Hojin Ahn, A Constructively Critical Conversation between Nonviolent and Substitutionary Perspectives on Atonement: Theological Motifs and Christological Implications. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2021.
In the contemporary theological world, traditional substitutionary accounts of Christ’s atoning work have increasingly come under criticism for what is said to be their propensity for encouraging violence by a variety of theologians such as feminists, pacifists, and Girardians. Cur deus homo?, the question about God’s sovereign purpose in Christ’s atoning work, is radically transposed into “who killed Jesus?” which is a provocative inquiry into the ethical issues surrounding divine violence from the nonviolent perspective of atonement. Nonetheless, in this monograph, contrary to their nonviolent intention, you will witness that Brock, Schwager, and Weaver violently damage a “holistic” dimension of atonement event under the human cause of the victim Jesus’ crucifixion by evil. By contrast, you will hear the harmonized voices of Anselm, Calvin, and Barth, who adamantly proclaim the incarnated Son of God’s sovereignty in his self-giving death for our salvation. Furthermore, it is through the theological conversation between the opposite camps that you will realize how the anthropological motifs of healing, scapegoat mechanism, and nonviolence are to be constructively engaged with the Christological-cultic context of an evangelical doctrine of substitution. You will encounter the crux of Christ’s saving death for us.
“In this penetrating study, Ahn offers an acute and discerning analysis of ‘nonviolent atonement’ theories in comparison with traditional ‘substitutionary’ approaches and persuasively argues for the tradition’s more holistic reach. Ahn employs a generous and appreciative reading of the tradition’s contemporary critics, using them to help reframe and broaden his Chalcedonian vision of the God-Man’s redemptive work. This is a work of classical theological reflection of exemplary vitality and pertinence and deserves a wide readership.”
—Ephraim Radner, Wycliffe College
“Was the death of Jesus Christ a form of child abuse? Hojin Ahn rescues the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement from both the lurid descriptions of evangelical preachers and the avant-garde theologians through this careful and critical analysis of the place of violence in atonement theology. His description of the ‘for us’ nature of Christ is an invitation for dialogue and a reason for doxology. I heartily commend this book.”
—Stephen Andrews, Wycliffe College
“Hojin Ahn’s defense of substitutionary atonement offers a salutary contribution to current debates surrounding divine violence. Rightly arguing that it is God’s self-sacrificial love that satisfies his eternal justice, Ahn takes the best from Anselm, Calvin, and Barth in a nuanced yet penetrating critique of nonviolent atonement theories. Ahn explains why we may rightly claim that God took our sin upon himself while at the same time judging and annihilating sin—including structural evil and violence.”
—Hans Boersma, Nashotah House Theological Seminary