Atonement = Inclusion

In An Introduction to Torrance Theology (T&T Clark, 2007; edited by Gerrit Scott Dawson), several contemporary theologians share their understanding of T.F. Torrance's Trinitarian (Nicene) faith. In a chapter by Dawson, there is a helpful explanation of how the atonement accomplished by Christ is not something our Lord did for us in a way external to his person, but is what he did within his own person. Through the incarnation, the eternal Son of God added our humanity to his divinity. Through this (hypostatic) union, all humanity is included in the love and life of God—and through that inclusion humans have atonement with God in its full sense. 

In short, Atonement = Inclusion.

"Christ Pantocrator" icson at Saint Catherine's Monastery
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons) 

Here is a quote where Dawson summarizes this point: 

Our salvation has occurred within the life of God. It is as secure as his own eternal being! As long as Jesus the eternal Son of God is united to our humanity, so long is he our new and living way to the Father. In as much as we are in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit, we have been united to the one in whom salvation was wrought once for all, yes, but also in whom the reconciliation of humanity to God continues in the dynamic intercession of our High Priest. He has laid hold of our own humanity in the awful depths, sanctified it and carried it to the throne of his Father. He appears not only in our name but in our skin. So we, in Christ, enter the same communion which Jesus enjoys with the Father in the Spirit. Atonement as an act within the life of God means our inclusion now in the joyful Triune life” (p. 72).

Unfortunately, this essential point is often diminished or even overlooked with views of the atonement that are principally “forensic” or “juridical” (legal) – Jesus dies for our sin and our sin account is wiped clean. While this is true, it is far less than the full truth, and certainly not the principal truth. 

As T.F. Torrance teaches, the atonement is about our inclusion in the full life and love of God – an inclusion accomplished fully within the life of Jesus who is the permanent union of God and humankind. The atonement was accomplished not only by Jesus' substitutionary, atoning death on the cross, but also by his incarnation, life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and his continuing intercessory ministry from heaven where humankind is now seated with God in Jesus.

The theology of inclusion informs and broadens our understanding of all aspects of our salvation in Christ, including the atonement.