What’s wrong with framing salvation and the atonement on “forensic” or “juridical” models alone? This is the typical way to talk about salvation, and rightly so, Paul is very clear about the ‘legal’ aspect of salvation; but that’s not all he has to say, or even the most that he has to articulate. Paul’s “in Christ,” or “union with Christ” theology has, or should have a profound impact upon how we understand the ‘framing’ of salvation or the atonement. Here is how T. F. Torrance understands this:
For Torrance, if we have no doctrine of the risen righteousness of Christ and of our union with him through the Spirit then we have mutilated and gravely emptied the doctrine of justification of much of its content. For him therefore a ‘purely legal’ or a ‘purely forensic’ understanding of justification (that our status as sinners is purely one of having righteousness ‘reckoned’ to us, i.e. that through Christ we are treated as righteous in terms of the law while still sinners in ourselves) overlooks the positive righteousness of the risen Jesus and the fact that we are brought into real union with him through the Spirit. We are still sinners and have no righteousness of our own, but through real union with Christ and his righteousness we do have a real righteousness in him and are made righteous in him, not simply declared to be righteous. (Thomas F. Torrance, ed. Robert T. Walker, “Atonement,” xlix)
This is Robert Walker’s summary of Torrance’s view of the forensic model.
So we don’t see TFT rejecting the ‘forensic’ model, he just wants to say more than that, not less. I think he is right, how about you? Maybe his understanding challenges you a bit, does it?