The Cross in Context: Reconsidering Biblical Metaphors for Atonement, By Brad Vaughn
The Cross in Context
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: November 22, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0028
  • ISBN: 9781514000281

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How can a doctrine about reconciliation with God create so much controversy among God's people?

Theologian Brad Vaughn believes Christians can gain clarity and unity on the doctrine of the atonement through a renewed attention to the biblical evidence. While theological theories are necessary and useful, they can obscure reality as much as clarify it. And we're often ignorant of the role that cultural and historical context plays in shaping these views. Instead of beginning by comparing atonement theories, he argues, we need to delve deep into the Bible, where we find a handful of motifs that combine to form a richer, more robust theology of atonement.

The Cross in Context presents a perspective on the atonement that seeks to reconcile theological camps and enable Christians to interpret the Bible more faithfully. It draws from the entire biblical canon and considers the New Testament in light of its Old Testament background, focusing on the internal logic of Israel's sacrificial system. Applying his intercultural ministry experience and expertise on honor and shame, Vaughn also considers how to effectively contextualize the multifaceted message of salvation in diverse cultural contexts.

Combining missiology, theology, and biblical studies, The Cross in Context provides a refreshing and nuanced look at the atonement and what it means for the life and witness of the church.

"Brad Vaughn explores the interplay of metaphor and atonement—thus this book is about the core of salvation in the New Testament. Atonement is complex, but this is a reliable and well-written guide through the variety of biblical images. Its contextualization offers the key to understand the core of the mission of Jesus Christ. A must-read for all who want to know what the Christian gospel means in diverse cultures!"

Christian A. Eberhart, professor of religious studies at the University of Houston and author of The Sacrifice of Jesus: Understanding Atonement Biblically

"What would it look like if we allowed the apostle Paul's statement that 'Christ died for our sins' to be truly explained 'according to the Scriptures' (1 Cor 15:3)? In this provocative book, Brad Vaughn carefully peels back layers of church tradition, systematic theology, and folk Christianity to reexamine what Scripture actually says about the death of Christ. The result is a whole-Bible approach to sin and atonement that mounts a stimulating challenge to scholars and laypeople alike. Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, you will undoubtedly come away with a deeper appreciation for the richness of what Christ's death accomplished!"

Jerry Hwang, academic dean and associate professor of Old Testament at Singapore Bible College

"Given the importance of atonement and the breadth of imagery used in Scripture to describe it, any work on atonement is sure to invite criticism. As Brad Vaughn himself notes, this book will not avoid that fate. Still, it remains a rewarding read because of the light it sheds on some of the often underappreciated biblical imagery used to describe what Christ accomplished for sin-stained image bearers. Read, wrestle, discern, critique, and worship your way through this book. Even the critic will be grateful for the reminder of the gospel's multifaceted salvation presented in The Cross in Context."

Matthew Bennett, assistant professor of missions and theology at Cedarville University

"Brad Vaughn offers a book that needed to be written. It is challenging, insightful, intriguing, and stretching. Not all will agree with this book (W. tells us as much!), but no one should ignore it. Here we discover the multifaceted diamond that is Christ's atonement."

Heath A. Thomas, president of Oklahoma Baptist University

Read an Excerpt



Part I: The Atonement in Biblical and Cultural Context
1. Reconciling Atonement Theories
2. Preparing a Sanctuary for the King
3. Offering a Way to God
4. Atonement and the Significance of Blood
5. Seeking God's Face Through Sacrifice

Part II: Interpreting Biblical Metaphors of Atonement
6. What Does Christ Purify?
7. Who Bears the Burden of Sin?
8. Does God Want Recompense or Retribution?
9. Does the Father Punish the Son?

Part III: Implications and Applications
10. Answers to Lingering Questions
11. Does Christ Bear Our Shame?

Appendix A: Historical Atonement Theories
Appendix B: Affirming Penal Substitution but Not Its Logic
Appendix C: "Bearing" in the Old Testament
Appendix D: The Metaphors of Hebrews 9–10
Discussion Guide
Glossary of Terms
Select Bibliography
General Index
Scripture Index


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Brad Vaughn (formerly published under the pseudonym Jackson W.; PhD, Southeastern Baptist) is theologian in residence with Global Training Network. He previously lived and worked in East Asia for almost two decades, teaching theology and missiology for Chinese pastors. He serves on the Asian/Asian-American Theology steering committee of the Evangelical Theological Society and is the author of Saving God's Face, One Gospel for All Nations, Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes, and Seeking God's Face.