The place of atonement

A member of the project team, Bethany Sollereder, is surely right to see the Incarnation of Christ, however understood, as a central element in divine action, and to see the divine Word taking flesh (Jn 1.14) as God’s identification not just with humanity but with all life. More than that, Christian thought-frameworks see the Christ-event as transformative, and inaugurating a phase of redemption leading ultimately to the consummation of all things. That atoning work of Christ is confessed at Col. 1.20 as being cosmic in scope. 

It is not easy to see how to apply theories of atonement to the non-human creation, especially if it is acknowledged as unfallen (Sollereder God, Evolution and Animal Suffering Routledge 2019: Ch. 2). Three thoughts may be helpful:

  1. that in being incarnate as flesh, and taking the form of a suffering servant, God in Christ takes responsibility for the suffering throughout creation. 
  2. that God in Christ inaugurates a new freedom of life in the Spirit for humans, and that this is for whatever reason a necessary preliminary to the full birthing of the new creation (cf. Rom. 8.19-22).
  3. that if there is even an element of angelic or spiritual resistance to God affecting the non-human world. Christ’s victory over those powers might be a necessary preliminary to eschatological transformation.

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