Reichenbach on Healing

Well, I got through Reichenbach’s contribution in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, and I must say that I gleaned more from him than I anticipated. His crankiness emerges from time to time, but maybe only because I’m looking for it. While I am unconvinced that his view should be viewed as the central or fundamental motif if the atonement, there were some brilliant reminders in his piece and he certainly added to the rich texture of it.

I was specifically helped by his encouragement to not view the atonement strictly in terms of the cross, but to also keep the person and pre-cross work of Christ in view. He did, Reichenbach reminds us, much healing and this carried significant spritual meaning. Jesus simultaneously addressed both sin and sickness. “Your sins are forgiven,” he told one paralyzed man. Then when the conversation turned to his physical condition, he said, “Get up, take up your bed and go home.” One is as easy to say as the other, contends Reichenbach, and shows how connected the two are.

In the end, the cross is the ultimate act of healing, spiritual, social, physical, economic, etc.

It may be my own density, but I was not able to track with him much on how he connected the Old Testament Levitical system to healing, but he does attempt to tie it in.

In the end, as all of the responses point out, he failed to make it central to understanding the atonement as God’s restorative and reconciling work. Boyd begins his response with obligatory (albeit probably sincere) compliments and courtesy, then launches into another story about a scientist who invented a vaccine that would heal all dangerous viruses and was carried about by the breeze so that its effect was easily spread to all the world. The scientist did more than merely cure a disease as it existed in a person or people, he eradicated it. In one particularly powerful paragraph he expands the meaning of the healing view to extend into his own Christus Victor view.

Jesus did not just heal our blindness: according to Scripture, he confronted and overcame darkness itself. Jesus did not just set captives free: “he made captivity itself a captive.” Jesus did not simply free sinners: he destroyed the power of sin itself. Jesus did not merely freeus from condemnation: he silenced the accuser himself. And Jesus did not simply heal our infirmaties: he destroyed the lord of death himself. We significantly weaken and distort the biblical depiction of Christ’s accomplishment if we centralize the anthropological benefits instead of the cosmic foundation of these benefits.

Schreiner’s response made me laugh. Not because he said anything that was laughable, but because he said, essentially, “Well, Reichenbach did a fine job of putting forward the healing view but never attempted to argue for the centrality of this motif as was the assignment of this book. So, since he didn’t do his job, I’m going to take the remainder of the space in my response to argue for penal substitution.”

Joel Green’s response is summarized in his final statement, “it is far easier to argue that salvation itself must be understood as healing or that healing is really a consequence of salvation than to argue that healing is themeans by which salvation through Christ’s (life and) death is made available.

Joel Green’s Kaleidoscopic View is next. After that I’ll have it all figured out.


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