Project Augustine

Chapter 8 – Part II: “The Work of Christ and the Resurrection”

  1. In your personal life (both past and present) how have you viewed the cross or Christ’s atonement?  Were you offended?  Indifferent?  Moved?  Angered?  Filled with wonder?  Confused?

  2. On pages 182 – 186, Migliore describes the three major theories of atonement – the Christ the Victor, the satisfaction theory, and the moral influence theory.  What do you think is the strongest model and why?  Or are all lacking in some aspect?
    1. Christ the Victor – work of atonement is a struggle b/w God and evil; Christ is the bait for the evil forces; but Christ fools them through the cross and resurrection
      1. Positives: Emphasizes reality and power of evil in human life; God achieves victory without brute force but through love
      2. Negatives: Christ as “bait” reduces Christ’s humanity; battle with Satan undermines the awareness of human responsibility for its sinful condition, thereby people are just cosmic spectators
    2. Satisfaction theory – from Anselm – the vicarious suffering of Christ on our behalf as the suffering servant (Isaiah 53); God is like a feudal lord and humans like his serfs, so if the serfs disobey either satisfaction or punishment must follow; the satisfaction due to God is infinite so no normal human being can do this, therefore God himself must provide it.  Christ as God-man can do this and sinners are forgiven.
      1. Positives: humanity of Christ is more prominent; the seriousness of sin and the huge price that must be paid
      2. Negatives: Sets God in contradiction to Godself; mercy and justice are brought on a collision course; grace is conditional on satisfaction; “child abuse” when God punishes His innocent Son for another persons’ sins
    3. Moral Influence/Exemplarist theory – through Abelard – Christ reconciles humanity through love; Christ shows God’s love to us in such a compelling way that it moves us to compassion and respond with wonder and gratitude; by a person’s positive response to this it’s counted as an act of faith
      1. Strengths: Emphasizes the unconditional nature and transforming power of God’s love and the importance of our response
      2. Weaknesses: There might be a tendency of sentimentalizing God’s love, underestimate the power of evil in the world, and depicts Jesus as merely a good example to follow
      3. “A God without wrath brought people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” – Richard Niebuhr
    4. Can God’s justice and his love and grace ever be reconciled?  Can you see the dilemma?
    5. What model do you normally gravitate towards if and when you share the gospel with others or in your own understanding of the gospel?
    6. Migliore’s second point: “The atoning work of Christ encompasses the whole gospel story: his ministry, teaching, cross, and resurrection.  None of these should be omitted or isolated from the others.” (p. 187)

  3. On the top of page 189, he describes how brutally violent the world is – a world filled with crime, death, abuse, rape, exploitation, war, genocide, terrorism, etc.  But this was the stage where the drama of salvation is played out, and Jesus’ message and ministry was bound to clash with this violent world.  So Jesus was bound to suffer – he must suffer.  He writes that “it was divine ‘necessity’” that Jesus Christ be utterly vulnerable to the violence of the world.  Could Jesus’ violent death been avoided?  Could there have been a bloodless atonement?  Was it a damned-if-you-do or damned-if-you-don’t situation for Jesus?

  4. On page 189, he mentions the part in the Apostle’s Creed where it states that Christ “descended into hell.”  Do you believe this in a literal sense or agree with Calvin and Barth’s interpretation that it “refers to the terrible experience of loneliness and abandonment that Christ experienced for our sake on the cross, a terror far greater than his physical agonies alone”?
    1. On page 191, “God has not undergone the cross in order to eternalize it and deprive us of all hope.  On the contrary, God has assumed it b/c God means to put an end to all the crosses of history.” – Boff, Passion of Christ, Passion of the World

  5. On pages 191 and 192, he writes that the Resurrection cannot be demonstrated by historical research.  Does that bother you that the Resurrection cannot be proved 100% historically true, despite all the “evidence” apologists and Christian historians purportedly state they have?  Or can it be seen in a purely moral or symbolic form that inspires people, brings up their faith, or gives them a sense of hope?  Does the Resurrection have to be historical in order for Christianity to truly survive or can it be believed in through a deeply personal, symbolic yet transformative level?

  6. Finally on page 196 he describes the cosmic dimension of the resurrection. He writes “[Moltman] contends that, at least in the Western Church, the resurrection of Christ has been seen too narrowly as offering hope for the future of humanity.”
    1. Any thoughts about the resurrection of Christ being the beginning of God’s new world or new creation?  Is this ever preached in the pulpit?  Why do you think churches almost never talk about this cosmic and comprehensively redemptive dimension of the Resurrection – that “he also died in solidarity with  all living creatures captive to the reign of death”?


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