a community called atonement, by scot mcknight.
i’ve been looking forward to scot’s book for a long time, as atonement theory has been one of the handful of theological areas i’ve really wrestled with in the past several years. it’s a particularly sticky area to wrestle in, when you speak to teenagers as i do; because i’m constantly needing to talk about the gospel. that’s great — i love talking about the gospel. but i don’t want to be dishonest about what i believe and only say words i’ve said in the past because they’re easy to say and no one will be bothered.
so… the basic premise of this book is that there are multiple metaphors of multiple theological explanations of atonement in scripture, and we need them all. penal substitutionary atonement (the primary understanding i grew up with for what took place at the cross) is only one of many helpful and important metaphors for understanding atonement. first, it was really helpful for me to think of these various explanations (theologies, you might call them) as metaphors. i guess i knew that; but it was a helpful reminder. evangelicals don’t tend to talk about penal substitution as a metaphor; it seems it’s usually talked about in more literal terms.
it was also helpful to get a better understanding on the other, equally-valid and important (not only important to us, but important to paul and in whole of scripture) metaphors. mcknight talks about them as clubs in a golf bag: one would never go golfing with one club. you need the whole bag, but each is useful (even best) in different circumstances. .
while not a purely academic book, it’s a weighty book in terms of language and ideas; so i took a couple months to pick through it, bit by bit (while readying other books alongside).