For several days, I have been planning to write an entry outlining the various atonement explanations, but then I came across this article by Alister E. McGrath. And resurrection trumped atonement for me today.
Easter Day has shown us the care and power of God. We wake up today and sin still thrives in the world. McGrath reminds us that many distinguished writers trying to explain this for us used the situation during WWII. Occupying power. Life lived under the shadow of a foreign presence. Then comes the news of a far-off battle that has turned the tide of the war.
In one sense, the situation has not changed, but in another, more important sense, the situation has changed totally.
I remember once meeting a man who had been held prisoner in a Japanese prisoner-ow-war camp in Singapore. He told me of the astonishing change in the camp atmosphere which came about when one of the prisoners (who owned a shortwave radio) learned of the collapse of the Japanese war effort in the middle of 1945. Although all in the camp still remained prisoners, they knew that their enemy had been beaten. It would only be a matter of time before they were released. And those prisoners, I was told, began to laugh and cry, as if they were free already.
In one sense, victory has not come; in another, it has. The resurrection declares in advance of the event God's total victory over all evil and oppressive forces--such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in the light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.
Read "In the Light of Victory" and many other excellent essays in Bread and Wine.