Anthony Bartlett’s concept of abyssal compassion and the possibility of a truly nonviolent atonement


Many theologians have recently argued that atonement theories related to the Anselmian tradition introduce violent conflict into the very nature of God, which effectively destroys God’s unity—a unity that is self-giving love. Mennonite theology, with its emphasis on a theology of peace, shares similar concerns. J. Denny Weaver takes issue with the dominance of the Anselmian satisfaction theory, particularly because of its inherent violence.1 In The Nonviolent Atonement, he articulates a view that “charts a path of nonviolent atonement through territory strewn with images and assumptions of violence.”2 He argues for narrative Christus Victor as a superior and inherently nonviolent atonement motif. However, I challenge Weaver’s claim. I contend that Mennonite theologians would find better resources for articulating a nonviolent approach in the work of Anthony Bartlett in his recent book, Cross Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement. Below I will raise questions about Weaver’s work and attempt to explain how Bartlett’s paradigm offers a better approach.

Conrad Grebel Review