemption. Personal in His hypostatic being, the God-Man is united with us in His humanity. That is why, in His salvific love, He can represent the sin of the entire world without violating Divine justice, for He has made this sin His own. Here we have not a juridical but an ontological relation, which is based on the real unity of the human essence, given its real multiplicity in the multi-unity of the hypostatic centers. Christ assumed the entire human nature; He therefore can assume, in and through it, the entire sin of all human individuals, although personally He did not commit it. Thus, in His holy humanity, as well as in the universal human personality of the New Adam, every adamite can find and realize his justification and reconciliation with God. In virtue of His love, the Savior identifies Himself with every sinner who comes to Him, so that it can be said about each sinner: ‘not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Galatians 2:20).


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