Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Community Called Atonement Ch. 5 and 6

So, I was delinquint in putting up the post for us to have our discussion this week. But we have entered the fifth and sixth chapters. And it's getting a little thicker...
And I have to admit, I looked forward and found some really good stuff in the upcoming chapters. But we'll get to it when we get to it!
For now I look forward to reflecting with you on the implications of chapters 5 and 6.


Josh said...

what i appreciated...

...his recognition of the complexity that language brings to our understanding of atonement and for that matter our understanding of God and ourselves. I found his brief exploration of metaphor and imagination to be helpful.

...his careful handling of the penal substitution approach to atonement, especially his encouragement to penal proponents to "baptize their theory into the larger redemptive grace of God more adequately." Cadence is carrying around her daddy's shoes and trying to wear them around the house...while i'm typing...that's funny...

...his explanation of the complexity of sin. He had touched on this previously in the book, but I felt this shed a little light on what he was trying to say about sin. It is incredibly helpful to understand that sin will mean so many different things to the wide variety of people.

what i wanted more of:

By this point in the book we have realized that Scot is not setting out to explore all the intricacies of each atonement theory, but is instead highlighting the dangers and benefits of each with the hope of bringing them all together (which after I peeped ahead I saw that he does quite well). Even so, in the examination of the penal stuff I wished he had dived a little deeper, especially in regards to how much the penal theory relies on the wrath of God.

question that i am left with:

how do we normally define sin? I've always defined it as missing the mark (Greek amartia) that God has given us. But his thoughts have encouraged me to think further.

Doug Paul said...

So I will finally be able to post as I TOOK my book back while Scott was gone last week.

A few thoughts on chapters 5 & 6:

**I am struck by how McKnight and writers of his ilk are so graceful and fair. He noted how penal substition can be grossly distorted, but was quick to say in reading some of the main contributors to this theory, none distorted it or added took it to an unhealthy extreme (although, I sometimes wonder if D.A. Carson does). I think it is easiest to be angry with this theory as it is so widely abused in evangelical Christianity, but I found the author to be fair.

**I am left wanting more discussion about penal substitution. The history, where the metaphor fails, Biblical support, more criticism, philosophical treatise of it, etc.

**I'm completely on board with the whole golf bag metaphor with multiple clubs, I really like it. But there is still something within me that doesn't ever want to use my 53 degree pitching "penal substitution' wedge. I want to use it. But I just don't trust it. I feel like every time I'd use it I'd end up bludgeoning someone in the back of the head with a golf ball! I cannot get over my suspicion with this theory. I understand that I am probably so tainted because of my evangelical upbringing... but...yeah...

**I thought his treatment of exploring different people groups, different upbringings, different situations was really interesting. It really made sense when he said the white, wealthy, suburban housewife needs a different kind of atonement than a poor, hungry, sick orphaned child in Africa. That was really insightful, something I had not really thought of before. I tend to lean more towards liberation theology...and ironically this may not speak as well to the people I am trying to care for in my own context!

Kevin Snow said...

I don't have a lot to say about these two chapters but here's a little:

1. It was helpful for me to think about what he said at the end of chapter 5 about God's wrath springing as much from God's love as it does from His holiness. I like that we're not constantly trying to balance the two as opposed to one another.

2. I thought that the questions he asked about sin in chapter 6 were good for us to think about. I think it helps us see the breadth of the problem. I especially liked his quote of Mark Biddle when he said that sin is "seeking to be both more than we are and less than we are."

3. Finally, I liked his thought, "Once we admit that sin defines how we approach atonement, we are driven to the conclusion that atonement is a challenge because of the mind-numbing complexity of sin."

And now some responses to your thoughts:

1. Josh, I too liked his plea for the proponents of the penal substituion theory to explore how that fits into the larger issue of God's grace instead of simply "takes care of it."

2. Doug, I liked your response to the golf club metaphor and the penal substitution theory being your loft wedge. I played golf twice last week and it is a hard club to trust . . . just like the theory. And I find that I am less confident the older I get in answering my daughters' questions about why Jesus had to die. So much of my theology is challenged in the best way by my kids.

Josh said...

Yay, Doug is back!

Yes, I wanted more discussion as well on the penalness.

I'm not a golfer, so the metaphor doesn't really go the distance for me. But I find that I still use the penal reference in my thinking and sometimes even when I explain. Christ died to take my suffering on the cross. It's somewhat of a default. But I switch between that and ChristusV Victor.

Josh said...

Thanks for posting Kevin.

I too liked his approach to sin.

It's funny because I underlined his quote that you highlighted that sin defines how we approach atonement. I wasn't sure about that. Does he mean that sin defines how I approach recieving atonement or that sin defines how atonement is explained (or both)?

If he means that sin defines atonement, I have a hard time with that because I feel like it gives too much strength to sin, because it is God who defines atonement. But at the same time, it is sin which God is dealing with in atonement. So, I just bantered through my fingers and figured out what I've been thinking for the past couple days. Thanks for letting me leave it here.

Kevin Snow said...


I took it as sin affects how we explain or justify atonement.

Scott said...

I'll have to play catch up on the book, since Doug know won't let me near it.

Listening to your thoughts, it sounds like he is touching on some of the same discussions as Joel Green in _Recovering the Scandal of the Cross_ (highly recommend). In it, he traces the history of the doctrine of substitution and shows it's dependence on Anselm's _Cur Deus Homo_ (Why God became Man, though I prefer the Latin and homo sounding title), but without Anselm's context (Bozo, anyone who's read the book?).

Anselm's context was a feudal lord system in which honor was owed to the lord of the manor and Anselm unwittingly endorsed the oppression of his day. Similarly, argues Green, we unwittingly support the very penal legal system approach in our day (as in, Jesus went to the bench, said "hey, dad", bent his back over and took the beating of the court for me). This was not in Anselm's context, but we take his language and apply it to our context.

Green also argues that this unwittingly endorses radical individualism, subtly making the Gospel about us and not God.
I found myself nodding my head vigorously, and look forward to Scot's thoughts on it.

Now if I can just find out where Doug hid the book...