Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation

Article excerpt

The Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation. By Adam Kotsko. London: T&T Clark, 2010. viii + 216 pp. $34.95 (paper).

In The Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation, Adam Kotsko offers a reimaging of the Christian doctrine of the atonement. He does so by reinterpreting the Christian theological tradition surrounding the atonement, discovering what he terms a "social-relational ontology." This ontology provides a way of thinking about the atonement in a way that is conducive to and makes sense within the contemporary context. In so doing, Kotsko provides a timely approach to the atonement that gives fresh theological insight.

The argument of The Politics of Redemption can be broken down into three components. In the first part of the work, Kotsko attempts to orient the readers thinking to the kind of thinking he believes is necessary to the atonement. He advances a social-relational style of thought. He believes this type of thinking overcomes some of the problems associated with the doctrine of the atonement, most notably those surrounding the idea of suffering as redemptive. The second part of Kotsko's argument consists of analyzing the primary sources for thinking about the atonement in the Christian theological tradition: Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, Anselm, and Abelard. Kotsko's reinterpretation of the tradition begins by reading Irenaeus and Gregory through a social-relational lens. He believes both utilize a form of recapitulation theory to understand how all of humanity is represented in the person of Christ. For him, this means that Christ takes solidarity with humanity, becoming the "new Adam" from which all of humanity will come. In this patristic understanding, the devil tempts Jesus as a human being, as part of all humanity. It is Christ's God-nature, though, that breaks the dominance of the devil on humanity as the devil overreaches his dominion to try and control all of Christ. Kotsko believes this recapitulation theory is fundamentally social-relational because of the fact that Christ is "in it" with all of humanity. This is different, somewhat, than Anselm and Abelard. Acknowledging their differences, Kotsko reads them as being similar in that both have a tendency to prioritize the individual. In this reading, the human is in debt to God and Christ comes to repay that debt. Thus, God ultimately takes the position of the devil, of the one who holds dominion over humanity. Christ comes and erases the debt of each person who is saved, whether through pietistic actions or predestination. The result is a misappropriation of the atonement tradition that leads to the ideas of redemptive suffering that are found in the later theological tradition. …

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