Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Atonement in the Apocalypse

Atonement in the Apocalypse: an Exposé of the Defeat of Evil by Robert W. Canoy is a reasonably short and focused work, which narrows the topic of the atonement to its relation to the book of Revelation. It does not deal with the atonement in ways that many typical books on the atonement will – e.g., limited atonement, general atonement, etc.. It only delves lightly into the eschatology of Revelation, in places in might be pertinent to the main topic.

Robert W. Canoy, the author of Atonement in the Apocalypse, is Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at the School of Divinity of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

I was excited when I saw an advertisement for Atonement in the Apocalypse in my inbox. I am interested in this subject, and am not aware of another book that focuses so particularly on it. Canoy's and the book's connections to Smyth & Helwys and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship put a slight damper on the excitement. I knew it would come out of the moderate to liberal field. Because of its particular focus I nevertheless wanted to read it and purchased it. I wasn’t aware of another book like it.[i] This is a topic I wish to explore further and appreciate Canoy’s contribution.

In the beginning Canoy writes on the subject of the atonement and how that fits within the genre of Revelation (Apocalyptic, Prophesy, Epistle). In chapters 2 and 3 he deals with atonement language and metaphors used in Revelation (such as Temple, altar, Lamb, etc.). Chapter 5 might be called the heart of the book, the defeat of the Great Red Dragon as the exposé of evil. In the final chapter Canoy offers theological conclusions with implications for Christian living.
view of atonement?

Danny West says Atonement in the Apocalypse is “written with clarity for both scholars and laypersons in mind.” I believe that is a fair assessment. For example, Canoy’s placement of the Greek text in sentences following the English translation can be read by those who can do so, or simply ignored by those who cannot.[ii] Mitchell Reddish writes, “Canoy’s work in the result of informed exegesis, critical dialogue with other scholars, and theological reflection on the significance of John’s understanding of the redemptive work of God.” To my taste there was far too much interaction with/quoting of other scholars, which to me became tiresome after a point.

My overall assessment is “somewhat disappointing.” The uniqueness of the topic gets the book a recommendation I might not otherwise give. Canoy’s atonement view gets the reader a warning. Be aware. I guess I was naïve and not expecting the so-called “Christus Victor” view of the atonement to be promoted in the book.[iii] This aspect left me confused in the beginning until I realized what he was saying. Be careful. I actually have no problem with “Christus Victor” other than when it is used to deny and substitute for penal and substitutionary aspects of the atonement.

Finally, I was disappointed that this book coming out of the academic field included no index. This is a deficiency that should be corrected in future printings.

[i] There are many things of which I am not aware, so there may be other books, even many, of this genre. Searching around the World Wide Web yields evidence that Loren L. Johns’s chapter on “Atonement and Sacrifice in the Book of Revelation” in The Work of Jesus Christ in Anabaptist Perspective: Essays in Honor of J. Denny Weaver (edited by Alain Epp Weaver and Gerald J. Mast, Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2008) and Weaver’s own The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001) deal with this topic.
[ii] The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition, Michael W. Holmes, editor, Lexham Press, 2011-13

No comments: