Atonement

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The atonement is a doctrine found within both Christianity and Judaism. It describes how sin can be forgiven by God. In Judaism, Atonement is said to be the process of forgiving or pardoning a transgression. This was originally accomplished through rituals performed by a High Priest on the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). In Christian theology, the atonement refers to the forgiving or pardoning of sin through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which made possible a reconciliation between God and creation. Within Christianity there have been numerous theories of atonement put forward, including the ransom theory, the Abelardian theory, and Anselmian satisfaction.

Contents

[edit] Etymology

The word atonement gained widespread use in the sixteenth century after William Tyndale recognized that there was no direct translation of the concept into English. In order to explain the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, which accomplished both the remission of sin and reconciliation of man to God, Tyndale invented a word that would encompass both actions. He wanted to overcome the inherent limitations of the word "reconciliation" while incorporating the aspects of "propitiation" and forgiveness. It is interesting to note that while Tyndale labored to translate the 1526 English Bible, his proposed word comprises two parts, 'at' and 'onement,' which also means reconciliation, but combines it with something more. Although one thinks of the Jewish Fast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the Hebrew word is ‘kaper’ ing ‘a covering’, so one can see that ‘reconciliation’ doesn't precisely contain all the necessary components of the word atonement. Expiation means “to atone for.” Reconciliation comes from Latin roots re, meaning “again”; con, meaning “with”; and sella, meaning “seat.” Reconciliation, therefore, literally means “to sit again with.” While this meaning may appear sufficient, Tyndale thought that if translated as "reconciliation," there would be a pervasive misunderstanding of the word's deeper significance to not just reconcile, but "to cover," so the word was invented.

[edit] The Atonement in Christianity

A number of theories of the atonement have been advanced by Christians to explain how and why the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ redeem. Concerning them, their usefulness, and their role C. S. Lewis wrote:

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.<ref>C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, Chapter 4</ref>

[edit] Catholic view

Held by many Christians, this view holds that Jesus willingly sacrificed himself as an act of perfect obedience (the Gospels show him struggling with this in the Garden of Gethsemane), atoning for the disobedience of Adam, and thus cleansing Mankind of the stain of original sin. Jesus's sacrifice was an offering of love that pleased God more than man's sin offended God, so now all who believe in Jesus and keep his commandments may receive salvation in his name, see also Great Commission and Sermon on the Mount.

[edit] Judicial (Protestant) view

By contrast, the Catholic view off-shoot titled the judicial view was held by Martin Luther, and a major cause of the Reformation. It is held by the majority of Protestants.

This view emphasizes God as Judge. Humanity had sinned and God was therefore required, in His justice, to punish humankind. However, God sent His Son, who was sinless, to take the sin of the world on his shoulders, so that anyone who accepted the gift of Jesus's act could be freed from the consequences of his sin, without violating God's judgement.

The result is that through Christ's death, the Old Covenant passed away and all things became new in a New Covenant. The veil separating man and God was torn, and the people were free to work out their own salvation through the only true Mediator, Jesus Christ, rather than seeking salvation through rituals, rules, or an exclusive priesthood. People who hold this view generally believe that only acceptance of Christ's sacrifice is necessary for salvation, not a ritual or a sacrament. See also Antinomianism.

This view of the theological significance of Jesus's resurrection is analogous to the Jewish Day of Atonement, by which the sins of the Israelites were put onto a flawless scapegoat, who was then released into the wilderness, taking the sins of the people with him.

[edit] Christus Victor

The Christus Victor view, which is more common among Lutherans (see, e.g. G. Aulen's book Christus Victor), and Eastern Orthodox Christians, holds that Jesus was sent by God to defeat death and Satan. Because of his perfection, voluntary death, and Resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan and death, and arose victorious. Therefore humanity was no longer bound in sin, but was free to rejoin God through faith in Jesus.

In contrast to the Judicial view, the Christus Victor model emphasizes a spiritual battle between good and evil. This battle is on a cosmic scale. The Judicial view would require Christians to believe that God voluntarily punished Jesus for their sins, whereas the Christus Victor view sees humanity as formerly in the power of Satan, who was defeated by Jesus; and God, through Jesus, broke us out of Satan's power.

