The Hamartiology of Irenaeus of Lyons

Opposing Gnosticism and relying heavily on the writings of Paul to the extent of increasing the influence of the Johannine gospel, Irenaeus of Lyons viewed the presence of sin, the act of God’s forgiveness, and the process of salvation in terms of “divinization,” where “God’s purpose is to make us ever more like the divine.”[1] The concept of divinization, for Irenaeus, is embodied in the idea of human communion with a divine God and, more importantly, that the supposition of God’s creation of humankind was based on this need for divine communion. What can be gleaned further from this is that forgiveness and salvation are the ultimate goals of God for humankind with the intent of restoring this communion. With the introduction of sin and the resulting Fall, this is approached through the incarnation of God in Christ not as the result of sin but, instead, “what has happened because of sin is that the incarnation has taken on the added purpose of offering a remedy for sin, and a means for defeating Satan.”[2] Specifically, then, the incarnation of God in Christ is meant to create a new humanity in salvation, whereby all of the actions of Jesus, both physically and spiritually, are meant to “correct what was twisted because of sin [and] defeat Satan [so that humankind can] live in a new freedom.”[3]

[1] Refer to Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation: Volume 1 (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1984), 70.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.


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