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Norbert Hoffmann, Atonement and the Ontological Coherence Between

the Cross and the Trinity, Toward a Civilization of Love (translated by


Erasmo Leiva; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985) 213-66.
Introduction: Atonement as a Theme of Theology Today
I. Forms of Atonement in Salvation-History:
Sin Transformed into the Passion of the Son
A. Foundations: Purification from Sin in the Old Testament
1. The Formal Structure:
Atonement as Correlative Event between Yahweh and the Sinner
2. The Material Content of Atonement:
The Turning of Sin into its Opposite
3. The Effacing of Sin as Dramatic Interaction:
Atonement and Forgiveness
B. Fulfillment: The New Testaments Message of Redemption
1. Atonement: Essential Form of the Cross
2. The Cross as the Eschaton of Atonement:
The Drama Between Father and Son

II. The Theological Problem:


Atonement as the Questioning of Gods very Godhood
A. Interpretations Which Neutralize the Theme of Atonement
1. The Fathers
2. Saint Anselm
3. A Christology of Solidarity
4. The Scapegoat Mechanism
B: The Theory of Atonement: Dialectic Between Soteriology and Theo-logy
1. Making Sense Soteriologically
2. The Theo-logical Risk
3. The Question Resulting for Transcendental Theology

III. How the Trinity Makes Atonement Possible:


God as Father within the Trinity
A. The Cross as Atonement, the Trinity and the Pro-structure of Being
1. The Ternary Form of Purification from Sin
2. Atonement and the Pro-Character of Existence
3. The Trinity as the Ontological Prototype of this Pro
4. The Trinitarian Pro as Primal Ground for the Staurological Pro
B. The Pro nobis of the Atonement of the Cross as the Transformation,
within Salvation-History, of the Intra-divine Pro: Trinity and Representation
1. The Question
2. Structural Comparison between the Pro of the Cross
and that of the Trinity
3. The Trinity and Vicarious Representation

IV. Concluding Overview

Father N orbert H offmann


ATO N EM EN T AND THE ONTOLOGICAL
COHERENCE BETWEEN THE TRINITY
AND THE CROSS

In t r o d u c t i o n : A t o n e m e n t a s
A T h em e of T h e o l o g y T o d a y

A to n em en t is by no m eans one o f the favorite catchw ords


or essential lexical item s o f co n tem p o rary religious talk. A nd
yet there are signs for a tu rn in g in the theological destiny o f
this w ord. For a long tim e it has m ostly led an existence w ithin
the shadow y realm o f pious u n d erg ro u n d literature. For som e
years n o w , how ev er, it has experienced som eth in g like a
resurrection n o t, indeed, to attain an u ltim ate triu m p h , but
at least to em erge in the discussion o f the specialists. T h e cause
for this appears to be the soteriological radicalization o f the
them e o f ato n e m e n t.1
T he discussion has in the m eantim e attained an intensity
that surpasses the fam iliar w ay o f posing the question in
theological controversies (atonem ent w ith in the pale o f the
problem o f justification, aton em en t as a possibility o f hum an
and C hristian existence . . .), and this intensity affects the
substance o f a faith in the red em p tio n w hich is co m m o n to
b oth P rotestants and C atholics. In 1956 Pius X II could still
presum e to be voicing som ething uncontested and evident
This paper was prepared for the Congress as an alternate presentation in
the event of a cancellation. Although it was not presented orally, it is being
included in these published Proceedings. It has been translated from the
German original by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis.
213

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am ong C hristians w hen, in Haurietis aquas, he stated th at the


N ew C ovenan t w as sealed no lo n g er n o w by the b lo o d o f
goats and oxen, b u t by the m ost sacred blo o d o f h im w h o m
the . . . irrational anim als . . . had prefigured as the Lam b o f
G od w h o takes aw ay the sin o f the w o rld .2
It then occurred to no one to object to the fact th at the
encyclical praised the m y stery o f divine re d e m p tio n as a
m ystery o f C h rists ju s t love to w a rd the heavenly Father, to
w h o m the sacrifice o f the cross offers up, in su perabundant
and infinite m easure, the satisfaction ow ed for the sins o f
m ankind. . . . 3 T od ay , h o w ev er, w e m ust take note o f the
fact that am o n g C atholic theologians4 and far bey o n d the
classical differences b etw een P ro testan t and C atholic theology
a pro test arises n o t only against a piety o f expiation b u t also
against the very idea o f interpreting the cross itself as atonem ent.
B u t w h at is m ost unsettling ab o u t this objection is its
m otivation: nam ely, the conviction that the supposedly virulent
idea o f G od inherent in the concept o f atonem ent is incom patible
w ith the G od w h o is in fact revealed in the N e w T estam ent.
O v er and over w e hear it stated that, in je su s, G od is the Father
w ho forgives unconditionally .5 W ith such a g ro u n d in g for the
p ro test against the cross as atoning sacrifice, the soteriological
p roblem before us takes on an em inently theological focus. A
them e from the realm o f the oikonomia becom es one fro m the
realm o f theologia in the strict sense. W hoever clings to a
soteriology shot th ro u g h w ith expiation finds h im self anew ,
and inevitably, before the task o f co n structing a th eo d icy :
he m ust ju stify G od the F ather in the face o f the cross, and the
cross itself becom es for the believer a question ab o u t G od
loaded w ith ontological urgency; it becom es a question about
the being o f G od. A to n e m e n t n o w becom es a theo-logical
them e o f the first order.
T he follow ing reflections, then, will also concentrate our
attention on the o nto-theological nub o f the problem . We
will leave aside the historico-critical aspect ( Flow did Jesus
u nderstand his death? )6 and v enture a speculative and dog-

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215

m ade in vesdg ad o n . We will operate in the light o f the system


atically com prehensive lead-question: Is there any possibility
o f explaining transcendentally,7 as ato n em en t, the cross o f
Jesus as a categorical given, basing ourselves on the theo
logical a priori w hich is the C hristian concept o f God? C an w e,
w ithin the total context o f C hristian revelation, at all in terpret
the cross as atonem ent? Can the cross be atonement i f God is
Father?
N eedless to say, the answ er w e seek here cannot be given all
at once. T o begin w ith, it presupposes a careful analysis o f
w hat the nature o f ato n em en t m ig h t be in a C h ristian sense
(A). T hen w e m ust investigate w h at theological problem s
result in fact fro m the fo rm o f ato n em en t as w e confront
it in salvation-history (B). Finally, w e w ill need to specify
m ore exactly w h at it is w e m ean w hen w e speak o f G od
as Father before w e can finally decide concerning the intrinsic
relationship (o f c o m p atib ility o r in co m p atib ility ) b etw een
ato n em en t and G od the F ather (C).

I. F o r m s o f A t o n e m e n t i n S a l v a t i o n - H i s t o r y :
S in T r a n s f o r m e d in t o th e P a s s io n of t h e S o n

T he use o f the term s ato n em en t o r expiation is full o f


am biguities n o t only in the profane and civil realm b u t also in
the realm o f religion and theology. W e cannot, therefore,
speak o f ato n em en t as a concept w ith a stable and univocal
identity8 and, consequently, there can be no question here o f
establishing a definition based on the ready-m ade results o f
in-depth theologies and spiritualities o f atonem ent. W hat w e
m ust undertake, rather, is the laborious task o f w o rk in g out
here a specific significance for ato n em en t . T o assure success
to o u r u ndertak in g and to arrive at an idea o f ato n em en t w hich
will be as close as possible to the sources o f revelation, w e w ill
seek o ut the m eaning o f o u r subject fro m w ith in salvationhistory: w e will attem p t to discover the clear contours o f

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atonem ent by reflecting on w hat G od h im self has done and


does in order to save m an in his sinfulness.
T here is no question that such a procedure m ust concentrate
on the cross as apex o f salvation-history. B u t it is well to
rem em ber that, precisely as apex, the cross is the culm ination
o f something, nam ely, o f a certain continuum w ith in salvationhistory. A n exclusive fixation on the cross as such w o u ld, in
fact, ignore the genuine stau ro lo g y o f the N e w Testam ent!
K. R ahners repeated and insistent w arning against a M o n o physitic m isinterpretation o f the C hrist-event9 does n o t w holly
elim inate w h at could be a real occasion for this, precisely in its
soteriological aspect: the fam ous climactic text o f 2 C orinthians
5:19 ( in C h rist G od has reconciled the w o rld to h im se lf ) not
infrequently is d raw n in to the v o rtex o f a divine action w hich
is th ro u g h and th ro u g h m o n istic.10 T he short-circuited theocentrism o f such a view , h o w ev er, w ould from the outset
m ean the failure o f an attem p t to determ ine the essence o f
atonem ent. U n co m p ro m isin g theocentrism can be avoided by
never losing sight o f the O ld T estam en t perspectives exhibited
by the cross.

a . f o u n d a t io n : p u r if ic a t io n
FROM SIN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

If w e look at the O ld T estam en t w e will see em erge w ith


total clarity and certitude w h at precisely could have been easily
overlooked in the event o f the cross on account o f the dazzling
brightness o f the divine intervention: nam ely, the reciprocity
and bilaterality w hich characterize the O ld T estam en t process
o f purification from sin as a firm and constant structural
elem ent.

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217

I.
The Formal Structure: Atonement as
Correlative Event between Yahweh and the Sinner
a. C o v e n a n t as H o rizo n O verarch in g the Events
W ith the h ard clarity o f its legal requirem ents, the O ld
T estam ent m akes us existentially aw are o f the possible space
for the event o f red em p tio n th at is opened up fundam entally
and absolutely: it is the space o f personal interrelation betw een
Y ahw eh and the sinner. T h e O ld T estam en t once and for all
show s liberation fro m sin to be a dram atic event that occurs
w ithin the interplay o f divine and hu m an freedom . T h e idea o f
covenant, central to the O ld T estam en t, structures radically the
redem ption as an interpersonal occurrence betw een partners.
In this event there are three com p o n en ts w hich are peculiarly
intertw ined and w hich especially claim o u r attention.
b. T h e T h ree S tructural Elem ents
Yahweh as sovereign subject o f the action
T he pertinen t literature never tires o f em phasizing the O ld
T estam en ts testim o n y that Y ahw eh is the sovereign subject
o f the action w hereby sins are forgiven: he cannot first be
persuaded to reconciliation from the outside, and he can never
becom e the object o f h u m an efforts at aton em en t (penance,
cultic sacrifices); rather, Y ahw eh has from the o utset, and
from his in nerm o st being, assum ed an attitu d e disposed to
being reconciled. A nd w h o could seriously contest this? B ut
having said as m uch, w e have only affirm ed the first h a lf o f
w hat is obvious from the totality o f O ld T estam en t evidence.
The sinner: N ot an object o f redemption
T he w hole picture o f reconciliation in the O ld T estam ent
equally contains, as its m ost peculiar elem ent and w ith the

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same unquestioned intransigence, this other truth: that Y ahw eh


is sovereign subject in such a w ay th at he has no need to m ake
the sinner in to a m ere o bject o f his saving deeds; rather, in
the accom plishm ent o f forgiveness, Y ahw eh always addresses,
engages, and liberates the sinner as subject. W ith royal sover
eignty Y ahw eh chooses to be the G od o f the C o v e n a n t so
em phatically th at his o w n readiness to be reconciled and his
ow n p o w er to forgive can never, in and o f them selves alone,
becom e actual forgiveness. T h e covenant w hich G od estab
lishes w ith m an respects intrinsically m an s dignity as free
creature , 11 in such a w ay that, as a p artn er in the covenant,
m an m ust speak his o w n w o rd in a m ysterious m anner w hich
never puts the divine initiative in dou b t. . . . 12 T h e fact o f
a co venant has for G od the result that a reconciliation
deriving only from him is intrinsically im po ssib le :13 the
sinners o w n acts for the forgiveness o f his sin are to be
regarded as an analytical requ irem en t o f covenantal justice.
D ivine and h u m an action, consequently, constitutes the tw o
elem ents (by no m eans o f equal standing!) fro m w hich springs
purification fro m sin as a unified act that is com plex and full o f
tension. T he peculiar explosiveness o f this concerted action,
m oreover, derives from a th ird elem ent: Y ah w eh s passionate
engagem ent and w holly personal involvem ent w ith the sinners
destiny.
Yahwehs involvement
Y ah w eh s w ra th over sin as a breach o f the covenant and
his jealo u sy o r zeal for the restoration o f the covenant are
nam es for a reality that again in fo rm s the total event o f
reconciliation and, so to speak, loads it theologically. We
here doubtless touch the very so u l o f the dialectic w e have
m entioned: it is Y ah w eh s zeal w hich forbids rem ission o f
sins in the form o f sim ple forgiveness fro m ab o v e and
w hich engages G o d s sovereignty to insist inexorably that
m an activate his creaturely freed o m in a w ay w h o lly differ-

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219

ent from anything the A ristotelian categories . . . w ould a llow


(Fridolin S tier).14 W ho could deny that all o f this introduces
alarm ing problem s in to the concept o f God? B u t precisely
this should n o t (m is)lead us to deactivate theologically the
explosiveness o f the intensely v ib ran t im agery o f G o d s self
representation in Scripture, by m aking the enlightened declar
ation that in the m atter o f G o d s w ra th and je a lo u sy w e
are dealing only w ith an thropom orphism s. Such m anipulation
o f the evidence w o u ld ro b revelation o f its o v erw h elm ing
pow er and astounding new ness vis-a-vis the concept o f G o d
o f pagan antiquity, and it w o u ld m ake us deaf to w h at is
precisely the proper content o f the biblical message: the m ystery
o f the living G od.
At the very center o f w h at the O ld T estam en t intends to say
we find the undisguised p roclam ation o f G od's pathos :15 that
Y ahw eh enters the scene w ith a passionate interest for his
creation, and th at in full earnest he respects m an as his chosen
partner. A nd one w o u ld have to be m uch less im pressed by
w hat G od says than by the perplexities posed to philosophical
reason, in o rd er n o t to see th at the divine pathos w itnessed
to by the O ld T estam en t is sim ply the presup p o sitio n for
Y ahw ehs self-establishm ent as G od o f the covenant to have
consistency and in terio r tru th .
W ith the insight that a to n em en t has its place w ith in the
reality o f the covenant , and that it is from here that it derives
its dram atic character as a form al peculiarity, w e have finally
attained the p resupposition that w ill enable us to determ ine
adequately w h at the concrete con ten t o f ato n em en t m ig h t be.

