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The Incarnational Theory of Atonement Introduction1

Copyright, May 2007, by Robin Collins. Revised August 5, 2009. Anyone is welco e to use this paper as long as it is not !or pro!it and the author is credited along with its web location" !urther, it ay not be edited in anyway e#cept !or highlighting $use o! underlining, etc.% !or classroo or related uses. &'( )*+C&M(,- MA./ &,*(R )01(2/ M(,& 1, M1CR+'+3- 2+R* -+ '(( A44 '(C-1+, 5(A*1,6' 1, 4(3- 5A,* C+4&M,.

1n this paper, 1 will develop a new, participatory theory o! the Atone ent, which 1 call the 1ncarnational theory. 1 do not clai that this theory o!!ers a co plete e#planation !or how 7esus8 li!e, death, and resurrection lead to our salvation, only that it e#plicates a a9or core ele ent by which the Atone ent acco plished its wor:. -hus, it is not necessarily in co petition with other theories. 1 will !irst present the theory in two slightly di!!erent versions. A!ter doing this, 1 will then present so e :ey etaphors and sy bols the theory uses, discuss how it relates to various relevant scriptures, and the li:e. -he !irst version gives the general idea behind the theory, whereas the second atte pts to a:e this idea ore precise. ;e!ore discussing these versions, however, it is help!ul to distinguish between the doctrine and a theory o! Atone ent. -he doctrine o! Atone ent si ply states that Christ8s li!e, death and resurrection saved us !ro sin, reconciled us to 6od, and in so e way overca e the powers o! dar:ness. -heories o! Atone ent, on the other hand, atte pt to e#plain how 7esus8 li!e, death, and resurrection acco plished this and to at least partly e#plain why 6od chose this ethod. -heories have the power o! greatly enhancing <or distorting=> our understanding o! the eaning and signi!icance o! Christ8s li!e, death, and resurrection and our salvation. 3urther, they can have a power!ul hold on people8s inds, as has been the case with Ansel 8s 'atis!action theory and the .enal theory <which will be e#plained later>.

-he presentation o! the theory here co bines uch o! y earlier wor:, particular two earlier previous versions o! this theory <Collins, 2000 and Collins, ?995, both posted at>. Although any people have aided e in developing the 1ncarnational theory, 1 would particularly li:e to than: y wi!e and colleague, Rebecca Ada s, who had uch to do with the !ull develop ent o! this theory.

Two Versions of the Incarnational Theory

Version 1:
0ersion @? o! the theory gives the general idea o! the theory. 1t consists o! the !ollowing !our clai sA

Claim 1A 'alvation consists in an ongoing participation in the li!e o! 6od as it e#ists in Christ, as indicated by 7esus8 etaphor o! the vine and branches <7n. ?5A5> and .aul8s analogy o! the body o! Christ <? Cor. ?2>, along with any other ,ew -esta ent passages, such as 7ohn BA5CD5B, Colossians CAE, 2 .eter ?AE, and 5ebrews CA?E. -his is basically the sa e as the (astern +rthodo# understanding o! salvation, in which salvation consists o! participating in the divine nature <2 .eter ?AE> via the energies 6od. Claim 2: Apart !ro the 1ncarnation and .assion, 6odFs li!e would be too alien !ro ours !or this sharing to occur. -his is analogous to the !act that a tree branch cannot be gra!ted into a horse, only another tree" the horse is too alien !or it. Claim 3: -hrough the 1ncarnation and .assion, 6od entered as deeply as possible into our hu an li!eDsituation o! death, su!!ering, and vulnerability and thereby overca e the alienation between 6odFs sel! and us. *uring that ti e, he nonetheless acted in co plete love and !aith towards 6od and others. -his created a !ully hu anG!ully divine li!e in 7esus. Claim 4: ;y parta:ing o! this li!e through being gra!ted into the true 0ine, we are saved !ro sin and reconciled to 6od. -his allows us to share in the li!e o! 6od, thus saving us !ro sin and bringing us into unity with 6od.

Version 2:
0ersion <2> adds theological and philosophical precision to version <?>. 1t starts with the sa e view o! salvation as version <?>, na ely that salvation consists in sharing in the li!e o! 6od through Christ. 1t goes beyond <?> in precisely e#plicating the relevant aspects o! the new !ully hu anG!ully divine li!e that were created in Christ and the role that the .assion and Cross played in creating this new li!e. Claim 1*: -hrough the 1ncarnation and .assion, Christ actively e#ercised and thus ade an active part o! the 6odhead virtues <such as courage, !aith, and love> o! a :ind that we need, can actively parta:e o!, and e#ercise in our present hu an li!eD 2

situation o! vulnerability, alienation, uncertainty, and the li:e. -hese virtues are to be thought of in terms of inner potency or powers, in accordance with the old (nglish use o! the word )virtue/ in which one ight spea: o! the healing virtues o! a drug. <1n ter s o! (astern +rthodo# theologies, these virtues would be the energies o! 6od, thus a:ing e#plicit their active nature.> Claim 2*: Apart !ro the 1ncarnation and .assion, 6od could not actively e#ercise the virtues o! the :ind re!erred to in clai <?H> above because they are too closely tied with our li!eDsituation. 2? -o see why, consider so e e#a ples o! these virtues as they occur in hu an beingsA Courage <o! the :ind we need> I a co o! danger, !ear, and personal in9ury. it ent to oneFs values or goals in the !ace

3aith <o! the :ind we need> I a co it ent to trust in the !ace o! uncertainty and doubt, and in the !ace o! serious te ptations not to trust. 4ove <o! the type we need> I a co it ent to value and relate to others <or ourselves> in the !ace o! such things as vulnerability to personal in9ury, alienation, wea:ness, !ear, un9ust victi iJation, and serious te ptations not to love. 'ince these virtues are basically co it ents o! various sorts in the face o! !ear, vulnerability, serious te ptations, and the li:e, it is clear that apart !ro so ething li:e
'everal co ents need to be ade about this and the previous clai . 3irst, one ight wonder how this !its with the classical understanding o! the 1ncarnation <as o!ten clai ed to be i plied by the Council o! Chalcedon>" in this understanding, during the 1ncarnation 6od the 'on aintained all the divine attributes such as o niscience, o nipotence, and the li:e. -his view see s to i ply that 6od the 'on could not have e#perienced doubt, !ear, and the li:e K and hence could neither have enacted these virtues nor even been !ully hu an. -he classical solution was to clai that 6od the 'on was te pted, su!!ered, e#perience !ear and doubt, and the li:e with respect to his hu an nature, but not with respect to his divine nature. Although one ight re9ect this solution, it is co patible with the clai s o! the 1ncarnational theory o! Atone entA this view i plies that 6od the 'on enacted these virtues in his hu an nature and there!ore they e#ist in active <or enacted> !or in 6od the 'on in his hu an nature. 3urther, it i plies that without the 1ncarnation and .assion, these virtues would not e#ist in active !or in 6od, not even in 6od with respect to the hu an nature ta:en up in Christ. ConseLuently, nothing in the 1ncarnational theory reLuires denying the classical understanding o! the 1ncarnation. 'econd, it should be noted that 6od could have these !ully hu an virtues dispositionally apart !ro so ething li:e the 1ncarnation and .assion since to have a virtue dispositionally is to be have a character such that i! the right circu stances arose one would act in the way the virtue reLuires . 3or e#a ple, one would dispositionally have the virtue o! courage in the !ace o! li!e threatening danger i! one would act courageously i! one believed one8s li!e was threatened, even i! one never actually had that belie!. -o actively have a virtue, on the other hand, is to actually have e#ercised the virtue <or be in the process o! e#ercising it>. 3or e#a ple, i! out o! love one ris:s one8s own wellDbeing to help another, one is actively e#ercising the virtue o! sel!Dsacri!icial love.

