Making sense of the atonement – a response to Matthew Parris

Making sense of the atonement – a response to Matthew Parris
Matthew Parris | Shutterstock
Daniel Blanche
Daniel Blanche By Daniel Blanche is a PhD student at Union School of Theology. He blogs at
04 May, 2023 4 min read

Matthew Parris recently published an article in The Times complaining that the exaltation of victimhood, based in the victimhood of Christ, is ruining society.

I do not think he was entirely wrong. At the very least, I have big questions over the application of the word ‘victim’ to our Lord in his death.

Whilst the New Testament does present Christ as the sacrificial victim, it also presents him as the offering priest. This heavily qualifies the sense of victimhood. It seems clear to me that the contemporary use of victimhood cannot be applied to the Lord Jesus.

I think that in some cases where this language is used of Christ, contemporary progressive politics rather than the gospel is setting the agenda. That Scripture shows God as being on the side of the weak and marginalised is certainly true; that it somehow makes weakness and marginalisation a virtue is false.

Anyway, Parris has now followed up with a second article, this time in The Spectator, in which he argues that ‘the whole atonement thing is a terrible muddle’. ‘Trying to make sense of it,’ he thinks, ‘is a waste of time’.

Nonetheless, millions of people seem to think that it does make sense – that it is coherent and powerful as an idea, and moreover that it is a liberating and saving reality.

Parris advances very weak arguments for his position, but since they are in public it may be worth briefly taking the time to refute them, to which end I offer the following analysis.

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