2 . The Material Content o f Atonement:


The Turning o f Sin into its Opposite
a. T he R edem ption o f Sin th ro u g h the B earing o f Sin
A ccording to the full sense o f the basic biblical concept sub,
w hat Y ahw eh aim s at is n o t attained by a sim ple con-version

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aw ay from the sinful deed and the attitude o f sin; sin itselfin
its com plex totality, w hich em braces all sins consequences
and effects m ust be born e aw ay ; sin m ust itself be effaced.
B ut sin is born e aw ay , precisely, by first being b o rn e ,
w hich is to say by being su ffered .16 In tim e, m oreo v er, as
the religious consciousness o f Israel u n d erg o es continual
clarification, and as the concept o f G od and the cult is m ore and
m ore purified, the precise object o f this bearin g becom es
increasingly clear to the faith-experience o f the atoning Jew s.
This object is n o t the traces w hich sin leaves in the w o rld , nor
the individual and social ills caused by sin, n o r the so-called
pu n itiv e consequences o f sin in them selves: distress, toil,
pain, in brief, a shru n k en existence. T h e object that m ust be
borne is w h at is expressed and concretized in the things ju st
enum erated: nam ely, the breach o f the covenant, the disrupted
relationship to G od, the w ra th o f Y ahw eh. W hat is b o rn e
is n o t really the sy m p to m b u t the theological core o f sin, w hich is
to say Y ah w eh s disappearance, his absence fro m the life o f the
sinner. T he effacing o f sin , h o w ev er, occurs only w h en the
distance o f Y ahw eh is b o rn e as a suffering.
b. T he Essence o f B earing :
T he L over E xperiences Sin as Suffering
N o t everyone is capable o f bearing evil as suffering, insofar
as evil m eans sin and hence the farness o f G od. T h e specific
m eaning o f b earing , in the O ld T estam ent, is qualified by
love. H e w h o is capable o f b earin g sin in such a w ay that it is
abolished is (note the dialectic!) one w h o , form ally considered,
is no longer a sinner, one w h o has already tu rn ed aw ay from
his crooked p ath and has h u m b le d h im self and b o w ed d ow n
before Y ahw eh. O n ly he is capable o f suffering sin as the
farness o f Y ahw eh w ho has first tu rn ed aw ay fro m sin, has
returned to the covenant o f Y ahw eh and has becom e a ju st and
loving m a n .17

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221

W ith this it w o u ld seem o u r investigation has reached the


heart o f w hat the O ld T estam en t calls a to n em en t . T h e O ld
T estam ent locates the specific essence o f a to n em en t n o t in
the con-version aw ay fro m sin b u t in the re-versal o f sin itself:
he w ho loves G od suffers n o t only p u n ish m e n t , w hich
rem ains external to sin; at the deepest level he suffers sin as
farness fro m Y ahw eh, and by so doing he transform s sin into
the suffering o f love. A to n em en t does n o t have its essential
locus o u tsid e o f sin; ato n em en t is sin w hich has been trans
form ed into its opposite by the p o w er o f a suffering love. By
being b o rn e in this w ay, m oreo v er, sin is o f itself borne
aw ay ; it is done aw ay w ith , annihilated; for the m anner
in w hich G od w ants to d raw near to the sinner as such is,
precisely, by w ay o f a love that suffers for a distant G od. We
know that, already at the purely natural level, the absence o f
the beloved, if it becom es priv atio n and suffering, can be
experienced as the painful m ode o f the b eloveds m ost intense
presence.
Precisely at this po in t in o u r attem p t to describe concretely
the essence o f the event o f aton em en t, it becom es clear to
w hat a great extent the content o f aton em en t exhibits the
form al structure o f a correlative happening. W e have previously
referred to this; b u t let us n o w again tu rn o u r atten tio n to this
param ount characteristic o f aton em en t, in o rd er to clarify it
further.

3 . The Effacing o f Sin as Dramatic Interaction:


Atonement and Forgiveness
a. A tonem en t and Grace: Y ah w eh s T u rn in g to the Sinner
From its very definition, atonem ent presupposes the turning
o f Yahweh to the sinner. For the first co nversion (K. Rahner)
to occur, it is Yahweh w h o m ust tu rn the heart o f the sinner
tow ard him self, w hich m eans he m ust give back to the sinner

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the love he had lost. For only one w h o loves G od is capable o f


suffering w hen G o d s presence is rem oved. T his m eans that
atonem ent is alw ays a grace.
b. A to n em en t as a D eed: T h e S inners R etu rn
T his grace, how ev er, form ally becom es a to n e m e n t (the
effective effacing o f sin) only w h en creaturely freedom allows
itself to be reversed by grace in to love for G od, and then, once
this freedom has itself been converted, it reverses its sin by
b earin g it and tran sfo rm in g it in to the pain o f its love.
c. A to n em en t as Y ah w eh s Self-assertion in the Sinner
It is, therefore, Y ahw eh w h o converts the sinner. His turning
to the sinner calls fo rth the sin n ers (first) conversion to him .
B ut, like tru th itself, grace is concrete: it is o riented to w ard a
freedom w hich has assum ed the load o f guilt; it does n o t pass
over w h at has occurred in the sinful deed, n o r does it m ake sin
disappear m agically. R ather, grace draw s the m atter o f the sin
(this sin and no other!) in to the dyn am ism o f conversion,
all the w hile p reserv in g freed o m in tact and req u irin g its
participation insofar as freedom has been deeply b randed by
sin. C reaturely freedom is p u t by grace in a position o f suffering
sin into its opposite, thus, so to speak, reeling it back in . A nd
this is precisely w hat it m eans to atone fo r o r to expiate
sin. In atonem en t, therefore, w e w itness a w on d erfu l com bi
nation o f G o d s all-m erciful su p p o rtin g grace w ith the divine
respect for the freedom o f the c re a tu re.18 Y ahw eh m akes the
sinner to be an atoner as a free self; he allows the sinner to be one
w ho bears his o w n guilt as suffering, w ith love and freedom ,
one w h o con-verts to h im (Y ahw eh) in a m anner exactly
befitting his status as sinner.
T he sam e state o f affairs appears in a new light w hen
we b ring it in to relationship w ith the w o rd forgiveness .
A tonem ent and forgiveness stand in significant and (as w e will

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223

later see) pro fo u n d correlation to one another. A to n em ent is


the effacing o f sin insofar as the latter is considered definitive
and effective, as occurring w ithin the sinners act o f conversion.
Forgiveness, on the o th er hand, is this sam e effacing o f sin, b ut
now und ersto o d in the au th o ritativ e and initiatory sense, as
effected and m ade possible by G o d s prevenient and coop
erating grace. Indeed, Y ahw eh fo r-g iv es by g iv in g the
guilty party the possibility o f h im self abolishing his sin; he
bestow s foregiveness o f sin by the aton em en t o f sins, because
he w ants, respects, and posits even the sinnerprecisely in the
effacing o f his g u ilt as a free subject and as a p artn er in the
covenant. In conclusion w e m ay say th at atonem ent is nothing
other than the fo rm w hich the love o f G o d considered at its
term assum es w hen it addresses a m an w h o is a sinner.
A tonem ent is the m ode in w hich G od loves m an in his
condition as sinner, n o t by overlo o k in g his freedom and
bypassing his sin, b u t by going through the sin. A to n em en t is
the extrem e fo rm o f divine love w hich, exacting the exercise
o f freedom , heals sinful freed o m fro m w ith in as freedom.
A cco rd in g ly , a to n e m e n t is th e self-assertio n (w h ich has
attained its full efficacy and truth) o f Y ahw eh as the G od even
o f the sinner.
H aving w o rk ed o u t this p relim inary fo rm o f liberation
from sin in the O ld T estam ent, w e have acquired som ething
decisive for o u r problem : the p resupposition for defining
redem ption in its full eschatological form . T h e u nderstanding
o f liberation fro m sin w hich w e have analyzed up to this point
opens up the h orizon o f in terp retatio n w ith in w hich w e m ust
place the cross o f Jesus if o u r in terp retatio n o f it is to succeed.
Being the definitive and central redem ptive event o f the N ew
T estam ent, the event o f the cross is nonetheless equivocal in
and o f itself in its historical factualness, and it calls for precise
interpretation.

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b . f u l f il l m e n t :
THE NEW TESTAMENTS MESSAGE OF REDEMPTION

T he cross is n o t an event falling d o w n vertically from


heaven, b ut rather the clim ax o f the history o f G o d s covenant
w ith m an . . . and hence in all tru th a mystere dalliance
(J. G a lo t).19 T herefore, as an event o f ultim ate reconciliation,
the cross can be u n d ersto o d only w ith in this trad ition o f
election and coven an t .20

1. Atonement: Essential Form o f the Cross


If w e look at the cross fro m the perspective o f the O ld
T estam en ts doctrine o f liberation fro m sin, w e w ill at once
realize that, even th o u g h in the cross G o d s au to n o m ous
pow er to redeem has attained incom parable concentration,
this does n o t occur to the d etrim en t o f the bilateral reciprocity
fam iliar to us fro m th e p ro cess o f salv atio n in the O ld
T estam ent. Such reciprocity is n o t annulled, for instance, to
the benefit o f a certain red em p tiv e m onergetism w hereby all
creaturely activity w o u ld be sw allow ed up into a divine action
w hich alone w o u ld effect salvation. T he C rucified cannot be
reduced to an in stru m en t o f red em p tio n m anipulated by G o d s
unilateral activity. Precisely as the C rucified, Jesus is n o t an
in stru m en t b u t the S on (cf. H eb i:2 f., 5; 5:5, 8), and the
G od w h o m akes Jesus path go fro m sin to the cross is n o t a
suprem e m onarch w h o acts despotically w ith in his divine
solitude; he is the G od and Father o f O u r L ord Jesus C h rist
(2 C o r 1:3). T he cross itself does n o t m ean a forgiveness
conferred sovereignly fro m above by G od and descending
upon sinners; the cross participates in the nature o f those acts
w hich, as w e have sh o w n , can only be conceived as a bipolar
unity o f action. T h e cross, too, is forgiveness in the form o f
atonem ent.

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2 . The Cross as the Eschaton o f Atonement:


The Drama between Father and Son
T he law holding g o o d in the O ld T estam en t, w hereby
Y ahw eh sets m an free to be h im self even as he effaces his sin, is
indeed surpassed in the N ew T estam en t, b u t in the sense o f
its being n o t annulled b u t fulfilled. In the cross, the O ld
T estam ent form s o f atonem ent are o v erto p p ed in p ro p o rtio n
as he w h o n o w bears sin overranks the earlier bearers o f sin
(the pious and the ju st, the m arty rs, the servant o f G od). T he
event o f the cross rem ains w ith in the stru ctu re o f a correlative
action p ro p e r to partners in a covenant: here, to o , sin is
abolished by its being b o rn e by one w h o is n o t a sinner. B ut
the w hole event is transferred to a totally new dim ension;
it no w unfolds w ith in the in com parably m ore intim ate cor
relation that exists betw een F ath er and S on .
In the O ld T estam en t sin is b o rn e by one w h o no longer is a
sinner; only very obliquely does the m ysterious figure o f
the ebed Yahweh po in t to h im w h o bears sin in the N ew
Testam ent: and in this case w e are dealing w ith h im w h o , as
the absolute Son, never was a sinner. In h im the o p position
betw een G od and the sinner intersects puzzlingly w ith the
holy intim acy o f the relationship betw een Father and Son.
In the N e w T estam en t the bearer o f sin is the Son beyond
every possible analogy; consequently, in the N e w T estam ent,
too, sin is b o rn e in a m anner surpassing all analogies. W hen the
Son, he w h o k new n o th in g o f sin , is m ade to be sin (cf. 2
C o r 5:21), this in itself m ust already im ply the d estruction o f
all sins, o f sin as such, and once and for all (cf. H eb 9:26;
10:10). Sequestered into the H eart o f the Son, sin can exist there
only as the ineffable w o u n d in g o f his love. T h e love w hich
here bears sin transform s it into a pain w hich only one w o rd
can describe, and the w o rd is: hell . B ut because it is love o f
such a kind th at suffers hell, hell itself has already been suffered
to death. H enceforth, hell can exist here only as the suffering

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o f this love; hell no lo n g er is an ything b u t the co n to u r o f


suffering this love assum es th e pain o f the Son w h o is
deprived o f the Father: M y G od, m y G od, w h y have you
forsaken m e? (M k 15:14).21 T h e H eart o f C h rist is the space
w here hell can henceforth exist only as a victory o ver itself.
At the cross, red em p tio n is accom plished as the bearing o f sin
itself by the Son; for this reason, here at the su m m it o f
the sto ry o f G od and m an w hat occurs is the eschatological
dissolution fro m w ith in , o f the guilt o f the w o rld and, hence,
authentic liberation takes place, and the actual m iracle o f
transfiguration.

