There’s been a lot of recent discussion on the nature of Jesus’ atonement. All Christians universally affirm that Jesus’ death on the cross saved us from sin. But we debate exactly how his death brought about that salvation.
Western Christianity has long been dominated by penal views of the atonement, namely Calvin’s theory of penal substitutionary atonement. According to this view, God’s holiness demands that sin be punished; Christ bore that punishment in our place; God’s wrath was thus satisfied; and we can thus receive forgiveness. But this view is starting to lose its dominance. For reasons that I won’t get into now, I count myself among those who believe that it offers a distorted picture of God and that it undermines the nature of forgiveness.
Other views—such as recapitulation, ransom, Christus victor, moral influence, mimetic theory, and many others—are becoming more prominent. And so the debate rages. Those with opposing views lock themselves into their respective camps, and little progress is made.
But this book is not like the many others, seeking to push certain views in opposition to the rest. Locating Atonement: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (which is based on the proceedings of the 2015 Los Angeles Theology Conference) mostly avoids the debate of one theory vs. another. Instead, it asks how the doctrine of atonement relates to other key theological concepts. So the atonement is discussed in relation to doctrines like trinity, creation, and ascension.