Another lovely day here. The return to work was greatly eased by the fact that every time I looked up from my computer, a new creature had arrived: first finch and pigeons, then pheasants, crows, rabbits, and robins. All keeping Molly entertained with their mating games.
And in between times: cur deus homo? A quick review of various theories of atonement in preparation for tomorrow’s sermon.
What? Atonemet on the Second Sunday of Easter? I know it’s unlikely, but with all the fuss in the media over Jeffry John (and because this time it’s about what he thinks rather than what he may or may not do) it seemed worth a mention.
My memory of my first term of theology is that it was all about atonement. The lecturer denies this, saying it was a balanced course, but I’ve never been convinced (it was an excellent course, but that’s not the same thing). Day after day: a theory of atonement. And day after day: a reason why that theory didn’t quite work. It was only as I revised for the exam that I realise that none of them worked and if you tried to hold them all together, they clashed terribly.
So the trick is to slip all the pieces into the theological kaleidoscope and hope that something beautiful emerges from the mix. In the end, I found that was possibly only by adding a good dose of Incarnational Theology, a dash of Trinity, and turning the whole thing to the East.
But this is hard to talk about in a sermon. The language of atonement is complex, the traditional images too familiar, and the ready assumption is that we already know what it means. There is also a common fear that if we question, we will get lost — that old images will break and new images will be slow to take their place.
So, I hope that the sermon will be a throwing down of the gauntlet. Then, I’ll try to offer very brief (and therefore over-simplistic) summaries of atonement theories here, for all of us to bat around and mull over.
Out of season? I don’t think so. Rather an excercise in making sense of the great acclaimation: Alleluia, Christ is Risen.