Problems with Atonement: The Origins Of, and Controversy About, the Atonement Doctrine

Liturgical Press
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The origins of atonement are found in Paul's writings. Popular Christian theology has understood them to mean that God demanded a bloody victim to pay for human sin. In Problems with Atonement Stephen Finlan examines the Christian doctrine of atonement and current debates about it. He considers its biblical foundation in Pauline texts, the Old Testament background, and the theological questions under discussion about atonement. He provides ancient historical background and raises questions, such as whether the Incarnation must be understood through the lens of atonement.

Chapters are Chapter 1: Sacrifice and Scapegoat," "Chapter 2: Paul's Use of Cultic Imagery," "Chapter 3: Atonement afterPaul," "Chapter 4: Rationalizing the Atonement Doctrine," and "Chapter 5: The Incarnation."

Stephen Finlan, PhD, is an adjunct professor of New Testament at Seton Hall University and Fordham University. He is the author of The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors (Society of Biblical Culture, 2004).

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In his previous book, Problems with Atonement, Stephen Finlan compellingly argues that the doctrine of atonement has been more a stumbling block to a true understanding of the relationship between God and humanity than a genuine explanation of how we relate to God and God to us. Options on Atonement reprises these arguments briefly, then looks more closely at the solutions to the problem offered by a variety of modern interpreters. Finlan?s focus in this volume is on revelation, on the ?gradual human absorption of and interpretation of revelation received from God,? the maturing of human cultures, and especially the light shed by modern family systems psychology. At a time when public debates rage over the notion of evolution in the natural world, this book asserts that our understanding of divine revelation is likewise subject to evolution. If religion itself does not evolve, the author asserts, we are left only with an unsatisfactory choice: to remain mired in the past, or to repudiate all that is past, including our Scriptures. Will that be our choice? Or can we resolve to examine our traditions, including that of the atonement, in the light of new knowledge? Stephen Finlan chooses to do just that. ?Finlan expertly untangles the various concepts of atonement in the Bible and teases out their different theological assumptions and implications. While demonstrating that atonement doctrines inevitably attribute violence and injustice to God, the author argues persuasively that none of the atonement thinking in Christianity derives from the historical Jesus. As Finlan charts the spiritual and psychological damage in which atonement thinking is implicated and the human violence it can incite, he offers a theological alternative based on the teachings of Jesus. Built on solid erudition and driven by a moral purpose, Options on Atonement invites Christians to move beyond violent images of God while keeping faith with their biblical tradition.? Robert J. Miller Professor of Religious Studies Juniata College ?Finlan?s Options on Atonement in Christian Thought is an amazing tour de force that challenges its reader to keep the pieces of the doctrinal puzzle together in the way that its author has done. Beginning with a carefully nuanced survey of biblical precedents, moving through the multiplicity of Paul?s images, and passing in review the insights of competing theological opinions, the author puts all the elements before the mind?s eye of the reader. Then, the expression of his own evocative theory puts the pieces together and leads the reader to stand back and contemplate with awe.? Raymond F. Collins Warren-Blanding Professor of Religion Professor of New Testament The Catholic University of America?Stephen Finlan argues for the rejection of blood sacrifice and all related themes, such as payment of debt and penal substitution, in the Christian doctrine of salvation. Options on Atonement is an important work which should stimulate reflection and stir up theological debate. It will be of particular interest to a growing number of theologians and ethicists who are concerned to articulate and practice a theology of peacemaking. James G. Williams, author of The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred and editor of The Girard Reader
Much of the popular understanding of the apostle Paul has been shaped, not by Paul's letters themselves, but by the Acts of the Apostles. This understanding, many believe, leads to misunderstanding Paul's theology. In The Apostle Paul and the Pauline Tradition Stephen Finlan takes a new approach, focusing on the letters themselves. He views the Pauline tradition as including the teachings and writings of Paul himself, the assimilation and often simplification of Paul's ideas by those who followed him and then wrote letters in his name, and the final form of the letters the church has labeled as Paul's. Through this broad, shifting, and expanding notion of tradition, readers will explore with Finlan such questions as: ' What did Paul really think 'and write 'about Jesus, redemption, and the Christian life?
' Who were the original audiences that first received these texts?
' How and how much did Paul's followers change his ideas in the letters they wrote for" him?

