“He could not do it without us”: synergistic atonement — Mondays with MacDonald

Then again, as the power that brings about a making-up for any wrong done by man to man, I believe in the atonement. Who that believes in Jesus does not long to atone to his brother for the injury he has done him? What repentant child, feeling he has wronged his father, does not desire to make atonement? Who is the mover, the causer, the persuader, the creator of the repentance, of the passion that restores fourfold?—Jesus, our propitiation, our atonement. He is the head and leader, the prince of the atonement. He could not do it without us, but he leads us up to the Father’s knee: he makes us make atonement. Learning Christ, we are not only sorry for what we have done wrong, we not only turn from it and hate it, but we become able to serve both God and man with an infinitely high and true service, a soul-service. We are able to offer our whole being to God to whom by deepest right it belongs. Have I injured anyone? With him to aid my justice, new risen with him from the dead, shall I not make good amends? Have I failed in love to my neighbour? Shall I not now love him with an infinitely better love than was possible to me before? That I will and can make atonement, thanks be to him who is my atonement, making me at one with God and my fellows!

George MacDonald (from his sermon “Justice”, published in Unspoken Sermons, Series 3, 1889)

Tagged with:
Recent Posts:
  • Rich Goulette

    Hi Steve,

    I don’t think you’re going down the route of process theologians, who state that God is as reliant on us as his creation as we are to him as creator(ie, how can God be called a Creator without creation), but I wonder could God still be ontologically God without creation? And to the extent that God knew we would fall, and designed the plan of salvation(and atonement) that we were part of, could it then be that the atonement was ultimately monergistic?

    • MacDonald was no process theologian, nor am I. But I think his point here, or at least my point in presenting it, was that the outworking of atonement is something that requires participation. Whether such things are all ultimately illusory as God is indeed responsible for all that happens, I don’t care to speculate. What I’m more interested in is problematizing the overly laissez-faire treatment of salvation (or should I say, the illegitimate bifurcation of justification and sanctification) among most American Evangelicals. We can’t be said to be truly atoned for inasmuch as we maintain our outposts of enmity with God, and Jesus is our facilitator in decommissioning them. Salvation is a process in which we must – and, I believe, all ultimately will – participate.

      Did that help address your question(s)?