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King, Priest, and Prophet: A Trinitarian Theology of Atonement

, 2004
ISBN: 9780567025609

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The doctrines of the atonement and the Trinity are central not only to the Christian faith but also to Christian systematic theology. Over the last decade or so, one or another theological interpretation of either of these doctrines has assumed pride of place among theologians. Before Robert Sherman, though, no theologian has ever dared to read the atonement in light of the Trinity. Most of the time atonement theories simply focus on the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, without any reference to Christ's relationship to the Father and the Spirit of the Trinity. But, as Sherman argues, Christ's atoning work is diverse and cannot be limited to one who ransoms our sins or to one who has victory over our sins (although in Sherman's view Christ's atoning work includes these tasks and more). He offers here a constructive theological proposal that connects Trinity with the rubrics of prophet, priest, and king to help explain Christ's atoning work.

One can understand adequately neither Christ's multifaceted reconciliation of a complex humanity to God, nor that reconciliation’s fundamental unity as God's gracious act apart from the Trinity. Without this framework, one will likely stress one person of the Trinity, one aspect of God's reconciling work, and/or one understanding of the human predicament to the exclusion of others and the detriment of theology, both systematic and pastoral. Sherman's constructive theological proposal suggests that we should recognize a certain correspondence and mutual support between the three persons of the Trinity, the three offices of Christ (king, prophet, priest), and the three commonly recognized models of his atoning work (Christus victor, vicarious sacrifice, moral exemplar).

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“What does ‘atonement’ mean? To what does Christ’s ‘atonement’ refer? In its most basic sense, it answers the human problem. It is the activity of God the Father in the Son through the Spirit that overcomes the bondage or desire or pride or dislocation or estrangement or alienation or evil or limitation that separates humanity from God, and thus enables the restoration of the true and proper relation between them.” (Page 15)

“To summarize, the Reformed reading of the Bible understood each and all of these ‘offices’ as serving a mediatorial function between God and the covenant people. The king mediated the sovereignty of God, the priest mediated the holiness and forgiveness of God, and the prophet mediated the truth and commands of God.” (Page 74)

“More specifically, while recognizing Christ’s threefold work to be both fully his own and fully trinitarian, it is also appropriate to understand his royal work as done on behalf of the Father, his priestly work be understood as his own proper work as Son,1 and his prophetic work as done on behalf of the Spirit.” (Pages 116–117)

“In sum, a full and biblically based understanding of Christ’s sacrifice will not construe it only in a negative way as a vicarious expiation or punishment for sin, but also in a positive way as the God-given means for humanity’s personal transformation and restored relation.” (Page 194)

“First, and most immediately, the doctrine of the Trinity helps the church understand and express more clearly the character of the God with whom it is dealing: this God is not an abstract, isolated, and static deity but a personal, relational, and dynamic God.” (Pages 55–56)

Product Details

  • Title: King, Priest, and Prophet: A Trinitarian Theology of Atonement
  • Author: Robert J. Sherman
  • Publisher: T&T Clark International
  • Publication Date: 2004
  • Pages: 304

Scholarly interest focuses on historical theology, especially 19th and 20th century Protestant theology. His particular expertise is the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Karl Barth. Far from being merely academic, this focus also serves his practical concern with maintaining Christian identity and faithfulness in a North American context that many label post-Christian. I’m convinced that Karl Barth is right when he declares, ‘The theologian who labors without joy is not a theologian at all.’ Such a deep-seated joy undergirds my own theological work, and it’s a sense I try to evoke through my teaching. The wisdom and riches of the Christian theological tradition are an amazing treasure, and I could give my students no greater gift than to enable them to engage that tradition in a faithful and joyous manner for their own lives and ministries as Christians.â€

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Print list price: $85.00
Save $40.01 (47%)