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Welcome to this edition of Steve the Builder. It’s been a while. Recently a pastor named Rob Bell came out with a book called Love Wins which, from what I understand, basically challenges the “pen-sub” view of salvation so popular among Protestant Evangelicals. I admit I haven’t read the book and probably won’t, but I’ve read enough reviews and discussions of it on the internet to know that you’d probably be in good company with some of our Orthodox saints like St. Isaac the Syrian and St. Gregory of Nyssa—not lightweight saints by any stretch of the imagination.

From what I gather, he attacks the notion of an infinitely offended God whose wrath must be appeased by the death of a pure sacrifice: his only son. I recalled the popular Evangelical preacher, John MacArthur, who told Larry King that the good news of Easter is that God killed Jesus instead of us. Rob Bell rightfully asks, “Why would I love a God like that?”

Well, I figured I’d jump into the media hype and offer an Orthodox take on salvation, but the problem was I finally have work again. Yay. And I didn’t have time to do a ten-part Our Life in Christ series or a three-hour Steve the Builder, so I did a quick video. Now, this video is under ten minutes, and I couuldn’t say everything. I tried to be gracious, and I realize that the Protestant view of salvation is broader than just “pen-sub” atonement, but it is the predominant theme in mainstream Protestant Christian media, and that’s what Rob Bell addressed and that’s what I’m addressing.

There’s a ton of theological shorthand in both views in the video. The different interpretations of the theme of the Fall—guilt, sin, death, incarnation, sacrifice, etc., etc.—are all there, but not explicated to their fullnesses. My intention for the video was to make it salty. If you watch it, hopefully you’ll thirst. With that, I hope you’ll enjoy my first attempt at video. I want to say thank you to Paul Vendredi of “The Orthodox Revolutionary” for filming this for me. Enjoy.

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Hi, my name is Steve Robinson, and many of you know me from my podcast, My Life in Christ, and for many years I’ve been looking for a real succinct illustration of the difference between the Protestant view of salvation and the Orthodox view of salvation. I’m stealing this from Fr. Anthony Carbo, and he knows it, so this is the gospel in chairs.

The Protestant view of salvation goes something like this: in the beginning, God created man. Man had perfect fellowship with God. [Chairs are facing each other, inward.] But then in the garden, man sinned. [Dark chair faces away.] And he turned away from God. Then, because God is so holy and righteous, he could not look upon man any longer, because man is sinful. [Light chair faces away.] No matter what man does, no matter how hard man tries, no matter how righteous man is after he has sinned [Dark chair faces inward], God still could not look upon him in his righteousness and holiness, because man is still sinful, and no amount of good works can repay God for the offense that man has given him. So man is in a constant state of separation from God.

But God, in his love for man, sends his son, Jesus Christ, who becomes man and lives as we should have lived, in perfect communion and in sinlessness before God. [Dark chair is moved around to face the light chair; both face inward.] Then at the end of his life, Jesus Christ is crucified, and when he’s crucified, God does the unthinkable: he lays all the sin of the human race on his son, and when he does that, because he is holy and righteous, he turns his back on his own son, and the son experiences the fullness of the wrath of God against us in our stead. [Light chair faces away.]

Now, we sinners, if we believe that Jesus Christ has done this, if we believe that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, we, too, can now have this perfect fellowship with God once again. [Dark chair is moved back around to the light chair; both face inward.] Because when God looks at us sinners, he no longer sees us, and he no longer sees our sin. He sees Jesus Christ in his blood. We are covered in the blood of the Lamb. We are, as Martin Luther said, “snow-covered dung,” or as R.C. Scroll put it, “Jesus Christ is our asbestos suit against the white-hot wrath of God against sinners.”

But, if the human being who is sinful does not believe in Jesus Christ and his righteousness and accept the righteousness of Christ in his stead, then God cannot look upon him. [Light chair faces away.] And in the end, the sinner will be cast into hell in eternal separation from God, suffering the eternal punishment he deserves for his sins, because he has not accepted the sacrifice of Christ. In a nutshell, that’s the Protestant view of salvation.

The Orthodox view of salvation begins much the same way. In the beginning, God creates man in his image and is in perfect communion with him. [Chairs are facing each other.] Then, in the garden, man sins. [Dark chair faces away.] And in his sin, man subjects all creation and himself to futility, corruption, and death. But God, because God is life and because he is love, cannot bear to see his creation subjected to futility and death. So God becomes man. [Light chair is moved around to face the dark chair; both face inward.]

When the woman, in her brokenness and her corruption, goes from relationship to relationship, seeking and thirsting after true love [Dark chair faces away.], God sits beside her at the well [Light chair is moved around to face the dark chair; both face inward.], and he says, “I am the water of life. I love you.” And when the man uses his fellow countryman for career and for money and is ostracized and alienated from his own countrymen and outcast from his own people [Dark chair faces away.], God says, “Come down from the tree; I will eat with you.” [Light chair is moved around to face the dark chair; both face inward.] And when the woman is caught in adultery [Dark chair faces away.] and is cast before God, God says, “I do not condemn you. Go your way; sin no more.” [Light chair is moved around to face the dark chair; both face inward.]

When the man experiences the corruption of the creation, the futility of random illness, the death of innocents, and the despair of loneliness [Dark chair faces away.], God says, “Take up your pallet and walk.” [Light chair is moved around to face the dark chair; both face inward.] God says, “Tabitha, arise.” God says, “Go in peace.” And when man, in fear and cowardice and envy and jealousy and greed and political ambition [Dark chair faces away.], take God and betray him and spit on him and beat him and crucify him, God says, “I forgive you.” [Light chair is moved around to face the dark chair; both face inward.]

When man experiences the final separation and utter dissolution and separation from God [Dark chair folded up and put on the floor.] and dies, God says, “Love is stronger than death. Even though you make your bed in Sheol, I am there.” [Light chair is folded up and put on the dark chair on the floor.] And God dies. But God says, “I am Life.” [Light chair unfolded and replaced.] “And in the power of my life and in my resurrection, all will be raised with me.” [Dark chair unfolded and replaced; both chairs face inward.] And now there is no place where God is not. There is no place to escape the love of God. There is no place that we can hide from God’s love for us that flows from his heart like a river of fire. And God says, “For those who love me, my love is like light and warmth, but to those who hate me and close their eyes against my light, my love is like a consuming fire.”

So that’s the Orthodox view of salvation in a nutshell. It’s not perfect, but that’s how we view the love of God. In our Paschal hymn we sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.” That’s the core of the gospel of our salvation.

Thank you for watching the video. If you have any questions, you can Google me and you’ll know how to reach me. Thank you.