The Atonement continues to be a lively issue in Christianity. For many lay persons, it is one of the Christian doctrines with which they struggle the most. There’s been a great deal of interest in rethinking the doctrine in recent years. Right now, Patheos has several articles on it.
For my part, it’s clear. I’m not interested in a God who needs to bargain with the Devil, or in a God who is bound to a legal system, no matter how just it seems to us. The crucifixion was the single most pivotal event in the history of the cosmos. In it, we see that the true character of God is love. God loves with an immensity that is hard to fathom. So much, in fact, that he forsook much of that divinity in order to find solidarity with you and me.
Greg Love also has a new book, and an essay:
I concur with the sharp critics of penal substitution. God is non-ambivalent and nonviolent, loving us with an unqualified love, one not surrounded by threats of condemnation, violence, rage, and death. Yet I also concur with the tradition: Burdened underneath the weight of sin, suffering, and tragedy, we human beings need a savior. And the gospel news is that we are saved by One outside ourselves—Jesus. This third approach entails the keeping of tensions present within the gospels’ stories of the cross. God is holy, but the holiness of God is present most in the mercy of God. What happens on the cross saves the world, and it ought not to have happened. The way Jesus died saved the world, but so did the way he lived. In Jesus’ work, salvation is a finished act, yet it is not one that happens “over our heads.” It inspires the human response of personal and social transformation. Jesus saves, and the Holy Spirit saves.
Today, on Tuesday in Holy Week, I’m thinking about the gospel for the day, and the verse that has become a theme for me this week: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jn 12:32)