Incarnation, Deification & Salvation
A Pre-Recorded Online Lecture
with Fr. Vincent Pizzuto, Ph.D.
Christianity did not invent the cross, it was confronted by the enigma of the cross and left to grapple over its meaning in light of the resurrection. As a result, throughout Christian history many theories of “atonement” or “salvation” have emerged with no universal agreement on any one of them. Exactly how does the cross save us? And from what? How might we understand Paul’s assessment that on the cross Jesus was “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5:17-21; cf. Gal. 3:13)? Or again how might we interpret the scriptural testimony of Jesus’ life as a “ransom for the many” (cf. Mark 10:45 and 1 Tim. 2:5-6). What does it mean to profess “Jesus died for our sins”? Moreover, what is the difference between “atonement” (at-one-ment) and “salvation” – and how does Christ accomplish both on behalf of humanity?
Among the earliest of theologies of the cross, and dominant for the first thousand years of the church, is the “Ransom Theory” which was summarized and adapted by the Lutheran scholar, Gustaf Aulén in his seminal 1930 classic, Christus Victor. Fr. Vincent will spend an afternoon exploring Aulén’s summation of the “Ransom Theory,” offering his own modifications in light of the doctrine of deification. His discussion will compare the merits of Christus Victor with other prominent theories, even as he offers his own nuanced approach to a theology of the cross grounded in the trinitarian love of God for all creation.
Father Vincent Pizzuto, PhD is Professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Mysticism in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco. He received his doctorate in New Testament Exegesis from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (2003) and has since published and presented internationally in the areas of New Testament christology, ecological discipleship, marriage equality, inter-religious dialogue, Christian mysticism and contemplative Christian spirituality. In 2018 he published his second book, Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life with Liturgical Press; translated in Spanish, Contemplar a Cristo: Los Evangelios y la vida interior, (Desclée de Brouwer) in January 2022. As an Episcopal priest Fr. Vincent serves as Vicar of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church and Retreat House in Inverness, California. Working for the advancement of contemplative Christianity, he has reinvigorated the mission and ministry of St. Columba’s through the introduction of contemplative eucharistic liturgies, public lectures, online courses, directed retreats, thought provoking sermons, an online blog and a weekly online study of his book through the Meditation Chapel.