Ted Grimsrud. Instead of Atonement: The Bible’s Salvation Story and Our Hope for Wholeness. Cascade Books, 2013. x + 270pp.
Do atonement theologies that focus on Jesus’ death underwrite human violence? If so, we do well to rethink beliefs that this death is necessary to bring salvation. Focusing on the Bible’s salvation story, Instead of Atonement argues for a logic of mercy to replace Christianity’s traditional logic of retribution.
The book traces the Bible’s main salvation story through God’s liberating acts, the testimony of the prophets, and Jesus’s life and teaching. It then takes a closer look at Jesus’s death and argues that his death gains its meaning when it exposes violence in the cultural, religious, and political Powers. God’s raising of Jesus completes the story and vindicates Jesus’s life and teaching.
The book also examines the understandings of salvation in Romans and Revelation that reinforce the message that salvation is a gift of God and that Jesus’s “work” has to do with his faithful life, his resistance to the Powers, and God’s vindication of him through resurrection.
The book concludes that the “Bible’s salvation story” provides a different way, instead of atonement, to understand salvation. In turn, this biblical understanding gives us today theological resources for a mercy-oriented approach to responding to wrongdoing, one that follows God’s own model.
“Against the assumption that Torah and the Prophets display a God of retribution, Grimsrud shows both picture God as merciful. Rather than dying because God demanded retribution for sin, Jesus died because the powers that opposed him—law, temple, empire—demanded retribution for breaking their rules. Many such challenges to the presumed biblical view of retribution make Instead of Atonement a welcome addition to recent arguments rejecting the prevailing acceptance of divine violence.”
—J. Denny Weaver, author of The Nonviolent Atonement
“In the last quarter century, the theology and ethics of retributive justice have come under long-overdue critical scrutiny. Practical experiments in peacemaking and restorative justice are challenging conventional wisdom, animating social imagination, and inspiring radical revisions of traditional atonement soteriology. Ted Grimsrud—one of our most reliable first-world theologians—provides the most concise, readable, and compelling summary to date of the biblical case for the ‘turn to restorative justice.’ This book will help empower a revolutionary reclamation of a healing Christian faith for our violent times.”
—Ched Myers, author of Binding the Strong Man
Ways To Purchase Instead of Atonement
Available from Ted Grimsrud—in person for $20; via mail for $25 postpaid (send me an email for details: firstname.lastname@example.org )