Two models of salvation in relation to christological understanding in the patristic East
The thesis aims to demonstrate the existence of two distinct strands of development within the soteriological thinking of the eastern fathers, strands which have sometimes been identified due to their use of similar terminology. It is argued that one tradition, represented in the thesis by the so-called catechetical 'school' of third century Alexandria, frames its understanding of salvation within the conceptuality provided by contemporary philosophical thought in an effort to accomodate the Christian gospel to the ears of its hearers. Here salvation is presented as the liberation of the human soul to participate through contemplation and disciplined ascent in the realm of ideas and reason. The christology inherent within this tradition is, we argue, unable to affirm either the full divinity or the full human integrity of the Saviour. The theme of a proper incarnation or inhomination of the divine Logos is not vital to the essentially subject-centred model of salvation adhered to. A contrast is drawn between this view of salvation as the deification of man on the one hand, and another model which, whilst employing the language of deification to describe what takes place in the salvation of man, nevertheless views the matter wholly differently. The theology of Irenaeus of Lyons and Athanasius of Alexandria is examined with a view to showing that for them salvation is inseparable from a proper inhomination of the divine Logos or Son, consisting, as they believe it does, in the assumption of human nature to participate in the life of God in the mediatory person of the Son. This radical involvement of God himself in the life of man is confessed unashamedly, notwithstanding its offensiveness to the sensibilities of greek thought. It is considered to be the irreducible heart of the Christian gospel, and the dogmatic starting point for a truly Christian theology. It is concluded that there are indeed two very different soteriological traditions here, and that they are bound up with two different christologies, and ultimately with two different methodologies. Hence the not infrequent bracketing together of these various theologians as common exponents of a 'greek' interpretation of salvation is a dangerous oversimplification which does little justice to the reality of the situation.