In many ways, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross stands at the heart of the Christian faith.
But how should we understand the theological significance of Christ's death? Should we limit our doctrine of the atonement to the cross, or is Christ's work more expansive than that? How should we account for the violence of this event?
Theologian Oliver Crisp explores such questions around the meaning of the cross and the various ways that the death of Jesus has been interpreted in the church's history—from ransom theory in the early church to penal substitutionary theory to more recent feminist critiques. What emerges from this study is a more complex, expansive, and fruitful understanding of the atonement and its significance for the Christian faith today.
"With characteristic lucidity and insight, Oliver Crisp offers in this text an accessible yet contoured presentation of Christian teaching on the death of Jesus Christ. The volume explores the variety that exists among classic theological accounts of the atonement, explaining and critiquing their particularities while setting aside certain popular misreadings. Yet the volume also sets forth the outlines of a richly constructive account of the doctrine of the atonement that is highly creative while remaining attentive to the Scriptures and sensitive to tradition. This book will inform and challenge students of theology in welcome ways."
"Approaching the Atonement does many things very well. It provides a surefooted, historically and theologically informed survey of the doctrine of the atonement. It does so while engaging both creatively and critically with the classic models of the atonement. Moreover, it advances new and helpful frameworks for understanding the atonement and for addressing important objections raised in connection with the doctrine. Throughout, Professor Crisp displays a combination of clarity and rigor that is as characteristic of his work as it is generally rare in academic writing."
"There is more to this deceitfully little treatise on atonement than meets the eye, a superb reflection on the central theme of our faith and theology. This is vintage Oliver Crisp: wide learning, sharp analysis, careful consideration of options, and a thoughtful tentative solution. Oliver moves effortlessly between biblical, historical, philosophical, dogmatic, and contemporary contextual issues. This is retrieval theology at its best, an effort to rediscover the best of the tradition for the sake of the contemporary world. Highly recommended for both the newly initiated and the masters in the guild—everyone will benefit greatly!"
"Oliver Crisp's eagerly anticipated interpretation of the various options on atonement theology does not disappoint. Written in his usual clear style, Crisp distills the various options to their clear and distinct essence, while he identifies their respective tension points. His constructive account stresses the idea of union and participation with Christ, while collecting the best insights from the other views."
"Everything Oliver Crisp writes is worth reading. Readers will find here the fruits of his extensive contemplation of the mystery of Christ's reconciling work. He skillfully sifts and evaluates a number of ways of depicting the atonement before presenting his own constructive proposal. For readers, this book is a chance to join one of the most important contemporary laborers in the vineyard of 'faith seeking understanding.'"
1. Approaching the Atonement
2. Several Patristic Accounts of Atonement
3. The Ransom Account of Atonement
4. The Satisfaction Doctrine of Atonement
5. Moral Exemplarism and Atonement
6. Penal Substitutionary Atonement
7. Governmental and Vicarious Penitence Doctrines of Atonement
8. The Problem of Atoning Violence
9. Mashup and Kaleidoscopic Accounts of Atonement
10. Participation and Atonement
Glossary of Terms