Irenaeus and the Non-Violent Atonement

Since the apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly, and though we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God, alienated us contrary to nature, rendering us its own disciples, the Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against the apostasy, and redeem from it His own property, not by violent means, (as the [apostasy] had obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched away what was not its own), but by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires; so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction (Ag. Her. V.1.1, ANF I, p. 527, italics and parentheses added; cf. Rashdall, The Idea of Atonement, pp. 243ff.; D. Browning, Atonement and Psychotherapy).1

  1. As quoted in Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life: Systematic Theology, Vol. II (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 397.
Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

6 thoughts on “Irenaeus and the Non-Violent Atonement

  1. “a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires”…bipolar. Only question is, God or Irenaeus? Irenaeus isn’t my favorite.

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