Ever since I read Gerhard Forde’s locus on the atonement in Braaten’s and Jenson’s Christian Dogmatics in the mid-80s, I have not been able to subscribe to any of the popular Western theories that seek to explain the atoning work of Christ on the cross.
One of Gerhard Forde’s distinctive contributions was his thinking on the work of Christ. His essay by that name appears in Braaten and Jenson’s Christian Dogmatics. He also discusses it in several essays in the collection A More Radical Gospel. His essay “Caught in the Act: Reflections on the Work of Christ” can be found here.
Forde says that the problem with the traditional theories of the atonement (Anselmian satisfaction, Abelardian moral exemplar, and Christus Victor) is that they direct our attention away from the murder of Jesus by making his death an element in a system or theory that purports to show why it was “necessary.” For instance, Jesus’ death was necessary to “satisfy” God’s justice or wrath or honor, or it was necessary to provide us with an example of perfect love, or to defeat the demonic powers that hold us in thrall. But, he…
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