Sunday, 20 April 2014

Many voices of atonement

Resurrection Sunday is a great trigger to think about the atonement. Although if I'm honest I think about the atonement more often than any other question in theology. I took a quick survey through the New Testament today to see what the various authors had to say about it. I've grouped these loosely.  

Synoptic Gospels and Acts
Salvation comes to those who believe in Jesus, who believe that Jesus is the Christ.

Fourth Gospel
Similar to the Synoptics, salvation is about believing in Jesus. 

Pauline Letters
Salvation is for those who declare Jesus as Lord and comes about by the believer vicariously following Jesus through death, out of the realm of law, into life. The path is crucifixion, not resurrection. Vicarious is not the same as substitution. 

Hebrews
This is the most convoluted. God makes Jesus perfect through suffering. Jesus becomes a priest in heaven. As priest Jesus offers a sacrifice of himself to sanctify believers.

Petrine Letters
Back to the gospels again, salvation comes by believing in Jesus. It is the resurrection that brings about the benefits of salvation and the resurrection is a gift. The believer is elected and needs to support their election with works. 

James
Being at one with God only happens when actions match faith, particularly with regard to compassion and care for the oppressed. 

Johannine Letters
By loving with divine love a person is united with God. 

Revelation
People are saved by acknowledging that Jesus is Lord, by repentance, and then by a divine washing in Jesus' blood. 

Seems like there isn't a unified account here. They all look at it differently. One thing is for certain: there isn't any penal substitutionary atonement here. By having different perspectives we have an opportunity to discover it more fully. 
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