The Cross as the Labor of God: A Theology of Atonement

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By thinking the cross of Christ as God’s labor pains in childbirth, this essay goes to some lengths to rethink how we are to understand the cross and atonement with respect to violence, sin, gender, and the procession of the Spirit. After a robust but focused review of atonement theology in the past century and the use of the labor metaphor in the tradition (chapter 1) and a primer in how metaphors might fruitfully work in religious language (chapter 2), we begin the hard work of addressing major problems in atonement theology with the conceptual resources afforded us by the image of the cross as the labor of the mothering God. This image compels us to reformulate our notions of what violence is, its necessity for atonement, and how we respond faithfully to it (chapter 3). It demands that we radically expand our notion of what sin is and how God addresses it, strongly emphasizing the importance of our new heritage, our new birthright as true children of God (chapter 4). Moreover, it gives us fresh resources for thinking through atonement and identity at a time in history when sex and gender binaries have broken down, taking seriously the notion that Jesus, a biological male, dies for us as a woman in childbirth—thereby assuming male, female, and transgendered human nature—and is now eternally known as our mother (chapter 5). Finally, this metaphor offers a thick economic description of the relationship between the Son and the Spirit such that we can convincingly conclude that in the divine economy the Spirit spirates through the laboring Word, preserving an alternative to the filioque clause in which the Spirit proceeds “through the Son” (chapter 6). Throughout all this substantive work, the Scriptures are shown to afford us with resources we may not have known that we had. Throughout this essay evangelical theology is given new ways of thinking through old problems without abandoning its commitment to the Bible. Instead, theological interpretation of the Scriptures has a limitless capacity to speak to pressing circumstances if we will but engage them anew, bringing new voices—new metaphors, theological arguments, and input from the sciences—to the table.

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PHD in Theology

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Green, Joel B.

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Atonement, Atonement History of doctrines, Sin


Missions and World Christianity


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