God's abiliites

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
If God is all powerful, why did he have to die to save us from our sins?
Yes, I know he trampled death by his death, but he's God, why not just trample death with the snap of a finger?


  • Rather than provide an extensive explanation of this, I will attempt to lead you to the answer, if you don't mind. If you do mind, I'm rather sure there will be a number of posts after mine explaining the reason. None of my questions to you are meant to sound condescending or facetious in any manner. I simply wish to guide you through it so that it makes more sense, rather than giving you a number of paragraphs.

    Can you please define sin?
  • Something done that is against the will of God?
  • Not quite. You see, the common thought is that sin is a "thing," which is not entirely correct. Sin is not a "something." Rather, it is the absence of Someone, namely God. It is the distancing away from God.

    Man was created to be in union with God, and man chose, through his free will, to walk away from this union. Just as evil is not an existent thing, but rather the absence of good, so is sin not an existent thing, but the absence of Love, the expulsion of God from the person.

    What, then, is the consequence of sin?
  • Good question RealPharaoh

    Fr Tadros Malaty states that the purpose of the Christian life is "Unity with Christ through the Holy Spirit".
    According to Fr Matthias Wahba in his book he states that: "Sanctification is achieved by receiving the divine nature, so that man 'might partake..the life and grace which is from Him.' To sanctify and to deify is one process. 'The word became flesh that He might hallow and deify men.' Fr Matthias Wahba goes on to say He assumed a created and human body, 'that having renewed it as its Framer, He might deify it in Himself, and thus might introduce us all into the kingdom of heaven after His likeness.

    Fr Matthias continues..To secure the doctrine of deification as the important way for his (St Athanasius) people to live in a sanctified life, the Alexandrian Pastor resisted Arianism vigoursly.

    Fr Matthias then sums up the whole doctrine of the incarnation beautifully by stating "If one asks why God the word did not appear by means of other nobler parts of creation, Athanasius answers that man alone had fallen into sin and needed sanctification. Therefore, the Lord assumed a body, 'sharing the same nature with all, for it was a human body, though by an unparalleled miracle it was formed of a virgin only; yet being mortal, it was to die, comfortably to its peer.' The affections of the flesh are ascribed to Him: "such namely as to be condemned, to be scourged, to thirst, and the cross, and the death, and the other infirmities of the body." "For this cause," adds Athanasius, "such affections are ascribed not to another but to the Lord; that the grace (of sanctification) also may be from Him"

    Fr Tadros Malaty in his book 'Man and Redemption' quotes St Philoxenos of Mabbogh as summing up the purpose of the incarnation "The complete man was redeemed in God. Since the whole of Adam had come under the curse and been deprived, the whole of him was taken by God and renewed. The lord who became incarnate gave His body unto death for the sake of everybody, and His soul for the salvation of all souls. In this way the whole of our nature was recreated in Him into a new man."

    I reccomend you read 'The doctrine of sanctification according to St Athanasius' -Fr Matthias Wahba
    'Man and Redemption'-Fr Tadros Malaty
    there are plenty others but start with those as these two priests in particular are theologians and scholars but have a way of presenting theology as being very approachable to the average layman
  • Punishment. Death
  • Let me expound on your answer just slightly. The punishment is not given from God against man, as God is Love. The punishment is inflicted by man onto himself. God, in fact, used this fall that man incurred for man's benefit, namely that man should not live without the True Life for all eternity.

    Death is indeed the penalty of sin. Death causes man's physical death, and is not natural, as it was not what man was made for... but beyond this, the separation of man's will from God's is a spiritual death, which is ever more important but whose importance is diminished because we cannot "see" its effects, our spiritual eyes having been blinded by our actions.

    We agree that sin is not a "thing," and therefore is not something that is simply taken away as though it were a thing that has been added on to man. Man's distancing from God must then be overcome so that we can be reunited with God.

    In the situation that we have been created in, that with free will, God cannot impose the elimination of this distancing on us. What, then, is needed?
  • I'm not sure
  • [quote author=RealPharaoh link=topic=14061.msg162190#msg162190 date=1356414548]
    If God is all powerful, why did he have to die to save us from our sins?
    Yes, I know he trampled death by his death, but he's God, why not just trample death with the snap of a finger?

    You probably need to write a list of all God's characteristics as not to forget...

    Because just as he is all powerful
    He is just

    To be a fair judge, he took our punishment upon himself
    He has a fair system, so he wouldn't 'cheat' his own system
  • What is needed is for One who is above death to condescend, empty Himself (kenosis), and necessarily effect two things:

    1. Overcome death: that is to say, to bridge the gap between man and God, the chasm which was created by man's will. By one man, sin entered into the world, and by one Man, death was overcome

    2. Teach man how to find his way back to God: the bridging of the chasm can be thought of, in some ways, as being a new road that has been paved for man to now walk on. The Way (which Christ calls Himself and which Christianity was known as in the first century) has been opened, but man must now make the decision to choose to walk it, and then walk it.

    You see, if all that was necessary was Christ's death, then he could have stayed in Bethlehem and have been slain with the rest of the youth. Christ was incarnate "for us men and for our salvation," having now taught us the way back to the Father, the way being Himself, that is to say, having Christ dwell in your heart through the grace of the Holy Spirit in order to reflect the will of the Father in our lives

    It's not simply a process of snapping fingers, or simply a matter of dying; Christ is the firstborn among the dead and calls us to be, in like, sons of God by adoption, so that we may be born from the dead, that we may realize our spiritual death and return to God, and that, in the resurrection of mankind at the end of times, we may be counted with the true worshippers.

    There is Patristic reference for all of this if you would like, but I wanted to make it as accessible as possible. If you have any questions, please ask. It is a rather large topic and we have only discussed a grain of sand from the beach of knowledge that exists, experiential knowledge of the Fathers having been given by revelation and not simply philosophical ponderings.

    Remember me in your fervent prayers, and please ask for any clarification,
  • Wow what a great explanation.
    First of all, let me commend you on the way you wrote this out. I have to say, it was absolutely phenomenal and definitely made it much easier to understand in the way you did it (with the flow of questions).
    Second, I believe I understand generally but will have to reread and reference back to it to fully remember and understand it. I thought it would be a sort of simple answer, but it turned out to be way more complex.
    Thanks so much
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