I have begun to understand with a more experiential experience (tautology alert) of God's love, that my atonement theories are beginning to shift. I had written and very much an exercise of the intellect it was, a defense of Penal substitution for college. I am coming to understand something other. It is all too much for my brain cells at the moment and it all needs to be studied and prayed for but this, which I read this morning, is making a lot of sense right now:
"It is from the sacrificial system of ancient Israel that we have inherited the whole terminology of atonement, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation; and it seems to me that after a long and puzzling story we find that system reaching in the Christianity of the New Testament a climax in which it is completely transformed into the idea of an atonement in which God alone bears the cost. The whole subject of sacrifice in ancient Israel is both complicated and controversial" (D.M. Baillie, God Was in Christ, p. 175).
Josh goes on to say, over at David Rudel's site that:
Perhaps sacrifice in ancient Israel was not understood uniformly and completely. Maybe they had a fuzzy idea that forgiveness is costly, and this idea has come into sharper focus on this side of the incarnation and the cross. Hermeneutically, what I have in mind is progressive or unfolding revelation.
With this hermeneutic, there is no need to find a consistent attitude toward and understanding of the sacrificial system throughout the OT. One can then read the later prophetic critique of this system without attempting to harmonize it with earlier writings. So Baillie observes this prophetic message: "God will freely forgive even the greatest sins, if only the sinners will repent and turn from their evil ways. Nothing else is needed, no expiation, no offerings, for God has everything already. Sincere repentance is enough, and a real turning from sin to God; and then the sinner can count on God's mercy" (Ibid., p. 176). Baillie quotes Isaiah 55:7 as support.