1. A RECAP OF THE PROCESS OF ATONEMENT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In “Part I”1 of the present article, we set out to sketch a theology of atonement that would make understandable St. John’s claim that we have come to know God’s love precisely in view of God’s sending his Son as atonement. “In this way the love of God was revealed to us. . . . In this is God’s love . . . that he sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:9–10, emphasis added). Our aim was—and remains—to make the mystery of atonement sufficiently transparent to the mystery of the triune God and, in the first place, to the mystery of God the Father.
With our attention focused on the Old Testament, and guided by the insights of our cadre of theologians (Norbert Hoffmann, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, and Pope St. John Paul II), we traced the gradually emerging pattern of a process whereby atonement involves “conversion,” not simply in the sense of turning away from sin, but also as the “conversion” of sin itself. The sinner turns back to God with filial love (regenerated by God; in this respect, God is near), such that now he endures the effects of sin (principally distance from God) as a condition that pains him, and by lovingly bearing this sin-wrought distance he turns sin around: from a refusal of filiation to an occasion of it. Sin is effaced in being converted into its opposite: nearness to God in the filial love-suffering of God’s distance.2
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