Reconciled to the Spirit

Reconciled to the Spirit August 21, 2014

As one would expect, Jenson’s brief sketch of a positive account of atonement (Theology as Revisionary Metaphysics, 133-5) is a Trinitarian account. Atonement means at-one-ment, and we cannot know what that reunion is or how it happens without knowing the One with whom are are made One. Atonement cannot be like gluing one coin to another. Rather, “the relation of creatures to this God is always a function of their involvement with the three who are God – or, in abysmal possibility, their disinvolvement” (133).

He expounds on this by running through a series of acts by which each Person reconciles us to the other two: “we are reconciled to the triune God by acts of each of the three over against the other two” (135). For instance, and most obviously, we are reconciled to the Father by being incorporated by the Spirit into the obedience of the Son.

When we shift the focus to reconciliation to Spirit and Son, interesting things happen. One of the most striking results is this: “The Son reconciles us to the Spirit by entering that wonderful and frightening future before us, going through the end of the world on the cross and entering the Kingdom through the Resurrection, all the while appealing to his Father to honor his dearly purchased solidarity with us, just as, in the Resurrection, the Father does. Thus the Son brings us along as he follows the Spirit’s leading” (134). 

We reconciled to not merely by the Spirit. This opens up an important thread of biblical teaching: Israel grieved the Spirit in the wilderness, and so the Spirit withdrew; atonement was a way of reconciling with the grieved Spirit, the Spirit of life and health. Through the Son, we have been so reconciled to the Spirit that He not only dwells among but dwells within us, consecrating us as His holy temple. 

And this: We need to be reconciled to the Son, and we are by the Father in the Spirit. That necessity comes from our insistence on being our own man, our “being incurvatus in se.” The Father breaks through our isolation by sending the Son into “eternal identification with us., even unto Sheol, so that we cannot escape being one with the Son and so with one another.” In the Spirit “we willingly live that identification, for the members of the Son’s body are also his people and his spouse.” 

And this can add a further critique of traditional atonement theologies: They are sometimes inadequately Trinitarian, insofar as they ask how we can be reconciled to “God,” rather than how we are reconciled to the Three who are One.

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