Dive Deep into the Atonement

Atonement_review_20200511

James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy [Editors]. 2006. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Renewed interest in the atonement of Christ arises today partly because it has become so common to meet “atonement deniers” in the church today. Atonement deniers refuse to talk about sin believing that we are basically good and have no need for Christ’s death on the cross to mitigate that sin. Already in 1937, Richard Niebuhr observed this problem:

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministration of a Christ without a cross.” 

No cross, no resurrection. Jesus cannot have been divine and his claim on our lives is merely nice to know. Christmas morphs from the birth of Christ into winter solstice; Lent morphs from a season of reflection on sin into a season of self-help followed by spring break. So exactly what was the work of Christ if not to die for our sins, as reported throughout the New Testament? (e.g. 1 Cor 15:3) Was the atonement “cosmic child abuse,” as some feminists have alleged? (10)

Introduction

The authors of The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views work to explain the atonement rather than to justify it. The four views are:

Christus Victor view (Gregory A Boyd)

Penal Substitution view (Thomas R. Scheiner)

Healing view (Bruce R. Reichenbach) and

Kaleidoscopic view (Joel B. Green).

Each of the views has its champion who describes the view and rebuts alternative views in the style of statement and response drawn from philosophy. The first three of these views argue that they have priority over the others, while the fourth argues against any such priority (21).

The editors, James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, teach theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota and write the introduction. They define atonement as a uniquely English theological term meaning: “a reconciled state of ‘at-one-ness’ between parties formerly alienated in some manner.” (9)

Christus Victor View

The Christus Victor view asserts that spiritual warfare is the common thread running through scripture. In Jesus Christ, God broke into history to destroy the power of Satan that has kept us in bondage to sin and restored humanity into their rightful position of guardians of the earth (27-29). In this context, sin is both an individual behavior and a communal problem, which suggests why the power of sin cannot be broken without divine intervention. If evil is embedded in folkways and cultural institutions, then individual choices cannot bring full forgiveness, restauration, and healing.

This view has priority over the others because it ties together all strands of scripture and the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. All aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry work together to break the powers of the destructive systems and evil forces of Satan. Once Satan is defeated, the kingdom of God is established once again on earth (39-40). This is why the Christus Victor view has been the dominant view throughout the history of the church (46).

While some ask how a loving God could not just forgive us all. The response is that God could, but Satan, the accuser, would not allow it. This is why Satan must first be overthrown in order for God to allow forgiveness through Jesus Christ (103).

 Penal Substitution View

Penal Substitution view starts with an observation:

 “Our fundamental problem as human beings is not that outside powers victimize us. The root problem is that we ourselves are radically evil and we are wrongly related to God himself.” (68)

This view has priority among evangelicals today because the root cause of the problem is not that Satan has enslaved us, but the we ourselves are flawed—bad seed. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23 ESV). This view is accordingly easier for modern people to accept, in part, because they want to be in control, as with original sin. Still, you do not need to believe in God to understand that even Mayberry[1] has a problem.

Healing View

The Healing view begins with the idea that salvation is effectively the healing of the sickness brought about by sin—the wages of sin are death (Rom 6:23). We read:

“Both Isaiah 53 and Romans 8:3 make a symbolic connection of Christ’s atonement with Israel’s national atonement ritual (Lev 16). The sacrifice had two steps. One was the slaughter of animals for the sin offering; the other was the release of the sin-laden goat into the wilderness. The first brings atonement through suffering and death; the blood symbolically purifies the community, consecrating it from its state of uncleanness. The second symbolically bears the sins of the community away from the community.” (136)

Of course, Jesus in his healing ministry often started by telling those being healed that their sins had been forgiven. We read:

 “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Rise, take up your bed and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he said to the paralytic—I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” (Mark. 2:9-11 ESV)

The priority of healing is hinted at by the etymology of the word, salvation, which in the Greek is associated with medicine (152).

Kaleidoscopic View

The Kaleidoscopic view begins by asking why we assume that Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection should have only a single meaning. If his life touched on many social, political, and religious currents, then the meaning of his death must also have a more nuanced meaning (163). This is perhaps why the confessions of the church do not highlight only one meaning of the atonement.

Assessment

The authors of The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views parse four views of the atonement: the Christus Victor view, the Penal Substitution view, the Healing, and the Kaleidoscopic view. Each view is presented and contrasted with the other views. I learned a great deal from this discussion; perhaps, you will too.

References

Richard Niebuhr. 1937.The Kingdom of God in America. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayberry.

Dive Deep into the Atonement

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Books, Films, and Ministry

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Prayer for Shelter

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

I praise you for your enduring presence and manifest glory all around. Your glory wakes me in the morning; its sustains my days; and it protects me during the night.

