A Scholar’s Devotion with David M. Moffitt

Going through seminary, students are taught to study the Bible and uphold its doctrines about God while also being encouraged not to neglect their devotional times with God. Yet during my own devotional time I, and probably many others, often ask, “Is this approach the best way to grow spiritually, or is there a better way? What could I do differently? Should I incorporate my studies with my devotions?”  

Each week, I ask a different scholar two questions about how he or she spends time with the Lord and continues to love him with all their mind, strength, and heart. While no one method or style is “the only way,” we can draw on one another’s experiences. 

This week, I have asked Dr. David Moffitt if he would share his thoughts with us.

1. How do you spend your devotional time with the Lord? 

I’m afraid that I don’t have anything special or exotic to say. I seek to spend 30 mins each morning in reading Scripture and praying. That is the foundation of my devotional life. We do have some family time a few times a week where we read through a book together (C.S. Lewis has contributed several).

2. How do you practically seek to deepen your love for Christ? 

As for deepening my love for the Lord, I find that, apart from prayer and good worship music, this mainly takes the form of serving in various capacities at our local church. I also love being able to teach exegesis to students at various levels.

As I said, not very exciting, but I am grateful for the call on my life.


David M. Moffitt is the Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at St. Mary’s College at the University of St Andrews. His published dissertation is called Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Thank you, Dr. Moffitt!
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Book Review: The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant (Michael Gorman)

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

book review Death Messiah birth new covenant michael gorman

Discussions on the atonement are never-ending, and it’s only getting harder to keep up. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but where ought one start? Michael Gorman, author of numerous books (Reading Revelation Responsibly, Becoming the Gospel, Inhabiting the Cruciform God, Apostle of the Crucified Lord, etc), has written “a (not so) new model of the atonement.” This model argues for

a more comprehensive, integrated, participatory, communal, and missional model than any of the major models in the tradition. It overcomes the inherent rift in many interpretations of the atonement between the benefits  of Jesus’ death and the practices of participatory discipleship  that his death both enables and demands. I contend throughout the book that in the New Testament the death of Jesus is not only the source , but also the shape , of salvation. It therefore also determines the shape of the community—the community of the new covenant—that benefits from and participates in Jesus’ saving death. (4)

Throughout the book, Gorman presents connections between Christ’s atonement, the new covenant inaugurated by his blood, and the way the church community participates in his death and suffering while looking forward to the day of resurrection. One of Gorman’s focuses is how Christ’s new-creational people participate in faithfulness, love, and peace (4).

Throughout the New Testament, faith, as a practice, is about faithfulness even to the point of suffering and death; love, as a practice, has a distinctive, Christlike shape of siding with the weak and eschewing domination in favor of service; and hope, as a practice, means living peaceably (which includes nonviolently) and making peace. Thus the summary triad “faithfulness, love, and peace” is appropriate. (4-5)

Gorman isn’t concerned to interact with other interpretations of the atonement, nor with the “mechanics” of the atonement or the atonement theories. Rather than diving into how it works, Gorman wants to portray what it does in the lives of believers. Gorman claims, “The New Testament is much more concerned about what Jesus’ death does for and to humanity than how it does it.” (5).

Outline

  • Chapters one overviews the lack of the “new covenant” theme in traditional and recent discussions of the atonement. Gorman puts forth that new covenant texts and themes had a farther-reaching effect that many scholars give credit, and that the new covenant is the atonements umbrella theme.

The preceding chapters explore the ways Christ’s death both effected and affected the new covenant.

  • Chapters 2 and 3 bring together the cross and the new covenant by surveying the NT books, revealing how we participate in Christ’s death through baptism.
  • Participating in Christ’s death means a different way of living for the Christian. Chapter four examines faithfulness to God, chapter 5—loving others, and chapters 6 and 7—peacemaking—what the covenant does and how it shows up in our communities.
  • Chapter 8 is Gorman’s conclusion. “The cross shapes each of these aspects of Christian thought and life, weaving them together into a comprehensive and integrated whole” (209). The new covenant’s effects are multi-dimensional; Gorman views this new covenantal model as the umbrella model which houses the other “penultimate” models. There is no “one” view, as many of them emphasize different aspects of the atonement. Though I would think of it more as a hierarchy, with some (penal substitution) deserving greater (and not lesser) emphasis than others.

Gorman argues for a kind of theosis, saying that the Christian life/community is a “transformative, communal participation in the life of God as the new covenant people of God” (68). Belief in Jesus is not merely an intellectual assent. Instead, “his story will become [our] story” (87). We live out his story daily. In writing about Revelation 1.5-6, Gorman says, “Those liberated from sin by Jesus’ death (the cross as the source of salvation) are now shaped into faithful witnesses, even to the point of suffering and death (the cross as the shape of salvation)” (103). John reminds the churches that he is their brother and fellow participant in both the tribulation and the kingdom (Rev 1.9).

The Spoiled Milk

Gorman has helpful comments about the new covenant and a supersessionist/anti-Judaism belief. He says, “the idea of a new covenant does not make sense except, first of all, as a category of Jewish identity and theology” (23). This promise was given to the Jewish people first, and the Gentiles were allowed to be grafted in (Rom 11). Gentile Christians must not forget the Jewish origins of Christianity (i.e., Jesus was a Jew). However, in some places Gorman seems to downplay the “newness” of the new covenant (23, 214). There is no need to disparage the “old covenant,” but Paul said that the old one has been abolished and done away with (see here) because the glory of the new is so much better (2 Cor 3.7–11). Though, perhaps I have simply misunderstood Dr. Gorman’s arguments.