the 1ncarnation and .assion, 6od cannot actively e#ercise the , !or to e#ercise the reLuires that one e#perience !ear, believe onesel! to be vulnerable, believe onesel! to be li ited in power and :nowledge, and seriously believe that one could sin. 2ithout so ething li:e the incarnation, however, 6od could have none o! these e#periences. +! course, 6od would :now what it was like to e#perience !ear, doubt, uncertainty, alienation !ro 6od, and the li:e" otherwise 6od would have created hu an beings blindly without :nowing what it was li:e to be hu an. -his :nowledge, however, is not the sa e as actually e#periencing these states and actually believing that one is vulnerable, li ited in power, and the li:e" this actual e#perience, however, is necessary to e#ercise the corresponding virtues.3 Claim 3: A ong other things, parta:ing o! the li!e o! Christ involves e#ercising and parta:ing o! these virtues <particularly love> as they actively e#ist in Christ. Moreover, it is the parta:ing o! these virtues that saves hu an beings !ro sin and brings
'everal !urther things should be noted about the above account. 3irst, although 6od ight be able actively to e#ercise divine versions o! courage, !aith, and love, apart !ro so ething li:e the 1ncarnation and .assion, 6od could not actively e#ercise the type o! courage we need, the type o! !aith we need, and the type o! love we need, since these reLuire that one actually e#perience !or one8s sel! hu an vulnerability, alienation, and the li:e. ,ow, this is true in spite o! the !act that any have argued that 6od is vulnerable 9ust in the ere !act o! creating !ree beings, and thus a sort o! e#perience o! vulnerability could e#ist in 6od even apart !ro so ething li:e the 1ncarnation and Cross. 3or, i! 6od really cares !or us, there is a sense in which our su!!ering and oral wrongdoings could cause 6od pain. -he sort o! vulnerability we e#perience, however, is uch ore e#tensive than this. 3or e#a ple, we can be vulnerable in the sense having our physical bodies or psyche severely in9ured, in the sense o! losing our li!e, and the li:e. 1n contrast, apart !ro so ething li:e the 1ncarnation and .assion, 6od does not directly e#perience ris: o! one8s psyche being destroyed" rather, when 6od e#periences pain at our oral wrongdoing, his psyche re ains intact and the pain does not do inate 6od8s psyche, but continues to coe#ist with pure 7oy and ;liss. Moreover, apart !ro the 1ncarnation, no e ber o! the -rinity trusts another e ber o! the -rinity in spite o! e#periencing alienation !ro the other e bers, and in spite o! nagging doubts that the other e ber o! the -rinity either doesn8t e#ist or is unwilling co e to one8s rescue. 3urther, apart !ro the 1ncarnation and .assion, no e ber o! the -rinity is seriously te pted to sin. 3inally, even though 6od could be uncertain about the details o! the !uture, as those who deny 6odFs co plete !ore:nowledge contend, 6odFs uncertainty does not run nearly as deep, nor is it as e#tensive as ours. Apart !ro the 1ncarnation and Cross, there is a sense in which 6od is uch ore in control, uch less vulnerable, and not seriously te pted to sin in the way we are. -hus, since e#periencing hu an vulnerability, alienation, su!!ering, and the li:e is necessary to actively e#ercise the :ind o! !aith, courage, love and the li:e that hu ans, the 1ncarnation and .assion were necessary !or these sorts o! virtues to actively e#ist in 6od. 3inally, so e people thin: that it is li:ely that 6od has created any other types o! beings, so e o! who he redee ed in a way si ilar to our case. 1! this is true, then the 1ncarnational theory would have to be odi!ied slightly since the types o! virtues entioned in clai <2H> above would already e#ist in 6od. 3or, 6od would have already ta:en up into hi sel! the e#perience o! physical danger, vulnerability, and alienation o! these other beings. -hus, the type o! virtues !or ed in the hu an case would have to be those ore speci!ically geared towards hu an beingsA !or e#a ple, virtues such things as acting in !aith and love in the !ace o! particularly hu an types o! vulnerability, te ptations, and the li:e.

us into unity with Christ. <3or e#a ple, since love involves reaching out to others, and even ourselves, it overco es our sin!ul state o! alienation !ro 6od and others.>

-he 1ncarnational theory e#plains how the Atone ent wor:s as !ollows. 3irst, the theory clai s that salvation is to be conceived o! as an ongoing sharing in the li!e o! 6od, in a deeper and deeper way, where to share in the li!e o! 6od involves, a ong other things, sharing in and e#ercising the virtues o! !aith, love, and righteousness that are in 6od. -hen, this theory clai s, through the 1ncarnation and .assion, the type o! virtues that we needDDthat is, commitments to trust, love, and do what is right in the face of serious doubt, vulnerability, alienation, and te ptationMwere ta:en up into the li!e o! 6od as active realities. ;y parta:ing o! these active virtuesDDthat is, in .aul8s ter inology, putting on )Christ,/ putting on the )new sel!,/ or letting Christ live through usDDwe are saved in an ongoing way !ro sin. E 3inally, notice both the plausibility and the logical coherence o! each o! the three pre ises. 3irst, the clai that during the incarnation 6od actively e#ercised the virtues o! courage, sel!Dsacri!icial love, and !aith si ply !ollow !ro the classic Christian doctrines that that 7esus was 6od in the !lesh and the clai that on the Cross 7esus e#perienced our hu an condition o! vulnerability, alienation, and uncertainty and yet acted in co plete !aith, hope, and love. 'econd, the clai that 6od could not actively e#ercise the sorts o! virtues we need without so ething li:e the 1ncarnation and .assion <clai <2H>> is obviously true since the very nature o! these virtues reLuires that one have the right sort o! e#periences in order to e#ercise the . <5owever, see last two !ootnotes.> 3inally, clai <CH> o! the theory, that sharing in ChristFs li!e involves sharing in these sorts o! virtues, is strongly i plied by the !act that the ore we share in the li!e o! Christ, the ore we e#press these virtuesDD!or e#a ple, love, courage, !aith. -hus, since the :ey steps o! this theory are highly plausible in and o! the selves, there is nothing ad hoc or arbitrary about the .

Some Outstanding Philosophical Issues

How we Partake of the Virtues
+ne Luestion involves how our participation in these virtues, or ore generally Christ8s sub9ectivity, is supposed to occur. +ne way is through nor al psychological
+ne ight wonder how one can share or parta:e o! the co it ent o! another. +! course, one cannot co pletely share another personFs co it ent, uch as one cannot literally have another personFs e#perience. ;ut, it see s one could al ost co pletely share in another personFs co it ent by sharing in the content o! that co it ent <e.g., the psychological co ple# o! intentions and belie!s corresponding to the co it ent>. -his would be si ilar to sharing in the content o! another personFs e#perience <!or e#a ple, sharing in the way the e#perience !eels to another>.

channels, such as consciously i itating Christ or contagiously pic:ing up his intentional states !ro other e#e plary Christians" through reading and hearing the ,ew -esta ent and related te#ts, by which we can absorb and digest their sub9ectivityDDthat is, the web o! belie!s, attitudes, orientations, perspectives, and syste o! representation e bodied in the te#ts" another way is through the )supernatural/ operation o! the 5oly 'pirit and 6od8s grace, which directly connects us to Christ. Moreover, this theory assu es that the 5oly 'pirit supernaturally e powers the trans ission o! Christ8s sub9ectivity through the nor al psychological and linguistic channels entioned above. Accordingly, because both the supernatural and natural eans o! trans ission are inter i#ed and continuous with each other, any dualistic opposition between the spiritual and the natural, or nature and grace, is eli inated. Rather, they all wor: togetherA i! we erely rely on our own natural ability to parta:e o! Christ8s sub9ectivity, we will be unli:ely deeply to participate in it" and si ilarly i! we si ply rely on a supernatural iracle, such as a religious conversion. As .hilippians 2A?2D?C states, )wor: out your own salvation with !ear and tre bling" !or it is 6od who is at wor: in you, enabling you both to will and to wor: !or his good pleasure/ <,R'0>, suggesting that salvation is a 9oint operation o! natural and supernatural eans.

Memory Analogy:
A good analogy to how this participation ta:es place is that o! e ory. Me ory see s to connect us in so e ysterious way to the past event being re e bered, thus resulting in a partial reliving o! that event. Arguably, this is one crucial di!!erence between i agined e ory and a real e oryA i agined e ory delivers the sa e sub9ective i pressions as real e ory, but is not actually connected to the past event. ,ow suppose that in the past you engaged in so e e#traordinary act o! courage, and that you had a per!ect e ory o! that courageous act. 3urther, suppose you are now !acing so e new danger and are able to re e ber the courage you e#ercised in the past. 'ince this e ory would involve the reDe#periencing o! the actual sub9ective states o! willing to act in the !ace o! danger and the li:e, you could enter into that sub9ective state and use it to courageously !ace your current situation. -his is si ilar to our participation in Christ8s new desires, e#cept that it was Christ, not we, who enacted the oral courage that we need. Another analogy is that o! a !uture society in which one person acts with tre endous courage, with any person who needs courage being able to )tap into,/ and appropriately adapt, the desires and )willings/ e#ercised by the single highly courageous individual. +ne could i agine e bers o! the !uture society saying )as one is courageous !or all, all our now courageous/ K in parallel to .aul8s state ents in Ro ans 5A?N and 2 Corinthians 5A?ED?5 A )-here!ore 9ust as one anFs trespass led to conde nation !or all, so one anFs act o! righteousness leads to 9usti!ication and li!e !or all/ <,R'0> and O3or the love o! Christ co pels us, because we 9udge thusA that i! +ne died !or all, then all died/ <,P70>. B

Parent/ hild Analogy

A ore undane analogy is a parentGchild analogy, in which the parent8s desires, view o! and orientation towards the world, and the li:e are trans!erred to the child, whether intentionally or not. 1n analogy, through the operation o! the 5oly 'pirit, the new, !ully hu anG!ully divine virtues in Christ are progressively trans!erred to us, thus saving us !ro sin. -his idea o! pic:ing up ones desires !ro others in turn !its in with the ore general mimetic anthropological theory, advocated by, !or instance, cultural theorist Rene 6irard. According to this idea, e#cept !or the ost basic biological desires, our desires are obtained by creatively picking them up from--or patterning them after-other people, something that often occurs unconsciously.

