Heim on Atonement

Posted: June 28, 2007 in books, quotes, theology

Saved From SacrificeAfter spending the spring reading some missional literature, I’m finally getting to S. Mark Heim’s Saved From Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. Honestly, my tribe doesn’t talk all that much about atonement theories. We figure God saved us and we’re pretty happy with that. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the more thought provoking comments of Heim’s as I work through the book. Note: My quotation of Heim does not necessarily mean that I’m endorsing those comments, but rather that I found them intriguing. Plus, they are out of context and at the outset of the book Heim is arguing various perspectives!

“Is this God’s plan, to become a human being and die, so that God won’t have to destroy us instead? Is it God’s prescription to have Jesus suffer for sins he did not commit so God can forgive the sins we do commit? That’s the wrong side of the razor. Jesus was already preaching the forgiveness of sins and forgiving before he died. He did not have to wait until after the resurrection to do that. Blood is not acceptable to God as a means of uniting human community or a price for God’s favor. Christ sheds his own blood to end that way (scapegoating) of trying to mend our divisions. Jesus’ death isn’t necessary because God has to have innocent blood to solve the guilt equation. Redemptive violence is our equation. Jesus didn’t volunteer to get into God’s justice machine. God volunteered to get into ours. God used our own sin to save us.”

“If a debt is owed to God, why can’t God simply forgive it, as Jesus apparently counsels others to do? If God is ransoming us from other powers, why does God have to submit to their terms? If this is God’s wise and compassionate plan for salvation, why does it require such violence.”

“A theology that has the heavenly Father punish his innocent son to redeem the world looks uncomfortably to some like a charter for child abuse, with an innocent son sent to bear the wrath of a “heavenly father” to make things right for the entire extended family. Who ultimately administers the torments of crucifixion, ‘for everyone’s good,’ if not the God whose redemptive plan requires it? Critics find cross-centered atonement faith of Christianity a toxic nexus of guil, retribution, and violence, twisting everything it touches, from gender relations and systems.”

  1. Quossum says:

    Crud, I forgot to close the html tags. Please feel free to fix that, Sean! Sorry!


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