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Athanasian Atonement Theory and Double Imputation

Athanasian Atonement Theory and Double Imputation

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Published by Tony Arsenal
An exploration of how the double pronged problem of sin in Athanasius might be appropriated by the Reformed doctrine of Double Imputation.
An exploration of how the double pronged problem of sin in Athanasius might be appropriated by the Reformed doctrine of Double Imputation.

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Published by: Tony Arsenal on Nov 18, 2013
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11/18/2013

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ATHANASIAN ATONEMENT THEORY AND DOUBLE IMPUTATION
M
ODERN
T
HEORIES OF THE
A
TONEMENT
-
 
D
R
.
 
A
DONIS
V
IDU
 
TONY ARSENAL
GORDON-CONWELL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
MAY 6, 2013
 
Arsenal Athanasian Atonement Theory and Double Imputation Page
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Imputation in an Unlikely Place
An old man sits in a room and watches a younger man sleep. The younger man is destined to live a life characterized by death, struggle, and strife. The older man look at the younger man, stands up and crosses the room, and literally pours his life into the young man. He walks away and shortly thereafter dies. When the young man wakes up he realizes that the life of the old man has been transferred to him, and he now is destined for a whole new existence  because of the sacrifice of the older man. Although the 2011 dystopian film
 In Time
1
 was originally written to explore the divergence between the wealthy and impoverished, it also, albeit unwittingly, explores the theological concept of imputation. In this futuristic reality, humans have developed a genetic technology that allows all human beings to be free of disease and to stop aging at the biological age of 25. However, on their 25
th
 birthday a clock built into their forearm begins counting down 1 year. When the clock hits zero, the person dies. However, rather than trade in currency, humans trade in time. By working they are able to extend their lives, those who are extremely wealthy can extend it indefinitely.
2
 In the film, Henry Hamilton is the wealthy old man previously referenced. He meets a young Will Salas and decides to give him the one hundred years left on his clock. However, as Salas soon finds out, this imputation of life does not change his social status or erase his past. Despite the fact that he has been given a positive balance, the negatives of his past life and standing cannot be ignored by the social elite. Another imputation, which unfortunately never comes for Salas, would be required in order to remove the stigma and stain of his former life.
1
 "In Time," IMDb, accessed May 03, 2013, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1637688/.
2
 See Manohla Dargis, "Die Young, Stay Pretty, and Watch Your Clock," The New York Times, October 27, 2011, accessed May 03, 2013, http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/movies/in-time-scifi-film-with-justin-
 
timberlake-review.html for a full synopsis and review of the film.
 
Arsenal Athanasian Atonement Theory and Double Imputation Page
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A Case of Competing Narratives
The idea of imputed righteousness is sometimes seen as a theological invention of the 16
th
 century, particularly of Calvin and the Reformed system that followed after him. The argument is that prior to this novelty, the Satisfaction theology of Anselm, itself somewhat of a theological innovation, and the
Christus Victor 
 or Ransom views of the Patristic period were void of any actual Penal Substitution or Imputation theory. Even in cases where a commentator acknowledges that either of these were present, the concept of Double Imputation was absent entirely. The terminus of this argument is, then, that Double Imputation is a theological position ungrounded in any historical tradition, and therefore is suspect at best. However, a recent resurgence in Patristic interested by Protestants, and by Evangelicals  particularly, seems to have brought an influx of questions regarding this narrative. Some writers have gone so far as to claim that the Early Church, like the Apostles, held to the same doctrines and positions as the Reformers only to see these doctrines lost in the Middle Ages. Many claim that although they do not specifically use the language of the so-called Five
Solae
 or phrases like Total Depravity, that the theology of great figures like Athanasius, the Cappadocians, and Augustine are essentially Reformed. I do not find either narrative to be satisfying in my survey of both Reformation and Patristic literature. However, I also do not believe that either extreme is completely bereft of truth. In this essay I shall argue that a sort of
via media
 exists between these two poles. The reality of the situation is that no theology develops in a vacuum, and the Forensic theology of the Reformers is no exception. Particularly in the Reformation era, scholars were looking back to more ancient sources in an attempt to bypass the Medieval Period and its doctrinal development. This results in a development that, although divergent from the Catholic and Orthodox

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