The fourth and final part of Scot McKnight’s book A Community Called Atonement is the most creative stuff I’ve read under the umbrella of “atonement.” Even Scot himself writes, “I stand here on the threshold of a doorway that few enter: atonement is something done not only by God for us but also something we do with God for others” (117). Part 4 of the book is titled “Atonement as Praxis: Who does Atonement?”
“We are summoned to participate with God in his redemptive work” (117).
Scot adds this caveat: “But lest I be accused of something worse than heresy, let me make it clear up front: I do not believe humans atone for others and I do not believe humans can atone for themselves. Atonement is the work of God—in Christ, through the Spirit—but God has chosen to summon us to participate in God’s work, even though we are cracked Eikons or, to use Paul’s words, ‘clay jars,’ (2 Cor. 4:7)” (118).
The church not only has an atoning message (or Story to tell), the church is an atoning community in the world. The church is God’s Spirit-empowered people who bring about healing in human relationships so that people live their Eikonic-purpose: to love God, love others, love themselves (properly) and love the world. All that sin did to crack the image (Eikon) in human beings, God now restores to those so cracked in and through the church–the new society of human beings “in Christ.”
Praxis includes justice. But whose justice? “But justice for the Christian is not about freedom or liberty, rights, individualism, or the pursuit of personal happiness. …Christians can’t let the U.S. Constitution (or John Stuart Mill or Karl Marx) define what ‘justice’ means. We have to define justice in a way consistent with what Jesus meant by ‘kingdom’” (124). The ecclesial community is a just community and stands for and extends God’s justice in the world.
An ecclesial community (church) sharing in the perichoretic life of the Trinity will be missional more than attractional. “Sent” is a key word (see John’s Gospel). Jesus and Paul envisoned the church sent into and engaging the world in beneficiary ways, in Jesus Creed ways—loving God and loving others. And we do so, not with the agenda to get the world “saved” but because that’s simply what the Jesus Way means.
“Whenever the Bible replaces the Trinity, we have bibliolatry” (143). This is Scot’s way of saying we have a (Trinitarian) God-centered faith, not a Book-centered faith. Scot affirms Eugene H. Peterson’s Eat This Book.
Scot concludes section four (and his book) with a brief word about the “atoning” nature of baptism, the Lord’s Supper and prayer.
With so much pious junk food for the soul available in the market place, it is good to have devoured A Community Called Atonement and to feel the vitamins and minerals of excellent teaching. Thanks, Scot.
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