Perhaps that this isn't the best way to introduce our next book discussion, especially when we have worked so hard to create a conversational atmosphere. But atonement is an appropriate Lenten topic, so let me explain.
The conflict began in England a few years ago when Steve Chalke and Alan Mann found themselves in hot water for raising provocative questions about a popular theory of atonement in their book The Lost Message of Jesus. Some Evangelicals, largely ignoring the main point of the book — the good news of the kingdom of God — said Chalke and Mann no longer belonged in their tribe because for them, Christianity means a) subscribing to one particular theory of atonement, and b) equating that theory with the gospel.
Scot McKnight’s book, A Community Called Atonement, comes just as some scholars in the U.S. may be tempted to sharpen their pens. Here in the U.S., a number of Evangelical authors have also been raising questions about atonement. Among them are Dallas Willard, whose Divine Conspiracy critiques what he calls “the gospel of sin management.”
McKnight isn’t calling for a mushy “can't we all just get along?” evasion of the issues, which are many and important. But he is wondering why atonement isn't "working" for so many Christians, and is seeking to practice what we preach whenever we preach atonement: that God calls us to reconcile with God, ourselves, one another, and all creation.
For those of you who will be joining me for the Brown Bag book club, I'll see you on February 10 after the 10:45 service.