My friend is writing a paper about propitiation and atonement.
“There are five definitions of propitiation,” he told me. And I know that there are at least five major approaches to explaining atonement. I know this because I’ve spent some time recently reading those explanations. And listening to lectures.
And I walk away from the conversations about theological concepts feeling tired and a bit defeated. I cannot muster the energy to weigh all the aspects of each of the definitions, each of the theories. To be a scholar, they must be weighed. An opinion must be formed. The differences in theory lead to differences in practice.
That’s what those who argue deeply say. And I fall short of being able to argue deeply with them.
I’m not the only person who struggles to understand theological nuance. You may have that struggle as well. And some of the people who don’t understand the theories walk away from the conversations and from the people and places where they happen.
But I cannot walk away from the event that all the theologians are trying to explain.
A man died. He asked if there were another possibility, but he died willingly. He apparently had power to resist. He had, by all accounts, walked through previous crowds wanting to kill him. He demonstrated the capacity to argue. He had demonstrated knowledge of the letter and spirit of the law that was if he had written it himself. He had, apparently. And his life was so perfect, it was as if he were God. And then, he bled out.
He was buried. And came back to life, not zombie-like with rotting flesh but with a face welcomed by close friends and a hole-marked hand held by a few. And served breakfast.
I understand that.