Let the atonement wars begin…?

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.   



About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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