Luther's concept of Posteriora Dei and its revelance to his thoughts on the atonement
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Posteriora Dei (back of God) in Luther has three aspects : 1) the negative meanings, i.e., humanity in sin and infirmity and God's nature that is not revealed to us, 2) the transitions from negativity to positivity, i.e., God's gradual self-revelation and our gradual understanding of it in faith, and 3) the positive meanings, i.e., God's steadfast love even in our tribulation and God's self-revelation on the cross. While theologians previous to Luther paid attention to what is hidden in God's back and thereby related it to the negative aspects, Luther adds two new interpretations: 1) a positive aspect of God's self-revelation on the cross and 2) a shift of the negativity from God to humanity. In Luther, God's back becomes humanity, the posteriority of posteriora Dei and God's being and work on the cross, the priority of posteriora Dei. The contradiction between humanity and God's self-revelation in posteriora Dei gives very important backdrops for Luther's thoughts on the atonement because it expresses a two -party relationship between God in Christ and humanity, undergirded by the unity between the First Person and the Second Person of the Trinity on the cross and the cruciality of the cross that attacks humanity as a whole.
Posteriora Dei nuances Luther's thoughts on the atonement in three topics: 1) wonderful exchange, 2) victory over the devil, and 3) the wrath of God. The understanding of the cross as a two-party relationship between God in Christ and humanity provides a critical background for the exchange motif. Luther strongly focuses on Christ's becoming sin, death, and the devil, while many theologians previous to Luther noticed the benefit of the cross and our becoming immortality. The cruciality of Christ's becoming death is also relevant to the cruciality of the contradiction between the posteriority of posteriora Dei and the priority of posteriora Dei. Christ defeated the devil not only the devil as an independent existence that deceives humanity both in the posteriority of posteriora Dei and in the priority of posteriora Dei, but also the devil as part of humanity that includes sin, death, hell, the wrath of God, and the Law of God. Luther's concept of God's wrath is controversial. At first glance, Luther seems to argue "Christ's death for appeasing God's wrath on the cross," because he often uses the expression "propitiation." At a deeper level, however, he places his emphasis on "propitiation for sin," which is common in the early church Fathers' thoughts. In Luther, God's wrath is also understood as part of humanity. The shift from God to humanity in the posteriority of posteriora Dei is also related to the shift from God to humanity in understanding of God's wrath.
God reveals God 's being and work on the cross by showing posteriora Dei. However, humanity has a duplex limitation: 1) humanity does not see God on the cross as God and 2) humanity seeks gods in humanity. Paradoxically, God in Christ attacks and overcomes this humanity not by overwhelming power but by the cross. Posteriora Dei in Luther is all about God in Christ and humanity in its sin, death, infirmity, and own glory.