Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Time does the Atonement

According to Christianity Today's Weblog, this week's Time magazine has put together "one of the best religion cover stories the magazine—or any mainstream news magazine—has ever done." Praise indeed. The link is here:

Time asks why Jesus died

But it's only available to subscribers. Christianity Today Weblog comments on and excerpts some of it for us, though:
Weblog can't do much more than encourage people to read this story, which reveals a thorough knowledge of the subject. There are some great lines from John R.W. Stott, as well as comments from Mark Noll, Jack Graham, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Al Mohler, Randy Balmer, and others. The main voices, of course, are those of Anselm and Abelard, with a healthy dose of Augustine, Calvin, and Luther thrown in, too . . .

. . . . . "The film's stance on atonement could best be described as substitutionary (that initial Isaiah quote sets the theme) with a strong dose of Catholic Passion piety (the very gory details), a pinch of exemplarism (the flashbacks to Jesus' teachings) and those sulfurous whiffs of the ancient good-vs.-evil model," van Biema summarizes, after he has explained those stances more thoroughly above.
I'd say there's more than "a pinch of exemplarism" in The Passion of the Christ -- the theme is hammered home repeatedly at the climax of the film in the crucifixion scene. I would also argue that there are more than "whiffs" of the Christus Victor motif -- the whole film is cast as a battle between Jesus and the devil and the devil, right at the end, gets cast to the pit of hell. But it is refreshing to see someone at least acknowledging that the film's view of the atonement is more than just penal substititution.

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