Friday, 18 March 2011

More on Propitiation

If anyone is still reading these posts on the Cross, 'Thank You.'  They have really been designed to help me process the issues involved.  I make no claim to be an expert on these things.  In this post I want to look a little bit more at the issue of 'propitiation'.

Roger Nicole says the term 'to propitiate' "reveals that sin awakens on the part of God a displeasure or anger which must be set aside, before God can and will deal with the sinner without taking judicial cognizance of his sin.  Sin kindles the divine wrath, and God's favour, such as is vouchsafed to the unblemished, needs a special act of grace in order to be restored."

The big question is whether 'propitiation' is an accurate translation for the Greek 'hilasteron' in Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10.

C. H. Dodd claimed that the biblical use of this term (hilasteron) did not connote the averting of divine wrath.  Was he right?

Nicole points out that usual secular connotation of this word was with 'propitiation.'  If the writers of the LXX (the Greek version of the Old Testament) and the New Testament had shared Dodd's dislike of the conception of 'propitiation' it is unlikely that they would have chosen to use this term.

In the Old Testament the sacrificial system revealed that the worshipper felt the need of escaping the divine displeasure at sin.   As Criag Keener points out, the Old Testament law required bloodshed: something had to die to appease the wrath properly due a person's sin.'  Similarly Leon Morris points out that while the modern objection to propitiation 'arises largely from an objection to the wrath of God ... the men of the Old Testament had no such inhibitions.'

Morris also notes that: 'Pardon is not something wrung from an unwilling deity.  It is the gracious gift of a God who is eager to forgive.'  He also explains that 'the Bible view of propitiation does not depend on this or that specific passage.  It is a reflection of the general import of its teaching.  "Propitiation" is a reminder that God is implacably opposed to everything that is evil, that his opposition may be properly be described as "wrath", and that this wrath is put away only by the atoning work of Christ.'

Verses to ponder:
Lev. 17:11, ... it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. 
Ps. 7:11, God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.
Hebrews 2:17, For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

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