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Part 2–Atonement and Image: With Which Image?

This part of Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement I would title “Atonement Theology for Dummies.” Scot has a pleasant and peaceful style and a “new kind of scholar’s” ability for making complex theological concepts clear and accessible to the rest of us. In an evangelical culture of rampant individualism…”you [Jesus] took the Fall, and thought of ME above all…” suggests a popular Christian song. Me, me, me. Well, sorry to burst the “me” bubble, but Jesus had more on his mind while on the cross than “me.” Scot unpacks the robust scope of Jesus’ atoning work. Of course, by virtue of their union “in Christ” individuals do benefit from Jesus’ saving life and death and resurrection and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. Yet, all those aspects of Jesus’ atoning work have a community in mind, a specific people–the people of God. “Before another word be said, notice the essence of this act of God: Pentecost comes not simply to regenerate individual Eikons but to recreate an ecclesial community of faith in which the will of God manifests inself in worship, fellowship, and the missio Dei” (75). In this section of the book Scot delivers us from the horribly reduced and anemic “gospel” testimony that squeaks out, “Jesus died for my sins so I can go to heaven.” In place of that withered reduction Scot offers the perichoretic acts of God that invite us into a reality “in Christ” that literally renews the cosmos! We are caught up into something huge, grand, sweeping, and, at times, ineffable. Scot offers a crux et (”the cross and…”) view of atonement. While emphasizing the pivotal and strategic cross work of Christ, Scot shows how Jesus’ incarnation (and earthly life), his death on the cross, his resurrection (and ascension) and the giving of the Spirit are all part of the story of atonement. Most of us have been taught atonement only in terms of sacrifice and blood (and those are important features of atonement, yet not the whole story).

Using Scot’s controlling metaphor, we need multiple golf clubs in our bag to understand atonement. It surprises many that penal substitution is just one club in the bag.

Next: Part 3

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