Sunday, April 5, 2015

Atonement Metaphors

Five complementary and sometimes overlapping metaphors are used in Scripture to describe different aspects of the work of Christ. This is a more helpful schema than viewing the atonement as a battleground of rival theories. The Ransom theory (popular since the early church) highlights the Slave-market and Battlefield metaphors. Anselm's Satisfaction theory reminds us of the Law-court and Temple metaphors. The more modern phraseology of "penal substitution", like the Satisfaction theory, encapsulates the force of the Law Court and Temple metaphors. Even the unpopular Moral-influence theory highlights the power of the Temple metaphor. (In some ways the temple sacrifices are a precursor to theatre, a living parable where the scapegoat suffers instead of the watching audience.) 

1 comment:

Alex Smith said...

I just came across another one - hadn't heard of it before:

"Genesis 15:9-21

God told Abraham to take a bunch of animals and split them in half, laying one half on one side of a path and the other half on the other side. A path of blood. Abraham did the killing, and he kept the birds away. That was his part. This was a depiction of the blood covenant of Abraham's day. A chieftain would force a weaker chieftain to walk the path of blood. "This is what I will do to you and all you love if you break your covenant with me." That was the message of the path of blood. God didn't do that to Abraham, though. This blood covenant was very, very different.

Abraham slept and dreamed, and as he did, he saw God in the form of a smoking oven and a burning torch pass through the halves of the animals. This was typically the path the weaker man was forced to walk. God was saying, in essence, that if the covenant was broken by either party, He would pay the penalty and make it right. Abraham's children never possessed the land -- not the spiritual land -- not in its entirety. This was their own fault; our own fault. But God had covenanted with Himself that if the covenant was breached, HE would pay the price. HE would walk the path of blood. And He did.

In so doing, He brought that old covenant to an end. He fulfilled it all. Jesus paid the price and He set us free. He has saved us from our sins, and from the death to which they lead. This was not something we participated in, just as Abraham did not participate in the blood covenant. He could not keep it; he wasn't even a party to it. He was the beneficiary. Jesus brought us all into the promised land through His sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus IS the promised land. He is the Bridegroom and the Firstborn from among the dead. Because He lives, we too shall live. He is the beginning and He is the consummation; the alpha and the omega. Give Him glory."