Showing posts from September, 2019

An atonement typology

This post grew out of a brief handout I drew up quickly for a class I was teaching on the atonement, which I then shared on Twitter. I thought I would expand it here with some initial definition and reflections.

Let me note two things at the outset. First, I took initial inspiration from Ben Myers' lovely patristic-flavored post on atonement theories from a few years back. Second, it seems to me that atonement is a particularly resonant English word that is very nearly interchangeable with salvation. To ask what atonement consists in, it seems to me, is to ask how Jesus saves. Or at least so I have assumed in what follows. Third, atonement is not one of my pet doctrines; I haven't read widely and deeply in it the way some of my friends and colleagues have. I'm sure that, somewhere below, I have left something out or inexpertly explained this or that theory. Pardons in advance.

Without further ado, my sixfold (really, 6 x 5) typology of the atonement.


What does holiness look like?

The Protestant account of vocation smooths out the hierarchies of office (the priesthood of all believers) and of holy living (monastic life is no "better" than life working a farm). From one point of view, this is a good thing: no special religious caste; it flattens out "quality" of life: God calls each to his or her own station in life; holiness is democratized. From another point of view, this is a problem: it treats everything and everyone "the same," thus losing all differentiation; it lacks honesty, since in fact church ministry or serving the poor are, and will be treated as, more important than, say, working as a notary or drilling for oil; and worst of all, it loses the eschatological dimension of Christ's call, draining it of radical disorientation through the cross and resurrection and replacing it with the simple pleasures of local, family, and/or bourgeois life.

One way to frame the disjunction is to ask the question: Is the good life—th…