II. T h e T h e o l o g ic a l P r o b l e m : A t o n e m e n t
A s t h e Q u e s t i o n i n g o f G o d s V e r y G o d h o o d
A. INTERPRETATIONS WHICH NEUTRALIZE
THE THEME OF ATONEMENT

T h e re is no use g lo ssin g o v e r th e fact th a t th e N ew


T estam en ts m essage o f red em p tio n , precisely because it has
ato n em en t at its very core, m ust appear an outlandish
proposition to anyone w h o traces its authorship back to G od.
It is therefore n o t surprising that C h ristian th eology has n ot
always w ith sto o d the tem p tatio n to in terp ret aw ay the essence
o f the cross as a deed o f atonem ent. A few sidelights on
p ertinent attem p ts to clarify o u r subject could, by contrast,
place in m ore relief the specific position w e are here developing.
Such a rapid survey o f contrasting positions w ill sharpen our
eye for the w hole range o f theological problem s that em erges
necessarily and in fact fro m the soteriology w e have described.
A bove all, these sketches are intended to pro v id e a sense for
the m aieutic p o w er w hich this soteriology (in o u r o pinion, the
genuine N ew T estam en t d o ctrine o f salvation) brings to bear
on the self-revelation o f that G od w h o so stu b b o rn ly effects
redem ption in this w ay, that is, in the m ode o f atonem ent.

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i. The Fathers
Already patristic theology is strikingly m arked by a hesitation
to follow thro u g h w ith its chosen central m o tif o f the exchange
o f co n ditions betw een G od and m an in C h rist as radically as
this is dem anded by the N ew T estam en t .22 It lim its Jesus
vicarious representation o f the sinner to the S aviors assum ing
o f the consequences and p u n ish m en t due to sin .23

2 . Saint Anselm
B ut w hat in the Fathers im presses us as an unconscious
draw ing o f the line24 reappears in A nselm s classical th eo ry o f
satisfaction as a conscious and indispensable elem ent : if the
reparation Jesus accom plishes is to be effective, he m ust not
com e in to contact w ith the sin o f o th e rs . H e is n o t a bearer
o f sin 25 itself. H is death does n o t stand in any internal con
nection w ith o u r sin: he is n o t o u r sin as borne by h im for us
before the Father, o u r sin as reversed into the suffering o f the
Son; rather, he is som ething th at rem ains external to sin ,26 a
co u nterw eig h t o f superior value 27 that stands over against
our sin and that, because o f its objective w o rth , surpasses in
density on the one side o f the scales o f divine justice th e w eight
o f sin on the o th er side.28 As o u r representative, Jesus pays the
ransom m oney for o u r sins; b u t he does n o t suffer o u r sins
vicariously: his sufferings are n o t, for A nselm , ex p iato ry .29
N eith er for K. R ahner can the pro nobis o f the cross have
the character o f vicarious a to n e m e n t.30 C onsistent w ith his
theology o f death, R ahner ascribes a redem ptive significance
to Jesus death n o t so m uch because it is the event o f the
cross b u t rather because it is the intensest form o f death as
such, insofar as in this death the apex o f h u m an im po ten ce is
united w ith absolute tru st in the F ath er .31
B y contrast to these interpretatio n s, the view w e are here
unfolding w o u ld have liberation fro m sin occur w h en sin is

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suffered in itself by Jesus for the sake o f G od the F ather, as the


pain o f his filial love. T his m eans that Jesus again traverses sin,
but as atonement, by going back the w hole length o f sin in
reverse direction and suffering it in to nothingness, so that the
Father is w ell-pleased at receiving such satisfaction . Sin and
redem ption, therefore, m ay be said to be internally o rdered to
one another in the follow ing w ay: it is sin in itselfeven if it is
in its reversal (its fo rm o f self-negation) w hich, so to speak,
supplies the essential fo rm p ro p er to Jesus red em p tiv e deed,
so that sin thus attains in ato n em en t to a positive version o f
itself.

3 . A Christology o f Solidarity
We can especially clarify the im p o rt o f o u r prop o sed inter
pretation if w e com pare it w ith those proposals w hich w e m ay
subsum e u n d er the m odel o f a so-called C h risto lo g y o f
solidarity .32 T hese are n o t based on the idea o f su b stitu tion
b ut on the concept o f so lid a rity u n d e rsto o d in a very
particular w ay. A ccording to this concept, it w o u ld appear
that Jesus m akes h im self solidary w ith sinners n o t insofar as
they are sinners, b u t insofar as they are social outcasts. A nd
then, quite consistently, w e arrive at the cross n o t really o ut o f
theological b u t rather o u t o f social reasons. T h e cross is n o t the
locus w here the dram a unfolds b etw een G od and a Jesus w ho
w ould be representing sinners as such; the cross is no event
betw een Father and Son b u t rather w hat develops as the
consequence o f Jesu spraxis o f liberation: it is the resu lt o f
the conflict betw een those in p o w er and Jesus as one w ho
is solidary w ith the oppressed and the despised. Jesus does
indeed die because o f sin , b u t n o t for the forgiveness o f
sin .33 F rom G o d s stan d p o in t the cross does n o t m ean the
actual accomplishment o f forgiveness; in the cross, rather, G o d s
eternal w illingness to be reconciled sim ply attains to its de
finitive revelation. T h e cross, still according to this view , is not
an atoning sacrifice in and th ro u g h w hich forgiveness occurs

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for the first tim e and absolutely; it is n o t the eschatological


dem o nstratio n o f the law w hereb y reconciliation requires
satisfaction; n o r is it a confirm ation o f the fact th at G o d s
engagem ent pro nobis does n o t im p ly sheer unqualified actions
for o u r benefit b u t includes the elem ent o f representation
(avif); n o r does this in terp retatio n , finally, adm it that, for
propitiatio to occur, expiatio m ust com e fo rth as a constitutive
elem ent fro m the side o f us, the sinners.
T he christology o f solidarity does n o t regard the cross as our
sin, overcom e by Jesus in o u r place and for o u r sake by being
transfigured by him into ato n em en t (his suffering as Son).

4 . The Scapegoat Mechanism


T h e sam e th in g basically applies to the th e o ry o f the
scapegoat m echanism ,34 developed by R. S chw ager by
elabo rating certain ideas o f R. G irard . E ven th o u g h this
theory, by contrast to the christology o f solidarity, does
indeed place the them e ofcommercium and su b stitu tio n at the
center, nevertheless it does n o t seem to bring this th em e to
bear w hen it com es to describing the decisive theological
dim ension o f the process o f purification fro m sin. A t this
ju n ctu re Jesus does appear as the bearer o f sin itself, b u t sin has
been deposited on h im n o t by G od b u t by m an. H e dies
because sinners, on w an tin g to be rid o f their malice, divert it
onto h im as their scapegoat. R epresentation really occurs, b ut
in a fo rm that is m odified in a theologically decisive w ay. Sins
are n o t here suffered th ro u g h by the Son before the face o f the
Father; vicarious representation here functions rath er w ith in
the fram ew o rk o f the psychoanalytical idea o f a collective
unloading o f accum ulated reciprocal rivalry u p o n a single
individual. T h e cross o f Jesus is indeed regarded as being
unique, b u t still as a transfer o f the w o rld s guilt u p o n Jesus
that rem ains w ith in the scope o f the socio-psychological dis
charge m echanism .
Because the true G od is n ot a G od o f vengeance and violence,

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NORBERT HOFFMANN

because he takes no pleasure in the cross and forgives w ith o u t


dem anding reciprocal acts or satisfaction ,35 the redem ptive
function o f the cross can in no w ay be that o f an atoning
sacrifice. T he cross brings n o t ato n em en t b u t disclosure; it
unm asks, on the one hand, the m alice and aggressiveness o f
m an, and on the o th er the m echanical nature o f the process o f
u n burdening w hich is only apparently redem ptive and is in
fact a ritualized, pseudo-sacral event. For Jesus does not,
vengefully and violently, m ake the sin w hich has been loaded
on h im self to fall back up o n those w h o do h im w ro n g ; he is the
Lam b. C o n fro n ted w ith the non-violence o f this Lam b, every
act o f violence accuses and convicts itself as such, since here it
finds itself so evidently o u t o f place. In this w ay, the evil o f
violence is at the sam e tim e revealed and overcom e.
W ith respect to this solution o f the staurological pro blem ,
w hich w e here have only ro u g h ly sketched, o f course, the
d o u b t arises w h eth er it is able to determ ine authentically the
connection betw een the h u m an state o f sinfulness and the
event o f red em p tio n , on the one hand, and, on the o ther,
that theologically m ost revealing aspect w hich is the relation
betw een Jesus and G od.
In this solution, w h at w o u ld be the m eaning, for Jesus, o f
bearing sin , precisely in his relationship to the Father? C an
the effects o f christological su b stitu tio n (w ith its abysm al
character, attested by the N e w Testam ent!) be derived solely
from cultural m echanism s,36 fro m the com ing to g eth er o f all
to declare a single individual g u ilty ,37 o r fro m the violence
exercised by m an, even if this is p erm itted by God? D oes not
the theory, especially on these g ro u n d s, set G o d s forgiveness
(G od forgives n o m atter what!) and Jesu s bearing o f sin all too
unrelatedly alongside one another?38 D oes n o t a fundam ental
im p o verishm en t o f the revelation o f b o th the O ld and the
N ew T estam ents in their to tality occur w hen one reduces
red em p tio n to being the m ere disclosing and unv eiling
o f that laborious m echanism ? D oes n o t Jesu s suffering on the

ATONEMENT AND ONTOLOGICAL COHERENCE

23 I

crossbeyond this function o f u n m ask in g stand in a m ore


direct and m o re intrinsic relationship to the divine act o f
forgiveness itself? It w o u ld appear that, in the m odel o f the
scapegoat, a non-theological them e b orrow ed from the history
o f religion has been raised to the status o f in terpretive principle
for an em inently theological m atter, and in this w ay the m odel
itself has been greatly o v erw o rk ed . A nd this m ay be seen as
the reason w h y the specifically theological dim ension o f the
process o f purification from sin appears as so oddly atrophied.39
The theory o f a scapegoat m echanism , even though identifying
G od him self as the scapegoat, does n o t fully p lum b the depths
o f the dim ension o f sin and liberation fro m sin a dim ension
w hich reaches in to the very being o f G od. T h e question
rem ains open w h eth er such a th eo ry can adequately defend
itself against the charge that, in the end, it reduces the concrete
saving event o f the cross (not G o d s forgiveness itself!) to
a closed socio-psychological event w hich, although indeed
affecting G od, nonetheless rem ains at b o tto m non-theological.

B. THE THEORY OF ATONEMENT:


DIALECTIC BETWEEN SOTERIOLOGY AND THEO-LOGY

1. Making Sense Soteriologically


In contrast to the theories w e have ju s t surveyed, it w ould
appear that the ex p iato ry in terp retatio n o f the redem ptive
message w e here develop succeeds (1) in elucidating the salvific
m eaning o f the death o f Jesus and (2) in relating the historical
fact o f the cross w ith the act o f divine forgiveness in such a
w ay that the suspicion o f their being arbitrarily connected
is excluded and b o th things are b ro u g h t in to a reciprocal
correspondence that casts light fro m w ithin. In its significance
as ato n em en t , that is, as sin that has been suffered in to the
passion o f the Son, w e affirm th at the cross o f C h rist, seen

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teleologically, is G o d s forgiveness itself, this forgiveness


concretized in salvation-history and becom e true and real in
the w o rld and for the w orld.

2 . The Theo-logical Risk


N evertheless, this certitude th at believing reason has o f
having und ersto o d the eco n o m y o f salvation correctly m ust
still pass its test. Sooner o r later, a faith that thinks reaches an
insight that troubles it. Such faith sees that, in the m easure
in w hich the th eo ry o f aton em en t enhances the soteriological
m eaning o f the cross, in that sam e m easure its theological
m eaning becom es problem atic. O nce it becom es com p rehen
sible as aton em en t, the cross seem s to displace the central
object o f th e o lo g y G o d h im se lfin to the reg io n o f the
w holly incom prehensible.
O u r answ er to the soteriological question has been: G od
destroys sin th ro u g h atonem ent; he redeem s fro m sin n ot by
m erely forgiving b u t by m aking the sinner h im self atone for
his sin. In the eschatological fo rm it assum es in the N ew
T estam ent, how ev er, the aton em en t o f hu m an sin is realized as
the Son o f G od w h o becom es sin. H enceforth, ato n em ent is
our sin transform ed in to the crucifixion o f Jesu s filial love.
A nd it is ju s t here that the them e o f aton em en t exhibits
its theo-logical aspect. W hat had been an answ er at the
soteriological level o f the econom y becom es, at the properly
theological level, a question o f eno rm o u s im port: can a G od
w ho does such things for the salvation o f the w o rld (that is,
w ho sends his Son in to the flesh o f sin as its atonem ent,
cf. Jn 3:16; R o m 8:3; 1 Jn 4:10; 2 C o r 5:21) at all be God in
him self? W hat is the o n to lo g y o f G od im plicit in the cross?
We m ust realize that the question is unavoidable the m om ent
one accepts the N ew T e sta m e n ts doctrine o f redem ption: the
cross o f the N e w T estam en t sinks its roots deep in to the very
being o f G od. U n d ersto o d as ato n em en t, the cross is ro o ted in
presuppositions that m ust lie w ith in G od b u t w hich are o f such