The Christus Victor sometimes has also been used to argue that Jesus defeated sin and death for everyone, whether or not they hear of Jesus, granting non-Christians the chance of eternal life (or a guarantee thereof, depending on the particular theology in question).

[edit] First Man view

The First Man view, held by a small minority of Christians, especially Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, states that Jesus was a person just like the rest of humanity, but due to his remarkable faith, purity, sinlessness, and perfection, he earned eternal life, and was resurrected because Death could not hold him. They also believe that by following his teachings and example others may also ultimately earn eternal life.

The First Man view can be compared with the Old-Testament stories of Enoch and Elijah, who walked with God to such a degree of faithfulness that they were not required to die. Enoch 'was no more,' and Elijah was carried in a whirlwind. In the same way, Jesus was faithful to such a degree, that even though he was killed, his Faith earned him Eternal Life. And in the same way, if we are faithful to the same degree, we can also be free from death.


[edit] Need for a Redeemer

Many Christians believe the atonement was necessary to compensate and reverse the fall of Adam as noted in 1 Corinthians:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. It was not Adam who was deceived; it was the woman, who, yielding to deception, fell into sin... As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. <ref> See Corinthians 11:2-10 and 15:22 </ref>

In this view Jesus is believed to have submitted voluntarily as the liaison for both humanity and God to answer the ends of the law previously transgressed by Adam. However, Stephen L Harris, among others, view this attribution as slightly simplistic, and a conflict with the history of Ancient Israel (or the Old Testament). Harris argues that the promises given to Abraham were fulfilled when God promised David a royal kingship forever and the temple on Mount Zion was established:

David is told he will rule over Israel 'forever' (2 Sam 7:8-17; 23:5 Ps. 89:19-37). When Davidic kings are crowned, Yahweh adopts them as 'sons,' echoing Yahweh's paternal relationship to Canaanite rulters (Ps 2;110). Because of the close bond between Yahweh and the Davidic dynasty, the authors of Chronicles can refer to the Davidic throne as God's "kingdom" (1 Chron. 17:14; 28:5; 29:11). <ref> Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible. (McGraw Hill, 2002) p 88 </ref>

Professor Hiroshi Obayashi, Former Chair and Professor of the Department of Religious Studies Rutgers, agrees with Harris and believed this created a dilemma within God's kingdom when the Israelites were involved in the diaspora, or the great scattering due to Assyrian and Babylonian occupation. The diaspora was seen as a "rejection of the entire past" by the Prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Deutero Isaiah, thus God completely rejected the history of Ancient Israel along with the creation stories of Adam and Eve <ref name=multiple40> Hiroshi Obayashi, Death and the Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions. (Praeger Publishers, 1992.) See Introduction </ref>. The prophets redefined the "covenantal religion into one of faith, justice, and love" and ushered in a new view of the afterlife after the Maccabean revolt. "This time it was not the shared suffering of all of the Jews (much like the stories in Joshua), but only those who remained loyal to the Torah who suffered and died. Thus the ancient belief of Sheol, the underworld, which summarized the common fate of all the Jews proved no longer satisfactory." <ref name=multiple40> Hiroshi Obayashi, Death and the Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions. (Praeger Publishers, 1992.) See Introduction </ref> Sheol, or a state of nothingness, was replaced by the idea of resurrection, "the most individualistic of all religious conceptions...Resurrection and apocalypticism were the answer to changing times. <ref name=multiple40> Hiroshi Obayashi, Death and the Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions. (Praeger Publishers, 1992.) See Introduction </ref>"

