Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Review: Models of Atonement by George L. Murphy

In my years of attending and listening to American Scientific Affiliation conferences, I've found that George Murphy gives reliably repeatable and ponderable talks. He is a Lutheran pastor with a Ph.D. in physics, and is one of the clearest voices on the (positive) implications of evolution for faith.

This most recent book of his is a high-water mark. With the precision and concision of a physics textbook, Murphy surveys the different ways theologians have thought about Jesus' reconciling work and lays out how he thinks these can brought together with the scientific discoveries since Darwin. This isn't trying to mix oil and water together -- this is a genuine reconciliation on the level of science and religion. I found many resonances with NT Wright's recent huge book on Romans.

The book is so short that I'm left wanting more. For example, Murphy argues for a faith-first view of atonement rather than other views in which love is primary. But what about "the greatest of these is love"? This book opens up a fascinating and helpful avenue for thinking about the sacraments, and makes a strong case that the future is more important than the past when it comes to theology.

I feel like these ideas are the "equations" suggesting application through sanctifying "homework problems." I hope theologians find this book and read it because it opens up so many theological scholarly projects that I can't even keep track of them in my head. A wonderful (if short) book.

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