In this recent book, Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation (2009), Andrew Sung Park attempts to explore the biblical and theological meanings of Christ’s atonement for victims, oppressors, and nature from a Korean American perspective. Park underlines a new understanding of Christ’s death outlining two main parts: Part 1: Atonement History; and Part 2: The Triune Atonement.
In Part 1, Dr. Park reviews the history of atonement by examining the major atonement theologies developed from the second century C.E. (Irenaeus) to the twentieth century C.E. (Tillich). He examines the main points of each theology of atonement using primary resources and evaluations. His critical review of the theology of atonement allows him to argue the fact that “most of them basically leave untouched the issue of the liberation of victims and their healing (p. 37).” Based upon his critical review of the development of this atonement of theology, in Part 2, Park develops his main theme of Jesus’ atonement for victims, oppressors, and all creation. In this matter, he rejects the traditional theories of atonement.
Why, then, the triune atonement? His idea of the triune atonement comes mainly from the Gospel of John and from the church fathers. He articulates that the Paraclete (παράκλητος) whose functions are to intercede, to comfort, and to help the victims. His intention is to highlight the significance of the work of the Paraclete involving the person of Jesus and God. In his introduction to the book, Park clearly asserts that “the church has not explicitly explained the work of the Paraclete for our atonement, but God has transformed, saved, and liberated people through the Paraclete (xiv).”
Park argues that “Jesus’ cross restores victims’ integrity and dignity by repudiating the idea of a sin-punishment formula (p. 69).” This means that Jesus’ atonement includes both the victims and the oppressors. He emphasizes the idea of “sin-forgiveness” formula instead of the “sin-punishment,” as he suggested in his previous book, From Hurt to Healing (2004) in which he advocates a theology of the wounded. Park believes that the Bible shows that “the God of the Hebrew Bible is the God of mercy and grace,” and God even forgives people with no punishment as expressed in Jesus’ parable of the lost son in Luke 15.
One of the most intriguing arguments in this book is the suffering of nature from abusive treatment by humans. His book ends with his own reflection on the passage of Isaiah (Isa 11:6-9) as follows: “Here the predators and the victims eat and play together, and the oppressors and the oppressed rest and enjoy each other in God’s creation. When we come to live with God’s nature in harmony, we will be able to acclaim God with shouts of joy (p. 108).” Thus, this book underlines the renewal of God’s whole creation. Park’s theology on atonement moves further from the redemption of humanity (both victims and the oppressors) to the restoration of the whole creation.
One thing I want to make clear is that his book attempts to explain the meaning of Jesus’ atonement for victims and victimizers from an Asian American perspective. Park approaches this topic with the Korean term han. While he clearly defines the Korean word han to describe Jesus’ atonement for the victims, he does not develop how this particular Korean term han furthers soteriology in the idea of Jesus’ atonement for oppressors and the whole creation.