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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Atonement and the Fourth Week of Lent

- the Gero Crucifix in Cologne cathedral

The gospel reading, John 3:14-21, has Jesus talking to Nicodemus. I like watching the movie version of this bit of the gospel with Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus ....

But what does it all mean? I don't know, but I've posted various views on atonement over the years. Here are some of them ...

- He Who Made the Sea (NT Wright)

- James Alison / Atonement

- John Milbank / Sacrifice

- David Hart / Atonement

- Gustav Aulen, David Hart, and Atonement

- Jeffrey John

- Duns Scotus and atonement

- St. Tommy, Keith Ward, and atonement

- More about Steve Chalke

My own feeling about atonement is that it's a theory created to explain why things seemed to have gone so terribly wrong when Jesus was killed ... I don't believe in it. I like what Richard Leonard SJ wrote ...

God did not need the blood of Jesus. Jesus did not just come ‘to die’ but God used his death to announce the end to death. This is the domain of ‘offer it up’ theology: it was good enough for Jesus to suffer; it is good enough for you. While I am aware of St Paul in Romans, St Clement of Alexandria, St Anselm of Canterbury and later John Calvin’s work on atonement theory and satisfaction theology, I cannot baldly accept that the perfect God of love set [us] up for a fall in the Fall, then got so angry with us that only the grisly death of his perfect son was going to repair the breach between us. This is not the only way into the mystery of Holy Week. For most of Christian history the question that has vexed many believers seems to be, ‘Why did Jesus die?’ I think it is the wrong question. The right one is ‘Why was Jesus killed?’ And that puts the last days of Jesus’ suffering and death in an entirely new perspective. Jesus did not simply and only come to die. Rather, Jesus came to live. As a result of the courageous and radical way he lived his life, and the saving love he embodied for all humanity, he threatened the political, social and religious authorities of his day so much that they executed him. But God had the last word on Good Friday: Easter Sunday.


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