Finlan is convinced that this educated questioning and investigating becomes a valid part of the life of faith 'not replacing faith, but joined to it. Through his accessibly written text, readers in the end will understand and agree.

Stephen Finlan, PhD, is an adjunct professor at Drew University and has taught at Fordham. He is also author of Problems with Atonement and Options on Atonement in Christian Thought (both published by Liturgical Press) as well as The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors (SBL and Brill, 2004).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Liturgical Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 2005
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Pages
144
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ISBN
9780814652206
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Christian Theology / Soteriology
Religion / General
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In his previous book, Problems with Atonement, Stephen Finlan compellingly argues that the doctrine of atonement has been more a stumbling block to a true understanding of the relationship between God and humanity than a genuine explanation of how we relate to God and God to us. Options on Atonement reprises these arguments briefly, then looks more closely at the solutions to the problem offered by a variety of modern interpreters. Finlan?s focus in this volume is on revelation, on the ?gradual human absorption of and interpretation of revelation received from God,? the maturing of human cultures, and especially the light shed by modern family systems psychology. At a time when public debates rage over the notion of evolution in the natural world, this book asserts that our understanding of divine revelation is likewise subject to evolution. If religion itself does not evolve, the author asserts, we are left only with an unsatisfactory choice: to remain mired in the past, or to repudiate all that is past, including our Scriptures. Will that be our choice? Or can we resolve to examine our traditions, including that of the atonement, in the light of new knowledge? Stephen Finlan chooses to do just that. ?Finlan expertly untangles the various concepts of atonement in the Bible and teases out their different theological assumptions and implications. While demonstrating that atonement doctrines inevitably attribute violence and injustice to God, the author argues persuasively that none of the atonement thinking in Christianity derives from the historical Jesus. As Finlan charts the spiritual and psychological damage in which atonement thinking is implicated and the human violence it can incite, he offers a theological alternative based on the teachings of Jesus. Built on solid erudition and driven by a moral purpose, Options on Atonement invites Christians to move beyond violent images of God while keeping faith with their biblical tradition.? Robert J. Miller Professor of Religious Studies Juniata College ?Finlan?s Options on Atonement in Christian Thought is an amazing tour de force that challenges its reader to keep the pieces of the doctrinal puzzle together in the way that its author has done. Beginning with a carefully nuanced survey of biblical precedents, moving through the multiplicity of Paul?s images, and passing in review the insights of competing theological opinions, the author puts all the elements before the mind?s eye of the reader. Then, the expression of his own evocative theory puts the pieces together and leads the reader to stand back and contemplate with awe.? Raymond F. Collins Warren-Blanding Professor of Religion Professor of New Testament The Catholic University of America?Stephen Finlan argues for the rejection of blood sacrifice and all related themes, such as payment of debt and penal substitution, in the Christian doctrine of salvation. Options on Atonement is an important work which should stimulate reflection and stir up theological debate. It will be of particular interest to a growing number of theologians and ethicists who are concerned to articulate and practice a theology of peacemaking. James G. Williams, author of The Bible, Violence, and the Sacred and editor of The Girard Reader
Much of the popular understanding of the apostle Paul has been shaped, not by Paul's letters themselves, but by the Acts of the Apostles. This understanding, many believe, leads to misunderstanding Paul's theology. In The Apostle Paul and the Pauline Tradition Stephen Finlan takes a new approach, focusing on the letters themselves. He views the Pauline tradition as including the teachings and writings of Paul himself, the assimilation and often simplification of Paul's ideas by those who followed him and then wrote letters in his name, and the final form of the letters the church has labeled as Paul's. Through this broad, shifting, and expanding notion of tradition, readers will explore with Finlan such questions as: ' What did Paul really think 'and write 'about Jesus, redemption, and the Christian life?
' Who were the original audiences that first received these texts?
' How and how much did Paul's followers change his ideas in the letters they wrote for" him?

Finlan is convinced that this educated questioning and investigating becomes a valid part of the life of faith 'not replacing faith, but joined to it. Through his accessibly written text, readers in the end will understand and agree.

Stephen Finlan, PhD, is an adjunct professor at Drew University and has taught at Fordham. He is also author of Problems with Atonement and Options on Atonement in Christian Thought (both published by Liturgical Press) as well as The Background and Content of Paul's Cultic Atonement Metaphors (SBL and Brill, 2004).

"
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