Koryakin Sergei

Contemporary Protestant Debate on the Atonement

Koryakin Sergei (2016) "Contemporary Protestant Debate on the Atonement ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia I : Bogoslovie. Filosofiia. Religiovedenie, 2016, vol. 64, pp. 20-39 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturI201664.20-39


The article explores various arguments of contemporary Protestant Bible scholars who criticize the traditional Protestant teaching of atonement known as penal substitution theory. The author examines the scholars that may not be familiar to the Russian theological world, such as C. Marshall, C. H. Dodd, T. Lane, S. Travis, J. Green, M. Baker, C. Gunton and others. The author demonstrates how the contemporary biblical scholarship sheds new light on key notions for Protestant understanding of atonement, such as righteousness/justice, propitiation, God’s wrath, sin, and punishment. The main contemporary criticism makes it clear that the supporters of the penal substitution theory have read into these notions the meanings that are typical to the Western legal system but not for Jewish tradition nor culture that framed the context for authors of biblical texts. Besides, the article examines the metaphorical nature of the biblical language. Contemporary researchers argue that the New Testament authors, when speaking of atonement, use at least fi ve groups of metaphors drawing on various aspects of life in the ancient world: the court of law, commercial dealings, worship, the battleground, and personal relationships. The nature of metaphor means that the interpreters deal with mediated description of the mystery of the atonement that rules out literal understanding of the imagery used. Moreover, this variety of metaphors allows for a multifaceted approach to interpreting the meaning of the death of Christ and fi nding various real-life applications of theological truths pertaining to the atonement. When this imagery is understood solely through the lens of legal metaphors, they lose their own voice and become a part of a theory that claims to provide a comprehensive explanation of the meaning of the death of Christ. This theory centers on the legal understanding of the relationship between God and man, which complicates the application of atonement teaching in different contexts. The author provides arguments that demonstrate the need to seriously revisit the key points of penal substitution theory.


atonement, penal substitution theory, righteousness, justice, propitiation, God’s wrath, sin, retributive justice, punishment, metaphor.


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Koryakin Sergei