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Cross Purposes : The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement
Trinity Press International

Cross Purposes : The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement

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Cross Purposes
Author(s): Anthony Bartlett

This seminal study of the Christian theory of the atonement examines the story of Christian violence. In Cross Purposes, Anthony Bartlett claims that the key Western doctrines of atonement have been dominated by a logic of violence and sacrifice as a means of salvation. Subsequently, the graphic suffering of the crucified in images and narrative has served to unleash a prolonged sacrificial crisis in which there is always a potential need to displace blame. These doctrines of atonement have sanctioned wide-spread violence in the name of Christ throughout history.

But Bartlett argues that a minority tradition also exists. He contends that the tradition of the compassion of Christ provides the possible way out of Christian violence. Bartlett's study gives this tradition a dynamic new reading, showing how it undoes both divine and human violence and offers a powerfully transformative version of atonement for the contemporary world. Cross Purposes provides a rich historical and theological overview of the evolution of various atonement theories, using literature, art, and philosophy to provide a creative and provocative reading of Christian atonement.

Anthony Bartlett is engaged in post-doctoral research and is an instructor in Religion at Syracuse University.

For: Seminarians; clergy; graduate students; professors


"...[A] powerful and provocative read for Christians and non-Christians alike. Anthony Bartlett has accomplished quite a feat: he has managed to say something new and profound about Christianity, and has done so with deep erudition and in such a humanly compelling voice that even non-theists may well find themselves seduced by his argument, as I was. No issue could be more important for those effected by the power of monotheism in the world today - and that, for better or worse, includes just about everyone - than the question of violence and atonement. Bartlett's thesis is radical and provocative, and his book will stimulate much reflection and, literally, soul searching on the part of Christians and non-Christians alike." - Larry George, PhD., Dept. of Political Science, Adelphia University

"Bartlett's book evinces prodigious scholarship as well as an acute insight and poetic skill at conveying the contemporary experience of abandonment to violence. The strongest part of Bartlett's discussion of the experience of the first Christians, and his argument that the conversion experience sprang more from ‘an apocalyptic crisis bringing the end of an old order, rather than a sacrificial reading that essentially reaffirms a traditional Temple order on a cosmic scale' (p. 207)" -The Heythrop Journal, July 2004 (vol. 45, issue #3)

"Anthony Bartlett offers a groundbreaking thesis on how and why Christ saves us from sin and death. Bartlett argues forcefully and persuasively that Christ overcomes violence and scandal in the weakness of the Cross, which is the transforming power of infinite compassion seeking us in the depth of our anxiety and forsakenness. This is a treatise that uses Girard's idea of the generative mimetic scapegoat mechanism and Kierkegaard's concepts of repetition and anxiety in a brilliant fashion."--James G. Williams, the author of The Bible, Violence, and The Sacred and editor of The Girard Reader - James G. Williams, Blurb from reviewer

"In this powerful book, Anthony Bartlett shows that, just as the Gospels claim, the apocalyptic theme must belong to Jesus' own understanding of the Cross. Jesus' violent death reveals the violent origin of all the human cultures which separate us from God, and it unleashes both the total violence of man and the 'abysmal' love of God. A milestone in the new understanding of the Cross." -- René Girard, author of Violence and the Sacred - René Girard, Blurb from reviewer

ISBN:  9781563383366