Answering the Why Question

-he above account e#plains how Christ8s li!e, death and resurrection save us !ro sin and reconcile us to 6od. -hey do not, however, e#plain why 6od used this ethod instead o! so e other. 3or e#a ple, why didn8t 6od si ply give us a strong disposition to behave in a loving, co passionate, and trusting way upon our !ree reLuestQ Although 6od could have could have done this, 6od8s saving us by sharing as deeply as possible in our li!e situation results in a ore inti ate and deeper unity with 6od. 6od not only establishes solidarity with us via sharing in our li!eDsituation, but the sharing in his !ully divineG!ully hu an li!e itsel! unites us with 6od, uch as a branch is united with a vine by sharing in its sapA i! one were erely to Jap a branch with the sap o! a vine, without connecting it to the vine, no real unity would occur between the vine and its branches. -hus, although the 1ncarnation and .assion were not strictly necessary to save us !ro sin, under the 1ncarnational theory, it does a:e sense that 6od would decide to do things this way. 3inally, there are certainly other reasons why 6od did things this way, such as to provide a per!ect oral e#a ple and the li:e. 5

!ey Metaphors/Analogies for Main Theory

Above we introduced the 7esus8 analogy o! the vine and the branches to support our understanding o! salvation as sharing the li!e o! 6od. ,ow we will consider so e other etaphors and analogies !or understanding the 1ncarnational theory.

Although 7esus says in Mathew 2BAC9 )My 3ather, i! it is possible, let this cup pass !ro e" yet not what 1 want but what you want/ <,R'0>, this should not be ta:en as i plying that in an absolute sense there was no other way !or 6od to save us" rather, it should only be ta:en as i plying within 6od8s overall rede ptive plan, this was the only possible way. 'o, all an adeLuate theory o! Atone ent needs to do is clai that 6od had good reasons !or choosing the rede ptive plan that 6od did K that is, !or bringing about our salvation through Christ8s li!e, death and Resurrection.

Blood Transfusion !u"harist Analogy

1n 7ohn BA5ED55, 7esus says that )-ruly, -ruly 1 tell you, unless you eat the !lesh o! the 'on o! Man and drin: his blood, you have no li!e in you. -hose who eat y !lesh and drin: y blood have eternal li!eR!or y !lesh is true !ood and y blood is true drin:. -hose who drin: y blood and eat y !lesh abide in e and 1 in the / <7n. BA5ED 55, ,R'0>. -his scripture !or s the basis !or the )blood trans!usion/ etaphorA by entering !ully into the hu an li!e situation o! alienation, su!!ering, vulnerability, and uncertainty, and yet acting in co plete trust and love, 7esus created a new )antibody/ !or sin" and by parta:ing o! this new antibody, the disease o! sin is progressively eli inated !ro our lives. -he new antiDbodies are the new !ully hu anG!ully divine active virtues o! love, !aith, hope and love.B -he (ucharist, or co union, represents the eating o! his body and the drin:ing o! his blood. 5ere we will tal: about the sy bolic signi!icant o! the part o! co union that involves drin:ing the wine" however, when we discuss baptis below, we will tal: about the sy bolic signi!icance o! eating the bread. 1n ? Corinthians ?0A?B, .aul says that )-he cup o! blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood o! ChristQ/ <,R'0>. +n the other hand, 7esus says that we ta:e the (ucharist in )re e brance o! e/ <4:. 22A?9>. 1! we understand re e bering in a deeper sense as involving reliving and participating in the past event as in our e ory analogy above, then these two e#pressions o! the signi!icance o! the (ucharist coincide. As entioned above, one could argue that what distinguishes re e bering an event !ro erely i agining it is that when we re e ber the event we actually connect with, and to so e e#tent participate in, the past event. 1!, !or e#a ple, we had a per!ect e ory, and we recalled a past event, it would be as though it were actually ta:ing place right nowA we would in e!!ect be reliving it. -hus, 1 a suggesting, 7esus wants us to re e ber his sacri!ice by parta:ing within ourselves and our own conte#t the giving o! his li!e over in co plete love, trust and !aith to 6od and others" indeed, according to any co entators, it was 9ust this sort o! re e bering the 1sraelites were called to when they celebrated .assover. 'y bolically, there!ore, ChristFs blood represents his li!e co pletely given over to 6od in love, trust, and sel!Dsharing in his .assion and *eath" and drin:ing
,ote that in a blood trans!usion, the blood types ust be co patible. 4i:ewise, !or us to share in 6od8s li!e o! righteousness, the virtues created in Christ ust !it what we need. 3urther notice that in order !or a person to !or antiDbodies against a disease, they ust actually be e#posed to the disease and their bodies ust )!ight/ it o!!. Rebecca Ada s suggested the blood trans!usion analogy. 'he also suggested that even i! we had not sinned, the 1ncarnation ight be necessary, in which case one could thin: o! the 1ncarnation as introducing an enJy e that hu ans need instead o! an antiDbody, where the enJy e would still represent the !ully divineG!ully hu an virtues o! !aith, hope and love. 3inally, the antiDbody analogy is not original with e, but 1 heard it at a con!erence on Atone ent !ro Mar: ;a:er in 7anuary 2007, who heard it !ro a pastor in Cali!ornia.

the cup represents and perhaps enacts the parta:ing o! this li!e. -his understanding !its beauti!ully with the +ld -esta ent principle that Othe li!e is in the bloodO <4ev. ?7A??>.

The Sa"rifi"ial #am$:

-his understanding o! the (ucharist coincides the 1ncarnational theory8s understanding o! the signi!icance o! the 'acri!icial 4a b, which the ,ew -esta ent says a type o! Christ. -he +ld -esta ent sacri!icial ritual involved the worshiper laying hands on the head o! an ani al <!or e#a ple, a la b or a bull>, and then slaying the ani al. -he priest then too: the blood and poured it on the altar as a sacri!ice to 6od. ,ow, any +ld -esta ent co entators clai that the laying on o! hands is best interpreted as an act o! identi!ication with the one on who hands are laid <-aylor, ?9C7, pp. 5CDE" *unn, ?99?, pp. EED5>. -he o!!ering o! its blood, there!ore, beco es sy bolic o! ChristFs o!!ering his li!e over to 6od and others in love, hope, and trust, and the laying on o! hands o! our identi!ication with, and thus sharing in, that love, hope and trust.7 ConseLuently, although the sy bols o! the 'acri!icial 4a b and the (ucharist see to say di!!erent things about the nature o! Atone ent, the 1ncarnational theory shows they actually say the sa e thing in di!!erent ways.

