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This essay explores a contemporary approach to Christian atonement theology based on the liturgical background to New Testament understandings of the Cross and Resurrection. This approach offers an important way of critiquing and undermining violently sacrificial understandings of the atonement that place the emphasis for violence on God, such as penal substitutionary theories. The essay outlines this liturgical approach to atonement theology based on the work of Joseph Ratzinger and James Alison, and as it is reflected in the New Testament. A liturgical approach captures the encounter- and event-nature of the atonement as presented in the New Testament, rather than theorizing the atonement into a rigid, rational system. We argue that Alison’s identification of atonement as humans undergoing Jesus’ atoning action as forgiving victim is complemented and deepened by Ratzinger’s Christological perspective that this atoning action involves becoming part of Christ’s sacrificial way of being, on the basis of a divine initiative.

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Journal Article

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