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233

a kind that they seem to negate G od necessarily. A ccording to


the unanim ous w itness o f the N e w T estam en t, definitive
atonem ent is only the person o f the C rucified. B ut according
to the sam e w itness, the crucified Jesus is ato n em en t as the
Son . In o th er w o rd s, the G od w h o sends his Son is
Father and sends him <15 Father. T his, in tu rn , m eans th at the
pro nobis o f Jesus is first o f all a pro nobis that belongs to G od.
Jesus, the Son h im selfprecisely as the C rucified! is G o d s
for u s , w hich is definitive and unsurpassable because it
comes from him as Father. T he cross is G od the F athers
self-engagem ent on o u r behalf! T h e cross, therefore, surely
does n o t issue from the G od o f w rath o r o f pure, cold, punitive
justice. B ut is it necessary to keep on repeating precisely this?
T he rejection o f all the incredible co m ponents o f m y th o lo g y
only b rings us squarely before the unbelievableness o f that true
and authentic fact o f C h ristian faith: nam ely, that the cross
w illed as such by G od! springs fo rth fro m G o d s incredible
self-election as G od o f the C ovenant; and w e m ust add th at the
covenant is interiorized eschatologically as the in tim acy o f
the relationship betw een F ather and S on .
T his m ust be stressed in the face o f all those attem pts
at in terp retatio n w hich h old back tim idly fro m the N ew
T esta m e n ts o w n in te rp re ta tio n o f Je su s d eath a ttem p ts
w hich therefore w eaken the substance o f the cross th eologi
cally. In the last analysis, the cross cannot be explained by
reference to the functioning o f a scapegoat m echanism , n o r
to the solidarity o f Jesus as ju s t m an w ith societys outcasts.
T he only explanation for the cross is G o d him self: G od, w h o is
love in such a w ay that this Love attains precisely in the
cross to its u ltim ate concreteness in salvation-history. T he
cross is the exact form w hich G o d s paternal love assum es o f
itself w hen it turns to co n fro n t a w o rld that is sinful. T h e cross
exists because G od seeks o u t the sinner w ith a fath ers love.
T im e and again w e m u st stress the fact that, although the N ew
T estam ent no longer proclaim s the distant and ju s t G od o f
torah and tem p le 40 b u t the G od w h o is Father, nevertheless,

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precisely for this reason, Jesus life leads to the cross. M oreover,
this im plies (and this is the logical consequence o f a staurology
o f atonem ent) that the cross as explanation m eans the in
explicableness o f G od. T he cross has as presup p o sitio n a G od
w h o is an im possibility for the P lato n ic sensibility, a G od
before w h o m the pious pagans, b o th ancient and m odern,
trem ble, a G od w h o loves th e w o rld in a d o w n rig h t forbidden
m anner: w hich is to say, a G od w h o w ants to be loved by the
w orld, and so ardently th at the refusal o f this love constitutes
the very core o f sin, and sin is the pain o f G o d and its
overcom ing is the ab an d o n m en t o f his o n ly-beloved Son to
the forces o f darkness.
Because it proceeds fro m G o d s loving in terio rity as Father,
the atonem en t w ro u g h t b y the C rucified does indeed call G od
into question: is a G od still G o d w hen his relationship to the
w o rld reaches its h ig h p o in t in crucified aton em en t by his Son?
Is he still G o d w h en he, thus, is so in v o lv ed in the w o rld s
destiny as F ath er th at this in v o lv em en t is in the end no thing
other than his o n ly-beloved Son, surrendered to the cross?
M ust n o t the cross as ato n em en t negate G od as God? As
atonem ent by the S on and dism aying engagem ent o f the
F ather in the w o rld , is n o t the cross inexorably im plan ted as
the self-abolition o f G o d ?

3 . The Question Resulting fo r Transcendental Theology


It w ould be overly hasty, how ever, and by n o m eans justified
m ethodologically, for us to take back the expiatory character
o f the cross sim ply on the w eig h t o f the question ju s t posed.
For this question itself m ust first be exam ined critically: does it
really call G od h im self as Father in to question as he is in
him self, or rather o u r conception o f G od as Father? If the cross
is atonem en t, is it G od in his actual being w h o can no longer be
F ather , o r m erely G od according to a questionable and
insufficient u n derstanding o f God?
N o th in g forbids us a p riori fro m m o v in g back fro m the

ATONEMENT AND ONTOLOGICAL COHERENCE

235

expiatory form o f the cross as historical fact, as w e have here


developed it, to ask w h eth er the cross, so u n d ersto o d , does n ot
have in the being o f G od h im self any transcendental g ro u n d
w hich m akes it possible. H o w m u st G od be in himself for him
to be able to be fo r the world in the fo rm o f aton em en t on the
cross? In w h at m anner m ust G od be F ather for the cross to
be atonement?
W ith these questions the th o u g h t o f the believer presses
on to arrive at the interio r locus w here system atic th eology
confronts a tru th w hich u n fo rtu n ately still signifies for m any
nothing m ore than a piece o f m ere theoretical speculation: w e
speak o f the so-called im m an en t T rin ity . It is possible that,
as w e seek w ith in the v ery being o f G od for the p resupposition
o f the atonem en t attested to by the N ew T estam en t, w hat
occurs is som eth in g like the daw n in g o f the m ystery o f the
T rin ity w ith in the explicit h orizon o f theological reflection.
If w e should succeed in m aking Jesu s atoning death com
prehensible as the ad extra event w ith in salvation-history that
corresponds to the being o f the T rin ity ad intra, w e w ould
have dem onstrated in a convincing m anner the soteriological
urgency and existential p ro x im ity o f w h at m ig h t appear to be
the m ost rem o te o f all m ysteries.

III. H o w

t h e T r in i t y M a k e s A t o n e m e n t P o s s ib le :

G o d a s F a th e r w it h in t h e T r in ity
A. THE CROSS AS ATONEMENT, THE TRINITY,
AND THE PRO -STRUCTURE41 OF BEING

I. The Ternary Form o f Purification from Sin


O u r analysis o f Y ah w eh s redem ptive action, w hich heals
by destroying sin, b ro u g h t into clear focus three distinct
elem ents: his lo rd ly so v ereig n ty , his unex p ected personal
in v o lv em en t, and finally the in d ep en d en t activ ity b y the

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sinner w hich Y ahw eh b o th dem ands and sees th ro u g h as part


o f the eradication o f sin. T h e constancy o f this threefold
structure, evidenced th ro u g h o u t salvation-history and culm i
nating in the central saving event o f the N ew C o v en an t, makes
us suspect that here w e have to do, n o t w ith the fortuitous
result o f m ere salvation data , com puted externally, but
rather w ith a deliberately intended form w hich has a ternary
articulation and follow s law s o f its ow n.

2 . Atonement and the Pro-character o f Existence


W e m ay nonetheless ask the question w h eth er this ternary
form does n o t have som ething like an entelechial principle at
its base, in the light o f w hich the factual givenness o f such a
form could be rendered intelligible fro m w ith in as a meaningful
form .
Q u ite aw are o f its h y pothetical character, w e v enture the
follow ing answ er: in the threefold form o f the process o f
purification fro m sin w h at is expressed w ith in the situation
o f a w o rld characterized by guilt and sinis the actual reality
o f w h at is very vaguely and unspecifically called, b o th in
ev ery d ay and relig io u s lan g u ag e, v icario u s representation.
A to n em en t , o u r hypothesis holds, m ay be conceived as the
expiatory variant o f a universally present law o f radically
ontological im p o rt: the pro-structure o f Being itself. T his
p ro -stru ctu re prevails as is easily verifiable in the th o u
sand form s o f com m unal h u m an existence, o fpro -existence for
one another, and o f reciprocal service. W e find exam ples
o f this in those relationships as exist betw een parents and
children, or b etw een friends, o r in the p rofession o f the
doctor, the politician, the soldier, the policem an and the
researcher. In all these cases the p o in t is that som eone, th ro u g h
self-sacrifice and self-engagem ent, is som ehow opening up for
another a place for an existence o f his o w n , thereby setting
him free to be him self. T h e reality o f actio n -fo r-an o th er takes
on an especially sharp con to u r, reaching the ontological level,

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in the case o f creation. In a form al sense, because o f the creatio


ex nihilo, G od m akes the oth er, w h o is not identical w ith
him self, to be as such (i.e., as creature ); by engaging his
creative p o w er, G od so enters the scene on b eh alf o f this
o th er that, against the vo rtex draw in g all things in to n o th
ingness, he fashions for the creature his place in the realm
o f Being.

3 . The Trinity as Ontological Prototype o f this Pro


It is m ost m oving to see, m o reo v er, that this so-called
p ro -stru ctu re, o r o th e r-o rie n te d structure, o f B eing does
not inform only the ord er o f creation b u t m anifests itself also
as the law o f the B eing o f G od him self. O n account o f this law ,
G od posits h im self as w h at the C hristian holds to be the basic
m ystery o f his faith: he show s h im self to be T rinity. W ith all
the sovereign divinity o f his p o w er to beget, the F ather
makes another, as oth er (i.e., as S o n and n o t F ath er ), to
be the sam e thing that he is ( G o d ); he opens to this other
a place o f au to n o m o u s personal selfhood w ith in the one
identical B eing o f G od.
T he unreservedness and selflessness o f this event, fu rther
m ore, is evidenced in the fact that the Father holds n o thing
back w hich could have existed as substance and as absolute
stasis-in-oneself before his m o v em en t o f self-surrender to
the Son. In o th er w o rd s, the Father is pure m o v em en t to w ard
the Son (relatio subsistens), so m uch so that this m o v em ent
not only m akes him to be Father b u t that he is G o d and
perso n only as Father. T h e Father attains to his subsistence
as an I only in the radicalness o f his relationship to this
T h o u , and to his self-possession as person only in his
unreserved self-abandonm ent to the Son.
A nd all o f this occurs w here Being itself subsists as pure is, at
the place w h ere it attains to its intensest self-identity! This
m ovem ent o f the pro, this self-openness to w ard the o ther,
is proclaim ed in the revelation o f the T rin ity (a veritable

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revolution in the concept o f Being!) as the prim al m ystery and


the first o f all im pulses in the heart o fB ein g . All o f its o w n , and
n ot because o f subsequent determ in atio n , B eing posits itself as
communicatio; its essential form is called lo v e .
W ith this o u r reflection has reached the perspective from
w hich the cross w hich as historical fact o f ato n em en t runs
the risk o f being m isinterpreted as m ere positive decree or as
external o rd er from G o d m ay receive its full ontological
elucidation.

4 . The Trinitarian Pro" as Primal Ground


fo r the Staurological Pro"
a.
T h e First D istinction as the Space
that M akes all o th er D ifferences Possible
G od n ot only finds h im self alw ays in the act o f departure; he
is dep artu re , totally, boundlessly, b u t a d eparture that at the
sam e tim e is arrival , and indeed arrival at G od him self. B ut
this arrival, nonetheless, is n o t a retu rn to an absolute solitude
but rather an arrival at self w hich is an arrival at the T h o u .42
H ere w e gain an in sight th at is sim ply decisive for the solution
o f the theological p ro b lem in to w hich w e are u n avoidably led
by a soteriology inspired by the them e o f aton em en t. T he
Father sets o u t for the Son and the Son turns to the Father, and
b oth give to one another the fru it o f their one identical love,
w hich is their one, total and reciprocal b eing-in-one-another;
and this is w h y G od has no need to go bey o n d him self. H e is
not im pelled beyond h im self so as to find and actualize h im self
in som ething oth er than h im self. 43 If, then, there is such a
thing as w o rld and a h isto ry o f G od w ith the w o rld , this
is certainly n o t because G o d has any need o f it. N o w , it is the
H oly Spirit w h o attests to the infinite difference betw een
Father and Son, w h o keeps this difference open, as it w ere, and
fills it w ith fire in such a w ay that, at the heart o f this difference,
he is n o t only the p resupposition for, b u t already the unity
of, this unsurpassable lo v e .44 A nd as the apex Trinitatis,

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239
as the personified and ineffable culm ination and seal o f the
abundance p ro p er to G o d s in terio r B eing, the H oly Spirit is
at the sam e tim e the expo n en t o f the m ost absolute divine
freedom .45 B u t tog eth er w ith this he reveals h im self as the
transcendental g round for the possibility o f extending, beyond
the realm o f the purely divine, that intra-divine m o v em ent
w hereby the Father passes over to the S o n .46 G od must not
go beyond him self, b u t he can go beyond him self. G od
is free to allow som ething else to be: the creation ;47 he
can do it precisely by virtue o f th at p o w er-b ey o n d -all-p o w er
o f the divine B eing w hich w e have sh o w n culm inates super
abundantly in the H oly Spirit. T h e w o rld can have its p roper
place only w ith in the difference betw een Father and Son w hich
the H oly Spirit b o th keeps open and bridges o v e r .48 T he
im m anent self-distinction o f G od, w hich is ro o ted in the
p ro -co n stitu tio n o f the divine B eing, posits that absolute,
infinite distance w ith in w hich are included and encom passed
all possible distances that m ay em erge w ithin the finite w o rld .49
W ith this First D istinction that springs forth from B eing as
Being, relatio n is already posited as at all being a possible
form o f B eing.
b. T h e W orld as a C reatio n in C h rist :
T h e M aking o f Sons in the S on
It is only then that, in fact, revelation attests to the w o rld as
being a creation in C h rist . T his tru th is o f inestim able
significance for u n derstanding the divine behavior to w a rd the
w orld. It m eans that, if anything created exists, it is because
G od is F ath er and w ants to extend his fatherhood beyond
the internal realm o f the T rinity: because he w ants to be
F ather to all m en in C h rist . H ence, creation is the w orld
as presupposition for filiation by grace . G od w ants to assign
to m an a place n o t sim ply an yw here w ith in B eing, b ut
w ithin the intra-trin itarian locus o f his Son. T his, in turn,
means that from the very o utset m an and the w o rld rest w ithin
the space o f in tra-trin itarian affection; all the love G od m ay

