Forgiveness & atonement : a sacrificial account of divine-human reconciliation
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In this thesis, I construct a sacrificial explanation of atonement, the expanded version of which explains how the work of Christ addresses in various ways every component of the problem of sin. The first two chapters of this endeavour argue for a Wolterstorffian definition of forgiveness according to which forgiveness is the act of ceasing to treat a wrong as part of a wrongdoer’s moral history and instead as part of their personal history. Moreover, I demonstrate that this definition of forgiveness is superior to the major alternatives in the literature due in no small part to its consistency with various philosophical desiderata and biblical constraints detailed in the first two chapters. In the final two chapters, I turn to an investigation of the doctrine of atonement. The most popular contemporary model of atonement in many Protestant Christian circles is a penal substitution model that assumes the centrality of a strong form of retributivism in the biblical narrative. In chapter three, I argue that the major biblical understanding of justice as fundamentally restorative in nature. I then develop an alternative form of penal substitution that rests on this restorative rationale for justice rather than the typical retributivist strain. This model of atonement, however, seems to me lacking in explanatory scope due to its limited appeal to the biblical texts. Thus, in chapter four, I offer an alternative atonement model- i.e. a sacrificial one- that combines elements of the rituals of yom kippur and Passover to explain how the work Christ addresses most of the components of the problem of sin. Lastly, I combine this sacrificial model with my account of forgiveness to address the remaining components of the problem of sin.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-05-10
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 10th May 2023
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