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Term employed by the KJV in tr. of Gk. katallage, Ro 5:11, often otherwise “reconciliation,” Ro 5:10; 2 Co 5:19. At-one-ment properly reflects the core significance of the Gk. term, a mutual exchange, a drawing together of parties previously separated. Behind the concept lies the situation that the fall of mankind into sin, and the idolatry and rebellion of the individual sinner, set up a cleavage bet. God and man (Is 59:2) to which God's ultimate reaction is withdrawal, separation potentially permanent (Ro 1:18–32; Mt 8:12). Atonement is removal of this separation.

Emphases in the doctrine of the atonement vary as Biblical references are used to answer the question: who reconciles whom? Does God reconcile men, or do men reconcile God, or does Jesus Christ reconcile God to men or men to God? Some teachers focus on the gravity of man's offense and of God's wrath against it (cf. Apology IV 80, “Christ is set forth to be the propitiator, through whom the Father is reconciled to us”). Such a position stresses the justice, in human dimensions, of God, who cannot overlook sin but must punish it, and sees in the atonement the way by which God can be just and yet merciful. Other teachers stress that God the Father in love Himself moves in, despite His wrath for man's sin, on the need of man and gives His own Son to redeem man from sin, take the curse of sin on Himself, and work peace bet. God and man (2 Co 5:18–21; Cl 1:12–22; Jn 3:16). In this process the primary factor is that God for Christ's sake does not hold man's sin against Him (Ro 3:25; 2 Co 5:19), or forgives it. Here the OT concept tr. “atonement” is absorbed, namely to cover, k'phar, a sacrifice involving shedding of blood and giving up of life prefiguring the means by which God forgives man's sin (cf. especially Lv 16 and Heb 9). The process of the atonement in Christ is brought home to the individual through the “word of reconciliation“ (2 Co 5:18–20; Cl 1:22–29), the Gospel of the cross of Christ, by which the individual is moved to faith in God's atoning love in Christ. Luth. teaching of the atonement stresses that God's act is objective, taking the initiative (cf. the OT concept of the Covenant) in reaching out toward man, and that Christ's work is vicarious, in that He bears the burden of sin, which is rightfully man's (Gl 3:10–13; cf. Is 53). See also Apologetics, II D; Christ Jesus, III 2; Double Reference Theory of the Atonement; Justification; Propitiation; Reconciliation; Redemption; Soteriology.

F. Pieper, Christliche Dogmatik, vol. 2 (St. Louis, 1917), tr. T. Engelder, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis, 1951); W. Elert, Morphologic des Luthertums, vol. 1 (Munich, 1952), tr. W. Hansen, The Structure of Lutheranism (St. Louis, 1962); J. M. Reu, Homiletics, 4th ed. (Columbus, 1934), pp. 351–354; W. J. Wolf, No Cross, No Crown (New York, 1957); V. Taylor, The Atonement in New Testament Teaching, 5th ed. (Chicago, 1950). RRC

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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