From Atonement to At-One-Ment

You may be familiar with the word Atonement. Traditionally, Atonement is commonly understood as substitutionary atonement, a theological theory that Jesus suffered crucifixion as a substitute for human sin, satisfying God’s just wrath against man’s transgression due to Christ’s infinite merit. This theory depicts God as angry, filled with judgment, waiting to carry out punishment on his created ones. It presents Jesus as the “scapegoat” taking on the sins of mankind.

There is another understanding of atonement that has been around since the first century, called Christus Victor (Latin for “Christ is victorious”). This explanation of atonement argues that Christ’s death is God’s victory over sin and death. God conquers death by fully entering into it. Thus, the crucifixion is not a necessary transaction to appease a wrathful and justice-demanding deity, but an act of divine love.

The Early Church Fathers believed that the Cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. It was not about a payment of penalty to a wrathful God. No, the Cross was the pinnacle of the battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. Because of this victory you and I get to live a life of at-one-ment with God.

Brennan Manning in his book, The Furious Longing of God, explains it this way: “On the Cross Jesus surrenders in trusting, obedient love to His Abba, and then rises from the ground, not as a trapped animal (paying the penalty to a wrathful Father), but completely at one with the Father; atonement – at-one-ment in the furious love of God.” This is a very different understanding of what happened on the Cross than is presented in substitutionary atonement theology.

As we walk through Holy Week together we have an invitation to move from atonement to at-one-ment with God. Sin and death has been conquered and there is no wrathful Father that needed to be appeased. You are I are clean, forgiven, and whole. Our hearts are good, they matter to God and we can live today at-one with the God of all things!

2 thoughts on “From Atonement to At-One-Ment

  1. I really like this idea. There’s something very good and very freeing in this. I believe it expresses a much more clear and much broader view of the infinite love of an infinitely good father. The only concern I have is that it opens a door to legitimize ultimate reconciliation, which in my view, absolves humanity of any God-ward responsibility. It almost sounds like because of Jesus’s at-one-ment humanity gets a pass. There remains a place for repentance and holiness. God won it but I still struggle to see Him hand it to knowingly and willfully wicked humans who live and die with no concern for a connection with the Father.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I really like what you said about repentance and holiness. It’s hard to believe sometimes that we are seen as fully reconciled, holy and blameless because of Jesus, it’s remarkable! Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. One of my mentors once said of Col 1:20-23 “All been reconciled! The problem is that not all have recognized that this has happened.” May you and I recognize this reality and invite others to believe that they too are reconciled!

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