OK, I've got my Christian Theology reader handy (Alister McGrath, third edition) and I'd like to discuss atonement theology. I'll preface by saying that I'm interested in this topic because there are some flavors of atonement theory that I find unhelpful, to say the least. One being the theory predominant in American Protestant churchs, that of substitutionary atonement. I think what I find most distasteful about it that it implies that God requires a human sacrfice in order to forgive. Anyway, perhaps through this discussion I can learn more about this theory of atonement. Right. So I'll start by giving a couple of atonement doctrines and from there we can explore these and add others. 1. The cross as a sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice on the cross was able to do completely what animal sacrifices in the OT could only do in part, and thus needed to be repeated. I think that it is this concept that lead to the idea of substitutionary atonement alluded to above. I have no trouble with the idea of Christ giving himself up in self-sacrifice, but I have a harder time accepting that it was God demanding this sacrifice in order to forgive us. A quote: 2. The cross as a victory. This theory centers on a number of themes that point to a decisive victory over the forces of evil and oppression. One aspect of the victory theory is that of Christ's death as a ransom. The ransom theory, however, creates certain 'issues,' namely, 1) a ransom implies that someone is held captive (OK, I can see this, we are captive to our sin, brokenness, incompleteness), 2) payment is required (again with the payment! seems to forget about grace), and 3) someone to whom the payment is given (Satan, giving Satan somewhat more power and credit than fits with my understanding of Satan; seems to give Satan some power over God). So, the Victory theory, like the Sacrifice theory, has a lot of heavy-weight proponents among the early church fathers. Origen, Gregory the Great. I am much more attracted to the idea of Christ's work on the cross achieving a victory over death, sin, than I am to the idea that God required some kind of payment. The only problem is, well, exactly how was that victory achieved? One way I very much like it phrased is this: that Christ's self-sacrificial love, perfect non-resistance to the evil that WE poured out onto him, that love was so strong that it conquered death and extinguished evil. Maybe like a fire sucking all the oxygen right out of the room. Although I don't have the reference handy, I am pretty sure I got this image of Christ's Victory from reading NT Wright. The Victory theory lost appeal with the age of the Enlightenment, primarily because of it's emphasis on the devil. I think perhaps today we have a new theory of Victory atonement being developed by theologians such as NT Wright. The Victory theory also seems very adaptable to the ideas of liberal theologians, if Paul Tillich and Rudolg Bultmann are considered to be in this category. A nice quote from Oxford theologian Paul Fiddes: At the end of the day I don't think we really understand how atonement 'works.' It is of the realm of Mystery. It is our choice to trust in the truth of that Mystery, and to follow Christ as best we can, and know that our salvation lies most essentially in being united with him. Have at it!