Recommended?

Whether or not one agrees with all Gorman has said here, this book is an excellent resource for those who are interested in the new covenant, the atonement, and the outflow of new-covenant living (peace, faithfulness, love). We were once an enemy of God, and he has now made peace with us so that we can be his eternally adopted children. Should that not play out in our own lives? This would be beneficial required reading in seminary classrooms, for students, for pastors, and for teachers. This would make a good pair with Adam Johnson’s Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed, which surveys the many atonement models and looks at how they emphasize a true aspect of Christ’s work.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Michael J. Gorman
  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: James Clarke/Lutterworth (June 30, 2014)
  • Language: English

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lutterworth/James Clarke. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Review: Locating Atonement

atone

Random. Recapitulation. Satisfaction. Penal Substitution. Moral Influence. Christus Victor. What encompasses the meaning of “atonement”? Did only Christ’s death bring atonement? Does Christ’s incarnation, perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension contribute to his atoning work? To whom does the atonement extend? Do we have to choose just one theory or are we allowed to mix and match?

Locating Atonement, edited by Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders, are a collection of essays from the third annual Los Angeles Theology Conference. Rather than discussing which atonement theory (or theories) work the best, the speakers at the LATC were asked to address the relationship between the atonement and other biblical doctrines. How does the atonement work within the web of biblical doctrine in Christian theology? If placed beside the doctrine of the Trinity, or creation, or human suffering, or the image of God, what would the atonement add to understanding of these doctrines? 

“No doubt theologians should focus on giving a proper account of particular doctrines, their shape, their dogmatic function, and so forth. But theologians should also pay attention to the relationship between different doctrines in the wider scheme of Christian theology” (14)

The Atonement and . . .

Chapter 1 (External works of the Trinity) – Adonis Vidu sets the atonement within the oneness of the Trinity – there are no works that the Father does that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not involved.

[T]he whole Trinity is active in the death of Jesus, not just the Father punishing the Son. The whole Trinity is present to us in a new way in the human nature of the Son, taking upon itself, in this new human nature, our penal death (42).

Chapter 2 (Creation) – Here Matthew Levering critiques Nicholas Wolterstorf’s critique of satisfaction theories on the atonement and his belief that Jesus rejected the OT reciprocity principle. After this Levering draws upon Aquinas and offers an account of reciprocal justice as grounded in the created order.

Chapter 3 (Image of God) – Ben Myers argues that the church fathers had a consistent and rational explanation for the atonement, one that was rich in christology and the human condition.

Chapter 4 (Wisdom) – This was by fay my favorite chapter as Strobel and Levenson show that “the atonement is the doctrinal elaboration of the movement and action of God incarnate for us through death into resurrection; it is doctrinal reflection on who God is and how he is for us in the descent and exaltation of Christ” (89). He shows how God’s wisdom, which is foolishness to the world, defeats death in the grotesque death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 5 (Covenant) – Jeremy Treat views the atonement through covenant. Sinners are reconciled to God through the death of Christ, the one who fulfulled the covenant obligations and who took on himself the covenant curses, and we are now brought together as family.

Chapter 6 (Incarnation) – R. Lucas Stamps argues for the necessity of Jesus’ two wills (a.k.a. “Dyothelitism”) for the atoning work as God-Man as it better explains Christ’s “divine intention and human obedience” (138).

Chapter 7 (Punishment and Retribution) – Hill and Jedwab focus on the viability of penal substitution, that the B was punished by A in place of C. B = the Son; A = the Father; C = sinners. If the previous sentence is any indication, this essay is quite analytical.

Chapter 8 (Divine Wrath) – In their essay, Yang and Davis respond to objections against divine wrath and then present their own understanding of divine wrath along with some reasons why we as Christians should see God as possessing this attribute.

Chapter 9 (Shame) – Shame is separate from guilt. “Shame is ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is ‘I did something bad.’” Christ took on our humanness. He began his human life in shame. He associated with the shameful. He died the ultimate shameful death. Mark McConnell shows that Jesus took on our shameful stats as sinners before God so that we could have Christ’s life, strength, and obedience.

Chapter 10 (Human Suffering) – Bruce McCormack relates the atonement to human suffering saying that, at best, human suffering is an analogy to Christ’s sufferings.

Chapter 11 (Eucharist) – Eleanor Stump writes about the atonement in relation to the Eucharist where one reenacts their original surrender to God, though it is more like the renewal of a marriage vow. It strengthens a Christians perseverance to finish to the end. Of all of the essays, I think this one had the least to do with its intended topic.

Chapter 12 (Ascension of Christ) – Michael Horton shows how the ascension is a crucial aspect of Christ’s atonement. It was after the ascension that Pentecost happened where the Holy Spirit came and filled the believers. Christians are united to Christ by the Spirit, the one “who brings the powers of the age to come into this present age” (235).

Recommended?

This book will likely be over your head unless you are in seminary, or you have graduated seminary, or you are well-versed in atonement theology. If you are, then this book is right up your alley. But if you are like me and you haven’t read much theology on the atonement, this book will be more difficult for you. But I can’t give this book the boot simply because of my lack of experience on the theology of atonement (and philosophy, and patristic theories, etc).

For those who have a rich interest in atonement theology, there is so much detail and nuance to be understood, to be grasped, worked and wrestled with. I’ll warn you that this is dense, it’s not always easy to read, and having a different author for each essay varies the quality, but if you have a good handle on atonement theology, you will enjoy this book.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon or from Zondervan!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.