Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The atonement


Mathetes said:


I'm curious what you mean about the comment, "...if you think that sin is a question of alienation rather than guilt, then you take the atonement for granted..."

If someone thinks that sin is a question of alienation, do you mean they view sin as merely keeping one out of God's family? I'm not familiar with this expression.


Biblical soteriology has both a Godward and manward dimension.

It isn’t just that fallen man has turned his back on God. Rather, there’s a divine impediment as well.

Sin creates a moral obstacle. Not only must man be reconciled to God, but God must be reconciled to man.

God is righteous, but man is unrighteous. How do you bridge the gap?

This dimension is captured by such forensic categories as redemption, justification, and propitiation.

There are, however, theological traditions and professing believers who reject the forensic framework in toto. They repudiate the whole notion of divine wrath, to be appeased by penal substitution.

This is offensive to their tender sensibilities.

So, for them, the obstacle to reconciliation is strictly one-sided. The gates of hell, assuming they still believe in hell, are locked from the inside, not the outside.

In place of a full-orbed Scriptural view of salvation, the atonement is recast in Existential terms.

God is not alienated from man, but man is alienated from God.

Sin is redefined as a lack of wholeness or wellness.

There is a grain of truth to this lopsided soteriology, but it’s a severely truncated and secularized version of the atonement.

And, indeed, it’s meant to be. It’s meant to make salvation palatable to “modern” man.

“Modern” man, so we are told, cannot stomach all that barbaric rigmarole about blood atonement and the judgment of God.

But he can “relate” to the concept of alienation. Of dysfunctional relationships. This is a way of making the atonement “relevant” to modern man.

We don’t need the cross. The parable of the prodigal son says it all.

(Of course, we mustn’t use the word “man” anymore, since that’s sexist and patriarchal and homophobic and heteronormative.)

So that, in a nutshell, is what I mean.

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