In My Place
As I’ve mentioned before, the nature of the atonement is generating a bit of discussion (and controversy) in our tiny little denominational corner (I’ve reflected on the matter here, and here). My friend Mike Todd has written an excellent reflection on the atonement that is definitely worth checking out, both for the main post and for the comments. Here’s a sample:
As I see it, the penal substitution theory positions God as less than God. Our sin must somehow be eliminated before we can commune with God. It must be. It’s like God has no say in the matter, which is to say that God is less than all-powerful. This simply cannot be: God is not subject to rules. God makes the rules! And breaks them should God choose to do so. God is the Source of Everything. I can’t help myself; when I think about penal substitution I see a cigar-chomping, Edward G. Robinson-type God saying, “Look kid, I’d like to help you, see? But there’s this problem of your sin, and it has to be done away with first, see?”
Scot McKnight’s A Community Called Atonement is proving to be a really helpful read for me on these matters. Near the beginning of the book he says this, which I think connects very well to the general thrust of Mike’s post:
Now more than ever in the history of mankind, the fullness of atonement is needed. Why? Never has tension between cultures and continents been so high, and never has the reconciling work of atonement been more of an urgent need. Do we offer such reconciliation in our understanding of atonement? My contention is how we frame atonement will make all the difference for the world.
Did you notice the last line? All the difference “for,” not “in” the world. Atonement is for the world.