Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Theories of Atonement

I'm going to do a short series on the theories of atonement. The week before Easter seems an appropriate time to do this. During this season we are particularly aware of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf.

How is it possible that God can forgive us of our sins and reconcile us to himself? It is possible only through the person of Jesus, and by his death and ressurection. But how did these acts make reconciliation possible? This is what atonement explains.

Interestingly, the word "atonement" is not native to the English language. It was proposed by William Tyndale, who recognized that English did not have a word that adequately describes the concept. He proposed the word "at-one-ment". The word describes two things: the forgiveness of sins, and the reconciliation of man to God. These concepts are married together in the word atonement.

I'm doing this series in part as a way to educate myself, and to help clarify my own thinking. Reader comments and insights are welcome! For those who are curious, I believe that the penal substitution theory best explains the concept of atonement, however, I also believe that all of the theories are valuable and can help contribute to our understanding of what Jesus did for us.

Coming up...


Crowm said...

- looking forward to the series Kevin.


Mich said...

This is GREAT!

Question--what did the Earliest Christians believe--Paul, the disciples, etc.

All these theories seem to be devised much later--ie centuries after the atonement.

Pizza Man said...

Thanks Mich, glad you enjoyed it.

Scripture itself does not explain the atonement in a systematic way, so it's difficult to say for certain what Paul and the disciples held to. The earliest articulated theory by a long shot is "Ransom / Christus Victor". It was taught early on by Origen and other church fathers (AD 200 or so).