Atonement & Ministry: Why Interpreting Jesus and the Atonement Matter

Theological discussion and debate sometimes feel like a lot of hair-splitting – and for what, exactly?  So I’ve written a series of posts by addressing the person who is not attracted to theology.  I will address nine major reasons why the Christian theology of the atonement (how Jesus saves us, and from what) matters a great deal.

I focus on a theory called penal substitution commonly held by evangelical Protestants, Calvinists and Arminians alike.  I will contrast penal substitution with another atonement theory which I’m calling medical substitution, or ontological substitution.  Theologian T.F. Torrance called it total substitution.  Some in the Eastern Orthodox tradition call it therapeutic substitution.  The earliest Christian theologians, even prior to the great Nicene Council (325 AD), called it recapitulation (Irenaeus) or the reconciling exchange (Athanasius).  Hence it has the distinction of being the earliest understanding of how Jesus saves us, and from what.  Future blog posts will focus on Scripture and early church interpretation.


#1. Does God love your non-Christian friend?  What can you legitimately say?


#2. Does God want to undo all human evil? Or does He require human evil to exist?


#3. Is God partly evil?


#4. What about hell?


#5. Does God value every person? Does He anchor universal human dignity?


#6. Is retributive or restorative justice the highest form of God’s justice? Does atonement theology impact criminal justice?


#7. Does atonement theology impact how we define economic justice?  Part 1: A Critique of Wayne Grudem


#8. Does atonement theology impact how we define economic justice?  Part 2: A Critique of Tim Keller


#9. Is God an Asian parent?  What language of motivation does He use?


#10.  The Big Questions packet



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