Luther’s wedding metaphor for atonement

March 31, 2011

As I continue to think through the meaning of atonement, specifically the way in which Christ’s death on the cross was “in our place”—a substitution for us—this wedding metaphor from Luther, quoted in Thomas Oden’s Classic Christianity, is helpful to me:

Luther employed a wedding metaphor to speak of substitution: “For it behooves Him, if He is a bridegroom, to take upon Himself the things which are His bride’s, and to bestow upon her the things that are His. For if He Gives her His body and His very self, how shall He not give her all that is His? And if He takes the body of the bride, how shall He not take all that is hers?… He by the wedding-ring of faith shares in the sins, death and pains of hell which are His brides’s, nay, makes them His own, and acts as if they were His own, and as if He Himself had sinned” (Luther, Christian Liberty, WML 2:320).

Thomas Oden, Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperOne, 1992), 420.

2 Responses to “Luther’s wedding metaphor for atonement”

  1. Eric Funston Says:

    I find the atonement makes a lot more sense when one gives up believing this “died in our place” stuff.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I dislike the caricatures of what “died in our place” means—i.e., that an angry God sent his Son to die, because only the death of an innocent person could appease God’s wrath. But there are better ways of understanding substitution, right? Luther’s analogy hints at one. What helps you understand atonement?


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