Rich Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary and notable theologian, hosted four professors at a conference on the atonement — the issues continue to swirl around atonement. The four speakers were Daniel Kirk, Leanne Van Dyk, Vince Bacote and me. Besides being on Fuller’s marvelous seminary and seeing friends — like David Moore and Kurt Fredrickson — it was a special opportunity to put together some ideas I’ve been pondering on atonement. So here are the six theses I developed in the lecture, but they do not add up — nor did I suggest so — to a full theory of atonement. I have published more complete presentations (Jesus and His Death, A Community called Atonement), but this was just some theses for the conversation:
Thesis #1: Atonement in the Old Testament does not get one into the covenant but instead is the way the elect maintain their relationship with YHWH.
Thesis #2: Atonement did not drive the conversations of Jesus.
Thesis #3: Atonement did not drive the gospel tradition or the gospel sermons in the Book of Acts.
Thesis #4: No atonement theory is central.
Thesis #5: American evangelicalism’s populist gospel is not only driven by an atonement theory but it requires that atonement theory to create the experience it considers valid. That atonement theory is penal substitution.
Thesis #6: Atonement theory must fit into the Bible’s fundamental Story.