Ba%tism and !ating of the Bread:

-he ,ew -esta ent also uses the sy bols o! baptis and eating o! bread !or Christ8s atoning and sancti!ying wor:. 1n Ro ans B, .aul states that it is through being baptiJedDDthat is, unitedDDwith Christ in his death that we brea: the power o! sin and share in his resurrection li!eA )All who were baptiJed into Christ have been baptiJed into his death . . . . and i! we have beco e united with hi in the li:eness o! his death, we shall be also in the li:eness o! his resurrection/ <Ro . BACD5>. (lsewhere .aul states that O1 have been crucified with Christ" and it is no longer 1 who live, but Christ lives in e/ <6al. 2A?9, ,R'0> and )May 1 never boast o! anything e#cept the cross o! our 4ord 7esus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to e, and 1 to the world./ <6al. BA?E, ,R'0> -he 1ncarnational theory shows why these etaphors are appropriate. According to the this theory, during his death on the Cross 7esus e#perientially entered into the depths o! the hu an li!eDsituation o! vulnerability, dependence, death, su!!ering, bro:enness, and alienation, even the depths o! our alienation !ro 6od the 3ather as evidenced by his cry on the Cross OMy 6od, y 6od, why has thou !orsa:en eQO <M:. ?BACE>. Moreover, in so e ysterious way on the Cross 7esus e#perienced the depths o! hu an sin, the OshadowDsideO o! hu anityA O5e who :new no sin beca e sin !or us that
-he idea o! sacri!ice here, however, is not the penal ideaA e.g., the sacri!icial la b is never punished. Rather, sacri!ice is understood along the lines o! Ro ans ?2A?A )1 appeal to you there!ore, brothers and sisters, by the ercies o! 6od, to present your bodies as a living sacri!ice, holy and acceptable to 6od, which is your spiritual worship/ <,R'0>.

we ight beco e the righteousness o! 6od in 5i O <2 Cor. 5A2?>. -hus, 7esus !aced headDon the truth o! the hu an condition. -he signi!icance o! being united with hi in his death now beco es apparentA it is there that we !ace our own vulnerability, alienation, and the li:e. -his is what it eans to be cruci!ied with Christ, and cruci!ied to the world syste o! spiritual and psychic bondage. -he truth is, ost o! us try to avoid con!ronting our own vulnerability, dependence, alienation, and bro:enness. 1ndeed, thin:ers as diverse as theologian Reinhold ,iebuhr, <?9E?>, .ulitJer .riJe winning author (rnest ;ec:er <?97C>, and psychologist M. 'cott .ec: <?9NC>, have clai ed that this unwillingness to con!ront our own vulnerability and other )threatening/ aspects o! our hu an condition is one o! the pri e roots o! hu an sin, wic:edness, sic:ness, and neurosis, along with the worldD syste o! status, do ination, and oppression. 1nstead o! recogniJing that we are vulnerable, dependent and insecure hu an beings, !or e#a ple, we atte pt to possess, do inate, and control people and things, to give ourselves the illusion o! invulnerability, security, and status" and instead o! ac:nowledging our own shadow, we pro9ect it on to others and then de oniJe the . 1n !act, it has beco e a co on thesis a ong thin:ers in this century that the worldDsyste o! psychic and social do ination, oppression, bondage, and its associated values, rests on e#pulsion, scapegoating, and arginaliJation o! both aspects o! our own psychic lives and the sub9ectivity o! various individuals in society. 6iven that these thin:ers are at least partly correct, it !ollows that to !ace our true hu an condition in Christ will tend, as yeast leavens a lu p o! bread, to undercut the entire worldDsyste o! psychic, spiritual, and social bondage both in our personal and social lives. 1ndeed, 5ebrews 2A?ED?5 indicate that it is the )!ear o! death/ K which 1 suggest should be understood in the broad sense o! any threat to our sel! or sel!Di age K that holds us in bondage to the powers o! dar:ness. According to this passage, )he hi sel! li:ewise shared the sa e things $our !lesh and blood%, so that through death he ight destroy the one who has the power o! death, that is, the devil, and !ree those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death/ <,R'0>. 2ith these ideas in place, ;aptis could be thought o! as at least in part as sy bolically representing being united with Christ in his death and then )rising again/ with hi in his resurrection li!e. +n the other hand, the bro:en bread K which 7esus says represents his body bro:en !or the worldDD could be thought o! as representing 7esusF entering into hu an bro:enness and vulnerability. .arta:ing o! the bread, there!ore, could be thought o! as representing our !ully parta:ing o! the hu an li!e situation o! vulnerability, alienation, and the li:e as e#perienced by Christ during his .assion and *eath. -his in turn results in our )dying/ to our !alse illusion o! invulnerability that we construct to protect ourselves. .utting this idea o! being cruci!ied with Christ together with sharing in the new !ully hu anG!ully divine virtues allows us to co plete the 1ncarnational theory. -o do ?0

this, it will be help!ul to introduce a new piece o! ter inology, the notion o! a person8s )sub9ectivity./ A persons subjectivity refers to all of a persons inner states -- such as attitudes, orientations, perspectives, commitments, beliefs, and the like -- taken together as forming an inseparable whole with the agents internalized system of mental, symbolic, and linguistic representation. 1n !ully !acing the hu an li!e situation, 7esus created a new !ully hu anG!ully divine )sub9ectivity/, a sub9ectivity that !ully e#periences and recogniJes our li!e situation, while at the sa e ti e acting in co plete !aith, hope, and love. Accordingly, to partake of this new subjectivity, we ust !irst parta:e o! Christ8s death K that is, in Christ !ace our own vulnerability, alienation, bro:enness, and the li:e K be!ore we can parta:e o! the new Resurrected li!e. -his is not only suggested by .aul in Ro ans B, but also by 7esus when he says that )-hose who try to a:e their li!e secure will lose it, but those who lose their li!e will :eep it/ <4:. ?7ACC" also see 7n. ?2A 2E K 25>" indeed, it is sy boliJed by the !act that in all the gospels the bro:en bread is ta:en be!ore the wine at the 4ast 'upper. .ractically, this i plies that the Christian li!e involves a continual double ove ent in Christ o! !irst recogniJing our true hu an li!e situation and then secondly parta:ing o! the new positive virtues in Christ. 2e ust continually )die/ be!ore we can liveA as 7esus says in 7ohn ?2A24, 0ery truly, 1 tell you, unless a grain o! wheat !alls into the earth and dies, it re ains 9ust a single grain" but i! it dies, it bears uch !ruit/ <,R'0>. 9

-hose !a iliar with Alcoholics Anony ous <AA>, and the any therapy progra s its success has spawned, will note the si ilarity between the understanding o! the process o! trans!or ation o! sub9ectivity involved in sharing in ChristFs death and Resurrection and the wellD:nown -welve 'tep progra o! AA. 'peci!ically, the core o! the -welve 'tep progra is to !irst ad it oneFs own powerlessness, vulnerability, and dependence, and then to give onesel! over to the trans!or ing grace o! Oa higher powerOA that is, in the language o! the 1ncarnational theory, to the trans!or ing grace o! the love and !aith in Christ. -hus, AA and related therapy progra s provide good evidence that so ething si ilar to the process o! trans!or ation described by the 1ncarnational theory actually wor:s in practice. 1 also suspect that historically any religious trans!or ations have !ollowed the sa e pattern. 1t should also be entioned here that Osharing in ChristFs deathO is di!!erent !or those who are arginaliJed and oppressed since they already largely recogniJe their vulnerability and dependence, so unli:e the OrichO it is probably not as di!!icult !or the to parta:e o! the sub9ectivity o! Christ in his death. <As 7esus says, it is particularly di!!icult !or the richDDwhether in oney, talent, or positionDDto enter the Pingdo o! 6od.> ,onetheless, it is true that, unli:e 7esus, the oppressed are o!ten not in solidarity with the true Osub9ectivity o! the oppressed,O but rather end up adopting the sub9ectivity o! the oppressorsDDsuch as i plicitly viewing the selves as in!erior or as chattelDDand hence still parta:e o! the world syste o! status, oppression, and do ination, but !ro the other end. 1n addition, they o!ten still try to solve their proble s through their own strength or through violent eans, and oppress those lower in status, such as oppressed en treating their wives as chattel.


Some Theological Issues:

The &esurre"tion:
Resurrection is the in!using o! new, trans!or ing li!e into that which is dead. -he essence o! spiritual deathDDwhich underlies physical deathDDis alienation !ro 6od, and others, including a person8s own sel!. 'o, by actively e#ercising the virtues o! !aith, hope, and love !ro a position o! alienation, 7esus Christ overca e this alienation )!ro the inside, / hence overco ing spiritual death. -his resulted in the resurrection. 2e parta:e o! this new resurrected li!e by actively parta:ing o! the new virtues o! love and trust in 6od that are in Christ. -hus .aul says that i! we unite ourselves with Christ in his death <that is, share in these virtues> then we shall also be united with hi in his resurrectionA that is, our alienation will be overco e. <'ee Ro . BA5.>

'riginal Sin and Atonement

7ust as our old !allen desiresGsub9ectivity was pic:ed !ro others, and ulti ately the !irst hu ans <represented by Ada >, according to the 1ncarnational theory, the new sub9ectivity that we need is obtained !ro Christ, the )second Ada ./ -hus, this theory a:es sense o! uch o! .aul8s discussion o! )original sin/ in Ro ans 5 and elsewhere, especially o! the parallelis he draws between the trans ission o! sin !ro Ada and the trans ission o! righteousness !ro Christ <see Ro . 5, ? Cor. ?5A22, E5DE9>.