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have for the w orld has in advance been em otionally saturated


by th at o v erflo w in g and w ell-sated love w ith w h ich he
em braces his o n ly -b eg o tten Son and is therefore a love w hich
is radically defined by the absolute sovereignty o f divine
freedom . C reatio n has the character o f an establishing o f sons
in the S on , and G o d s affection for the w o rld is at base the
self-initiated, self-pow erful externalization and reflection o f
G o d s condition as Father, w hich is w hat he is in his m ost
intim ate B eing fro m all eternity and w holly in dependently o f
the w orld. His relationship to the w o rld is em bedded w ithin
the relationship o f Father and Son and thus rem ains w ith in the
holy realm o f in tra-trin itarian affectivity.
W e m ust n o t lose any o f this fro m sight as w e n o w tu rn our
attention to the p h en o m en o n o f sin .
c. Sin as R evolt against Sonship
W hat sin really is, in the C hristian view , cannot be sufficiently
grasped as long as sin is m erely th o u g h t to be a m oral trespass
and a violation o f the m oral o rd e r , an act o f disobedience
against G od as C reato r and L ord and keeper o f this order. T he
essence o f sin is fundam entally beyond the reach o f ethical
reason. T he internal m eaning o f sin is penetrated only by him
w ho takes seriously the fundam ental biblical d o ctrine on the
w o rld and m an as being a creation in C h rist . T his creation,
m oreover, im plies a personal participation by G od in the
events o f the w o rld w hich cannot be separated fro m the
Fathers sharing o f his p erso n w ith in the life o f the T rinity.
H enceforth sin can em erge only as the diabolical reflection o f
the m ystery that is G od him self. M ore exactly stated, sin
can em erge only as the puzzling and sinister sh adow o f that
Pauline mysterion w hich, as the self-com m unication o f the
Prim al M ystery , constitutes the basis and the center o f the
econom y o f salvation. Sin, like hell, is the abyss w hich gapes
w ide the m o m en t the Father, because o f his intra-d iv in e love,
w ants to have m an as his son. G od indeed respects m an s
creaturely self-determ ination b u t in such a w ay that G od

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241

claims it for him self in full earnest in the fo rm o f a free decision


by m an to love G od as a son. T h e specifically C h ristian core o f
sin is grasped only w hen sin is conceived as the rejection o f the
call to that sonship w hose in n erm o st n ature consists in being
the continuatio n o f C h rists eternal sonship w ith in the realm o f
creation, w hich is the o th e r that stands over against G od.
Sin m eans the refusal o f the grace o f allow ing the creaturely
I to becom e the earthly abode o f the trinitarian act w hereby
Father and Son tu rn to w a rd one another.
F rom this it becom es evident th at m an is n o t capable o f
sinning in this w ay all on his ow n . In the sense o f revelation,
sin becom es a possibility to p u t it quite crudely for the
sake o f clarity only on account o f G o d s paternal love for
m an, w hich opens w ide to m an d o w n to its m ost intim ate
depth.
B u t this seem s to im ply tw o dialectically interconnected
elements:
1. T he m ystery o f sin reveals G od h im self as m ystery in a
new w ay. T h e B eing o f G od, over against w hich the hu m an
N o attains the quality o f sin , can be to som e extent con
ceived by us adequately only if w e have the courage to say:
G od is G o d and lo v e to w a rd us in such a w ay that,
som ehow , he is w o u n d ed by o u r sin to the d epth o f his in terior
recesses as T rin ity . If sin can thus becom e a m ystery, it is
because G od, in his d o w n rig h t foolish love, has opened up
his in n e rm o st B eing so recklessly and han d ed it o v er so
vulnerably that m en can really w o u n d him , G od. Sin w o unds
G od insofar as he is th at m y stery w hich, in C h rist Jesus ,
abandons itself to us: the m ystery o f triune love. T h e stab o f
the lance touches G od h im self,50 and, in the w o rd s o f Paul
Claudel, it bores d o w n into the very k n o t o f the T rin ity :51
O blessure vraiment royale, 0 s'eve de Dieu qui sepanche!
O coup si fierement assene contre la cote et la hanche
Quil perce jusquau noeud de la Trinite!
T he reality o f a creation in C h rist contains for G od the
risk th at h u m an rejection o f sonship m ay affect the intra-

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divine relationship betw een F ath er and S o n . W ith such


a creation G od posits h im self as one w h o m ay be w o u n d ed
by m an, and hu m an sin as so m eth in g w hose reverberation
in him self becom es the pain o f the Father .
2. N oneth eless (and this is th e second elem en t o f the
paradox), ou r sin is G o d s pain in such a w ay th at this
pain, althou g h caused b y the c reatu res resistance, is n o t
inflicted upo n G od from without! In the last analysis, in his
relationship to the w o rld G od is n o t m o v e d by the w orld
n or affectively overp o w ered by it; his love for the w orld
flow s from the freest kind o f divine self-determ ination. So
stated, this is only a gratuitous assertion; w e can legitim ate
it only by referring back to the p ro -stru ctu re o f divine
Being as w e have described it above: o u r assertion rests on
the im m an en t T rin ity and, hence, on th at eternal and
absolute self-surrender w hich, p rio r to any possible divine
relationship to the w o rld , reveals G od to us as being, already
in himself, absolute lo v e .52
G od does n o t begin to be interpersonal love only w ith his
reciprocity to creation, and in this fact are ro o ted tw o com
ponents w hich are constitutive for his relationship to the
w orld: his freedom and his m anner o f relating to w o rld and
h istory. T he peculiarness o f the intra-divine p ro -process
explains w h y G od, on the one hand, is n o t intricated in the
process o f the w o rld and thus does n o t need the w o rld process and the cross . . . for his o w n self-realization ;53 but,
on the o th er hand, it also explains h o w G od nevertheless
stands o v er the w o rld in such a w ay that he n o t only
conditions the very possibility o f ju s t this w o rld -p ro cess54 b ut
is also capable o f participating in it in a real m a n n e r.55 T he
F athers m o v em en t o f self-surrender occurs w ith such kenotic
m ight that the Father possesses personal subsistence only
insofar as he is a pure elan to w a rd the Son as the infinitely
O th e r over against him self.
This, how ev er, signifies such an inconceivable and unsur
passable separation o f G od from him self 56 that all other

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243

possible distances as m ay be found w ith in the finite w o rld ,


including even sin, have already been included and em braced57
by that Prim al D istance, and every oth er kind o f separation
w hatever, even the darkest and b itterest, can take place only
w ith in that first separation o f G od fro m him self.58 O n the
basis o f the creation in C h rist , the w o rld is m ade so to relate
to the intra-trin itarian p ro -event th at the latter n o t only
posits the transcendental possibility for such differences as
exist internally w ith in the earthly realm b u t also provides the
basis for G od h im self (as possibly suffering the failure o f one
rejected) becom ing pain and even hell to the w o rld , and
o f the w o rld becom ing pain to G od insofar as he is Father.
In the trinitarian kenosis n o t only all dram as w ith in the
w orld b u t also th at suprem e dram a betw een God and the
world have fro m the outset already been b o th encom passed and
surpassed. 59
O n ly the N e w T e sta m e n ts k n o w le d g e con cern in g the
T rinity, therefore, frees us fro m the necessity o f h av in g for
the sake o f sparing G o d s d iv in ity to in terp ret a n th ro p o pathically (and thus to neutralize) G o d s affective and selfengaging participation in the h isto ry o f the w o rld , an involve
m ent w hich is so m assively attested by the O ld T estam en t and
w hich the N e w T estam ent, far fro m retracting, rath er sees
as eschatologically confirm ed and sublim ated by the C h ristevent. O n ly th e N e w T e sta m e n t reveals a tru th sim p ly
u n k n o w n to either p h ilosophy o r the O ld T estam en t, the
specifically divine m o d e in w hich G od is G o d : and this is the
reality o f co m m u n io n and love w hich has already reached
perfection w ith in the b osom o f the T rin ity .
T o be sure, even the revelation o f this specifically C h ristian
dim ension in G od does n o t positively give us an insight
into the com patibility o f G o d s divinity w ith his ongoing
involvem ent w ith the w orld; b u t it does furnish us w ith a
datum , henceforth binding since it is attested by G o d s self
com m unication, w hich allow s theological reason to see that
the A ristotelian argum ents for the absolute im m ovableness

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o f the First M o v e r should they be applied w ith in C hris


tian th e o lo g y lose th eir p o w e r o f evidence. G o d s self
revelation rem oves the inveterate com pulsion to conceive his
(unquestionable) im m u tab ility in an O ly m p ia n m anner,
that is, in the sense o f an im m ovableness alien to h isto ry , and it
m akes possible the u n derstanding o f the divine im m u tability
in its authentically C h ristian form , w hich includes the in
volvem ent o f G od w ith the w o rld .60 T his m anner o f being o f
the G od o f C h ristian ity w hich, although it is n o t directly
com prehensible, still cannot be dism issed as sim ply contra
d icto ry presents itself to us in such a w ay that it heightens the
reality o f G od as m ystery precisely w ith respect to his relation
to the w orld . Ju st as G od is the infinity o f B eing, n o t only in
h im self b ut, as foundational g ro u n d , also w ith respect to all
finite existents, and this to such a total extent that the existence
o f the finite does n o t m ake him finite: so, too, on the basis o f his
self-disclosure w ith in the T rin ity , w e have to conceive o f
h im b oth in h im self and in his relation to finite h isto ry as
being so infinite in m o v em en t, in event, in action, that w e have
no need to relegate him to the realm o f ahistoricity in o rder to
save h im fro m a fateful historicization o f his divinity.
T his trinitarian corrective o f the concept o f B eing and o f
G od then yields the only valid herm eneutic for that (genuinely
biblical!) th em e o f the suffering G od w hich philosophical
theology so m uch perceives (and m ust perceive) as a threat
that, instead o f interpreting the suffering o f G od, it sees itself
forced to eliminate it by reducing it to the suffering o f the
h um anity o f Jesus. N o w , by v irtu e o f the p ro -stru ctu re o f
his being, G od can at all be solely as self-giving co m m union
and love, and it is in the m o d e o f such sovereign freedom
that he then turns to the w o rld in love. A nd it is only the
know ledge o f this intra-d iv in e reality that justifies the funda
m ental herm eneutical rule w hich nonetheless rem ains para
doxical that says that, insofar as G od is a lover, he m ust also
be a sufferer w hen his love com es up against the N o o f sin.
T here is no pain in G od . . . except as a result o f a divine
love that exposes itself vulnerably follow ing the dictates o f

ATONEMENT AND ONTOLOGICAL COHERENCE

245

its o w n w holly au to n o m o us and lordly initiative. Insofar as


this principle possesses factual validity, w e can n o w see the
light shed by the cross as ato n em en t w ith in this context o f a
theology o f the T rin ity .
d. T he A to n em en t o f the C ross as
Eschatological R ealization o f T rinitarian Sonship
B etw een the m ystery o f the T rin ity and that o f the cross
there exists n o t only the relationship o f a structural parallelism
based on the p ro -character o f each reality; T rin ity and cross
are n o t like tw o self-contained spheres hanging alongside each
other: they exist within one another. O u r analysis o f the
process o f liberation from sin in salvation-history had sh ow n
that ato n em e n t becom es actualized as the reversal o f sin into
the suffering, o u t o f love, o f the obedient servant o f Y ahw eh,
the ju st m an p ar excellence w h o , in short, is called the Son.
A tonem ent for sin takes place w hen the S on bears sin.
E schatologically, sin is atoned for, once and for all, because the
Son becomes atonement: the N e w T estam en t form ulates this
event very precisely w hen it says m ost graphically that this is
the Son w h o m the Father has sent in to the flesh o f sin (cf.
R om 8:3; 1 Jn 4:9f.; Jn 3:16). T his form ula exactly describes
the essence o f him w h o is the absolute center o f the N ew
T estam ent: C h rist Jesu s . Jesus is the C h rist and C h rist is
ato n em en t because in h im the event o f events is realized: the
eternal Son is sent into the m idst o f sins rebellion against G od.
A ccording to T hom as A quinas, m oreo v er, the sending
(imissio) o f the Son is b u t the p ro lo n g atio n into the w o rld o f his
eternal com ing forth (processio) fro m the F ath er. 61 If this is so,
then w e m ay, w ith H ans U rs v o n B althasar, develop the
im plications o f this christological form ula by saying that, in
Jesus consciousness o f being sent, m ore is contained for him
than ju st the k n o w ledge o f a certain task to be perform ed.
Since this task is the continuation o f the trinitarian event o f
filial procession, it contains his w hole divine sonship, and
Jesus is, therefore, conscious that, in his in n erm o st I, he

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him self is identical w ith his task 62 som ething w hich cannot
be asserted o f any o th er h u m an being. A nd the specific task o f
his m ission is to bear aw ay the guilt o f the w o rld (Jn 1:29),63
in o ther w ords, to be atonement.
T his o u g h t to im ply that the atoning for the w o rld s guilt by
Jesus relates to the eternal sonship o f the Logos in a w ay sim ilar
to h o w his missio ad extra relates to h is processio interna. Ju st as
th e processio is continued in the missio, so too the generation o f
the Logos is continued in the ato n em en t o f the cross. This
w ould be the fo rm w hich the ad extra p ro lo n g atio n o f the
eternal processio assum es w hen it enters a w o rld o f sin. T here
fore, w e o u g h t to be able to say th at C h rist (atonem ent
becom e person) is the m anner in w hich eternal sonship exists
in a sinful w o rld , o r that the cross is the sin-conditioned
m odality o f the econom ic T rin ity as expressive o f the gener
ation o f the Logos w ith in the im m an en t T rin ity . If w e see the
tem poral m ission as being one w ith the eternal procession, and
if, w ith St. T h o m as, w e understan d m ission as a new
presence o f the divine Person w ith an orien tatio n to a m ission,
then w e w o u ld in fact have to consider ato n e m e n t as the
m ode, p roper to the L ogos, o f being sent into the w o rld s
situation o f sin. T h e cross, m oreo v er, w o u ld sim ilarly be
u nderstood as the w ay the eternal Logos is S on w ithin a
w orld fallen victim to sin: the cross w o u ld consequently be the
counterstroke, against the w o rld s sinful resistance, resulting
from that intra-divine p ro -ev en t in w hich the filial I o f
the L ogos is constituted as such. If w e are attentive to the
m eaning o f those scriptural passages according to w hich the
sonship o f Jesu s em pties o u t to becom e that o f the C h rist ,
and if w e inquire as to the deep reasons for such an exaltation,
the N ew T estam en t unequivocally answ ers by p o in tin g to the
cross, u ndersto o d as an atoning e v e n t.64 T his answ er can be
explained in the light o f the concept o f aton em en t w hich w e
w orked o ut at the beginning o f this inquiry. A ccording to this
concept, the essential content o f aton em en t w o u ld have to be
the reversal o f sin in to its o pposite (the suffering form assum ed
by the S ons love).

