The atonement debates: Why did Jesus Christ 'die for our sins'?

The atonement debates: Why did Jesus Christ 'die for our sins'?


I understand there is currently a debate between orthodox and progressive theologians on the doctrine of the atonement. I always considered this a cornerstone of Christian theology. Can you encapsulate the arguments?


A tough one, and this mere journalist has long pondered how to reply. Tough because the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion stands right at the heart of the Christian faith -- indeed the cross is its universal symbol -- and so is vitally important, sensitive,  a highly complex concern of many great minds the past 2,000 years, and ultimately beyond human comprehension. But here’s a rough attempt at an answer.

Like many people, Christians see the reality of good and evil, believe this awareness tells us God is holy, seek to live morally, yet admit they fall short due to an inherent sinfulness in themselves and humanity in general. Theologians call this “original sin.” Finally, they believe  Jesus’ agonizing death by crucifixion somehow overcame humanity’s sin problem and offers salvation.

That belief originated with the Bible. Jesus himself said the Son of Man came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28), and that the Christ should suffer and “repentance and forgiveness should be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

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Ghosts in Baltimore's bloody, troubled, doomed 'Murder Mall'

Ghosts in Baltimore's bloody, troubled, doomed 'Murder Mall'

Another long road trip.

Thus, another big stack of Baltimore Sun newspapers waiting in my comfy reading chair. It's tough work, but somebody's got to do it.

We will get back to crime reports and Charm City in just a moment, after I try to explain why one crime story -- out of many -- caught my eye during my blitz through the newspapers that collected during my week-long road trip into the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.

You see, this particular article contains absolute zero references to God, religion, faith, worship or prayer -- topics that often show up in Sun reports about murders and violence.

Why is that? Why did I see a GetReligion angle here? A "ghost" even?

You see, it is very common for Godtalk to show up in the language of ordinary people in the aftermath of crimes in the most troubled neighborhoods in our city. They pray for peace in the city. They crowd into churches for funerals in which ministers talk about sin and guilt and redemption and hope. Reporters, every now and then, quote these voices.

This makes sense.

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