Su$(e"ti)e or '$(e"ti)e Atonement*

As presented in ore detail below, the 1ncarnational theory clai s that ChristFs Atone ent 9usti!ies us, a:es us righteous, reconciles us to 6od, and results in !orgiveness o! sin by providing us a new, !ully redee ed set o! desires in Christ. Although these new desires ust still be wor:edDout in each individual8s li!e, its e#istence in Christ eans that the barrier to a right relationship with 6od and others has already re oved, and hence the ,ew -esta ent can spea: o! us as already being 9usti!ied, ade righteous, reconciled, and !orgiven in Christ. .ut in traditional ter inology, justification <that is, the e#istence o! new !ully hu anG!ully hu an desires in Christ> precedes sanctification <the !ull wor:ingDout o! these desires in our lives>. -his a:es the 1ncarnational theory in so e sense both an Oob9ectiveO theory and a Osub9ectiveO theory o! Atone ent in the sense that these ter s are typically used in discussions o! Atone entA it is Oob9ectiveO since the new desires are !or ed in Christ prior to our actual e#perience o! salvation, yet Osub9ectiveO in that salvation reLuires that we actually participate in these new desires.


Incarnational Theory and Scripture:

Above we saw how the 1ncarnational theory a:es sense o! the (ucharist, Christ as the 'acri!icial 4a b, 't. .aulFs ) odel/ o! the Atone ent !ound in Ro ans B, and ;aptis . 1n this section, we will show !urther how this theory !its with so e o! what is said in the ,ew -esta ent regarding salvation and how it provides new insights and understanding o! passages and the es in scriptures that otherwise see puJJling.

+hrist Tem%ted in !)ery Way in Whi"h we Are:

5ebrews EA?5 says that Christ was te pted in all ways as we are, and yet was without sin. 1! one e#a ines the virtues <such as courage> listed above, they all involve co it ents in the !ace o! various sorts o! te ptations, such as in the te ptation to stop trusting when doubt arises. Thus, the Incarnational theory implies that every time Christ experienced a new temptation and acted virtuously in the face of that temptation, a new virtue was actively exercised in the Godhead. ConseLuently, in order to actively have the general sorts o! virtues we need, Christ ust have e#perienced the ain sorts o! te ptations we have e#perienced.?0 Moreover, Christ ust have e#perienced those te ptations without sinning, !or i! he sinned, then a OantiDvirtueO would have been e#ercisedDDthat is, the OantiDvirtueO o! not acting in love and trust in the !ace o! te ptation. 3inally, inso!ar as Christ did not actively e#ercise any o! these basic virtues, his ability to save us completely would be lac:ing. 5ence, in so e sense Christ was not per!ect as our avior until he su!!ered all these sorts o! te ptations, as i plied by 5ebrews 2A?0A O1t was !itting that 6od, !or who and through who all things e#ist, in bringing any children to glory, should a:e the pioneer o! their salvation per!ect through su!!eringsO <,R'0" see also 5eb. 5A9, 7A2N>.

,ew Self and ,ew +reation in +hrist

-hroughout his epistles, the Apostle .aul clai s thatA <i> i! we are in Christ, then we are a )new creation/ <6al. BA?5" also see 2 Cor 5A?7>" <ii>, that we should put o!! the old sel! and )put on the new sel! which was created according to 6od in true righteousness and holiness/ <(ph. EA2E" see also Col. CA9D??>>" and <iii> that inso!ar as we
0 +ne ight thin: the 1ncarnational theory runs into a proble here since clearly 7esus was not te pted in every speci!ic way we are. -he 1ncarnational theory, however, only reLuires that Christ e#perienced all the i portant general types o! te ptation that we have. 3or e#a ple, presu ably Christ never e#perienced the speci!ic te ptation o! wanting to hate another !or being physically raped. -his particular te ptation, however, is si ply an instance o! a ore general te ptation to hate another person !or un9ustly victi iJing you. .resu ably, Christ did e#perience this te ptation since he was un9ustly put to death. +! course, a Luestion ight arise here regarding what counts as an i portant general type o! te ptation. -his is an i portant Luestion but 1 cannot be addressed here. <1t see s, however, that Christ did not e#perience any te ptation that reLuires that one believe that one has sinned" on the other hand, Christ could have e#perienced the te ptations arising !ro the !eeling and e#perience o! guilt, since these do not necessarily reLuire the belie! that one has sinned.>


are cruci!ied to Christ, Christ lives through us <6al. 2A20" .hil. 2A?C>. ?? 3urther, the boo: o! 5ebrews spea:s o! us having a )new heart./ 1nitially, these passages see puJJlingA where is this new sel! and new heartQ And, i! we are new creations, why do we continue to sinQ &nder the 1ncarnational theory, however, these passages a:e sense. -o see how, !irst note that since the Oold sel!O see s to be .aulFs way o! re!erring to the Osin!ul desiresO <such as hate>, it a:es sense that the ter Onew sel!O would re!er to a set o! virtuous desires. 'econd, the above passages not only i ply that .aul conceived o! this new sel! as having been created by 6od <(phesians EA2E above>, but any other passages i ply that he thought o! it as only e#isting in Christ, !or in .auline theology it is only in Christ that we are a new creation, and it is only in Christ that we truly have the Christian virtues o! love, patience, and the li:e. <3or e#a ple, see 2 Cor. 5A?7, (ph. 2A?0, Col. 2A?0, etc.>?2 -hus, !ro these passages suggest that the new sel! is si ply a set o! virtuous desires that beca e active in Christ, as postulated by the 1ncarnational theory. Accordingly, what .aul says about a new sel! being created in Christ 7esus !its beauti!ully with the 1ncarnational theory. 3urther, we can a:e sense o! why we continue to sin even though we are new creations in Christ, !or we ust parta:e o! the new creation in order !or it to beco e active in our lives.

-ead to Sin:
-he 1ncarnational theory interprets .aulFs repeated clai that we are dead to sin <e.g., Ro . BA2> as clai ing that we are no longer slaves to sin, an interpretation suggested by Ro ans chapters B through N. According to the 1ncarnational theory, we have been !reed !ro sin because the sin!ul desires are not the only desires available to us any ore" instead, we have available a new source o! virtuous desires in Christ. 'ince these desires are available !or everyone, in so e sense everyone has died to sin potentially, though this potential is o!ten largely unrealiJed in this li!e. As .aul states in 2 Corinthians 5A?ED?5A O-he love o! Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died !or all" therefore all have died. And he died !or all, so that those who live ight live no longer !or the selves, but !or hi who died and was raised !or the / <,R'0>. -he 1ncarnational theory also suggests that we are dead to sin because by parta:ing o! Christ8s cruci!i#ion we parta:e o! his !ull !acing o! hu an vulnerability, wea:ness, and alienation" as e#plained previously, this in turn !rees us !ro the world8s syste o! psychic and spiritual bondage, since once we truly !ace these things, they lose their grip on us, and hence we beco e dead to their in!luence.
? 1 a assu ing here the .auline authorship o! Colossians and (phesians, even though 1 a aware that this is disputed. 2hether or not they are .auline, however, does not a!!ect y argu ent here. ? 2 Also note that besides telling us to put on the new sel!, .aul says in other places to Oput on ChristO <Ro . ?CA?2, 6al. CA27> indicating that putting on Christ and putting on the new sel! are the sa e thing.


+leansed .rom Sin:

&nli:e the standard .enal and 'atis!action theories <see below>, the 1ncarnational theory a:es sense o! the o!ten repeated clai in 'cripture that Christ8s blood, and Christ8s sacri!ice, actually cleanses us !ro sin <e.g., see ? 7n. ?A7>, instead o! erely paying the penalty !or our sins. <'ince under the .enal and 'atis!action theories, the blood si ply serves to pay the penalty !or sin, it never directly cleanses us !ro sin as scripture suggests" all it does is open the door !or 6od to cleanse us through the process o! sancti!ication, instead o! punishing us.> 'ince the new virtues in Christ cannot coe#ist with the old )sin!ul/ desires, the ore we parta:e o! the li!e o! Christ, the ore sin is done away with Kthe antibody )cleanses us/ !ro the disease.

