Atonement, pt 8

Once again, I’m going to skip the boilerplate text and go directly to the theories of atonement. If you haven’t been reading the series, you should go back to the sixth post to get oriented.

This is the tenth theory of atonement.  I do not endorse this theory, as will be clear in my comments.  I present it for the sake of completeness, and because this theory is foundational to most of the “progressive” Christianity on the blogosophere, twitter, etc.


TENTH: Jesus’ death as TRAGIC INEVITABILITY; modern “progressive” Christianity tends toward this view.

  1. Problem: we have forgotten God’s way, which makes us selfish and violent.
  2. Jesus came to show us how to live as God wanted us to live. The authorities of his day rejected and crucified him. His death was not God’s will, but was the result of him confronting the powers of his day. He dies for the WAY of God, not the WILL of God.
  3. God is our benevolent ruler who wants us to live rewarding, healthy lives.
  4. Metaphor: a martyr’s death.
  5. Textual support: depends less on specific texts than on an attempted holistic reading of Jesus’ teaching about violence and social justice; also depends on OT prophets (e.g., Amos 5).  Also based on or usually accompanied by a rejection of orthodox teaching about sin, the incarnation, miracles, etc.
  6. Strengths:
    1. Attempts to apply Jesus’ death to ethical issues.
  7. Weaknesses:
    1. Not consistent with high view of biblical authority, because disregards Jesus’ own predictions of his death, etc., and usually part of an approach to scripture that jettisons inspiration, sin, etc.
    1. Jesus does not need to be anything more than “a good man” for this theory; no need for incarnation, etc.  By this view, what is the difference between the death of Jesus and the death of Socrates?
    1. Views sinfulness as a problem OUTSIDE us instead of something woven into our nature. (All we needed was to be shown the way.)
    1. Imbalanced approach to the NT; focuses on Jesus but ignores/deprecates epistles.

I see no particular pastoral value in this view.  I certainly see nothing here that the other, preferable theories do not offer without these weaknesses.

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