Salvation in Eastern Orthodoxy

Salvation in Eastern Orthodoxy February 26, 2020

James R. Payton
The Victory of the Cross: Salvation in Eastern Orthodoxy
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2019.
Available at IVP and Koorong 

James Payton’s new book is an excellent introduction to salvation (i.e. soteriology) in Eastern Orthodoxy. There is lots on theosis, resurrection, and new creation as you’d expect. Payton also covers Orthodox views of the atonement, the reason for the need for salvation, saving action of the Saviour, how God saves humanity, theosis, how salvation is embodied in the church, and the importance of the sign of the cross for the Orthodox. Payton explains how and why Orthodoxy focuses more on evil and corruption as the problem rather than sin and guilt as the problem of humanity. This reminds me of A. Dunstone’s comment that in Eastern thought focuses on the “the culpability of death rather than [the] culpability of sin.” A bit of mariology in there as well. The book incorporates a wide variety of theologians from Papias to John of Damascus which means it is a very good primer on a bunch of eastern theologians you might never had read or even heard of. In one chapter, Payton carefully clarifies what deification is and is not for eastern theologians, not absorption into a metaphysical ultimate state of being, more like becoming what God intended humanity to be. Also, as Payton points out, eastern soteriology is also overtly and proudly synergistic. Interesting too is that unlike the Latin tradition, the Orthodox never explained the mystery of God’s presence in the Eucharist, and Payton points to John of Damascus who wrote, “And now you ask how the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine and water the blood of Christ. I tell you that the Holy Spirit comes down and works these things which are beyond description and understanding. … More than this we do not now, except that the Word of God is true and effective and omnipotent, but the manner in which it is so is impossible to find out.”  That’s a good way to put the eastern view. All in all a very good introduction to the eastern church fathers and Orthodox views of salvation.

 

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