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September 26, 2004



Wow, Greg.
Thanks a lot. That's a really great way of framing the whole thing. This is helpful for my thinking.
This whole blog you have here, while I'm at it, has really been a blessing for me, giving me some of the intellectual stimulation I too rarely find time to get through some of my social circles.
Keep up the good work.

Dino Zaragoza


I completely agree with you, and believe that this view of atonement is a perspective we have lost in Evangelical/Protestant/Reformation/Catholic? Christianity. My struggle is how do we combine that with the language of subsitutionary atonement found in the text of scripture? Are you suggestiing that it has to be either/or and not both/and?

It seems to me very difficult to move completely away from substitionary atonement becasue of the parralells with the passover in the OT and Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, the idea of blood needing to be shed for forgiveness of sin (especially in Hebrews), and the NT laguage and metaphors of reconcilation and redemption being expressed through the blood, death, and cross of Jesus(Colossians 1).

Is there a a view of atonement that combines Christus Victor/Moral Influence/and Substitutionary? If there is I would tend to lean that way.

Why is there such an aversion to the aspects of substitutionary atonement? If it is not there then why such strong language about it in the scriptures?

Greg, you make an interesting and important point that the first 1000 years of Christianity had a different view of atonement, and we need to really study that and understand why, and how that bears upon us today. But just becasue the early church beleived that way doesn't mean that they were more correct in their understanding. (of course we aren't either) Many of the early church fathers used the hermeneutic of allegory when interpreting much of scripture, which turned out to be very problematic.

I guess I am in favor of balance. While the Bible is not my idol, I do believe it is the text that guides our understanding in these matters, so that is why I appeal to it. I see all three views mentioned (as well as others) in there, but I know I am not completely objective and my lens are colored.



I'll get to all your questions, but first, tell me how you understand substitutionary atonement.

Also, my point wasn't the reliability of the early church; rather, it was the inscrutability of Scripture in regard to atonement theory.

Dino Zaragoza


Let me preface my understanding by saying that I think the reality and nature of atonement is quite mysterious, and that all three views we have mentioned have serious flaws if left unchecked and not balanced out. Thus, I still consider myself in process of trying to come to a deeper understanding of what it means. Because of that I don't think one can be too dogmatic on any particular view or understanding of it.

In my understanding substitutionary atonement means satisfaction for sin must be made and dealt with because sin is an affront to God.

Part of the sacrificial system in OT was set up so the priest could make make atonement for the sin of the people,in which the shedding of blood was required in order that satisfaction could be rendered resulting in forgiveness of sin.

Hebrews 10 describes this and connects the sacrificial system of the OT(which confusingly really was ineffective to forgive sin) to the sacrifice of Christ as the one sacrifice to forgive the sins of humanity effective for all time.

Christ paid our debt through his death (which we were incapable of paying within ourselves because of our sin)in order that satisfcation or atonement for sin could be made and justice be done. Jesus thus becomes a representation of humanity , where Christ stands in for us provisionally but yet at the same time does not divest us of our responsibility.

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