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N o w , as the Son, no one is like C h rist in a position to effect


such a reversal. T h e L ogos com es in to the heart o f sin and, as
the C h rist , he is really S on here, in the very locus o f sin.
H e does this by bearing m en s resistance against sonship as
the suffering o f his love, and he squarely transform s such
resistance into a contrary reality w hich is all the m o re real
and vibrant: he transform s it in to the d em o n stratio n and
su p erex altatio n o f his o w n so n sh ip . B ecause J e s u s filial
obedience reaches its culm ination here, at the heart o f the
disobedience o f hu m an sin (cf. Phil 2:8; H eb 5:8f .), there takes
place the redem p tiv e im -p o sitio n o f his sonship against the
sinful o p -positio n o f G o d s o th er sons. In Jesu s ato n em ent a
second creation occurs and the eternal Logos proves h im self
(even w ith regard to the w o rld s historical concreteness) to be
the one in w h o m all things are firm ly established , even w hat
is threatened by sin (cf. C ol 1:17; H eb i:2f.; Jn 1). T herefore,
the creative m ig h t p ro p er to the Logos as Son asserts itself
against the destructive p o w er o f sin, and G od answ ers for his
creation o f finite, defectible freedom only by tu rn in g o u r gaze
to the C rucified. Insofar as all o f this is true, w e m ay say that in
Jesus atonem en t his eternal sonship com es to fulfillm ent at the
level o f salvation-history.
B ut sonsh ip is a correlative concept. A person is so n
only w ith respect to his father . T his applies to Jesus so
radically that the establishm ent o f his sonship is in the end
G o d s self-establishm ent as Father: the atonem ent w ro u g h t on
G olgotha is an intensely patro g en etic e v e n t.65 It lays bare
the p ro fo u n d dialogical stru c tu re o f the O ld T e sta m e n ts
process o f forgiveness, d o w n to its trinitarian ro o ts, still
hidden in the O ld T estam ent: b u t even there the heart o f the
m atter was the reciprocity o f F ather and S on . N o w it is
disclosed that ato n em en t is the m odality w hich this correlation
assumes w hen those w h o had been created in the Son and had
been predestined to be sons fall in to sin and are nonetheless
kept as sons.
In the cross G o d s p o w er to forgive is m anifested as the
auctoritas Patris: it is show n h o w G od is Father (as fructifying,

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fostering principle) to those w h o are sinners. T h e reconcil


iation com es w holly out o f the sovereignly forgiving will o f
the Father, in such a w ay that it constitutes itself as the
atonem ent o f the Son. As a deed o f the Father, such reconcil
iation possesses its o w n term in the atonem ent o f the Son, and
it needs aton em en t as its o w n correlative, to the sam e extent
as the Father needs the Son for his o w n constitution as
F ather . Forgiveness and ato n em en t relate to one another
as active and passive generation: in the atoning C h rist (by
an intensification o f his eternal sonship at the level o f the
econom ic T rinity) the sinner is again bego tten by the Father
as a son. T his is w h y and this holds naturally only for
the dim ension o f so-called objective re d em p tio n in the
atonem ent o f the cross a cov en an t is unfath o m ab ly realized:
here the covenant betw een Father and Son asserts itself against
w hat destroys it, at the level o f the trinitarian eco n o m y o f
salvation. A t the darkest m o m en t o f the nig h t o f the cross,
G o d s glory in the covenant shines forth eschatologically. T he
triu m p h , on the cross, o f the intra-trin itarian p ro takes
place th ro u g h the S pirit as the o vercom ing o f the abyss o f
sin by incorp o ratin g it in to the First D istinction, in to that
Prim al D ifference b etw een Father and Son w hich is at once the
p ro to ty p e and the p ro to -im ag e o f everything else in the w orld
w hich m ay be called u n ity and covenant . W e can also say
that the pro nobis o f the cross is n o th in g b u t the transfiguration,
conditioned by sin, o f the trinitarian pro that exists eternally in
G od.
B ut all that is entailed in this o v erco m in g and trans
fig u ra tio n o f sin is n o t yet su fficien tly clear fro m o u r
reflections to this p oint. O u r attention w ill n o w tu rn , in
conclusion, to a m o re precise definition o f th e objective
content and m eaning o f such transfiguration. W e w ill do this
by exploring critically the applicability, to our set o f problem s,
o f the concept o f vicarious representation .

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B. THE PRO NOBIS OF THE ATONEMENT OF


THE CROSS AS THE TRANSFORMATION, WITHIN
SALVATION-HISTORY, OF THE INTRA-DIVINE PRO :
THE TRINITY AND REPRESENTATION

1. The Question
N o t long ago the attem pt was m ade to expose the significance
o f the idea o f representation as being a universal theological
categ o ry ,66 and in particular to dem o n strate that the funda
m ental m ystery o f the T rin ity precisely as basis for the
econom y o f salvation could be m o re easily penetrated at its
deepest if it could be u n d ersto o d as the prim al realization o f
representatio n .67
T his concern naturally evokes the fear that such a trans
position from the soteriological to the trinitarian level m ight
do violence to the in teg rity o f language by o verextending
artificially b o th the w o rd and the concept o f rep resen tatio n .
The objection becom es m ore precise in the follow ing questions:
is it n o t a part o f representation , in the soteriological sense,
that the vicarious representative does som eth in g in the
place o f h im w h o m he represents w hich the oth er could not
accom plish? C an any analogy be found in the interio r life o f
the T rin ity that corresponds to the elem ent osubstitution, so
necessary and constitutive in every fo rm o f representation?68
Because it goes to the very heart o f o u r subject, this objection
doubtless elicits reflections w hich w ill be useful in clarifying
a to n em en t even fu rth er as a theological problem ; in partic
ular, they w ill help us give an answ er to the question: to
w hat extent does the pro o f the im m an en t T rin ity becom e
transfigured in the atoning C hrist at the level o f the econom y
o f salvation?

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2 . Structural Comparison between


the Pro o f the Cross and that o f the Trinity
Q u ite significantly, the com parison begins w ith the socalled patro g en etic character o f the pro o f the cross. Starting
from this point, w e shall be able to discern b o th sim ilarities
and divergences.
a. T h e Sim ilarities
T h e theological essence o f the pro o f the cross w o u ld be
grasped only very im perfectly if w e w ere to lim it it to the
isolated relationship betw een C h rist and the sinner. For this
pro has the quality o f ato n em en t w ith respect to G od, and he
w ho effects it is the Son, w hich is to say he in w h o m the
intra-trinitarian pro has its term . T h e event o f the cross is
som ehow stru n g u p o n the b o w o f intra-divine generation, so
to speak. N o w , in the p h e n o -ty p e o f earthly representation
the elem ent o f su b stitu tio n o r even o f displacem ent m ay
so em erge that it totally dom inates the experience and presents
itself as the specific and norm ative com ponent o f representation
as such; this w o u ld m ake the represen to r appear as a kind o f
substitu te or replacem ent . In spite o f all this, revelation
attests to the representative function o f C h rists sufferings as
being a second creation and a new b irth , w hich am o u n ts n ot so
m uch to a su b -stitu tio n as to an in -stitu tio n o f new life.69
W ithin that total perspective w e have called p atro g en etic ,
the one w h o em erges as being finally responsible for the w o rk
done is the Father. It is he w h o , by sending his Son to the
cross (w hich event m eans the continuation o f intra-trin itarian
su rren d er), begets sinners anew as sons: w ithin the realm o f the
created, the Father m akes the sinner again to be a son, sim ilar
to the w ay he m akes the Logos to be the Son w ith in their
com m on divinity. W hatever o th er elem ents m ay be p ro p er to
it, the representation on the cross exhibits itself u n co n d ition-

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251

ally as an occurrence in w hich the Father, th ro u g h the atoning


C hrist, establishes sinners as sons. T his efficacious in -th eplace-of , w hich appears to be external to the one represented,
is in fact, form ally and as such, the opening up o f the place
w hich is ontically internal to the sinner: it is the sin n ers ow n
repositionin g , and therefore the in stitu tin g o f w hat has been
su b stitu ted . As a son, the sinner exists only w ith in the term
o f the intra-trin itarian pro as it is pro lo n g ed on the cross.
C o n trariw ise, the pro o f the cross, so strikingly qualified by
the nuance o f an avri, sharpens o u r glance to perceive that
essential elem ent in the intra-trinitarian pro w hich, even though
speculatively and theoretically elaborated by trad itio n as the
doctrine o f the relatio subsistens or o f nepixcopqoiq (circumincessio),
nevertheless continues to stand rath er isolated in the average
theological aw areness and has n o t by far been explored and
m ade to bear fruit in the m anner it deserves.
T hepro o f the T rin ity does n o t co nnote ju s t any positing b ut
a positing highly qualified and th o ro u g h ly stru ctu red by the
avri-elem ent, and the essence o f this positing can in no small
m easure be clarified and described by the use o f the w ord
locus (or place , o r position). A positing is here involved
that is perfected through the self-engagem ent o r self- p o sitin g
o f the p o sito r.70 A nd here this th ro u g h carries the force o f a
form al cause: ju s t as C h rist does n o t som ehow p ro c u re for
sinners their new position as sons b u t rather h im self is this
place or position as the one w h o goes o u t to answ er for them
by his atonem en t, so also the F athers generative self-surrender
w ithin G od has the character o f such a specific goin g o u t
for the sake o f the Son that the I o f the Father, as self
giving and self-com m unicating reality, itself is the locus and
the w ellspring o f the T h o u o f the Son, receiver o f this
com m unication. T he first P erson, being essential gift o f self, is
the opening up and establishing o f the ontic space for the
second Person. T h e Father is the locus o f the Son.
T he unique m eaning contained in this is m ay be gleaned,
first, fro m the fact that, as already m entioned, in the act

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o f generation the Father n o t only begets the Son but also


establishes h im self as an I , and, second, from the tru th that
the divine essence does n o t possess its B eing as a fourth
m agnitude alongside the three Persons b u t only as a divine
life that is n o w o u tp o u red , n o w received. T his, in tu rn , means
that personality and d iv inity and, hence, B eing as such
m ay be ascribed to the Father only as Father, and that he
therefore is only on account o f his being the locus o f the Son.
H e attains to his o w n subsistence only in being a passing over
to the Son; he is only as m o v em en t to w ard the Son (relatio
subsistens). T h e relation that the Father is is constituted by the
Son as its term . T h e Son is the term o f that relationship w hich
the Father is.
In trinitarian inversion, som eth in g sim ilar m ay be said o f
the Son. B eyond their reciprocal bein g -in -o n e-an o th er, form
ally ro o ted in their Tainmxria (identity o f substance), there also
exists for Father and Son a relational im m anence, a correlative
inclusion o f one in the o th e r.71 T h ro u g h it all w hat takes place
is the prim al act o f love w hich, by its very nature, means
giving o f self to the other, going o u t o f oneself to pass over
into the other. T o be sure, this occurs in such a w ay that the
other, far from being displaced, is rather raised to his ow n
fullest selfh o o d . A lready here, in G o d s trinitarian life, there
occurs
something like an exchange o f places between the Self and
the Other. . . . Even the Trinity exists only by virtue o f and
within a reciprocal and loving self-surrender o f persons: and this
surrender o f self with ones whole being is like stepping into the
place o f the other so as to constitute him as person. The persons
o f the Trinity arise, if such a graphic expression may be used,
on the basis o f a fundamental and constitutive orientation o f their
being toward one another which amounts to an interchange o f
the divine essence among its three different bearers.72

O u r basic concept, then, is that o f a self-constitutive stepping


into the place o f the oth er, and o f an assum ing o f answ erability

ATONEMENT AND ONTOLOGICAL COHERENCE

253

for one anoth er that is so radical that the one person becom es
the locus o f the other. A nd w e have sh o w n th at such a
concept is w ell-suited to disclose the strict correspondence
betw een the trinitarian and the christological p ro -event,
since Jesus to o becom es the C h rist by step p in g o v er in
atonem ent to the side o f the sinner. W e w ill n o w , therefore,
turn o u r attention to how this stepping in is accom plished in
each case, since this will bring to light the structural differences
betw een the trinitarian and the christological event.
b. T h e D ivergences
In com parison w ith the directness o f the Father-S on rela
tionship w ith in the T rin ity , the relationship in stitu ted in the
cross is variously m ediated th ro u g h C hrist. Factually existing
historical m an has his locus as son only in C h rist the crucified.
T he position as son, m ediated by the cross, has its presup
position n o t only in the fact that creatureliness as such already
im plies filial relationship (since the creature is by definition a
receiver o f life) b u t also in a w h o lly new m anner, em erging
now for the first tim e, o f being a created person over against
being a divine person. T h e transcendental possibility for this
over-against m ay already be found posited in G od him self,
quite sim ply as the creatibility o f finite spirit. Form ally, such a
bipolar relationship is inim ically to rn up as the abyss o f sin by
the creatures freedom . W ith sin, the face-to-face w ith G od
becom es fractured as a negation: sin posits n o t only the other
but his negation as well. U nlike m an as such, the sinner is not
the o th er because he is creature; he is the o th er w h o denies G od
and sets him self against G od. In this w ay sin creates a place
w hich, properly speaking, is im possible (a place w here G od
is n o t). T he sinner finds no place for h im self w ith in the infinite
realm o f that positivity w hich has been opened up by the
distance betw een Father and Son; his p ro p er place is evil
nothingness , to use a phrase o f R om ano G uardini. Such
a th ing possesses a describable locus only inso far as the

