Discussion of the Atonement involves some of the most complex problems of Christian theology—problems that challenge a theologian’s deepest insights, dialectical skills, and painstaking expression. Nevertheless, simplicity must be the watchword, yet a simplicity that takes to itself the fullness of the New Testament affirmation that “Christ died for our sins,” and its expression in the personal faith that “Jesus died for me.”
There is the fact of the Atonement, and there are theories about the Atonement. It is patently clear that the bare historical fact of Christ’s death is not the Atonement at all; the “fact” of the Atonement is the apostolically interpreted fact that “Christ died for our sins.” This is both its simplicity and its mystery. There may be insights of the Atonement for us and our generation that the Apostles may not have seen for theirs. But the fundamental principles of the Atonement expressed in the conceptual motifs of the apostolic witness remain as valid now as then. Leonard Hodgson never tires of saying, “What must the truth have been and be, if men with their ways of thinking and speaking wrote as they did?” The reality of the Atonement both as doctrine and experience is the faith of the child or man who has learned to say trustingly, “Jesus died for me.”
THE CROSS AS SACRIFICE
Of vital significance is the emphasis in recent literature upon sacrifice as the pervading idea of the Cross. To this idea can be attached the names of scholars like Oliver Quick, C. H. Dodd, Vincent Taylor, and A. M. Hunter. Here sin is related to the sacrifice of Christ in the shedding of blood as the great and redeeming act of His life. Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of the suffering Servant role of Isaiah 53 is viewed as the norm ...1
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