"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
mattress,/
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Atonement

One not infrequently comes across self-appointed spokesmen for Orthodoxy who, having fed all the world's poor and solved all its other problems, have time to invent risible caricatures of Anselm of Canterbury. Almost invariably those referring to him (or, rather, sneering at him) and his theory of atonement have never read him--indeed, would not know enough Latin to read one sentence of the Proslogion or Cur Deus Homo in the original. Nevertheless they cheerfully assert without any evidence that Anselm's theory, and it alone, is the operative one in Western soteriology, and thus a source of irreconcilable difference with the East. This is all tedious nonsense of course, made more absurd by its studied ignorance of the vast influence of many other figures--to say nothing of the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church pays no attention whatsoever to Anselm.

Along comes a recent book to offer a fresh look at theories of atonement variously understood:


About this book, the publisher tells us:
Recent decades have witnessed an explosion of new perspectives on “atonement theory,” the traditional name for reflections on the meaning of Christ’s work. These new theologies view Christ as a political figure and mobilize social theory to understand the contemporary context and Christ’s meaning for that context. Politics of Redemption demonstrates that pre-modern theologians also understood Christ’s role in a fundamentally social way. The argument proceeds by analysing the most important and original contributors to the tradition of atonement theory (Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Anselm, and Abelard).
The investigation reveals that they all work within a shared social-relational logic based on the solidarity of all human beings and the irreducible relatedness of humanity and the rest of creation. Having brought this social-relational logic to the surface, the work concludes by sketching out a fresh atonement theory as a way of showing that our understanding of Christ’s work and of its relevance for our life together is enriched by foregrounding the question of how creation, and particularly the human social sphere, is structured.
Kotsko includes in his book chapters on such crucially important Eastern Fathers as St. Irenaeus of Lyons, about whom not a few other important books have been written in the last two decades, and St. Gregory of Nyssa, on whom we have similarly seengreatly renewed interest in the last number of years by such scholars as Brian Daleyand others.

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