Being /ustified and 0ade &ighteous

-he 1ncarnational theory can also ta:e into account Ro ans chapters E and 5 in which .aul spea:s o! ChristFs wor: on the Cross 9usti!ying us and a:ing us righteous be!ore 6od. 3ollowing Martin 4uther, .rotestants have co only ta:en this idea o! being 9usti!ied or ade righteous be!ore 6od as eLuivalent to 6od8s acLuitting usA to be 9usti!ied pri arily eant that 6od would declare us no longer guilty !or our sins, and hence would not punish us !or the . As 7. *. *unn argues <?99C>, however, this understanding o! 9usti!ication or o! being ade righteous has ore to do with a court o! law, as in the Ro an legal syste , and would have been largely !oreign to .aulFs way o! thin:ing, which was 5ebraic and based on the +ld -esta ent. 2hen the ideas o! 9ustice and righteousness occur in the +ld -esta ent, they always have to do with 1sraelFs covenant relationship with 6od. -hus, to be 9usti!ied or ade righteous involved pri arily being in right relationship with 6od, and secondarily being in right relationship with other hu an beings. 1ndeed, .aulFs e#hortation to be slaves o! righteousness instead o! slaves o! sin shows that identi!ying righteousness with acLuittal is not correctA one can only be a slave o! so ething that is an active !orce in oneFs li!e, so ething that ere acLuittal is not. 1n contrast, we can be a slave o! righteousness i! it is understood as consisting o! the new li!e in Christ, since clearly this can be a !orce is one8s li!e. 1n light o! this understanding o! the .aulFs use o! the word O9usti!iedO and Orighteousness,O the 1ncarnational theory clai s that we are brought into right relationship with 6od through beco ing !ree !ro sin and parta:ing o! the li!e o! 6odDD that is, by beco ing a new sel!, or gaining a new heart <see 5eb. NA?0, 7er. C?ACC>. -hus, by enabling us to be !ree !ro sin and share in the li!e o! 6od, ChristFs Atone ent 9usti!ies us and a:es us righteous. +ne could thin: o! this in ter s o! the .rodigal son. All along the !ather would have !reely !orgiven and accepted the .rodigal son i! only the son would have returned ho e. ;ut, the son was not able to. ;y !reeing the .rodigal son !ro his bondage to sin, ChristFs Atone ent enables the .rodigal son to leave the pigDpen


and co e to his !ather, and thereby it restores the relationship between the !ather and son.?C

.orgi)eness through His Blood

According to 0incent -aylor <?9EB>, within the ,ew -esta ent, the !orgiveness o! 6od not to be understood as an annul ent o! the punish ent that 9ustice reLuires, but as the re oval o! the hindrance to !ull co union with 6od. -his !its in with one o! the pri ary eanings o! the 6ree: word in the ,ew -esta ent word translated as !orgiveness, na ely that o! )release !ro bondage or i prison ent./?E &nder the 1ncarnational theory, there!ore, ChristFs Atone ent is necessary !or our !orgiveness because without ChristFs atoning wor:, we would not be able to be released !ro our bondage to our sin!ul state and thus truly be in co union with 6od.

Sa)ed from 1od2s Wrath

1n Ro ans 5A9, .aul states that the 9usti!ication resulting !ro Christ8s blood saves us !ro 6od8s wrath. -he 1ncarnational theory would clai that ChristFs Atone ent saves us !ro O6odFs wrathO by saving us !ro our sin!ul sub9ectivity. ;ecause this sub9ectivity distorts and perverts our relationship to 6od and others, 6od, out o! love, is absolutely opposed to it. 5ence, as 6eorge Mac*onald states <?97B, p. ?B2>, 6od could be said to be opposed our desires, ai s, and attitudesMand hence to us DD inso!ar as, and while, we are wedded to the . -hat is, we could be said to be under
C -his idea that it is by giving us new li!e and !reeing us !ro sin that we are 9usti!ied is suggested by several passages in the .auline epistles. 1n Ro ans NA?D2, !or instance, .aul says that we are no longer under conde nation because Othe 'pirit o! li!e in Christ 7esus has ade e $us% !ree !ro the law o! sin and death.O -hus, it is the !act that we are !ree !ro sin D that is, enabled to really turn to 6od in love and relationship D that ta:es us out !ro under 6odFs conde nation, and thus a:es us 9usti!ied be!ore 6od. -he traditional versions o! the .enal and 'atis!action theory, however, have it in e#actly the reverse orderA 6od acLuits us !irst D that is, !rees us !ro conde nation D and then gives us new li!e, 9ust the opposite o! what .aul says in this passage. 'i ilarly, .aul says in 6alatians CA2? that Oi! there had been a law that could have given li!e, then righteousness would have certainly co e by the law.O <'ee also Ro ans 7A?0.> -his and other si ilar passages indicate that .aul thought o! righteousness as being the result o! having new li!e, not vice versa. ? E +ne ight wonder here how the 1ncarnational theory would account !or a passage such as Ro ans CA25 D2B, according to which )6od put !orward $7esus% as a sacri!ice o! atone ent by his blood, e!!ective through !aith. 5e did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine !orbearance he had passed over the sins previously co itted" it was to prove at the present ti e that he hi sel! is righteous and that he 9usti!ies the one who has !aith in 7esus./ -he 1ncarnational theory could clai that, in analogy to a orally good parent, 6odFs love and righteousness reLuire that he do everything possible to re!or and bring us bac: into a loving relationship with hi sel!, including punishing us K in a re!or ative sense D i! necessary. .aul appears to be stating here that ChristFs sacri!ice de onstrates 6odFs righteousness by showing that, even though 6od in !orbearance decided to leave sins co itted in the past unpunished, he is still a orally righteous OparentO since he provided an alternative, and even ore e!!ective eans, o! restoring us to hi sel!A the Atone ent. 1nstead o! punishing us to bring us bac: to hi , 6od decided instead to co e to us, de onstrating his love and oral goodness <righteousness>.


6odFs wrath. +r, one could understand the Owrath o! 6odO as the inevitable destructive conseLuence o! this distorted sub9ectivity, as .aul see s to in Ro ans ?A?NDC2 when he spea:s o! the wrath o! 6od as involving a Ogiving overO o! hu ans to their own distorted desires.?5

The 'ld Testament S"a%egoat

Christians typically interpret the scapegoat o! 4eviticus. ?BA2?D22, which sy bolically bore the sin and guilt o! 1srael into the desert, as a type o! Christ. -he 1ncarnational theory a:es sense o! this" it would clai that Christ, li:e the scapegoat, too: the sin and guilt o! hu an beings upon hi sel! by ta:ing upon hi sel!, in the deepest possible way, the sin!ul, alienated, and guiltDridden condition o! hu an beings. Moreover, in the sa e way that the scapegoat was led out into the wilderness to sy boliJe the 1sraelitesF alienation !ro 6od and other hu an beings caused by their acts o! sin, Christ e#perienced this alienation and conseLuently su!!ered Ooutside the city gatesO <5eb. ?CA?2>. -hus, under the 1ncarnational theory, the scapegoat does serve as a !itting type o! Christ.

The .aith of +hrist: 3m%li"ations for ,ew Testament Translations

-he 1ncarnational theory clai s that we are saved by parta:ing o! the new virtues, such as !aith, that were enacted by Christ. -his has i plications !or translations o! passages such as 6alatians 2A?B, 6alatians 2A22, and .hilippians CAND9. 1n standard translations, 6alatians 2A?B reads so ething li:e )2e :now that a person is 9usti!ied not by the wor:s o! the law, but through !aith in 7esus Christ./ 1n his boo: the !aith of Christ "#$%&, '(('), however, *u:e &niversity ;iblical scholar Richard 5ays has argued on various grounds that in these and si ilar passages the phrase )!aith in 7esus Christ/ should be translated )the !aith of 7esus Christ,/ a translation that, according to A. A. 7ust <200E>, has been gaining uch ground since it was published. -hus, !or e#a ple, 6alatians 2A?B beco es )2e :now that a person is 9usti!ied not by the wor:s o! the law, but through the !aith of 7esus Christ./ 3urther, 6alatians 2A22 beco es )1 have been cruci!ied with Christ" and it is no longer 1 that live, but it is Christ who lives in e. And the li!e 1 live in the !lesh 1 live by the !aith of the 'on o! 6od./ And !inally, .hilippians CAND9 beco esA )3or his sa:e 1 have su!!ered the loss o! all things, and count the as re!use, in order that 1 ay gain Christ and be !ound in hi , not having a righteousness o! y own that co es !ro the law, but one that co es through the !aith of Christ./ According to the 1ncarnational theory, this )!aith of Christ/ is the new !ullyDhu an and !ullyDdivine !aith enacted by Christ during his li!e, death, and resurrection" since the enacting o! any virtue in the hu an li!e situation reLuires so e !aith K since oral action

?5 'ee 'trong8s (#haustive Concordance, @NC" also see the corresponding entry in 6. Pittle8s theological *ictionary o! the ,ew -esta ent.


in this li!e is based on doing what is right in spite o! doubt, !ear, and its cousin te ptation K this !aith includes all the other virtues. ConseLuently, the 1ncarnational theory a:es sense o! the above passages, which otherwise are puJJling. 1ndeed, the 1ncarnational theory would have led us to e#pect such alternative translations.

