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Reflections on theories of atonement (Part 2)

April 5, 2010

So what difference does it make which theory of atonement I subscribe to, if I can find a basis for it in scripture?  Besides, I’m not a theologian.  How can I be responsible for keeping track of all the theories of atonement?

Let’s stop right there.  Anyone who says words about God–God (theo)–Words (logos)–is a theologian.  The question is where do our God words come from.  If we take our faith seriously, we will make every attempt to make sure that our God words are rooted in scripture and a broad community where they may be tested. 

How we understand atonement has everything to do with the what, when and where of salvation.  If salvation is merely about a transaction between the individual and God assuring entrance to heaven, we will talk about salvation in very different terms than if we see it as Christ defeating the powers of sin and death in the present age. 

Yesterday we celebrated once again that the Resurrection initiates the new creation.  Resurrection life is something we participate in now, through Christ.  We participate in the life of the ages…now.  If anyone is in Christ…new creation.  So we pray for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in the heavens.  We see Resurrection as an invasion of God’s life into this present age…this physical world.  It is not some metaphorical victory.  It is victory of a different kind of life–based in Love. 

That life is not reserved just for the age to come.  God continues to bring about the life of the ages in and through those who are willing to participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We considered what Resurrection looks like in specific places…in the realities of our lives. 

Some theories of atonement would see the benefits of salvation primarily reserved for the age to come.  So a project like the Harlem Children’s Zone would not be seen as having much to do with Resurrection.  When you have eyes to see Resurrection breaking into the whole of creation (as we saw in the apocalyptic vision of Isaiah 65 yesterday), then there is room for all kinds of sightings of Resurrection.  Even in surprising places like the home of a Roman military officer. 

Implications of Christus Victor view of atonement:

1.  Salvation is less about a prayer which effects some sort of transaction and more about a way of life that synergizes with the life of the ages initiated through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

2.  Salvation integrates personal, communal, with creation. 

3.  Salvation has to do with participation in the life of Jesus–not as a separate reality from my physical life in this world (brings together the spiritual and the physical).  Salvation has to do with a journey of healing that which is broken in my life and in this world.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 5, 2010 2:03 pm

    Well … actually. The word “theology” is more properly understood to mean “theos” = God and “logos” or ology = study of. Making it the study of God … but your point still holds, anyone can study God.

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