Expiation or Propitiation – Why Choose?

Some people, especially people in the sort of theology and biblical studies circles that I commenced my theological education in, can tend to get exercised about how to translate that pesky Greek term, hilastarion. Supposedly, according to the impression that one is given, one’s answer to this question determines the orthodoxy (or not) of one’s soteriology. Even then I thought such hype was overblown, and when I got to PTS and heard George Hunsinger’s take on the whole thing (and read a bit more Barth), I really stopped worrying about it. Well, now you – my gentle readers – can be privy to this same wisdom.
George Hunsinger, The Eucharist and Ecumenism: Let us Keep the Feast (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008): 173-4.

“God’s wrath is the form taken by God’s love when God’s love is contradicted and opposed. God’s love will not tolerate anything contrary to itself. It does not compromise with evil, or ignore evil, or call evil good. It enters into the realm of evil and destroys it. The wrath of God is propitiated when the disorder of sin is expiated. It would be an error to suppose that “propitiation” and “expiation” must be pitted against each other as though they were mutually exclusive. The wrath of God is removed (propitiation) when the sin that provokes it is abolished (expiation). Moreover, the love of God that takes the form of wrath when provoked by sin is the very same love that provides the efficacious means of expiation (vicarious sacrifice) and therefore of propitiation.”


xopher_mc said…
Suppose it's cause people who get exercised about the issue see wrath and love as opposites e.g. Stott. And the atonement as some sort of clash of divine attributes!
I think you're right, which is really unfortunate. Calvin, whom many such people revere, was much better than that.
Anonymous said…
Hi Xopher_mc
Where does Stott see wrath and love as opposites? He certainly doesn't see it as a 'clash' of divine attributes!

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