This group of views asserts that given some condition or another atonement is merely a spiritual or mythical truth, it’s not actually something that happens. These views tend to assume a view of humanity divorced from Christianity, and the teachings that humans are not spiritually perfect, or even close. These views tend to assume that Christ was an example of faithfulness, but at the expense of everything else the gospel includes, like the Christian story of the imperfection of humanity, and the fall, and the power of sin as a real evil that is truly corrupting the universe.
These views often trying to distance themselves from the bloodthirsty god don’t do justice again to the historically sensible answer provided in the bible itself in the writings of the apostles.
The whole purpose of the cross is to ensure the victory of good over evil in the cosmic narrative. Yet, what this view does, while the aforementioned is true, is again base itself in a dualism of God satan. This is not the biblical duality at all. The bible isn’t about God Vs. Satan, it’s about Creator of Life vs. Death. This view isn’t inherently problematic until people want to again, as the heading says, reduce it to myth.
Perpetuated by liberal german theology this view says that Christ overcame His own sinful nature through the power of the holy spirit, and n so doing offers others the chance to overcome themselves and awake to their “god-consciousness.” This view could easily be adapted to suit many religions or philosophies. It’s not all bad, in that the gospel is about overcoming ourselves, and joining a people inaugurated for the purpose of being Christ to the world. It’s when this is the focus at the expense of Christ’s actual victory over death, and the fulfillment of the covenant, and the inauguration of the kingdom is placed on the backburner that we have a problem.
I’m gonna include commercial theory here. The view in commercial theory is that God needed to buy himself some air time for ultimate glory, and the cross does this.
Moral theory is the idea that the atonement demonstrates god’s love to humans in such a way that it shows them how to be more moral. Von Balthasar’s aesthetic interpretation might be a good example of this if taken solely based on his work Love Alone is Credible. Also this view is the heart of liberal protestantism, which again isn’t bad,just incomplete. This view isn’t weak necessarily, but on its own it misses part of the larger picture. as is the case with many mythical/demyhtological views.
I stated the weaknesses above, but to reiterate. Many of these views have great emphases, but they lack a center, and the thrust of historical viability in and with the writings of the Christian canon, and the Church’s experience of this Jesus whom we worship and follow.
Thanks for reading, to those of you who were interested. I may have failed to be charitable to all the views, and that’s perfectly fine with me. I am biased, I own it. I think that exemplarism is a great starting point and a necessary emphasis. We are supposed to emulate and follow Jesus, and I think too often many in the name of traditional beliefs mistake ideas about Jesus with following Jesus. I indeed see that some do not follow Jesus, and claim to worship Christ. However, the solution I’m proposing is not opposing the two, but seeing that following Jesus is what it means to worship Christ. Separating the two is not the answer. I saw a book called stop worshiping Christ, start following Jesus. There’s something to be said for reemphasizing Jesus and his teachings, but we need to see that following Jesus when done in charity and truth, is what it means to worship Christ.