Do you see propitiation at the core of the atonement? Do you think God’s wrath was pacified (propitiated) in the cross?
Not all agree with the propitiation proponents, and one who did not agree was C.F.D. Moule.
Moule in his characteristic succinct way summarizes the NT texts, and I quote them below, after the jump.
1. The word “propitiation” means to propitiate God and his wrath; that sense is found in the OT but “in the NT it is almost extinguished” due to the “startingly original thought of the NT” (113).
2. In the NT “God is not spoken of as the recipient of what is referred to” … that is, nowhere in the NT, when the recipient of this action of these words is mentioned, is God the one who receives the action. For the word to mean “propitiate” or to “appease God” God must be the recipient; nowhere in the NT, when the word is used, is God the recipient.
3. Whenever the initiator, or subject, of the action is used in the NT, God is that initiator. That is, God does this act. He points to Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10.
4. If the acted upon is sin, then the term does not mean “propitiate” but “expiate.”
Thus, Moule: “If, then, God is the subject or originator, not the object or recipient, of hilas-procedures, it is manifestly inappropriate to translate them as propitiatory; one is driven to use a word such as ‘expiatory’, which has as its object not propitiating a wrathful God but removing a barrier” (114). The theme of NT atonement then is 2 Cor 5:19: God was reconciling the world to himself. God doesn’t need to be propitiated, Moule observes; God is the one doing the reconciling.
5. He sees an exception in language at Eph 5:2: “…walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This is propitiation language from the OT, but a hilas– word is not used here. He doesn’t think 1 John 2 is about advocating before an alienated God.
Overall then he finds the “centrifugal force of the Christian gospel spinning an OT concept to the circumference, if not beyond” (114). Reconciliation exacts a price… forgiveness and repentance. In Christ, both God and man, he observes, “that price is paid, absolutely and finally” (114). “Nowhere in the NT is it said that the wrath of God was satisfied by the death of Jesus” (114).
[More textual analysis given in the original article]