"elation to Other Theories

1t is use!ul at this point to see how the 1ncarnational theory connects with other historically pro inent theories and understandings o! Atone ent and 'alvation. 'peci!ically, we will consider the Moral (#e plarG1n!luence theory, the (astern orthodo#y understanding, the Christus 0ictor understanding, and the .enal and 'atis!action theories.

Moral #$emplar/Influence Theory:

3irst the 1ncarnational theory can be thought o! as e#tending and deepening the traditional Moral (#e plarG1n!luence theory in such a way as to eli inate the ele ents in the Moral (#e plarG1n!luence theory that any Christians !ind proble atic. According to the Moral (#a plarG1n!luence theory, 7esus saves us by o!!ering a per!ect e#a ple o! love and !aith in the !ace o! un9ust persecution" this in turn in!luences us, via i itation, to e#e pli!y the sa e love and !aith. .art o! the di!!iculty with this theory is that it conceives o! Christ8s rede ptive e!!ect on us as Lualitatively the sa e as that o! other hu ans that provide a great oral e#a ple, e#cept that 7esus was per!ect. &nli:e the traditional version o! the Moral (#e plarG1n!luence theory, the 1ncarnational theory e#plicitly incorporates the supernatural operation o! the 5oly 'pirit in bringing about our participation in Christ8s sub9ectivity, and thus re oves the .alegian ele ent o!ten associated with the Moral (#e plarG1n!luence theory. 3urther, in the 1ncarnational theory i itation is conceived in a deeper way as actually involving a participation in Christ8s sub9ectivity instead o! erely involving !ollowing or being inspired by Christ8s e#a ple. -his not only a:es the 1ncarnational theory !it very well with scripture, but as e#plained above it also gives it an )ob9ective/ co ponent to Atone ent, so ething lac:ing in the standard Moral (#e plarG1n!luence theory.

#astern Orthodo$y:
'econd, the 1ncarnational theory can be thought o! as a new way o! developing a basic idea o! salvation that has ancient roots in the 6ree: 3athers such as +rigin, Athanasius, and 1renaeus" was !urther developed by (astern +rthodo# theologians through the centuries" and has been advocated by various individuals in 2estern Christianity, !or e#a ple in the theology o! the edieval ystic 7ulian o! ,orwich, and in any conte porary theologians. -he basic idea is that hu an nature was restored in


Christ, and salvation consists in parta:ing o! this new hu an nature in Christ. ! -he 1ncarnational theory !urther develops this basic idea by spellingDout what this new nature is in a uniLue way and by giving us so e idea o! how we can parta:e o! it. ,a ely, under the 1ncarnational theory, this )un!allen/ hu an nature in Christ is the !ully divine yet !ully hu an sub9ectivity developed in Christ during his li!e and death, as discussed above. -hus, according to the 1ncarnational theory we are saved by parta:ing o! the incarnated sub9ectivity o! 6od the 'on, hence the na e the Incarnational theory. Moreover, the 1ncarnational theory invo:es the sa e idea o! salvation as (astern +rthodo#yA salvation as being the ongoing participation in the li!e <or in +rthodo# ter inology, the )energies/> o! 6od.

hristus Victor:
-hird, this view o! Atone ent helps e#plicate how the Atone ent de!eats the !orces o! evil in the uch discussed Christus *ictor understanding o! Atone ent <see Aul"n, ?95?>. 1denti!ying these !orces o! evil with what theologian 2alter 2in: <?992> has called the )do ination syste /, Christ8s Atone ent can be seen as de!eating the !orces o! evil by providing a new sub9ectivity that both deconstructs this syste and provides the new, positive set o! desires o! !aith, hope, and love o! the :ind we need !or !ull engage ent with the world. <'ee the section above on ;aptis .>

Penal and Satisfaction Theories

3inally, the 1ncarnational theory reinterprets so e o! the intuitions underlying the traditional 'atis!action and .enal theories. 3irst developed by Ansel o! Canterbury in the ??th century, the 'atis!action theory beca e the standard theory within Ro an Catholic theology. -he 'atis!action theory contends that we contracted a debt o! obligation to 6od because o! our sin. 6od, however, could not si ply !orgive our debtA 6odFs honor and the order o! the universe reLuire that either we be punished or the debt be paid <satis!ied>. 'ince we could not pay ourselves, this theory goes, 6od the 'on paid our debt !or us by being per!ectly obedient to 6od the 3ather, even to the point o! su!!ering and dying on the Cross. +nce this debt was satis!ied, 6od was !ree to shower us with his ercy and thereby !ree us !ro sin and reconcile us to hi sel!, given that we repent and respond to his grace. 4i:e the 'atis!action theory, the .enal theory DD !avored by the Re!or ers and conservative protestant theology since that ti e DD e#plicated the nature o! the Atone ent using legal etaphors K speci!ically, in ter s o! what the oral law de ands. 1ts logic is al ost identical to that o! the 'atis!action theory, e#cept that it substitutes )punish ent/ !or )debt./ ConseLuently, the two theories can be stated together in ter s o! three clai sA

B 3or a discussion o! the history o! the (astern +rthodo# view, see *e itru 'taniloae, ?9N0, pp.



?> +ur sins against 6od accu ulated a debt o! obligation <'atis!action theory> or punish ent <.enal theory> so large that we could not pay it. 2> -he oral order de ands that the debt be paid <'atis!action theory> or that the sin be punished <.enal theory>. C> Christ paid the debt !or us <'atis!action theory> or too: the punish ent !or us <.enal theory>. Although 1 believe the proble s with the 'atis!action and .enal theories are !atal, the strength o! these theories is that they tap into so e deep intuitions and purported ;iblical the es regarding the nature o! sin. +ne o! these is that sin is so serious that !orgiveness ust co e at a cost" thus 6od cannot erely !orgive sin without so e :ind o! Atone ent. -he 1ncarnational theory agrees that sin is serious and that salvation co es at the )cost/ o! Christ8s death" it even agrees that the conseLuences o! sin can be understood in ter s o! being in debt or as punish ent. 5owever, it conceives o! this debt or punish ent as an in+built conseLuence o! sin K so ething that results !ro the very nature o! sin K not so ething e#ternally i posed by 6od. 'o, !or instance, intentionally acting in unloving ways towards others causes one to beco e alienated !ro others, and thus less capable o! being in positive, authentic interpersonal relationships with the or 6od" this in turn cuts one8s sel! o!! !ro the highest good !or a hu an being. -his state o! alienation, and ore generally the bondage to sin and its corresponding unpleasant conseLuences, can be understood as being in debt, or as su!!ering a !or o! punish ent, or sin. -he 1ncarnational theory, however, re9ects the restrictions on 6od inherent in the traditional versions o! these theoriesA that the oral order or 6od8s per!ect 9ustice does not allow 6od to si ply !orgive. Rather, it insists that 6od co pletely loves us and wants to release us !ro bondage" but since the bondage and alienation is internal to us K woven into the !abric o! our desires K the best eans o! releasing us !ro this bondage is internally. 6od does this by providing a new source o! desires K the new li!e in Christ K that we can internaliJe. As .hilippians 2A?2D?C states, )wor: out your own salvation with !ear and tre bling" !or it is 6od who is at wor: in you, enabling you both to will and to wor: !or his good pleasure./ Although presu ably 6od could si ply Jap us and give us these new desires, the 1ncarnational theory postulates that, at least !or early li!e, it is better to reLuire that we internaliJe the through an intentional process. ConseLuently, grace is not cheapA we not only ust wor: to internaliJe these desires throughout our lives, but the very e#istence o! these desires is a result o! Christ8s su!!ering and death. 3inally, the 1ncarnational theory avoids what 1 could be called the )degree o! !aith proble ./ 'uppose one holds that !aith in Christ is necessary !or salvation, as held 20

by any .rotestants who are not Calvinists.N 3aith, however, co es 1 degreesA !ew Christians !ully have !aith that Christ has !orgiven all o! their sins, otherwise they would not !eel guilty be!ore 6od. -he .enal and 'atis!action theories, however, conceive o! salvation o! an individual as either having occurred or not occurredA either the acLuittal in Christ has been i puted to us or it has not. -his creates a proble atic is atch between the conditions o! the i putation o! acLuittal, which co es in degrees, and the actual acLuittal, which does not. 1t invites the Luestion, 2hat degree o! !aith is reLuired !or this i putationQ 2hatever answer is given K say, B degrees o! !aith on a ?0 point scale K will be arbitrary. -his can present a real practical proble !or so e Christians, who wonder i! they have enough !aith or i! they are truly ?00S co itted to Christ. (ven i! one is a Calvinist who believes that regeneration proceeds !aith, the practical proble still re ainsA 5ow do 1 :now that 1 really have the signs o! regeneration, given that y !aith and co it ent are o!ten less than ?00SQ .erhaps 1 a only deceiving ysel! that 1 a truly regeneratedQ 1n contrast, the 1ncarnational theory does not encounter this proble A although the new desires were created in Christ once and !or all, participation in these new desires K !or e#a ple, the parta:ing o! the )!aith o! Christ/ K co es in degrees" there is no is atch at all since the ore we parta:e o! the )!aith o! Christ/ the ore we parta:e o! the new desires, since the !aith o! Christ is the centerpiece o! these new desires, as e#plicated previously.

