Thursday, March 31, 2005
Did Jesus suffer for our sins?
Mark Heim, who teaches theology at Andover Newton Theological School and whose classes I've always kicked myself for not taking when I was a student at HDS, reviews seven books on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement in last week's Christian Century. (Substitutionary atonement: Jesus "paid the price" for your sins.) Unitarian Universalists may be pleased to see the positive reception of Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker's Proverbs of Ashes, which Heim says avoids the problems that plague many "first-person approaches to controversial subjects" in a way that is "neither bitter nor dogmatic." If you'd like a sample of the book's argument and approach, UU World excerpted part of their book back in 2002; I also interviewed the authors for that issue. Heim recommends their book for anyone who thinks there's nothing wrong with the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.
He describes Robert Sherman's King, Priest and Prophet: A Trinitarian Theology of Atonement as the most useful perspective:
Sherman reminds us that from a systematic theological perspective, the [substitutionary] doctrine was never meant to stand alone. King, Priest, and Prophet reviews the substitutionary approach to Christís death along with other major historical optionsóthose that see it as an exemplary illustration of Godís love, those that see it as a victory over evil powers. He concludes that the faults of any one are addressed when they are coordinated together, and an explicitly trinitarian theology is the framework necessary to do this. Theology, liturgy or devotion narrowed to the resources or images from only one of these approaches will necessarily be distorted. Someone who wants a map of the entire landscape would do well to start with Shermanís book . . .
Heim also has grateful things to say about Hans Boersma's provocative Violence, Hospitality and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition.
("Cross Purposes," S. Mark Heim, Christian Century 3.22.05)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 31 March 2005 at 8:04 PM