Do You Undertand Atonement?

If you can imagine the defeat of overwhelming forces and the long-hoped for freedom it brings, you understand the Christus Victor view of atonement.

If you can imagine a slave market and being sold into slavery to the highest bidder, yet discovering that your buyer has paid for you only to set you free, you understand the redemption Jesus' death accomplished.

If you can imagine a courtroom where you are standing trial for charges of which you are guilty, but the judge astonishingly rules you innocent because he has born the burden of your guilt and penalty himself and that you are free to go, you understand the penal substitutionary view of atonement.

If you can imagine one who lived a life in such a charismatic and winsome way, even to the point of surrendering his life for yours, that the power of that way of life enables you to imagine and live a similar life, you understand the moral influence view of the atonement.

If you can imagine someone willingly to die for me to destroy the barriers I have erected that keep me separated and alienated from God and other people, thus making peace, you understand the reconciliation that I the goal of atonement (at-one-ment).

And if you can imagine one would live and die from and for love of his father (and in some real sense that God himself died in and as this one) and the achievement of his (good) purposes for everything God created, you understand atonement as fulfillment of God's covenant with humanity and creation.

And if you understand that this latter covenant fulfillment aspect is the overall umbrella rubric under which each of the others take their place as serving and pointing forward to this ultimate aim of God's love, you understand atonement rightly. Or to adapt an image from Scot McKnight, all the other aspects of atonement are the golf clubs that sit in the golf bag of Covenant fulfilment.

And if you understand that all this atoning comes from God's invincible love for us in spite of our rebellion and perfidy, and that the Father and the Son are of one heart and mind in paying the terrible price for winning us back, you understand atonement as the Bible presents it.


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