The Incarnation Theory and Other ultures

An adeLuate theory o! the Atone ent should have signi!icant crossDcultural appeal. -he reason is that one8s understanding o! the gospel is inseparable !ro one8s understanding o! Atone ent, and yet the gospel is supposed to be !or all cultures. +ne a9or proble with the traditional .enal and 'atis!action theories is their dependence on overly 2estern notions regarding the oral order and its de ands !or punish ent that are !oreign to the e#perience and odes o! thought o! other cultures. 1nso!ar as the gospel is cast in ter s o! these theories, one ust !irst convince the o! the idea that their sins are so grave that they deserve a very large, i! not in!inite, a ount o! punish ent <in hell>" one ust convince the o! the bad news be!ore one can get the good news== 3urther, when considered in ter s o! the li!eDsituation o! any people throughout the world, this idea o! what the gospel is about is highly i plausible. 3or e#a ple, does this sound li:e the gospel to a starving child in 1ndia, that because o! her <or Ada and (ve8s> sins she actually deserves uch, uch ore su!!ering than she is e#periencing in this li!eQ +n the other hand, al ost all cultures have recogniJed that there is so ething wrong with hu an desire that cannot be !i#ed by sel!De!!ort. Rather, any o! these
Calvinists have traditionally clai ed that !aith is a byproduct o! the regeneration o! the heart that 6od unilaterally gives to the elect that is not based on anything we have or will do. -his is the )&/ part o! the !ive points o! Calvinis represented by the acrony -&41., with )&/ denoting the doctrine o! unconditional election.


cultures D e.g., Chinese, ;uddhist, and 5indu K have recogniJed that hu ans need a new source o! desire. 3or e#a ple, traditional philosophical -aois K i.e., the #aoism traditionally attributed to $ao #zu and his successors%claimed that the great #ao offered us this new source of desire. &ver a thousand years later, the #aoist tradition and the 'onfucian tradition were conjoined to form what is called the Neo-Confucian synthesis, which became the predominant philosophical system of thought in 'hina until the communist revolution in the #wentieth 'entury. (n both the so-called )ationalist and (dealist schools of this synthesis, the needed desire is jen, often translated as love or deep empathy towards others. #he goal is to *clarify* our nature so that we can more fully participate in this jen, which is considered to be at the heart of the *+reat ,ltimate* and hence of the 'osmos and human nature -.ung, /01, pp. 23 -3 34. Another e5ample is 6ahayana 7uddhists, which today represents the vast majority of 7uddhists. #hese 7uddhists claim that self-less $ove or 'ompassion is what we need. #he source of this $ove is ultimately the 7uddha-6ind or 7uddha-8ature, and it e5presses itself through 7odhisattvas, fully enlightened beings full of 'ompassion who realize their oneness with the 7uddha-nature. 7uddhists then try to get in touch with this 7uddha-6ind both through emulation of the 7odhisattvas and through e5istentially realizing their own identity with it through meditation. ?7 According to the 1ncarnational theory, the Christian gospel is in agree ent with these other traditions in their a!!ir ation o! the need !or a positive source o! desire and sub9ectivity. 3ro the perspective o! the 1ncarnational theory, however, one :ey di!!erence is that in Christianity these positive desires and sub9ectivity occur in a particular historical individual <7esus>" !urther these desires e body both a !ull ac:nowledg ent and engage ent with the world and the depths o! our li!eDsituation o! vulnerability and alienation and a !ull solidarity with the arginaliJed and scapegoats o! society.

Some Practical onse%uences:

+ne practical i plication o! the 1ncarnational theory is that in parta:ing o! ChristFs !ully hu anG!ully divine sub9ectivity, we are called to !ully engage with the
7 At least with respect to the need !or a positive source o! desire, the above sort o! analysis not only applies to the religions o! Asia entioned above, but also to so e 2estern religions such as 7udais in which the -orah could be thought o! as e bodying 6odFs desires. +ne could then understand uch o! 7ewish practice as re!lecting the idea that one can participate in 6odFs desires as e bodied in the -orah eitherA i> through the ediation o! the co unity o! !aith in co bination with the various )te#ts/ the co unity has developed as co entaries and interpretations o! the -orah" or ii> directly, as clai ed in certain ystical or pietistic branches o! 7udais .


world and our li!eDsituation, and !ully ac:nowledge all those things which we have repressed and scapegoated, both in our own psychic lives and in society. +nly by doing this can we also !ully parta:e o! the !aith, hope, and love that are in Christ. 3urther, the 1ncarnational understanding o! Atone ent tells us that salvation is available in all di ensions o! hu an li!e, whatever our situationA 6od is there in it with us, ready to redee it with us, not by i posing a divine love and power which is alien to our hu an condition but by uniting hi sel! with us in our li!eDsituation. -his in turn trans!or s us !ro the inside through the power o! a divine love which operates !ro a !ully hu an standpoint. *ivine rede ption, there!ore, does not occur by denying the reality o! our practical condition or current li!e situation" by trying to reach so e new spiritual plane" or by erely waiting !or rescue in the ne#t world. Rather it occurs by recogniJing and acting on the truth that ChristFs love and redee ing presence is available in whatever situation we are in. -his will be especially good news !or those who are the ost alienated and downcast o! all. 3inally, this view calls !ollowers o! Christ to share in his rede ptive activity by actively sharing in the li!eDsituation o! others, particularly the poor and anyone who su!!ers" !ollowers o! Christ are called to enter into, rather than ignore or avoid, the li!eD situation o! others, even i! this eans sharing their pain and vulnerability. -o ta:e up oneFs cross on this view involves sharing in the su!!ering and vulnerability o! others, !or this is what Christ did on the Cross. 7ust as Christ sharing in our su!!ering and li!eD situation ade it possible !or us to participate in his Resurrection, we as ChristFs body share in the su!!erings and li!eDsituation o! others so that they in turn ay be enabled to participate in Christ through us. -his view, however, does not stress su!!ering !or its own sa:e or !or penance, but !or the sa:e o! the 9oy o! e powering each other to participate ore !ully in the li!e o! 6od and one another. -he i age o! a body used by .aul in 'cripture well e#presses this idea o! participating in a co on li!e and rede ptionA when one part su!!ers, the others su!!er along with it" and when one part is honored, the others re9oice too <1 Cor. ?2A2B>.

-he 1ncarnational theory states that during his li!e Christ8s li!e, death, and resurrection Christ enacted the virtues o! !aith, hope, and love while e#periencing a !ully hu an li!e situation" indeed, on the Cross, he entered the very depths o! our su!!ering, vulnerability, te ptation, and alienation !ro 6od and others. (nacting these virtues in turn resulted in a set o! !ully hu an and !ully divine desires e#isting in Christ. -he 1ncarnational theory then postulates that we are progressively saved !ro sin and united with 6od by actively parta:ing o! these new desires, since one cannot parta:e o! the and engage in sin or re ain alienated !ro 6od. A!ter providing an inDdepth philosophical e#planation o! the these clai s, we showed how the theory a:es sense o! 2C

:ey passages and etaphors in 'cripture regarding Atone ent" how it accounts !or any o! the :ey strengths o! alternative theories" and !inally, how it has positive practical conseLuences !or both evangelis and the living the Christian li!e. 1n su , the 1ncarnational theory a:es the doctrine o! the Atone ent a logical strength o! Christianity instead o! a logical proble K which is a huge advantage when spea:ing to those who sincerely Luestion the plausibility Christianity" and it does this while at the sa e ti e synthesiJing into a coherent whole diverse and puJJling 'criptural etaphors and passages regarding Atone ent. 2hat ore could one as: o! a theory o! Atone entQ

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