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creatures N o resounds w ith in the locus o f intra-divine


differentiation ,73 in o th er w o rd s, only insofar as it is the
definite negation o f precisely that Father-S on relationship
w hich constitutes the essence o f this difference! Sin is the
perversion o f the in tra-trin itarian locus o f the Son, aim ed at by
the creatures N o .
Precisely this, how ev er, provides the possibility o f a very
different sort o f instead o f o r in place o f . T h e one in
w h o m the sinner has his place as son is no longer the Son w ho
has sim ply becom e m an, b u t the Son w h o has also becom e
cross and atonem ent.
A nd this event contains a triple reality. First: after C hrist, on
the basis o f the in tra-trin itarian pro and by v irtu e o f the pro
o f his creative charity, had becom e the locus o f o u r first,
paradisaical sonship, lost because o f sin, he then enters the
locus o f sin, that evil and negative o th e r over against him self
w hich is the very inversion o r perversion o f his position as
Son. Second: C h rist does this in o rd er to be able to be Son in
place o f the apostate sons, w ith a still m ore radical obedience
and in ten sity and to the b itter end: to be Son precisely there,
in the place o f op p o sitio n , representing sinners by bearing
before the Father as Son the intra-d iv in e difference w hich has
been perverted by them in to sin. T hird: finally, after the sinful
N o has been o v ercom e by ato n em en t (as the negatio negationis) ,
C hrist can becom e the place o f n e w -w o n sonship for those
w ho had been sinners. In creating, G od overcam e the good
n othingness in the place o f creatures, by h im self being the
place o f their existence and their creaturely perseverance in
Being. Sim ilarly, after he has entered into the place o f sin and
there, in the evil n o th in g n ess , has stepped in to the place o f
sinners w hich m eans that in their stead he has transform ed
sin in to his o w n sonship, heightened by this a to n em en t
C hrist becom es h im self the place w here alone sinners can again
be sons before G od and can have durable existence as sons.
By being Son in the place o f sinners C h rist is the place

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255

w here sinners can be sons. T h e in place o f taken on by the


representor as Savior is itself the place o f the represented.
C o m p ared to this com plication o f the pro o f the cross,
conditioned as it is by the theology o f creation and o f sin, the
structure o f the intra-trinitarianpro em erges as being relatively
sim ple. T he instead o f p ro p er to the cross finds no direct
parallel w ith in trinitarian life: n either the Logos is S on
n or the first P erson F ath er in the place o f the oth er. T he
m obility at play betw een them does n o t o verextend to any
third instance. T o be sure, on the basis o f their xavxovotct and
correlative subsistence, they are, respectively, the place o f
the Father or o f the Son fo r one another, b u t n o t instead o f one
another.
T h ro u g h the aton em en t o f the cross, the Son m akes h im self
to be the place o f recovered sonship fo r sinners, and he does
this by being m ost intensively and form ally in the place o f
sin and in place o f sinners h im self w h at sinners as such are
not and cannot be b u t o u g h t to be: he does this, nam ely, by
being Son. In the T rin ity , h o w ev er, the Father is indeed the
place o f the Son, but n o t because he takes the place o f the Son
or assum es w h at is characteristic to the Son: it is as Father that
he is the place o f the Son. H e adm itted ly does som ething
w hich, even th o u g h the Son cannot h im self do it, yet lies in his
highest interest and pertains to him as constitutive o f his very
being: nam ely, the Father begets him . B ut he does n o t do
this in place o f the Son, as if he w ere playing his role and
h im self becam e Son. Q u ite sim ply, the Father begets and is
not begotten. C onsequently, he does n o t beget instead o f
the Son.
In the m anner o f active generation, the Father goes o u t for
the sake o f the Son, that he m ay be Son; b u t he does not
represent him after he has com e in to being as Son. W ith
relative variation, the sam e m ay be said o f the L ogos as Son.
We can, therefore, certainly affirm that, already in the T rin ity ,

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som ething like an exchange o f places o ccu rs,74 as long as w e


rem ain aw are o f the m odification o f m eaning that the w o rd
undergoes on being transposed fro m the level o fso te rio lo g y to
that o f the im m an en t T rin ity . T his m odified m eaning m ay
perhaps be better specified by use o f the concepts to step in
(or answ er) fo r [eintreten] or to represent [vertreten],
and to su b stitu te , in either the broader or the stricter sense.
In any event, a clearly describable objective difference m ay be
noted betw een the p ro -ev en t o f the cross and that o fin tra trinitarian life. W ith o u t any d o u b t, the T rin ity relates to the
cross in a m ode w hich cannot be th o u g h t o f as m ere unspecific
causality . In thepro o f the cross the intra-trin itarian p ro itself
is im plied w hile at the sam e tim e being structurally m odified:
that is to say, the directness o f the trinitarian esse ad suffers the
breach o f substitution, condition b y sin. In the cross w e m ay
read h o w the im m an en t T rin ity , in order to save the sinful
w o rld , goes o u t from itself sovereignly, on its o w n in n erm ost
im pulse, to take on external form , thus becom ing the T rin ity
o f the econom y o f salvation.

3 . The Trinity and Vicarious Representation


In view o f the objective difference w e have w o rk ed out
betw een the trinitarian and the staurologicalpro, it n o w largely
appears to be a question o f term inological appropriateness
w hether or n o t w e regard the T rin ity as being the proto ty pical
realization o f representation.
a.
W e could locate the specific difference o f the concept o
representation that factor w hich transform s the unspecific
g o in g -o u t-to [eintreten] in to the specific rep resen ting
[vertreten]in the elem ent o f su b stitu tio n . B y substi
tution [Ersatz] w e here m ean that self-engagem ent [Selbsteinsatz] w hereby the positor \_der Setzende] in som e m anner
posits [setzt] the other o r m akes the other be, b y h im self
assum ing (in-stituting by sub-stituting: su b stitu tio n in the
strict sense) w h at is p ro p er to the o th er (his being, his actions,

ATONEMENT AND ONTOLOGICAL COHERENCE

257

his suffering). A ccording to this language, w h at is m o st


proper and peculiar to the o th er is n o t w ro u g h t in ju s t any w ay
but com es to be because the po sito r h im self form ally effects, in
the o th e rs stead, the ontic otherness o f the one w ho is posited.
In view o f the uniqueness o f the intra-divine process o f
self-com m unication, described above, and on the basis o f such
a term inolog y as w e here specify, there can naturally be no
question o f representation occurring in the T rin ity itself.
T he representation evidenced in the cross w ould have no direct
analogy in the intra-trin itarian realm b u t finds there only the
p retex t and presupposition w hich provides its very g ro u n d
and possibility. Sim ilarly, the event o f the cross itself form ally
possesses the character o f representation, n o t to the extent that
it includes the intra-trin itarian process o f self-com m unication,
b u t insofar as the cross tran sfo rm s this process in to the
m odality o f substitu tio n (in the strict sense). Follow ing this
choice o f term s, represen tatio n w o u ld be exactly w hat
m arks the b o u n d ary betw een the ad intra and th ta d extra o f the
m ystery o f the T rin ity , and it constitutes w hat w e could call
the difference betw een the im m anent and the econom ic T rinity.
b.
It is clear, h ow ever, that this language control does n ot
yet determ ine w h eth er the in place o f (the re-placing ),
u nderstood in the strict sense o f su b stitu tio n , can claim to be
the form al heart o f represen tatio n so exclusively that any
other nuance in m eaning and any application to the im m an en t
T rinity m ade possible by it m ust be dism issed as absurd. A
priori it does n o t at all seem that the in place o f necessarily
rejects another, less rigid assignation o f m eaning. C o u ld not
the sam e expression refer to the p rim ary positing o f difference
w ithin the T rinity? If so, the placing o r in stitu tin g that
characterizes such an in place o f w o u ld n o t be effected
th ro u g h substitu tio n . In this case, the p o sito r w o u ld effect
w hat is to be posited directly, by activating w hat is particular
to him self (the positor) as such and n o t by a substitutive
assum ing o f w hat is p ro p er to w hat is posited. In any event
it w ould be a positing in favor o f the posited, a positing

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w hich helps the latter along w ith respect to his p ro p er ontic


otherness. M oreover, this positing w ould n o t p urely be o f
the nature o f efficient causality, b u t in som e m anner w ould
include self-engagem ent and self-com m unication.
T h e m o m en t one sees oneself in a position o f regarding the
in place o f , so stru ctu red , as sufficient realization o f the
content o f represen tatio n , the applicability o f the concept
obviously w idens o u t considerably. W e m ay then ascribe
the character o f representation n o t only to the m y stery o f
creation, to the m ystery o f grace (divine indw elling) and o f the
In carnation,75 b u t even in the first o f all m ysteries o f faith, the
T rin ity , w e m ay contem plate the very p ro to ty p e o f every
event o f represen tatio n .76 B y creating and by m aintaining in
existence, by his indw elling and by the hyp o static union,
G od, by m eans o f his h eightened im m anence, effects in the
o th e r in his place and in his stead w hat this o th er cannot
effect on his ow n: G od m akes him to be and to rem ain in being
and to act as creature, as a creature w h o has received grace, as a
hum an being w h o has been personally united to the Logos. In
sim ilar m anner, w ith in the life o f the T rin ity the F ather does
w hat the Son cannot and never could do: he begets; b u t this, in
the em inent sense, occurs on the S ons b eh alf and concerns
him m ost deeply, because, even th o u g h b egetting can never
becom e som eth in g ( n o tio n ally ) p ro p er to the Son, never
theless, th ro u g h the com m u n icatio n o f essence, it posits w hat
is m ost peculiar to the Son: his very self. In the sense o f a
dependence w h ereb y the one (the Father) constitutes the being
o f the o ther (the Son), w e m ay say that the Father acts in the
place o f the Son: by co m m unicating his o w n essence and by
extending his personal Self b eyond him self, the F ather posits
the S ons ow n personal reality.
W ith relative inversion, the sam e m ay be said o f the Logos.
For w hat is p ro p er to the S on the receptive indebtedness o f
his Person to the Father alth o u g h it can never becom e a
notional p ro p erty o f the Father, so intensely bears u p o n the
being o f the Father that the Father cannot possibly be h im self

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259

w ith o u t this corresponding p ro p e rty on the part o f the Son.


T he Father is n o t w ith o u t the Son, the Son is n o t w ith o u t
the Father, and b o th are n o t w ith o u t the H o ly Spirit; the
one stands (ontically) for the o th e r (Quicumque). T h e divine
Persons exist solely in a reciprocal b ein g -w ith and b eing-for
and stan d in g -in -th e-p lace-o f the other; they are them selves
only by virtue o f the correlative in the place o f the o th e r .
c.
B eyo n d the possible solution o f the objective theological
problem (relationship betw een the T rin ity and the cross), the
need o f fu rther clarifying the appropriateness o f the term s w e
have used still rem ains. C an the second o f the tw o alternatives
we present be ju stified by the law s o f linguistic usage? A
satisfactory answ er to this question could only be g o tten by
means o f a com prehensive sem antic investigation. B ut this
task o f exam ining the sem antic aspect o f the p ro b lem o f
representation can obviously n o t be taken up here.
T he decisive result o f o u r present investigation, how ever,
rem ains untou ch ed by any result such a sem antic exam ination
m ay have, and this is o f the greatest im p o rt to o u r chosen point
o f view . E ven if w e should discover that, in the m o st form al
m eaning o f the w o rd , there can be no representation in the
ad intra realm o f the T rin ity , nevertheless the su bstitutive
re-structuring w hich the intra-divine pro undergoes as it is
m odified on the cross w o u ld n o t p revent b u t rather m ake
possible that this pro (w hich is an indubitable reality w ithin
the triune m ystery) becom e m anifest econom ically in Jesus
representative and atoning death, and that G od hence show
him self as Father in the cross, w ith eschatological m ig h t and
against the resistance o f the sin o f the w orld.

IV . C o n c l u d i n g O v e r v ie w

O u r m editation has gained its im pulse, its direction, and its


goal from the question: C an the cross be atonem ent if G od is
Father? O r, fo rm ulated differently: m ust w e n o t rightly

26o

NORBERT HOFFMANN

reject a G od w h o inexorably dem ands a ju s t ato n e m en t ,


since such a sm all and p etty G o d can at m ost be perceived
only as a threat to m an and his freed o m ?77
O u r attem p t at an answ er has gone th ro u g h various stages.
First o f all w e approached the quaestio facti by observing the
continuum o f salvation-history fro m the O ld in to the N ew
T estam ent. As incontestable reality o f salvation-history w e
confirm ed that the actual realization o f the forgiveness o f sins
occurs in the fo rm o f atonem ent. T h e confirm ation o f this fact
is o f im m ediate theo-logical relevance n o t only because G od
insists w ith rem arkable stubbornness on ato n em en t by the
sinner b ut above all because G od h im self becom es im plicated
affectively in the process o f aton em en t w ith rising intensity.
T he essence o f atonem ent, nam ely, becom es disclosed as the
transform ation o f sin in to the suffering o u t o f love o f the
sinner w ho has again tu rn ed to G od and has thus retu rn ed to
sonship, and it is eschatologically fulfilled in the suffering o f
him w h o m G od the Father sends as his beloved Son in to the
flesh o f sin. T he initial question is thus m odified in to the
affirm ation that the cross is ato n em en t because G od is Father!
Such atonem ent, how ev er, connotes an inexplicable selfenm eshm ent o f G od in the destiny o f the w o rld , and this
indeed represents an exorbitantly m assive threat to G o d s very
G odhood. T his threat pushes o u r th o u g h t on to the question:
in ord er for the cross to be ato n em en t, h o w m ust G od be
G o d and h o w m u st he be F ath er ? T h e O ld T estam en t can
no longer give an answ er to this question, even th o u g h it is
finally rooted in the O ld T estam en ts interpretive ho rizo n and
concept o f G od. T h e answ er m u st be sought in the revelation
o f G od found in the N ew T estam ent. T h e N e w T estam ent
says h o w G od m ust be if he redeem s in the m ode o f atonem ent
from sin. H e m ust be triune. T h e O ld T estam en ts faith in
atonem ent (and the cross, if it is interp reted in this light) does
in fact call G od h im self in to question, and w ith a violence that
is necessarily lethal to faith in G o d if and as long as w e do n o t
let the N ew T estam en t tell us h o w greatly G od is G o d and

ATONEMENT AND ONTOLOGICAL COHERENCE

261

Father and a freedom o flo v e th at flow s forth w ith gladness.