Empty me of all despair and bitterness that deflate my life. Help me to confess my weaknesses, my brokenness, and my sin to make room for your glory, your mercy, and your love.

Heal me with your presence when only your presence will do. Bind up my wounds; give me hope; and guide me in your ways that I might see the new day that you have prepared for me.

In the power of your Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Shelter

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Coverage and Healing: Monday Monologues, December 9, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Coverage and Healing.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Coverage and Healing: Monday Monologues, December 9, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Thanks_2019

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Monday Monologue, An Audio Commentary, March 26, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I talk about myself and podcasting, pray for healing, and reflect on the question: Why Think About Faith?

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologue, An Audio Commentary, March 26, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent-2018

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Prayer for Healing

Dried, Yellow Roses, Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Dried, Yellow Roses, Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Holy Father, Great Physician, Spirit of Truth,

We praise you, Lord, for you are good

and your mercy extends to us even as we are ungrateful and undeserving.

We confess that your mercy is greater than ours

that we seldom practice forgiveness and are frequently in need of it.

Do not hold our sin against us nor let our iniquity bind us, for Jesus’ sake.

We give thanks for the gifts of family, friends in Christ, and the many blessings in this life.

Break the chains that bind our hearts and minds–

The pain, the curses passed through the generations, and the bad blood that has accumulated in a life of selfishness, envy, greed, and malice.

In our hour of need, may we turn to you, not for our own sake, but for the sake of those around us.

Cleanse our hearts, oh Lord, that our bodies might also be healed.

May the doctors be perplexed in our healing and the nurses shocked by our change of heart.

That your goodness and mercy would be obvious to all that see it.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Healing

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Lent-2018

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Prayer of Thanks for Restoration

Roses
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heavenly Father,

All praise and honor are yours,

for you are a God who saves, who restores the downtrodden, and

who heals the afflicted.

We confess that we are ridden with fear and doubts

on the day of affliction and have trouble seeing a future of heal and vitality.

Yet, thanks to you, even the night passes into day.

the lame walk, and the blind see.

Thanks to you, our fears are vanquished, our doubts allayed, and healing is possible.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen our faith, restore our confidence, be ever-nearer,

that we might always rest only in you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Prayer of Thanks for Restoration

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2BKihbl

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Thanks for Quiet Days

Oak Tree in Oakton, VirginiaBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Oh dear Lord,

Thank you for quiet days,

when nothing needs to be done,

when the rain seems endless,

and when we can recover from the turbulence of life.

Be especially close.

Guard our worn out hearts.

Keep us from sinning.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

heal our wounds.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Thanks for Quiet Days

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2BKihbl

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Prayer for Healing from Sin

Dried, Yellow Roses, Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Dried, Yellow Roses, Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Oh Lord Almighty:

Teach us to humble ourselves, to live into your call, to be your people in thought, word, and deed.

Teach us to pray aright,

to seek your face, and

to turn from all wickedness, but especially the wickedness of racism.

Hear our prayer, oh Lord.

Be not far away, but especially near when our hearts are weary.

Let not our youth or our old age be an excuse.

Forgive our sin in Jesus name.

And in the power of your Holy Spirit, heal our land. Amen

2 Chr. 7:14

Prayer for Healing from Sin

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance

Red Roses

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

God Almighty, Great Physician, Holy Spirit:

We praise you for your goodness in granting us life,

which we often take for granted, living as if tomorrow was always promised,

but knowing that this is not true.

Break the power of sin over our lives—forgive us for our presumptions, for our neglect of giving thanks, and for living selfishly for ourselves, though we are unworthy.

Thank you for your eternal presence, your healing touch, and sending others to comfort us in our hour of need.

Break our bondage to worthless idols—heal our broken bodies, our troubled spirits, and our damaged relationships, for your name’s sake.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, send us doctors to offer your healing touch and nurses to offer your comfort in lonely hours.

Grant us strength for the day; grace for those we meet; and peace in a troubled world that we might rest only with you, this day and every day.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance

Also see:

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

 

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36. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webEternal and Compassionate God,
We thank you, Lord, for visiting us when we are afflicted and suffer unjustly. For you are a God who cares and understands our wounds, our sorrows, our diseases. We lay our afflictions before you for we cannot bear them alone. Heal our wounds, comfort us in our griefs, purge us of disease. Restore us; redeem us; save us; in doing so teach us to bear the wounds, griefs, and diseases of those around us and to point them to you. Teach us to intercede for the people around us in action and in prayer. For you are our God and we are your people. You are with us; you are for us; and you have given your name to us. In the power of your Holy Spirit, let our security reside only in you, now and always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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