Emm - things to think about...
'Whereas epistemology represses the other by absorbing it into explanatory schemes, ethics does justice to "others" precisely by letting the other be,' (The Atonement in Postmodernity, 368).
...theologies of the atonement seem unable to articulate a theory that explains the saving significance of Jesus' death without betraying the rich testimonies to the event of his death, (The Atonement in Postmodernity, 369).
Joel Green and Mark Baker have recently suggested that the penal substitution model...betrays telltale hallmarks of modernity: an anthropocentric tendency to see the significance of Jesus' death as limited to human beings; an individualistic tendency to see Jesus' death as benefiting isolated persons; a moralist tendency to see Jesus' death as a punishment for the acts of sinful individuals, (The Atonement in Postmodernity, 370)
Would you believe it, 'Penal substitution is one of thirteen models of the atonement examined by John McIntyre.'(The Atonement in Postmodernity)
I find this really stimulating:
Jesus' death is efficacious, not because it satisfies God..., but "because it is the inauguration of the political practice of forgiveness...(Millbank). (The Atonement in Postmodernity)
Rom 6:23 '"The logic of punishment was a logic of equivalence (the wages of sin is death); the logic of grace is a logic of surplus and excess." In Ricoeur's view, the doctrine of atonement belongs, not in an economy of crime and punishment, but in a hyper-economy of gift and grace.' (The Atonement in Postmodernity, 396)
So we have a debate exercise coming up. I wonder if debating models of the atonement might be fruitful.
I remember writing this once:
Ultimately, N.T. Wright is correct in exhorting us to ' embrace, and preach, the genuine biblical doctrine, while avoiding both the caricature and the rejection of the caricature as if it were the reality.'1 The atonement must be considered within the context of the trinity and articulated as an act of love. We must uphold the biblical view of a just and loving God – this constitutes his holiness. We must present PSA as just one of the ways in which the Bible bears testimony to the work of Christ, for that work is a multi-faceted gem of divine complexity.
Indeed, with any articulation of the work of Christ on the cross, we should say with Paul only that 'now I know in part’ (1 Cor. 13:12). I believe that Christ did take upon himself the punishment which I deserve. At the cross, Christ took our place (Isa. 53:4-6), became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21), and bore our sins in his body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). He stands in my place in the divine law court, suffering punishment and canceling out my debt: 'having canceled the written code, with its regulations...he took it away, nailing it to the cross' (Col 2:14). I also believe that Christ accomplished much more besides.
Christ is a moral exemplar; he came to show us what the Father is like. He is the sacrificed paschal lamb of the Passover and the priest offering himself as a sacrifice in the temple: the eternal Malchizedek. He is the ransom paid in the slave market, redeeming humanity from its bondage. He is also the 'Christus victor' in a cosmic battle (Col. 2:15).
More importantly, we should never separate the death from the resurrection lest an articulation of the cross becomes a stumbling block. We must instead be able to say with Cyril of Jerusalem:
I confess the Cross, because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I had not perchance confessed it, for I might have concealed both it and my Master; but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it. 2
1 Wright,N.,T.,'The Cross and the Caricatures' Durham Cathedral
2Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 13, Section 4
Looking at this now, my position is somewhat different. This conclusion from a few years ago seems somewhat naive and something of a cop-out. Emmm.