Propitiation and Expiation

Debates surrounding atonement theology over the last several decades have centered on two terms, propitiation and expiation.  Both of these terms describe the function of particular sacrificial rituals.  There is not, of necessity, a conflict between the core meanings of these two terms.  They have come, however, to be emblematic of entire theological positions regarding the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Clearing away the accumulated theological baggage from these terms, however, allows them to highlight two important elements of the sacrificial system described in the Hebrew scriptures which will, in turn, reveal elements of the Gospels’ portrayal of Christ’s atoning death.  Rather than summarizing two incompatible views or options or theories regarding “how atonement works,” these elements, along with others, convey…

The Wrath of God

The wrath of God is a topic unpopular in the present era.  Much theological ink has been spilled in the modern period in an attempt to explain away or otherwise neutralize the idea, despite its clear presence in the scriptures and in the writings of the fathers.  An entire fully developed complex of ideas in later Western theology, including not only God’s wrath but also a particular conception of his justice and of penal substitution, is seen by many modern commentators as an inextricably linked whole.  This complex idea is then caricatured in various ways and rejected wholesale.  To reject the teaching of the church at the foundation, however, along with the later erroneous edifice built upon it is to…

Atonement

Over the next several weeks, posts will examine the Biblical concept of atonement from several angles in an attempt to synthesize the teaching of the scriptures on this topic.  Before delving into the teaching of particular portions of the scriptures it is important to have a working definition of what “atonement” is in the first place and how the terms in the original languages of scripture which are translated by this English word are used in a general sense.  There also needs to be a certain amount of disambiguation regarding common popular uses of the term in Western theology and popular Christian discussion.  Many of these usages import concepts and theological notions which postdate the scriptures by centuries.  The “reading…