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04 April 2021

Easter Exercise: Theories of Atonement

 I stumbled on this video in my For You page on TikTok:


Karen learns a thing! Inspired by Robert Myallis’ peeps atonement videos (YouTube). 😊#progressiveclergy #progressivechristian

♬ Hip Hop Story (Instrumental) - Swagg B & PBL

It got me thinking, and appropriately enough, I spent Easter morning going down a bit of a bunny rabbit hole on the internet. I'm putting this down here mostly for my own reference later.

  • Ransom Theory
    • 2nd century
    • Early Church Fathers
    • God warned you to stay away from the edge of the pier, but you didn't listen and fell into the water. The lifeguards will gladly save you, but they require payment, and you won't come close to earning enough money—even over your entire lifetime—to pay them for their services so Jesus steps in to pay the bill for you.
    • Is God not big enough and loving enough to forgo the ransom? If God is omnipotent, who is receiving payment?
  • Satisfaction/Substitution Theory
    • 11th century
    • Anselm
    • God told you to stay away from the edge of the pier, but you didn't listen and fell into the water. God's honor has been besmirched by your disobedience. You are incapable of restoring God's honor as a meer mortal so Jesus takes your place because, you know, someone has to drown.
    • Why is god so petty?
  • Penal Substitutionary Theory
    • 16th century
    • Reformers
    • God made a law that you have to stay away from the edge of the pier, but you didn't follow the law and fell into the water. God is just, and justice demands that someone must be punished. Instead of punishing you by leaving you to drown in the water, Jesus takes your place.
    • Is God not big enough and loving enough to forgive a crime? "Justice" seems to be bigger than God.
  • Moral Influence/Example Theories
    • unclear (arguably 2nd century but goes in and out of style)
    • Social Gospel folk et al.
    • You find yourself floundering in the water, quickly becoming exhausted. Jesus jumps in the water and saves you from drowning, but in rescuing you, Jesus himself succumbs to the waves.*
      • Jesus' death is an example of perfect, sacrificial love for all of humanity to which we should aspire.
    • Is this atonement at all? Do people earn their own salvation by doing good works?
  • Christus Victor
    • 1931
    • Aulén
    • Jesus will lead a cosmic war at sea to make it impossible for anyone to ever fall into the water again.
    • If God is omnipotent, who would he even fight with?

* - I borrowed this from Andrew Springer and forced all the other metaphors based on his. Here is the original:
Imagine sitting safely on a pier, in a deck chair, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a man flings himself into the ocean and drowns. You later learn he did this because he loved you. You would probably think the man was a lunatic. But if, on the other hand, you yourself were drowning in the ocean, and a man came out to save you, succeeds, but drowns himself, you would understand, yes this is love.

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