Jesus and the Cross: Necessity, Meaning, and Atonement

By Peter Laughlin

A novel investigation of the meaning of atonement centered on the often-neglected question of Jesus’s intention in submitting to his crucifixion.

ISBN: 9780227174968


According to the Nicene Creed, Christ died for us and for our salvation. But while all Christians agree that Christ’s death and resurrection has saving significance, there is little unanimity in how and why that is the case. In fact, Christian history is littered with accounts of the redemptive value of Christ’s death, and new models and motifs are constantly being proposed, many of which now stand in stark contrast to earlier thought. How then should contemporary articulations of the importance of the death of Christ be judged?

At the heart of this book is the contention that Christian reflection on the atonement is faithful inasmuch as it incorporates the intention that Jesus’ himself had for his death. In a wide-reaching study, the author draws from both classical scholarship and recent work on the historical Jesus to argue that not only did Jesus imbue his death with redemptive meaning but that such meaning should impact expressions of the saving significance of the cross.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 286

 |   | 

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Peter Laughlin is the Director of the Alliance College of Australia and Lecturer in Theology at the Australian College of Ministries, a member institution of the Sydney College of Divinity.


Foreword by Neil Ormerod

1. Introduction: Cross Intentions
2. Divine Action and the Contingent Cross
3. Atonement, History, and Meaning
4. The Meaning of Jesus’ Death
5. From Meaning to Motif



Endorsements and Reviews

Authenticity in articulating the redemptive meaning of Jesus’s death is at the heart of this book. The question is: what were Jesus of Nazareth’s aims in undergoing death? Theologies of the atonement generally bypass this question, thus accentuating a split between history and theology. Laughlin’s achievement is to have shown how a critical realist presentation of the Jesus of history can play a crucial role in developing an atonement theology faithful to Jesus’s own intentions.
Raymond Canning, Professor of Theology, Australian Catholic University, Canberra

How, Laughlin asks, can we connect God’s will to the cross of Jesus if the cross was itself an act of evil and injustice? How can the Christian theologian not see the inherent contradiction of God’s love and grace in (an) act of such barbaric injustice? Do not some atonement theories implicate God in evil? Laughlin goes to this set of questions and to the theodicy problem to begin resolving atonement theory, and alongside that issue he contends an atonement theory must be consistent with how Jesus himself spoke of his death. This book breaks fresh ground for anyone interested in atonement theory.
Scot Mcknight, Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary, Lombard, Illinois

… offers an innovative examination of the soteriological significance of the crucifixion of Jesus. … creatively brings together traditional philosophical and theological resources, critical reflection on the relationship between historical methodology and theological reflection, and his own measured and judicious evaluation of the work of historical Jesus scholars to provide a stimulating and fresh treatment of well-trod ground. … This is a well researched and carefully crafted project.
Joseph K. Gordan, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 24, Issue 3

Peter Laughlin contributes a robust study of atonement at the intersection of the philosophy of meaning, subjectivity, and intentionality.
Joshua R Farris, in Theological Book Review, Vol 27, No 2