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What does ‘Atonement’ actually mean?

As you might know I was/am a teacher – having done some 14 years in the classroom. During my time in secondary schools I watched several wonderful new ‘initiatives’ that were ‘bound to raise attainment’ come into fashion and then quietly fade off the agenda as the mandarins at the top of the profession altered their views. Some ideas even return for a second go attempt at delivering the prize of 100% ‘A*s for everyone’.

Towards the end of my stint keywords came round on the ‘bandwagon of teaching and learning’ improvement. We would list them out at the start of a topic, and return to them in lesson starters and plenaries. This is common sense really – if you are going to understand, shall we say geography, you have to know the language of geography. Teachers have always worked with keywords. It was the ‘sticking them in your book’ and ‘banging on relentlessly’ about them that was new.

Theology has a whole pile of keywords – perhaps one of the biggest pile of any subject – certainly way beyond the pile associated with physics. I have met countless Christians over the years, most of who naturally use what might be called ‘theological’ language to talk about their experiences and beliefs. Many of us read ‘the odd book’ on our faith, listen to ‘the odd podcast’ on some christian topic and take part in corporate worship and teaching experiences. We all pray and read the bible. The point being, that in order to access these things (perhaps with the exception of praying?) we use theological language.

Recently someone said to me that they don’t understand what the word ‘Atonement’ even means. This bothered me and has been playing on my mind. It is easy to slip into ‘buzz’ words and concepts and just assume that people know what you are on about. This is not a good place to be! At one point I was a ‘teacher of teachers’ and as part of this role I had to look out for the how effective the trainee was at pitching the content at the right level. If you pitch it too high then you can end up with stressed pupils leading to bad behaviour and under-achievement and in the worse cases, even Ofsted. You can’t assume anything.

Recently I have begun to learn Hebrew. I am not a natural linguist by any stretch of the imagination. I was kicked off Spanish at school, and was bottom set for French. So far I am two lessons into Hebrew. It’s a small class, taught with great enthusiasm and skill. Sounding out the Hebrew letters, and simple words has been INTIMIDATING (with a capitol I) for me. Lessons are scary but I am enjoying it. It is very useful for me to be in the same place that students of all types find themselves in. It is good for me to feel the fear again!

So thanks to the person who pointed out to me about my assumptions with ‘key words’. Now where’s my theological dictionary?

About maxelcat

Moderately into just about everything I live in North London where I am run a tutoring physics/science business and drink a lot of coffee.
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