Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Graham Cole on the Atonement

Graham Cole (Systematics Lecturer at TEDS and an Australian, ergo, everything he says is true and simultaneously brilliant) has new book on the atonement entitled, God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom. I've wrestled with the issue of the place of penal substitution (PS) in biblical theology. In my mind, PS is clearly taught in Scripture (e.g. Mark 10:45; Gal 3:13; Rom 8:3), but is it THE central atonement motif or is it derivative from another. I. Howard Marshall and Thomas Schreiner present a good case that PS is the predominant atonement motif in the NT undergirding all the others, although I do find the Christus Victor theme attractive as a possible controlling premise as well. Any how, in an interview with Andy Naselli, Graham Cole says:

"Penal substitution provides a good example. It seems to me that following the biblical plotline, the first note struck is the Christus Victor one (i.e., the defeat of evil) in the protevangelium (first gospel) set out in Genesis 3:15. But how is the evil one defeated? The grounds of accusation need to be removed that stand against us, and the fear of death that is the devil’s tool needs to be addressed as well. The cross of Christ disarms the evil one by removing the grounds of accusation against us (Col 2). Christ died in our place (1 Peter 2)), experienced the righteous divine wrath that we deserve (Rom 5) and so, if we are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom 8). Because we stand clothed in Christ’s righteousness we will not face the divine judgment of the great white throne for our sins (Rev 20). Our names are in the Lamb’s book of life. The fear of death, which lies in judgment, is thereby addressed (Heb 2). Evangelicals in my view need to do more justice to the Christus Victor theme and in so doing find that penal substitution is integral or central to it."

HT: Andy Naselli.


Nick said...


Do you think that we ought to look for a controlling metaphor or, rather, a controlling framework? I find an 'exilic' framework very helpful. Christ went down into exile, he entered our curse, and he suffered at the hands of evil men so that we might go free. I find this helpful because it groups all the metaphors together. It also pays due respect to the context that all those OT prophecies were made. At the same time, however, I find penal substitution so central to this sort of framework. Why are we cursed in the first place? It is because of our sin. So Christ takes the guilt of our sin upon himself so that we can be forgiven and freed from all that evil that sin brings along with it.

lukeisham said...

Hi Michael,

I've heard about Cole's new book, I'm studying at Ridley College, Melbourne. Does 'Christus Victor' appearing first out of all the atonement-metaphors automatically mean it is the predominate theme or simply the first expression of a different larger atonement framework?