i’ve had a pre-release copy of brian mclaren’s “the last word and the word after that” since early february — months before it was released. and like a total dork, i put it on my shelf (can’t think what i was reading at that moment), and didn’t get to it until these last two weeks (i coulda been the cool kid on the emergent playground if i’d read it back then!). i finished it at an irish pub this evening on a “reading date” with my wife, jeannie (she was reading the first-draft manuscript of mark yaconelli’s upcoming book).
one of the more significant threads of my theological journey over the past half-dozen years is the nagging sense that my understanding of the atonement, my classic evangelical explanations of christ and the cross (which i’ve held warmly for three decades or more, and have used as explanations to thousands of junior highers), just weren’t enough for me anymore. the idea that jesus death is/was only about staking the wrath of a perfect, yet just, god, who must punish sin, and all that. [don’t flame on for this — i know pretty much every argument you could throw my way — i’ve thrown them myself for years.]
a half-dozen years back, i started shifting how i did “the response time” at camps and retreats i spoke at. even though my approach had long ago moved beyond what i considered to be manipulative, i was once again being confronted with the idea that i was manipulating young teens into the kingdom (this time, not by my methodology, but by my theology). so i started changing my language, and started shifting my approach, and all the while, i was seeking — personally — for a deeper or newer or more complete understanding of salvation and atonement.
in the last two years, i think i’ve mostly landed somewhere on this. but it’s still pretty fuzzy in many ways. brian’s book (which is getting high praise from some, and being wholly dismissed or called dangerous by others) puts words on many of the things i’ve been thinking.
i’m not sure i agree with everything in the book — yet. but, i still contend that questions are better than answers; and brian’s book helps me frame my questions.
in the end, i liked the 2nd book in the trilogy (“the story we find ourselves in“) best — it was the most helpful to me of the three. but this one rocked also. i might have to read it again, along with the first two.