First, Brian McLaren denied Jesus’ substitutionary atonement on the cross. A few weeks ago, fellow emergent Tony Jones joined him, as has Jay Bakker. And now the full-on attack of the truth is sweeping the Left, tickling ears and changing minds and hearts:
I share this image not to offend, but to ask these questions: As the progressives continue their intentional deconstruction and all-out attack on the atoning sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross, are you equipped to contend? Will you equip your church? Your children?
Many commenters are weighing in, saying it’s a cool new way to look at Jesus. As one says,
WOW!!!!! This amazing message requires a 180-degree turn from the lessons we’ve been taught. Major prayer and contemplation is needed. But I do like much of what the author is saying.
I’m sure you do. But without the propitiation for our sins, Christ’s work on the cross means nothing. He’s just another victim of the system; a guy who said and did some cool things and maybe even beat death, but now we’re not so sure how or why.
It doesn’t matter what my opinion or your opinion is regarding the atonement. What does God Himself say? In Romans 3:25-26, He sums it up clearly: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Isaiah 53:5 points us to the coming Christ who was to die on the cross for our sins. The prophecy is very detailed, and the crucifixion happened just as it was foretold. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Notice the substitution. Christ paid the price for us.
There are many more Bible verses about what Christ’s shed blood has done. Roll your mouse pointer over these verses and see for yourself: Leviticus 17:11, 1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 2:24, Revelation 5:9, Hebrews 9:12, 1 Timothy 2:6, Exodus 30:12-16, 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 9:22, Hebrews 9:7, Galatians 4:5.
Now then, having first equipped your mind with the breathed out truth of God’s Word, here is the article by Kimberly Knight that is being widely shared and applauded by those who would deconstruct the atonement:
See, I am the sort of Christian that is not theologically down with the whole subsitionary atonement thing – especially penal.
First of all is the deeply disturbing (and some would say heretical) idea of a God that would NEED a sacrifice of one innocent to pay for the sins of the rest of our sorry asses. A blood thirsty God is frankly a warped vision of the Divine cast in our own vengeful image. Second is the more esoteric question of HOW exactly such a sacrifice would pay for “sins”? There simply has been no answer to this question that I have encountered in my reading, praying, discerning life that satisfactorily answers this big fat how.
But about the Cross – we are not washed clean by his blood, we are convicted as a cruel and blind race that will execute our God when God comes to us as a poor man healing on the sabbath, overturning the worship of mammon in the temple, confronting the religious elite and and challenging the authority of the state.
We are not saved by the crucifixion, we are damned by it – or we could have been. Let us face that shameful dark day and accept our culpability – knowing that if Jesus returned today to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed His blood would likely run in rivulets once again. And let us move through that desolate Saturday knowing what we have done. And let us arise on Easter surprised by Grace.
We can look to the empty tomb and know that we are redeemed by the forgiveness of a God who could have at any time saved himself from torture and an excruciating, humiliating death. We are freed by a God that could have laid waste to a universe of weak and frightened creatures who would whip, strip and nail their God to a cross to die the death of a criminal. But that’s not how the story goes eh? Our God suffers at our hands, allows us to mock and scorn the love offered, falls dead into our arms and goes willing to the tomb that we would seal for all time. And then the most radical thing that a God can do happens – God emerges from the bonds of death, walks and talks with a woman and reveals the ultimate truth – God is Love. Jesus does not return to punish the world who had rejected him. Jesus emerges with wounded hands outstretched in love and forgiveness.
Here’s how Christian from another tribe says it.
“For me, the suffering of Jesus is a sacrament of the love of God. The story tells us that God willingly soaks up all of our systemic injustice, personal evil and violence and returns only love.
So, God is no distant deity in some pure heaven far away. God is with us on earth in our horror, our terror, our violence, and our suffering. God refuses to add to the evil and violence, but instead responds with vulnerable, compassionate love. That’s how God wins. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims that love is more powerful than hate, compassion triumphs over oppression, and vulnerability overcomes power. Jesus invites us to put our trust in God, even in the face of horror, oppression, cruelty and death. God is with us. God feels and suffers deeply with us. And, what God does best is to bring life out of death.”
The Rev. Lowell E. Grisham
Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
As we work our way closer to the Cross this season I invite you to explore Christian theology that does not begin with a God that needs a blood sacrifice to settle the score. I invite you to walk with a God that has shown us what true power looks like – love, compassion and forgiveness.
- Pastor Jay Bakker denies Jesus’ atonement (standupforthetruth.com)
- Has the Gospel been shown the door? (standupforthetruth.com)
- Tony Jones: “I Think Your Atonement Might Be Wrong” (standupforthetruth.com)
- Rob Bell to Teach Teens That Christian Beliefs About Hell are ‘Misguided and Toxic’ (lighthousetrailsresearch.com)
- What is Substitutionary Atonement?