Christianity is Not an Atonement Theory
“Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of [Jesus'] dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make.
“What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor any other is Christianity. The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work…
“We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history at which something absolutely unimaginable from outside shows through into our own world. And if we cannot picture even the atoms of which our own world is built, of course we are not going to be able to picture this. Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be – the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning.”
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, “The Perfect Penitent”