This is the first section of a four part review that I will post over the next week or two of Andrew Sung Park's excellent book on the theology of the cross, "Triune Atonement: Christ's Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation." Park earned his MA in theology from Claremont School of Theology and his PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is now professor of theology at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
Park seeks to present a robust atonement theology that takes into account the need for the salvation of the oppressors, the liberation of the oppressed, and the restoration of nature. Against the common view of atonement that focuses only on the cross as a one-time event in the distant past, Park argues that Jesus initiated the atoning work of God in his life, death, and resurrection, and that the atonement continues in his post-resurrection work through the Spirit today. A great merit of Park’s work is that he seeks to preserve the cross and symbol of the blood as central to Christian faith while responding to the critique of feminists and liberation theologians who object to these traditional ideas because of their violent imagery and potential to legitimize the sin of the oppressors. He writes, “The cross of Christianity can be a sign of oppression or a mark of salvation. This depends on how we see the cross. It is, however, inappropriate to discard the symbol of the cross of Jesus because some people have abused it.”
There needs to be a clear distinction made between sinners (oppressors) and the sinned-against (oppressed), Park believes. Sinners need salvation, sinned-against need liberation. While most people need both salvation and liberation, “dividing lines can be drawn according to race, gender, and class.” The God revealed in Jesus especially cares about the oppressed, but the sin of the oppressors (greed, hubris, injustice, oppression, exploitation, and deception) needs to be confronted, transformed, and forgiven for true healing to take place for either group. As Park will also point out, Shalom is not possible without the healing of creation as well, so the atonement must go further than healing the relationship between the oppressed and oppressors. It must bring healing to animals and nature.
The atonement needs to be freed from transactional theories: whether between God and Satan or between God and Christ. It also needs to go beyond religious or spiritual redemption to include the full vision of Shalom – economic, political, ecological, social, and cultural. Park argues that the atonement is for “the restoration of right relationships between sinners and the sinned-against, through which it bears the fruition of the right relationship between God and humanity.”
Before going into further detail about his own theology, Park traces Christian atonement history by briefly explaining and critiquing 8 major models. In the next post, I will discuss this section of the book.