The Present Work of Atonement

Came across this quote today by one of my favorite theologians and it sums up in a really nice way some of what I talked about on Easter morning:

“That Jesus died by crucifixion in first-century Palestine is as well established as any fact in his disputed life history. That his first-century followers testified to having been redeemed by him, and particularly his death and resurrection, is an even better documented historical fact. The issue is whether these facts are to be seen as mere antiquities, like the facts that Caesar crossed the Rubicon and was subsequently hailed as Emperor by the Romans, or whether the Christian facts just cited are to be seen in vital developing continuity with the living witness of persons of our own time. If the latter is true, we must hold that these lives tell us that the redemptive reality is not a mere phenomenon of the historical past, but is a significant way of life today. Of course, the mere existence of such testimony does not settle the issue – our witnesses just might be themselves deceived concerning Christian truth, or we might have misunderstood what their lives are really saying to us. The existence of their witness, however, makes Christian atonement a real issue, a live option, and confronts us with that issue here and now” (p. 148 Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology by James Wm. McClendon Jr.).

Published by Wess

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. He works at Guilford College, enjoys riding his Triumph Bonneville, and listening to music.

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