Rich Paxson

God reaches out to humanity in atonement through love and with love. God is not vengeful, seeking satisfaction for humanity’s sinfulness. No. Atonement is about reconciliation, not retribution.

As I’ve reframed my personal understanding of the theology and practice of atonement I’ve been tempted to paint knowledge of God’s nature into my new the picture. After all, I now know that First Temple Atonement liturgy reflected God’s coming among the people in the veiled person of the high priest. David’s negotiations with the Gibeonites helped me understand that God can initiate Atonement through a kind of interests-based bargaining, an iterative process beginning with God’s deep understanding of the parties needs, desires, and expectations. 

The Forgiving Victim course offers and validates ideas that turn the widely accepted view of Atonement, God seeking payment for human sin through the crucifixion of God’s son, on its head. I am tempted to think that because I’ve learned to see Atonement differently, I’ve also initiated a new personal relationship with God. That’s the temptation. 

The truth is that discovering a new drawing of Atonement makes me want to know about the Artist. I want to get to know the One behind the veil, the facilitator inviting me to model my life on His love. But God adds those colors over a lifetime, not just in one online course!