Friday, April 6, 2012

The At-one-ment for this Holy Weekend

Thomas Torrance elucidates the Atonement for us during this solemn time of reflecting on this very act of God in Christ for us, At-one-ment!

[S]everal comments on this understanding of Christ’s sacrifice may be in place. While traditional forensic language is used, the atoning sacrifice is not to be understood as fulfilled by Christ merely as man (which would imply a Nestorian Christology), but of Christ as the one Mediator between God and man who is himself God and man in one Person. This means that ‘the joyful atonement made between God and man by Christ Jesus, by his death, resurrection and ascension’, is not to be understood in any sense as the act of the man Jesus placating God the Father, but as a propitiatory sacrifice in which God himself through the death of his dear Son draws near to man and draws man near to himself. It is along these lines also that we must interpret the statement of the Scots Confession that Christ ‘suffered in body and soul to make the full satisfication for the sins of the people’, for in the Cross God accepts the sacrifice made by Christ, whom he did not spare but delivered him up for us all, as satisfaction, thereby acknowledging his own bearing of the world’s sin guilt and judgment as the atonement. As Calvin pointed out in a very important passage, God does not love us because of what Christ has done, but it is because he first loved us that he came in Christ in order through atoning sacrifice in which God himself does not hold himself aloof but suffers in and with Christ to reconcile us to himself. Nor is there any suggestion that this atoning sacrifice was offered only for some people and not for all, for that would imply that he who became incarnate was not God the Creator in whom all men and women live and move and have their being, and that Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour was not God and man in the one Person, but only an instrument in the hands of the Father for the salvation of a chosen few. In other words, a notion of limited atonement implies a Nestorian heresy in which Jesus Christ is not really God and man united in one Person. It must be added that the perfect response offered by Jesus Christ in life and death to God in our place and on our behalf, contains and is the pledge of our response. Just as the union of God and man in Christ holds good in spite of all the contradiction of our sin under divine judgment, so his vicarious response holds good for us in spite of our unworthiness: ‘not I but Christ’. . . . (T. F. Torrance: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell,” 18-19)

A lot here! This would be the way I, as an Evangelical Calvinist, would understand what is going on in the Atoning work of Christ. You see an implicit critique of Federal Calvinism by Torrance in the quote. The fear is that classic Calvinism does not go far enough in thinking into and then out of the atonement; that is to say that if the atonement was merely meeting the conditions required by a legal penal substitutionary theory of the atonement, alone; then Christ's atoning work did not do the deed that was really required to reconcile us to God. That is, we don't just need our bad behaviors paid for (although this is an aspect); we need new hearts (at least that's what the Apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 3). So we need our ontology rearranged, or better, recreated in the and through the vicarious and victorious humanity of Christ. We contemplate his death today and tomorrow, but look forward to the resurrection this early Sunday! The Good News is that Jesus entered into the depths of our humanity and changed us from the inside out; from the guts and all the way down.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.