While at the annual CTS (Concordia Theological Seminary) symposia last month in Fort Wayne, IN. I was privileged to sit in on and observe an interesting and exciting theological debate. Part of the fun from attending a conference like this comes, not only from the organized lectures and panels, but from the ad hoc discussions and arguments that take place after-hours over cigars, beer, and single-malt.
One of my dear friends, I don’t want to give away his identity without first asking permission (which I’m too lazy to do J ), so...I'll call him Father Hatething, the Bishop of Oychanting, Arkansas, was arguing with two “famous” editors of the Gottesdienst journal (call them "Pernell" and "Johann"). My friend put forth the position that Jesus Christ walking on water at the Sea of Galilee, was the atonement because it was Jesus in His active obedience during His visible life and ministry. The editors both took violent (i.e. animated and impassioned—not physically threatening J ) exception to this thesis, arguing that the atonement was ONLY the vicarious satisfaction which took place on Calvary when Our Lord was crucified for the sins of the world.
Without putting forth the best “sound-bites” of each side to this battle of theologians, I do wish to attempt to put my own “spin on it.” I do come down on the side of my friend, however, and agree with his position that, YES, Christ walking on Gennesaret, IS the atonement—IF you mean…in the “wide sense.”
I first became aware of the theological use of the terms “narrow sense” and “wider sense” when I read Franz Pieper’s Dogmatics years ago. He uses the terms for describing both “Gospel” as well (I believe) as Paul’s use of the term “Sanctification.” In the “wide sense” Gospel means ALL the Word of God, as it is employed in Mark 1.1 wherein the Evangelist means that he is beginning to tell the full counsel of God’s Word (as given him by the Holy Ghost) regarding Christ’s person and work—which includes, of course, BOTH Law & Gospel! Conversely, the “narrow sense” of the Gospel is the work that Jesus does on behalf of the condemned (by the Law ; i.e. the Ten Commandments) by His active obedience of keeping the Ten Commandments and his passive obedience of suffering and dying on the Cross for mankind’s sin (original sin; fallen state) and sins (daily trespasses). Likewise, the “narrow sense” of the Law would be the actual Ten Commandments written by God on the two stone tablets given to Moses (Exodus 20), where the “wide sense” of the Law would be the entire corpus of Saint Moses as contained in Genesis through Deuteronomy—the Torah, i.e. the Law.
When discussing Sanctification both senses may likewise be employed. In the “wide sense” Santification are all those activities which a Christian does in fighting the good fight—in living the status that a believer finds in, with, and under Holy Baptism. The Apostle is constantly urging and exhorting his listeners to fight sin and to follow Jesus in cruciform life. Sanctification in the “narrow sense” is Christ’s all sufficient activities on behalf of the Christian which are credited to the believer, by Grace through Faith, as the “flip-side” to Justification. When Jesus saves (Justifies) His own, He also makes them Holy (Sanctifies)…the work is all his.
By properly understanding that all of our atonement (the atoning for our sin and sins) is from Christ Jesus, then it follows that there too is a “wide sense” and a “narrow sense.” The “narrow” atonement is the culmination of Passion Week—it IS Jesus’ 6 hours on the crucifix, suffering and dying--The Vicarious Satisfaction as Pieper calls it. But, since all life, light, and satisfaction comes from Jesus—ALL of Jesus, then it stands that everything the God/Man did during His First Advent is also atoning. Christ IS the atonement. When He was gestating in Saint Mary’s Blessed Womb He was atoning (in the “wide sense”) as He was likewise when He was Circumcised the 8th day, Baptized in the Jordan by John, and…yes…walking on water.
Or, to quote the venerable Dr. Scaer… “All theology is Christology.”
And, while I may be slightly misconstruing Father Hatething's basic argument (truly I am not intellectually fit to even carry his Smart-Phone charger), I nonetheless still find great glee in his "smack-down" of two "Princes" of the confessional movement.
Disputations over alcohol "rock."