T he N ew T estam en t assures us that th e cross can be atonem ent
because G od is Father un b o u n d ed ly , already w ith respect to his
ow n divine being and fro m all eternity.
C onsequently, the O ld T estam ent contains a clear im balance
betw een G o d s self-m anifestation and the o rd er o f salvation by
him established: the O ld T estam en t im age o f G od can resist
the counterpressure o f the divine relationship to the w o rld and
o f the divine self-engagem ent in the w o rld (p ortrayed so
im pressively by the O ld T estam ent) only by being open to the
revelation o f the T rin ity contained in the N ew T e sta m e n t.78
It w o u ld seem that precisely o u r them atic position (con
nection betw een soteriology and th eo -lo g y , betw een atone
m ent and the T rinity) could fittingly elucidate the subterranean,
reciprocal, and constitutive correspondence uniting b o th testa
m ents. W hoever w o u ld nonetheless insist on elim inating the
O ld T estam en ts idea o f ato n em en t and its p roblem atic con
sequences for the concept o f G od w o u ld by the very fact have
gone far in severing the nerve that binds one testam ent to the
other, and w o u ld also be rob b in g the O ld T estam en t o f the
in terior tension that orients it to the N ew . It is precisely this
idea o f atonem en t w hich turns G od, for the O ld T estam ent
believer, into the question w hich the N e w T estam en t then
answ ers. R ed em p tio n fro m sin in the fo rm o f aton em ent
stands in an in te rio r sy ste m a tic relatio n sh ip w ith the
fundam ental m ystery o f the T rin ity . O n ly a reasoning derived
from the reality o f the im m an en t T rin ity can safeguard the
cross from the suspicion that it is g ro u n d ed in a m erely
external ordinance o f the divine w ill to save. If w e start w ith
the being o f the T rin ity as such, w e will com e to see that,
although the historical positivity o f the cross does indeed
follow from a free divine decision, nonetheless its in terior
content grow s from the very ro o ts o f G o d s ipsum esse. It
becom es evident that, if atonem ent for h u m an guilt is to take
place definitively, it m ust be accom plished n o t sim ply by
him w ho factually is the Son, b u t by the Son as Son. T he

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NORBERT HOFFMANN

ontological coherence b etw een the T rin ity and th e cross


becom es apparent in the light o f the universal law th at dictates
the p ro -stru ctu re o f B eing as such, attested in G od as the
Father-Son relationship and then extending u nm odified into
creation.
T rinitarian theology flow s forcibly , so to say, from a
soteriology centered on the idea o f atonem ent. In a hidden
m anner (that is, concealed w ith in its very presuppositions),
the O ld T estam en t revelation o f G o d is already a revelation o f
the T rinity.
In this context it is n o t surprising w hen, in his debate w ith
the theology o f solidarity, H ans U rs von B althasar com es to
affirm: For such a doctrine o f liberation it doubtless suffices
to say that Jesus was n o th in g m o re than a m an in and th ro u g h
w h o m G od w anted to act eschatologically. 79 A nd w hen
theologians, critical o f the concept o f G od as Father, on the one
hand show open sy m p ath y for the rigid m o n o th eism o f Islam
and equate trinitarian faith w ith speculation on the T rin ity ,
and w hen they, on the o th er hand, do n o t see them selves in a
position to accept the cross o f Jesus as an atoning sacrifice
for o u r sins:80 w e m ay ask ourselves w heth er b o th o f these
positions do n o t co n d itio n one an o th er in te rio rly . If the
atoning character o f the cross is rejected, w e incur the loss o f
the single m ost im p o rta n t reason w h y the T rin ity is needed
theologically; and if the T rin ity itself is rejected, w e have at the
same tim e denied the p resupposition that m akes the atonem ent
o f the N ew T estam en t at all possible.
B ut if, w ith the C h u rch , w e believe b o th in the T rin ity and
in the cross as aton em en t, w e will see som eth in g o f the
radiance o f w hat has been called the admirabilis mysteriorum
nexus; and w e will u nderstand that Jesus ato n em en t on the
cross w hich according to m any a theologian stands in ir
reconcilable opposition to the N e w T estam en ts im age o f
G odn o t only does n o t negate the F atherhood o f G od but
is in fact its m ost dazzling revelation and realization at the
sum m it o f salvation-history.

NOTES
These pages present a shortened and somewhat more clarified version o f the
basic soteriological concepts of N. Hoffmanns essay Siihne: Zur Theologie der
Stellvertretung (Einsiedeln, 1981), quoted henceforth as Siihne.
1 Cf. H. J. Lauter, Brauchen wir ein Siihnopfer?, in Anzeiger fur die
katholische Geistlichkeit 89 (1980): 75ff. Other literature ibid., p. 77, note 1.
2 Pius XII, Haurietis aquas: Encyclical on the Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart
ofJesus. AAS 48 (1956): 320.
3 Ibid., our emphasis. Cf. ibid., p. 321.
4 Cf. the critical review o f the position, among others, o f H. Kessler,
H. Kiing, Ch. Duquoc, E. Schillebeeckx, K. Rahner, and R. Schwager, in
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik, vol. 3, Die Handlung (Einsiedeln,
1980), pp. 24891, quoted henceforth as TD 3.
5 Cf. for instance P. Fiedler, Siinde und Vergebung im Christentum, in
Concilium 10 (1974): 568-71, here p. 569.
6 See, for instance, H. Schiirmann, Jesu ureigenes Todesverstandnis:
Bemerkungen zur impliziten Soteriologie Jesu, in J. Zmijewski and E.
Nellessen, eds., Begegnung mit dem Wort: Festschrift fur Heinrich Zimmermann
(Bonn, 1980), pp. 273-309.
7 Transcendental here refers to the ascent from the event o f the cross to
the internal basis in the being of God that makes it possible.
8 Cf. Siihne, p. 15, notes 15-17.
9 For example, Probleme der Christologie von heute, in K. Rahner,
Schriften zur Theologie, 8th ed. (Einsiedeln, 1967), vol. 1, pp. 169-222, here
pp. I76ff.
10 Cf. Siihne, pp. 39b
11 TD 3, pp. 21 of.
12 Ibid., pp. 295b
13 Ibid., p. 211.
14 Quoted in L. Kaufmann, LeidenschaftLeidenPassion, in Orientierung
45 (1981): 6iffi, here p. 61.
15 Cf. on this TD 3, p. 320.
16 Cf. Siihne, pp. 26ffi; TD 3, p. 222.
17 Here we already encounter the themes ofcommercium and representation,
which will later be treated in detail.
18 Cf. H. Gross, Das Hohelied der Liebe Gottes: Zur Theologie von
Hosea 11, in H. Rossmann and J. Ratzinger, eds., Mysterium der Gnade:
Festschrift fur Johann Auer (Regensburg, 1975), pp. 83-91, here p. 87. Cf. on
this the quote from F. Kerstiens, infra, p. 265, note 77.

263

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NORBERT HOFFMANN

19 TD 3, p. 295.
20 Ibid., p. 210.
21 Cf. ibid., pp. 292ff., that contains the essence o f A. Feuillet, L Agonie de
Gethsemani: Enquetes exegetiques et theologiques (Paris, 1977).
22 TD 3, p. 226; cf. ibid., p. 293.
23 Ibid., pp. 232ff.
24 Ibid., pp. 230-34.
25 Ibid., p. 240.
26 Cf. K. Rahner, Erlosung, in Sacramentum Mundi: Theologisches Lexikon
fur die Praxis (Freiburg-Basel-Vienna, 1967), vol. 1, col. 1159-76, here n69f.;
H. U. von Balthasar, Crucifixus etiam pro nobis, in IKaZ 9 (1980): 26-35,
here p. 33.
27 F. Hammer, Genugtuung und Heil: Absicht, Sinn und Grenzen der
Erldsungslehre Anselms von Canterbury (Vienna, 1967), quoted in TD 3, p. 240,
note 15.
28 TD 3, p. 240.
29 Ibid.
30 Cf. ibid., p. 253.
31 K.-H. Weger, Karl Rahner: Eine Einfuhrung in sein theologisches Denken,
Herderbiicherei 680 (Freiburg-Basel-Vienna, 1978), p. 147.
32 Cf. TD 3, pp. 245ff.
33 Ch. Duquoc, Christologie (Paris, 1972), vol. 2, quoted in TD 3, p. 250.
34 Cf. TD 3, pp. 276ff.
35 R. Schwager, Brauchen wir einen Sundenbock? Gewalt und Erlosung in den
biblischen Schriften (Munich, 1978), p. 211.
36 H. U. von Balthasar, Die neue Theorie von Jesus als dem Siindenbock ,
in IKaZ 9 (1980-): i84f., here p. 185.
37 Ibid., p. 184.
38 Cf. TD 3, p. 290.
39 Cf. TD 3, p. 295: According to this theory, do not men have the
initiative in the redemptive process, while . . . Gods action o f forgiveness . . .
falls short of its goal? See also ibid., p. 311.
40 H. Kiing, Christ sein, 4th ed. (Munich, 1974), p. 325.
41 Pro-structure: In what follows the Latin prefix pro (as in pro nobis) will
be used where the German original uses the Greek equivalent vnep or hyper,
not in the sense of above, over, or beyond (governing the accusative)
but in the sense of for, for the sake o f, and in the place o f (calling for the
genitive). Expressions such as pro-structure and pro-existence are short
hand, both in the original and in this translation, for the authors fundamental
idea that the very being o f God, already in himself, is other-oriented, selfsurrendering, radically altruistic, a quality summarized by the Latin phrase esse
ad. Tr.
42 Kl. Hemmerle, Glaubenwie geht das? Wege zur Mitte des Evangeliums,
4th ed. (Freiburg-Vienna-Basel, 1978), pp. i88f.
43 Ibid., p. 189.
44 TD 3, p. 303. Cf. ibid., p. 304.
45 Cf. N. Hoffmann, Stellvertretung, Grundgestalt und Mitte des

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265

Mysteriums: ein Versuch trinitatstheologischer Begriindung christlicher


Siihne, in MThZ 30 (1979): 161-91, here pp. i86ff., henceforth quoted as
Stellvertretung .
46 Cf. ibid.; see also Siihne, pp. 7iff.
47 Kl. Hemmerle, loc. cit.
48 TD 3, p. 304.
49 Ibid., p. 301.
50 Cf. G. Martelet, Das Lamm, erwahlt vor Grundlegung der Welt, in
IKaZ 9 (1980): 36-44, here p. 42.
51 P. Claudel, Hymne au Sacre-Coeur, in Corona Benignitatis Anni Dei;
Oeuvre poetique de Paul Claudel (Paris: Pleiade, 1957), p. 398; quoted in
Martelet, loc. cit.
52 TD 3, p. 300 (our emphasis). Cf. H.-J. Lauter, Den Menschen Christus
bringen: Theologiefur die Verkiindigung (Freiburg-Vienna-Basel, 1981), p. 120.
53 TD 3, loc. cit.
54 Ibid., pp. 302 and 304.
55 Cf. ibid., p. 302.
56 Ibid., p. 302 (our emphasis). Cf. Siihne, p. $0; Stellvertretung, p. 186.
57 TD 3, p. 301.
58 Ibid., p. 302. Cf. ibid., p. 304.
59 Ibid., p. 304 (our emphasis). Cf. ibid., p. 302.
60 Cf. Stellvertretung, pp. 165L
61 H. U. von Balthasar, Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, in IKaZ 8 (1979):
30-39, here p. 38.
62 Ibid., p. 39. Cf. ibid., p. 38.
63 Ibid., p. 38.
64 On this, see Siihne, pp. 74-79.
65 Cf. ibid., p. 66, note 181.
66 See the works referred to in notes 1 and 4$.
67 Stellvertretung, p. 186; Siihne, pp. 48ff. L. Scheffczyk is of the same
opinion in Stellvertretung und Sendung des Priesters, in Scheffczyk, ed.,
Glaube als Lebensinspiration: Gesammelte Schriften zur Theologie, Horizonte,
Neue Folge 18 (Einsiedeln, 1980), pp. 413-25, here pp. 4i8ff.
68 Besides Cardinal J. Ratzinger, H.-J. Lauter in particular has made the
present writer aware of the need to clarify further his concept of representation.
69 Cf., for instance, 1 Pet 1:3. See also Siihne, pp. 75L
70 Cf. Stellvertretung, pp. 185Gf.; Siihne, pp. 49ff.
71 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I, q. 42, a. 5 c and ad 3.
72 L. Scheffczyk, op. cit., pp. 4i8f. (our emphasis).
73 TD 3, p. 310. Cf. ibid., pp. 306 and 303.
74 Scheffczyk, loc. cit., p. 418.
75 Cf. Stellvertretung, pp. 176L; Scheffczyk, loc. cit., pp. 417 and 419.
76 Scheffczyk, loc. cit., p. 419. Cf. ibid., p. 420; Stellvertretung, pp.
i84ff.; Siihne, pp. 46ff.
77 F. Kerstiens, Der Wegjesu (Mainz, 1973), p. 36.
78 It carries special weight when the Old Testament scholar A. Deissler
points explicitly to the mortgage with which radical faith in one God is

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NORBERT HOFFMANN

burdened, in Mysterium Salutis: Grundriss heilsgeschichtlicher Dogmatik (EinsiedelnZiirich-Cologne, 1967), vol. 2, p. 235. Cf. H.-J. Lauter, op. cit., p. 129,
note 26.
79 H. U. von Balthasar, Theodramatik (Einsiedeln, 1978), vol. 2, pt. 2,
p. 98.
80 Cf. H. Kiing, Christ sein, pp. 300, 299, 105, 465f., 413, 416.