Monday, June 05, 2006

WHat ATonement Theory do we need?

A couple of years ago I wrote a paper about atonement. I chose the topic because I wanted to explore the thesis that there can not be one, universal theory of atonement . THeories of atonement are meant to address whatever it is that is separating us from God(something I find helpful to remember by breaking it into 3 words -- at-one-ment). Not everyone feels separated from GOd by the same thing. For some of us it is guilt/disobedience. For some of us it is fear of death. For others it may be shame that they are "built wrong" somehow. For others it deals with a sense of unworthiness.

THis came back to the forefront of my mind recently (it is always hovering in the background, I think if I ever go back for further study it is something I may choose to explore in some depth) as I was reading The Cross in Our Context:Jesus and the Suffering World In one chapter Hall talk's about the need for a new atonement theory to address the basic question faced by many today. He suggests that this question is based on a sense of meaninglessness.purposelessness. He calls this the dominant anxiety of our times. I think he is right, at least for people in the middle and upper socio-economic strata in WEstern society. Christus Victor and Anselmian Satisfaction theories will not answer this anxiety.

In the end I am fine with there being more than one way of atonement. I think it is mandatory. To claim that there is only one is, to borrow an image from Borg in Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, as if Moses walked into the slave camps and said "congratulations, your sins are forgiven" . "great, what about our freedom?" In preparing the paper mentioned above (which must be on my office computer since it isn't on this one) I used W. Paul Jones' book Theological Worlds. I reccomend it as a tool both for personal spiritual growth and for pastoral sensitivity. (If I remember correctly, I am mainly in World 3 with over/undertones of worlds 1 and 5.)

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