Salvation as participation in Christ: A study of three early Christian writers and their incarnational interpretations of the Atonement

Margaret Dingle

Research output: ThesisHonours Thesis

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If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Cor.5:17a NRSV)
This thesis demonstrates that appeasement motifs of atonement are not necessary to maintain a theologically well-argued theory of atonement. In particular it explores as an alternative early Christian concepts of the rehabilitation of human nature through union with Christ, leading to the restoration of humanity’s relationship with God and the renewal of creation.
Both sin and death are overcome through the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who is both God and human. In this thesis this is demonstrated particularly in the works of Paul, Irenaeus of Lyons and Athanasius of Alexandria.
This thesis understands atonement as reconciliation, following the Greek word translated as “atonement” in Romans 5:11 in the King James Bible, translated as “reconciliation” in newer translations. The concept of union with Christ is examined in Paul’s writings, especially his words about being “in” Christ, of sharing Christ’s death and resurrection, of being the body of Christ, and of being a new creation in Christ. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote about growing into the divine, enabld by Christ’s participation in human life and history whereby Christ healed history, sanctified human life and reconciled humans to God in union with Christ. Athanasius of Alexandria has an incarnational view of the Atonement, where the God Word took on human nature and transformed it through his life, death and resurrection, defeating death and restoring immortality to humans, enabling them to partake of the divine nature.
This thesis finds that incarnational Atonement was a process whereby Christ in the course of his life, death and resurrection united himself with humanity and enabled participation in his divine and human nature. This view of atonement has consequences: it shows that God is with us, and is not a god of vengeance. Consequently we should not seek retribution and should regard others as being, The whole creation is affected by the Incarnation. God has lived as one of us, taking the form of a creature in creation, while still remaining God. Christ
has inaugurated the new creation, healing the universe by his Incarnation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Thomson, Cathy, Principal Supervisor
  • Fopp, Rodney, Principal Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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