Some Christians today are nervous about the Atonement. They think that we can know little or nothing about how God has been righteous and yet he "justified the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5) at the same time. Especially because of the doctrine's associations with "the wrath of God" and "punishment" and other harsh language, they would prefer to leave the question of How? in the sphere of theory and speculation, if it is to be handled at all.

About such people theologian James Denney said, "They profess to believe in the fact of the Atonement, but they despair of finding any theory of it. There are even some who glory in this situation; it is not with despair, but with triumph, that they find in the very heart of the gospel a mystery which is simply insoluble, in the very focus of revelation a spot of pure impenetrable black."

Mystery is all well and good, but I fear that the hesitation to be clear in this doctrine robs us of something important. We may not want to go too far, but surely we may go as far as the Bible itself takes us. When we do, we have the joy of learning from the Lord himself something of how the death of his Son has brought forgiveness and redemption. We cannot understand it all, but what he gives us illumines all the rest, and gives us a proper and an amazing sense of satisfaction that at heart of the universe, there is a just and gracious God.

Core words


Let us remember who Jesus is. Paul says that the rulers of this age "crucified the Lord of glory"; they put God to death. We know that the one they crucified was the man Jesus Christ, but we know too that he was both God and man. In his coming and in his life and in his death, we do not see the fragmentation of God but the work of God, the Father and the Son and the ...

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