Day 4 Preaching a Contextual Word “Atonement”

Atonement is about the problem between us and God and how the problem is solved.

The question of how we become at one with God has been answered in multiple ways in Scripture and through the church.

The question of atonement is not easily answered by just one of these following models. When the answer is skewed with more weight to just one model bad stuff often happens.

This lecture was led by Dr. Amy Marga

1. Sacrifice – This model shows continuity with the Old Testament and is intuitive to human beings. Blood answers blood. Blood covers sin so two parties can be reconciled.

2. Restoration – Divine takes on flesh to restore the flesh back to design. Movement of atonement is in the incarnation. This model is consistent with the mercy of God and answers the problem of sin as an unraveling of the ordering of creation. Athanasius was an early proponent of this model.

The Word (logos) participates fully with the Father in creation and the Trinity is consistent in purpose throughout this work of atonement.

3. Reconciliation – This model uses family language. By law we are alienated from God because of our disobedience. We were sons and daughters of God and now we are not. Most families have someone who is alienated. The Son of God joins us in our alienation and through His work we are reconciled to God.

4. Ransom – Made popular in the medieval period by Anselm. This model is filled with drama as Jesus works for us as the action hero who goes to hell and breaks us out of our bonds. The problem is that sinners found appeal in Satan’s offerings, fell into sin, and captured by him. We need a victorious Christ. The moment of atonement is found in the death of Christ and Jesus going to hell to destroy the devil. This model appeals to a people under the oppression of forces greater than their own power and so is found in Liberation theology.

5. Satisfaction – “Christ pays God back” Christ is necessary as the one capable of paying back the debt of sins human beings have accrued. Creatures owe God our lives and in our sin we cannot pay God back. Christ’s gift of obedience, to the point of death on the cross, is excessive and so able to extend to all of humanity. Anselm emphasized that Christ is obedient and free to pay back God.

6. Penal Substitution – Christ is punished in our place. Charles Hodge in the 19th century cemented this model into the framework of American evangelicalism. We deserve punishment and Christ is punished in our place as an appeasement of the wrath of God.

Scriptures speak with a full set of images to describe the good news of Jesus Christ working to make us one again with God.


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