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I reckon every one of these ideas about atonement is partial, each catching a glimpse of something bigger. For me, the instinctive distaste a lot of people have with regard to the substitutionary model - which is grounded in Scripture as much as the others - is not so much to do with the idea itself as to do with a loss of understanding of covenant. When two people enter, freely, into covenant with each other, an exchange of identities takes place. So, for example, God takes for himself Abram's identity as Great Father, and in exchange the childless Abram is to be recognised as sharing in God's identity as Father of Nations, Abraham. An appreciation of covenant as a central theme running through scripture alongside the theme of God's kingdom (from where we get Christus Victor) enables us to see substitutionary atonement as Jesus choosing to take on our sinful identity (and as such, re-grounds substituionary atonement in the incarnation) and declare that we are to be identified as sharing in his sinless identity in exchange. This choice on Jesus' part to enter into covenant with us also addresses the misrepresentation of God the Father as cosmic child-abuser - that rather sub-trinitarian view of God that has been put forward in relation to the atonement debate in recent years.

The problem I have with many of the various models for the atonement is that they tend to leave us in the place of being an observer rather than a participant. So the cross has become an object for meditation and devotion rather than a process which we must enter and by which all things are being made new. This is particularly problematic in the penal substitution model which basically says 'Jesus died so I don't have to' - in other words all the action is happening somewhere else and my only involvement is perhaps to be thankful for Christ's act but it fundamentally doesn't really involve me.
For me, the transformative power of the cross is revealed when we realise that there's a process going on which I must participate in, not just observe. So - I must die i.e. death is not something I avoid because Jesus died in my place - but I die with Christ and then I'm raised with Christ (or 'in Christ' as Paul preferred to say it). And this process gives meaning to all the many 'deaths' we all go through - in our suffering, our failure, in wrestling with our ego, exposing it and dying to self. These are all ways in which I am participating in the big process of renewal which the cross is all about.
BTW in your review of the models you should also take a look at Irenaeus who I've found very helpful on all this.

Andrew's description of Substitutionary attonement seem's to me to resembles the christus victor that Mark's desribes more than the Penal Substitution I remember from my day's in the evangelican cirus. It seem's to me that the substitution of Identity that is being describe is very much a liberating act liberating us from the bondage of a sin labelled identity for christ's sin free identity.

and for most of christianity when talking substitution we're talking a Penal Substitution. I struggle with the validity of the covenantal desciption of substituation when adding a dimension where God identity remains Judge, Jurour abd executioner.

Funny I too have been reading atonement material over the past week - John McLeod Campbell The Nature of Atonement. Some would still consider him to be a heretic. I have found it to be fascinating and very helpful.

Nice one Mark....
Bite sized with a lot of chewy meat to savour. Agreed it's not as simple as "pick one"... I also like Moltmann's thoughts..... now i'm in Selah/ponder mode!
Shalom dude....

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