This new theme of resurrection is seen in the early Christian tradition. Many Christians came to understand the atonement as the theology of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of humanity. Seen in this way, they regarded the atonement as the crowning achievement of the Christian faith. It answered the theological question of why God or the Son descended on earth as a human man, born to the virgin Mary as the human baby Jesus, and the need for an intercession for the human family and paralleling the greek myth of Dionysus. The physical and spiritual mechanics of how the atonement was accomplished is thought to be outside the realm of human rationality, thus it requires faith to be believed. As a preamble to the Atonement, Christ taught love, faith, hope, kindness, forbearance, to bear one another's burdens, repentance, forgiveness, baptism, and endeavored to overcome the sins of the world through the Atonement by fulfilling the ends of the laws of heaven, which Christ is said to have established with direction from the Father. This was accomplished through his preeminent example of perfection, overcoming temptation, descending below all things (including the Crucifixion), and overcoming the world by making all things new physically (resurrection) and spiritually (salvation). Many Christian denominations believe the Atonement was finished with the suffering and execution of Christ on the cross, and still others believe it was finished with the resurrection. Nevertheless, Christians largely believe the infinite Atonement is considered to be accomplished, subsequently unlocking the gates of heaven forever to the human family.

[edit] Main theories in detail

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[edit] Christus Victor

Main article: Christus Victor

Ransom: Origen, Gregory of Nyssa

Scapegoating: William Tyndale (who invented the word from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts), René Girard, James Alison, Gerhard Förde see 'In Christianity' in Scapegoat

[edit] Physical Theory

Recapitulation: Irenaeus, Athanasius, Cappadocian Fathers, Eastern Orthodox Church

Edward Irving, T. F. Torrance

[edit] Moral Influence

  • Pierre Abélard (It is questionable whether Abélard himself taught this model of Atonement)

Hastings Rashdall

[edit] Satisfaction

Divine satisfaction: Anselm of Canterbury & Salvation in Catholicism

Penalty or Punishment satisfaction: John Calvin, Calvinism, & Imputed righteousness

Vicarious Repentance, John Mcleod Campbell, R. C. Moberly

[edit] Governmental

[edit] Ransom


[edit] Denominational Perspectives

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[edit] Roman Catholic

The Roman Catholic view is closely related to that of Divine Satisfaction.

[edit] Eastern Orthodox

Eastern Orthodoxy has a substantively different soteriology; this is sometimes cited as the core difference between Eastern and Western Christianity. The Orthodox view is closely related to the Incarnation and is thus closest to the Physical redemption theory.

[edit] Protestant

The most popular protestant view is that of Divine satisfaction, especially penal substitution. The more liberal Protestant view is closely related to that of moral influence.

[edit] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) expands the doctrine of the atonement complementary to the substitutionary atonement concept, including the following:

  • Suffering in Gethsemane. The Atonement began in Gethsemane and ended on the cross (Luke 22:44; Doctrine and Covenants 19:16–19; Book of Mormon | Mosiah 3:7; Alma 7:11–13). Christ described this agony in the Doctrine and Covenants as follows: "...how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. ...Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit..."(D&C 19:15, 18)
  • The relationship of justice, mercy, agency, and God's unconditional love. Christ's infinite atonement was required to satisfy the demands of justice based on eternal law, rendering Him our Mediator, Redeemer, and Advocate with the Father. Thus, He proffers divine mercy to the truly penitent who voluntarily come unto Him, offering them the gift of His grace to "lift them up" and "be perfected in Him" through His merits. (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2; 2 Nephi 9; Alma 12; Alma 34; Alma 42; Moroni 9:25 & 10:33) (See also Isaiah 55:1-9)
  • No need for infant baptism. Christ's atonement completely resolved the consequence from the fall of Adam of spiritual death for infants, young children and those of innocent mental capacity who die before an age of self-accountability, hence all these are resurrected to eternal life in the resurrection. However, baptism is required of those who are deemed by God to be accountable for their actions.
  • Empathetic purpose. Christ suffered pain and agony not only for the sins of all men, but also to experience their physical pains, illnesses, anguish from addictions, emotional turmoil and depression, "that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Book of Mormon | Alma 7:12) (see also Isaiah 53:4)

[edit] See also


[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] External links

es:Expiación (religión) sv:Försoningslära zh:救赎

Atonement

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