Watched 2 movies lately that has inspired me – Sex and the City and Atonement.
The former a modern romance comedy and the latter, a story of love and war….
Such constrasting settings both with the common theme of ‘forgiveness’, not to mention suggestions of how love transforms as we progress into the linear dimension of Time.
No wonder I am perplexed and frustrated. My mind has been exploding with thoughts into the complex issues involved and how it relates to my life. How dare I mask this frustration with ‘boredom’?
Atonement in Christianity
Christians have used three different metaphors to understand how the atonement might work. Churches and denominations may vary in which metaphor they consider most accurately fits into their theological perspective, however all Christians emphasise that Jesus is the Saviour of the world and through his death the sins of mankind have been forgiven.
The first metaphor, epitomised by the “ransom to Satan” theory, was used by the fourth-century theologian Gregory of Nyssa based on verses such as Mark 10:45 – “the Son of Man came … to give his life as a ransom for the many”. In this metaphor Jesus liberates mankind from slavery to Satan and thus death by giving his own life as a ransom. Victory over Satan consists of swapping the life of the perfect (Jesus), for the lives of the imperfect (mankind). A variation of this view is known as the “Christus Victor” theory, and sees Jesus not used as a ransom but rather defeating Satan in a spiritual battle and thus freeing enslaved mankind by defeating the captor.
The second metaphor, used by the eleventh century theologian Anselm, is called the “satisfaction” theory. In this picture mankind owes a debt not to Satan, but to sovereign God himself. A sovereign may well be able to forgive an insult or an injury in his private capacity, but because he is a sovereign he cannot if the state has been dishonoured. Anselm argued that the insult given to God is so great that only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy and Jesus, being both God and man, was this perfect sacrifice. A variation on this theory is the commonly held Protestant “penal substitution theory,” which instead of considering sin as an affront to God’s honour, sees sin as the breaking of God’s moral law. Placing a particular emphasis on Romans 6:23 (the wages of sin is death), penal substitution sees sinful man as being subject to God’s wrath with the essence of Jesus’ saving work being his substitution in the sinner’s place, bearing the curse in the place of man (Gal. 3:13). A third variation that also falls within this metaphor is Hugo Grotius’ “governmental theory”, which sees Jesus receiving a punishment as a public example of the lengths to which God will go to uphold the moral order.
The third metaphor is that of healing, associated with Pierre Abélard in the eleventh century, and Paul Tillich in the twentieth. In this picture Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrates the extent of God’s love for us, and moved by this great act of love mankind responds and is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This view is favoured by most liberal theologians as the moral influence view, and also forms the basis for Rene Girard’s “mimetic desire” theory (not to be confused with meme theory).