What Did the Cross Accomplish?
A Conversation about the Atonement
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In this book, readers will enjoy a fascinating and cordial discussion between N. T. Wright and Simon Gathercole on the meaning and nature of the doctrine of atonement. These two highly respected scholars discuss in clear and understandable language the meanings of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Their discussion explores various theories of atonement and looks closely at the Old Testament to discover Paul's meaning of his words that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures."
Wright presents his case first, then Gathercole responds with a contrary point of view. Their discussion confronts questions including: What exactly is this "scandal of the cross"? What role does the notion of sacrifice, as understood in its ancient context, play in the atonement of Christ? Is the atonement a "victory"? How so? Was Christ a "substitute," taking humankind's place on the cross and suffering the death and judgment that sinners deserve? How does the death of Christ on the cross rescue or liberate sinners from death? Does the cross achieve benefits for only humans, or do those benefits extend to the entirety of creation?
This book is a succinct conversation in which all these questions receive attention, with nuanced differences between the two interlocutors. This conversation along with Robert Stewart's introductory framework make this book an excellent primer to the study of the atonement, and readers will come away with a deeper understanding of the meanings of the cross.
'This heady conversation among serious theologians who are good humored, agile, and erudite is a model for how the church thinks. The topic of atonement remains a mystery beyond formulation, which of course is why the church has never pronounced definitively on the theme. In the meantime the pondering of these theologians lets us see (1) how faithful thinking is done, (2) how thick the claim of Christ is, and (3) how serious generous interpretation is generative of new possibility. This is a welcome conversation that sketches out imaginative scenarios for future work. The practice of this book is one of deep faith and bold thinking, just what the church must now undertake in fresh ways.' — Walter Brueggemann, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary