Monday, November 16, 2020

Romans 13 and Approaching the Atonement

 A write-up about church today, followed by a brief book write-up:

A. Bible study was about Romans 13, in which Paul exhorts Christians to submit to the governing authorities. Paul’s exhortation is in line with the fourth commandment, which, in Lutheranism, is “Honor your father and your mother.” The primary unit of society is the family, with the parents at the head. Because a parent cannot govern an entire nation or congregation, parents devolve their authority to governments and pastors, respectively. The governing authorities, in effect, serve as the parents of the nation, and pastors act as parents to the church. God gives governing authorities as a gift, that there might be societal order. Christians are to obey this order, so long as the Gospel is not at stake or the State’s law does no harm to one’s neighbor. Because Christians may arrive at different conclusions as to what policies do this, refusal to obey the State is a matter of personal conscience, based not on selfishness but rather on love of God and neighbor. Luther taught the doctrine of two realms: there is the realm of the State and the realm of the Gospel and the church. Both can support each other, but they are separate realms. Calvin, by contrast, sought to create the Kingdom of God on earth, with the governing authorities serving as priests. Such a mindset influenced America, particularly the Puritanical conception of New England as a new Israel and as a city on a hill, manifesting God’s righteousness to the nations.

B. Oliver D. Crisp. Approaching the Atonement: The Reconciling Work of Christ. IVP, 2020. See here to purchase the book.

Oliver D. Crisp is professor of analytic theology at the University of St. Andrews. This book covers different models of the atonement, as well as attempts to integrate them with one another.

This book is not a mere rehash of atonement models. Crisp probes deeper, as he asks how each model accomplishes atonement. When he discusses Irenaeus’s doctrine of recapitulation, that Christ in the incarnation recreated humanity, Crisp inquires how exactly the incarnation did so. Crisp also draws distinctions. He states that the ransom model is technically distinct from the story that God fooled Satan through Christ’s death, causing Satan to overreach. Crisp also distinguishes between Anselm’s satisfaction model and penal substitution. Penal substitution is based on Anselm but is distinct from his model, for Anselm depicted Christ paying a price owed by sinners (death) with abundant merit, whereas penal substitution states that Christ was actually punished in place of sinners. Crisp’s step-by-step articulation of Anselm’s model impressively demonstrates how intricate it is. Ultimately, Crisp seems to lean towards a “union with Christ” model, in which believers, by union with Christ, become transformed humanity and are seen by God as righteous.

Crisp’s chapter on whether the atonement glorifies violence could have been better, for it fails really to account for why God would choose a violent means to reconcile humanity with him. Perhaps the book also would have been stronger had Crisp addressed how the cross humiliates powers and principalities, a la Colossians 2:15. Still, the book is excellent due to its nuanced discussion.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

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