Willimon on Substitionary Atonement

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Willimon doesn’t take kindly to PSA. He writes, on 112-113:

The salvation that once was corporate and social was made private and personal.

This is but one of the problems with the substitutionary atonement— salvation is separated from ethics.

Salvation is thus construed as mainly about rescuing us for some other world.

Thus James Cone, a founder of the black theology movement, charged that the substitutionary atonement contributed to the perverse world in which slave owners could preach salvation to the slaves while in no way threatening the present master-slave establishment.

Scripturally speaking, I cannot get around the fact that a sacrifice was needed to reconcile us to God, but I do not think that the image of Atonement is limited to the sacrifice. But, I do think that it has contributed to some very mad actions in the West. Maybe that’s unfair – instead, maybe it is the use of it by those who seem more ‘court’ empowered instead of focusing on the humility of the sacrifice.


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