Sacrifice and Atonement: Psychological Motives and Biblical Patterns

Sacrifice and Atonement: Psychological Motives and Biblical Patterns

by Stephen Finlan


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Beneath the commonplace affirmation that Jesus paid for our sins lie depths of implication: Did God demand a blood sacrifice to assuage divine anger? Is sacrifice (consciously or unconsciously) intended to induce the deity to show favor? What underlies the various metaphors for atonement used in the Bible?

Here, Stephen Finlan surveys psychological theories that help us to understand beliefs about sacrifice and atonement and what they may reveal about patterns of injury, guilt, shame, and appeasement. Early chapters examine the language in both testaments of purity and the scapegoat, and of payment, obligation, reciprocity, and redemption. Later chapters review theories of the origins of atonement thinking in fear and traumatic childhood experience, in ambivalent or avoidant attachment to the parents, and in poisonous pedagogy. The theories of Sandor Rado, Mary Ainsworth, Erik Erikson, and Alice Miller are examined, then Finlan draws conclusions about the moral responsibility of appropriating or rejecting atonement metaphors. His arguments bear careful consideration by all who live with these metaphors and their effects today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781506401966
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers
Publication date: 05/01/2016
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Abbreviations vii

Introduction xi

Why Atonement Is Compelling xiii

Revelation to the Wounded xv

The Approach Used Here xviii

1 Atonement as Purification 1

Functions of Ritual 1

Atonement Ideas in the Hebrew System 5

Spiritualizing or Metaphorical Understandings 12

The Psychology of Purity 14

2 Atonement as Compensation or Reciprocity 23

The Nature of Sacrifice in the Old Testament 24

Theories of Atonement Arising from Guilt 32

Sacrifice as a Part of Reciprocity Systems 37

No Inducement in the Kingdom 56

3 Attachment, Cruelty, and Coping 59

Attachment Theory 60

The Legacy of Cruel Punishing 66

Ideologies of Payment through Suffering 69

Not Your Fault 71

A Case of Ambivalent Attachment 73

4 Rescue and Disgust in Paul 75

The Abstraction of Sacrifice in Paul's Theology 75

Other Atonement Images in Paul 90

The Trouble with Images 99

Paul's Psychology 102

The Problem with Atonement 109

5 Answers to Atonement 113

Paul Is "Participationist" 113

Paul Is "Restorative" 115

Paul Is "New Covenantal" 117

The Son Was Not Intended to Be Killed 118

Luke-Acts Is Not Cross-Centered 122

6 Fear and Loathing in the Epistle to the Hebrews 129

Hebrews' Dilemma about Sacrifice 129

Innocent Blood and a Fury of Fire 140

Another Soteriology in Hebrews 145

7 Atonement Played Out 149

Chronology of Theories of Atonement 149

Anxiety, Guilt, and Shame 162

Luther and Calvin 166

Ritual Murder 173

Without Price 180

Conclusion 183

Wrestling with Propitiation 183

What We Can Say about Christ's Death 185

No Need to Manipulate 187

Bibliography 191

Index of Names 211

Index of Scripture and Pre-Modern Sources 219

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