New perspectives on the Atonement

I was interested to observe that during the Trinity Institute, both in the televised conversations, and in our discussions at Luther Memorial, the Atonement came under close scrutiny. Ben Myers points to Bruce McCormack’s 2011 Croall Lectures which set out a new typology of the Atonement. There’s reporting, with theological reflection here. When people ask me about the Atonement, and I’m always surprised when they do, I refer them to Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor. I read it for the first time as an undergraduate; came back to it when I was preparing a course on the Theological Anthropology in the Christian Tradition. On second reading, I found it both interesting and troubling. I didn’t find it particularly helpful in understanding the perspectives of thinkers, either ancient, medieval, or early modern. That’s always the problem with typologies of course. Perhaps McCormack’s alternative will be more compelling, intellectually and theologically.

But what fascinates me most, as a theologian and as a pastor, is the continuing power of Atonement theory. Christians and seekers both struggle with the meaning of the cross for their lives. That came out in our conversations this week; I also encounter it in conversations with thoughtful parishioners. We still have work to do.