As atonement continues to come up in our Sunday school class, I continue to reflect on how much a substitutionary view has been central to our theological language. Propitiation is a perfect example of this. Propitiation is a common term used in atonement discussions and other areas of theology. It's a fancy word for appeasing someone, often the Divine.
There's just an assumption that someone has to be appeased. But is that necessarily so?
Humans need to be appeased; there's little doubt about that. But the Divine? When made in humanity's image, the Divine surely have to be appeased. However, from a Christian perspective, we are made in God's image, yet we are different. I'm increasingly convinced that the transactional, conditional acceptance notions we have in our theology are not from God, but from our broken human nature.
Others have talked about some of the problems with the various atonement theories, namely substitutionary and ransomed theories. The idea of propitiation is really central to these criticisms, as who does God have to appease and what kind of character does a God have who needs to be appeased?
The mimetic theory of atonement seems to address some of this. It doesn't minimize any of the biblical record, but in my view, recognizes the human theological evolution and understanding that develops over centuries/millennia.
Does someone need to be appeased for our salvation? Yes, but nothing divine. I'm inclined to believe it's us who need to be appeased for our own wrongdoings. We are the ones who can't get over ourselves. So God provides a way for us to move past it and to him.
How does this change our view of salvation? Of God and his character? Of the Bible?