CAPC Oakland

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Thinking Theologically

Thinking Theologically Logo

The Atonement Logo Cropped

Thinking Theologically – the Atonement 

Wednesday, April 30th 7:30pm

College Avenue Presbyterian Church 


  • Did Jesus have to die? And why?
  • How does his death, 2,000 years ago in a distant land, even have an effect on my life today here in 21st century America?


These are the questions that lie at the heart of Christian thought and faith. They’re the foundation upon which our worldview and moral compass are constructed. They’re also questions that are challenging to answer and yet paradoxically the questions that are most pertinent in our contemporary conversations and dialogues about religion, spirituality and faith.

In Christian Theology we use the term “Atonement Theories” to refer to this question. The word “theory” doesn’t imply that it’s a scientific experiment with dubious conclusions, that they’re unbiblical or even made up. Rather the expression denotes the paradox that within the testimonies which comprise the Bible there are several different visions, viewpoints, or “theories” of how God and humanity are reconciled through Jesus the Christ.






This comprehensive list of “theory types” (to the left) is a sort of key for understanding the different ways in which theologians have talked about the meaning, purpose and reconciliatory mission of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. If it seems like foreign gobbledygook, that’s ok. Our Thinking Theologically Class is intended to introduce the main thoughts, and explain concisely the various “theories” in a teaching time of no more than 45 minutes. This formal time will be followed by a more informal time for no more than 45 minutes of discussion and interaction






The attached reading selection comes from an Introduction to Theology text, composed by Shirley Guthrie, and commonly used in Theological Education. He writes with common language about a complex theological and philosophical quandary. This background can be extremely helpful to our conversation. You can also find more readings online at






Each participant will be able to explain, using their own words, why Jesus had to die and how his death so long ago has an effect on how we live today.



Resources to download or read (click to download or follow)

Guthrie selection on the Atonement

Daniel Migliore selection on the Atonement

The Atonement in Christian Theology on Wikipedia

A Recent Article “The Prodigal Cross” from the Presbyterian Outlook

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