Jesus' Mercy Changes Me, We and the World

Atonement Theory

I was listening to a podcast today about Atonement Theory.  You know, like what does Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension mean in Chrisitan theology.  Just some fluff for my walk today.  The speaker, Jennifer Bradshaw is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Christian Ministry at Campbell University.  She walked through five theories of atonement that have been popular at different times and in different denominations. The five she talked about were Christus Victor, Satisfaction Theory, Penal Substitution Atonement (a favorite with Lutherans and Evangelicals), Moral Exemplar Theory and Scapegoat Theory.  The bible is full of metaphors and images, so it is hard to pick the right one.  I am okay with that.  I think a little mystery is good when we try to talk about God.  One theme that seems to run through many of these theories is the idea that for some reason God demands blood.

I have a problem with the “God needs blood” theory.  As Thomas Andrew Bennett writes in God of Labor:

What does the cross accomplish?  What does it gain?  What life is born from cries of birth and their accompanying scars?  The divine labor creates new life, new people who bear the nature not of earthly parents but of the true fathering and mothering God.  The cross creates a new race, a different sort of people with different blood, different parents, different DNA, even a brand new extended family.

Rather than a vengeful, punishing God, I prefer the God Jesus portrays as the father in “The Parable of the Lost Son.” The lost son is not scorned by his father but is welcomed back with celebration and a welcoming party. 

See Luke 15:11-32 to learn about this God.

Mark Autterson