Abba Father – By Leroy Spinks
In Abba, Father: Viewing Atonement through the Jesus Lens, I set out to rethink atonement in a departure from what is possibly the most popular theory among conservative Christians. This book reexamines atonement by giving careful attention to the words of Jesus. It abandons entirely the concept of "the atonement" held as the most popular view among conservative evangelicals today.
Most of the classic theories of the atonement proposed what the authors intended to be literal, often legal, explanations of what Jesus did for us on the cross. One of the older popular theories dating back to the third and fourth centuries proposed the literal, legal explanation that Jesus paid a ransom to the devil for our souls. Several centuries later Anselm proposed the literal, legal theory that Jesus made satisfaction (paid God compensation or reparations) for our offense to God's honor. Several centuries after that, the Reformer John Calvin proposed that Jesus paid our sin debt for our offense to God's justice. (Chapters 7, 8, and 9 will trace the history of these theories.) Mention of the classical theories of the atonement refers to these three theories (plus another discussed briefly in chapter 7). These theories proposed the idea that the cross of Christ provided "the atonement"-an event that made it possible for God to forgive us and make us his children.
The New Testament shows that Jesus did not preach any "theory of the atonement." In fact, Jesus never used any word that could be translated "atonement," nor did he preach any concept that could be so construed. Jesus proclaimed the metaphor of the loving Father. Jesus taught how we are to reconcile (although he never used that word, either) with the Father, not how the Father reconciles himself to us. In addition, the message of all the New Testament authors following Jesus continued this theme while also offering many other metaphors illustrating how Jesus brings us back to God. The view presented here does not claim to be Jesus' theory of the atonement, for the New Testament evidence does not indicate that he had one. Instead, the following chapters will develop what Jesus proclaimed as his Good News of the kingdom of God. Once we understand the gospel Jesus preached, we do not need any theory of the atonement. Jesus' message as communicated through his favorite metaphor stands sufficient on its own.
Spinks is a retired pastor who lives near Chattanooga, Tennessee. He has devoted himself to biblical studies and to reading histories and biographies. He is an experienced writer of Christian education curriculum and the author of The Jesus Lens (Nurturing Faith, 2018). Learn more about Spinks on his author page.