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Christ’s atonement: a multi-dimensional approach

By W.J. van Asselt


Since 1997 a central issue in Dutch theological debate is concerned with the\ud interpretation of the concept of atonement and its doctrinal implications for a\ud contemporary understanding of the Gospel. Cees J. den Heyer, New Testament\ud scholar at the Theological University of Kampen, published a popular book\ud Verzoening (Atonement) in which he criticized the classical interpretation of the\ud doctrine of vicarious satisfaction brought about by Christ, as stated in the Heidelberg\ud Catechism.2 He blamed the classical (i.e. Protestant) doctrine of atonement for\ud imprisoning God in his own justice which dominates his mercy and requires the\ud punishment of sin by bloodshed. The Bible, according to Den Heyer, does not contain\ud a well-balanced doctrine of atonement because of its plurality of ideas and systematic\ud theologians are constructing abstract doctrinal formulae presupposing as core doctrine\ud a univocal interpretation of the New Testament notion of atonement.\ud Den Heyer’s book triggered off a discussion among Dutch theologians about the\ud meaning and theological status of concepts like atonement, reconciliation and\ud vicarious satisfaction. In this article, first published in the Netherlands3, I participate\ud in this debate on atonement by advocating a theory of multi-dimensionality of the\ud soteriological metaphors and theories which describe the death of Christ from a\ud different perspective within an identical conceptual frame. To my mind, such a theory\ud will be helpful for a (re)construction of present-day types of soteriology which can\ud cope the with the plurality of New Testament christological metaphors

Topics: Godgeleerdheid
Year: 2003
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