Posts Tagged ‘atonement’

Hymns, Theology, and Thoughts on Atonement

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

By now most people surfing the net have read and forgotten about the decision by the committee for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to drop “In Christ Alone” from the new hymnal. Numerous blogs were written in July and August some by friends and colleagues of mine challenging the decision.

The offending line was “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied,” in particular, the verb “to satisfy.” The verb, whether intentional or not, pointed toward Anselm of Canterbury’s understanding of the atonement as satisfaction and it was Anselm’s idea that the committee did not like. The chair of the committee Mary Louise Bringle was quoted as saying, “People think that we’ve taken the wrath of God out of the hymnal. That’s not the case. It’s all over the hymnal. The issue was the word ‘satisfied.’” Bringle also has an article in Christian Century in which she elaborates on some of the committee’s discussion.

Part of the problem is a rather long-standing confusion between Anselm’s understanding of satisfaction and the Protestant Reformation intensification of Anselm’s idea, which is better known as penal substitution. Although they belong to a family of atonement theories, they represent different takes on a basic idea: Jesus’ death paid a debt for sin that set things right with God.

Another problem is the lengthy debate carried out in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries over penal substitution as a viable model for the atonement.

While I’m not planning to enter into all of this, it does provide a good place to ask consider again how we might understand the atoning work of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »

Evangelicalism — and the Renewal of Christianity

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 by Amos Yong

evangelicalThe question of What is Evangelicalism? rages on. For me, David Bebbington’s by now classic “quadrilateral” definition – in which the defining features of Evangelicalism include its biblicism, crucicentrism, activism, and conversionism – remains an adequate starting point. However, so many other variables come into play, which lead to disputes, even among those who can agree on these four elements, about what else is requisite to an evangelical identity. I want to suggest what might be called a pentecostal or renewalist spin on these Bebbingtonian characteristics. (I use “pentecostal,” “charismatic,” and “renewalist” synonymously in what follows and in the rest of this blog series.) Such a twist, as will be clear, does not negate these central markers but is indicative of their evolving character. Read the rest of this entry »

Further Reflections on “Approaching” Hell

Monday, June 6th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The Great River of Christian Tradition

Last week I wrote against what I identified as the Ida Syndrome (the Ice Dancing Approach to scripture). With its attempt to glide across the expanse of scriptural texts, I described this approach as a more sophisticated version of proof-texting. Its basic components are as follows: 1) mistakenly equating depth as a well-choreographed assembling of scriptural texts or isolating a particular trajectory within scripture; 2) selective reading of parts of Christian tradition as somehow supporting the whole; 3) a failure to understand the underlying ideas and structural relations between various doctrines within Christian tradition; 4) a fracturing of the narrative whole of scripture in favor of supporting a particular position.

These components continue to work into the interpretive project within evangelicalism as the continuing debate about hell reveals. And let me be a little bold here: Sometimes, and I did say sometimes, an embrace of the Ida Syndrome really amounts to a lack of theological imagination, by which I mean a failure to allow the great river of Christian tradition to fill the mind with images and ideas that provide the foundation for interpreting scripture. I have found that some theologians or thinkers who claim, “it’s not a logical or rational position,” simply lack the imagination to see (in Johannine terms) how something could be the case. They fall back onto “logic,” but what counts as logical is not what follows the rules of logic, but what they imaginatively conceive as possible. This is one reason why Christian writers like Dante or even C. S. Lewis reverted to mythical and poetical accounts in order to place Christian ideas into a new imaginative framework so as to reveal what is indeed possible.

With this in mind, let me further identify some of the doctrines that are related to the doctrine of hell and the questions it poses.

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Rob Bell and Hell

Friday, March 4th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The Bell saga, which is only a “saga” in the 24-hour news cycle world in which we live, continues. In light of the chorus of voices surrounding Bell’s statements that “love wins” and his casting doubt on someone’s certainty that Gandhi is in hell, I thought I would say a few words about hell, and then point you to the long discussion of hell by Jason Wermuth on this site, which begins here. My aim is simply to set forth some basic ideas that all synergists would embrace because I think the Bell saga provides a nice moment to reflect on these ideas.

Read the rest of this entry »