The Gospel in Two Broad Strokes: Reconciliation

The context of this post is the following: Last week, Dr. Christena Cleveland wrote a post reflecting on something I’d said at a conference last month. In short, I said that those of us in the room had a “better version of the gospel” than the regnant view in the West. Dr. Cleveland misheard me, thinking I said we have the “best version.” Nevertheless, she was critical of my statement, arguing that to assert that one’s version of the gospel is “better” or “best” necessarily excludes a diversity of voices.

Dr. Cleveland’s post hinted at an accusation of racism, which I vehemently denied, albeit in a manner that was overly defensive. Nevertheless, I continue to disagree with her assertion that preferring one version of the gospel over another — and proudly proclaiming that — is necessarily exclusionary. That’s an argument that is simply impossible to defend, unless one is prepared to embrace the completely syncretized relativism that has overwhelmed much of liberal Protestantism in America. I, for one, am not prepared to do that.

So, I am taking a couple posts to write about the two themes that I think are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ, insofar as I understand it, today, and from where I sit. Whether this version that I espouse is, indeed, “better,” and whether it is “exclusionary,” I will leave it for you to judge. Read the prologue here and the post on liberation here.

Part One: Context

Years ago, when Emergent Village was going strong, evangelicals were starting to have doubts about us, and critics of us were starting to go public, Doug Pagitt and I made a pact: We would meet with anyone, anywhere, no questions asked. If someone wanted to meet with us — to question us, berate us, or attempt to convert us — we would meet with them. Since that time, we’ve had innumerable breakfasts at Original Pancake House, some of them with readers of this blog.

As well as being on the receiving end of meeting requests, I’ve also been on the proactive end of meeting even with those with whom I disagree. I’ve been in Al Mohler’s super-secret office. I’ve met with Tim Keller a couple times in NYC. I’ve had lunch with John Piper. Every time I go to Seattle, I reach out to Mark Driscoll and ask to meet in public or private (every time he refuses). I’ve offered to talk with one of my most outspoken feminist critics, [name redacted], to hear her concerns (she has refused).

When we were starting Emergent Village, one thing that stood out to us is how different streams of American Christianity didn’t talk to one another — hell, sometimes they didn’t even know about one another. I once asked Walter Bruegemann what he thought about the Prayer of Jabez at the height of that book’s popularity, and he hadn’t even heard of it. I regularly meet Episcopal priests who’ve never heard of Bill Hybels, and evangelical leaders who cannot name the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. And if they did know about one another, they had little respect and no friendship for one another.

We thought that there was a tragic lack of reconciled friendship in the leadership of the American church. And we endeavored to fix that in our generation of leaders. In spite of my outspokenness on theological topics — my preference for a particular version of the gospel — that is all trumped by my fundamental belief in reconciliation as core to the gospel. I’m being totally candid when I say: I’m always surprised when someone doesn’t want reconciliation.

Part Two: Reconciliation

When I speak, I’m often asked about Solomon’s Porch, the church of which I am a part. One of the most important elements of SP that I try to impress upon people is that the way that we do things is not an attempt to reach out to 20-something hipsters in South Minneapolis. Not at all. Instead, what we do is usually a direct result of a theological conviction.

For example, one of the things we do is sit in living room furniture (couches, lounge chairs, coffee tables) in a concentric setting. At first blush, this would seem like a clear pander to hipsters who hate pews. But in fact it is in keeping with what I consider to be the core conviction at Solomon’s Porch: that the gospel is reconciliation.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes,

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

If the Lukan passage in yesterday’s post sits at the heart of Jesus’ understanding of the Good News, then this passage in Paul — and particularly the phrase in bold — clearly shows Paul’s understanding of the Good News, as it is shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The best I’ve ever heard this explained is by Scot McKnight, who I once heard say that Jesus accomplished a fourfold reconciliation:

  1. Reconciliation between God and me;
  2. Reconciliation between me and other humans;
  3. Reconciliation between me and myself;
  4. Reconciliation between humans and all of creation.

This is the very best of the evangelical understanding of the power of the gospel to effect change, to provoke metanoia. In my book on the atonement, I’m attempting to answer how, exactly, that happens in the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s not easy to explain…

Part Three: Marrying Context and Reconciliation

…and it’s not easy to live. Those who know my personal story know that I went through a divorce several years ago, and so there is still a glaring example of irreconciliation that stares me in the face every day. My kids are affected by that irreconciliation, as are my spouse, my parents, my siblings, and others. The ripples caused by that rock have spread far across otherwise placid waters.

So, in spite of my best efforts to live a reconciled life in the professional realm, as catalogued above, my personal life has not borne out the fruits of my convictions.

Nevertheless, I continue to believe that reconciliation is at the very core of the Christian life — that reconciliation, along with liberation, is the heart of the gospel.

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  • Gregg Stokes

    I do like the idea of reconciliation. I need it most. I pray for it. To my own disgust, I have become an angry free-range believer. I have tried to not despise mega, medium and mini churches but I’m loosing the battle. I cannot pray away my angst. Theobabble, self-interest and self promotion seem to be the new pastoral normal…more invested in selling books, blogging and getting on the conference circuit than silently, invisibly getting dirty in the messiness of life. The proliferation of a dysfunctional gospel delivery method, where every next emerging scheme needs a PowerPoint and a plan that includes followership, keeps this exclusionary antiseptic form of love two steps removed from the very people who need Christ most. How potent we could be if we stopped feeding the beast and love whom is directly in front of us.

    • Gregg, there are oases of beauty in the church, but we need to search for them. Hope is believing they exist.

      • Gregg Stokes

        Very well said. Actually perfectly said. I do need an oases, I know they exist. I don’t think it’s a church.

        • That depends on how broadly you define “church.” 🙂

          • Gregg Stokes

            I’m afraid my definition is very small…physically…one on one…my hope is that I’m not looking for someone (something) who agrees with me, but who will understand and explore my cave of doubt…

  • Tony, have you heard about Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s new 5 volume
    theology series? Volume 1 just came out, titled Christ and
    Reconciliation. I suspect you’d appreciate the chapter on method in the
    beginning that sets up the project as well as the way the book is
    framed overall.

    Also, it seems Disqus doesn’t let me sign in while using Firefox. The popup
    pops up, but then it just goes away without accomplishing anything. I can sign in using IE, but then I’m using IE.

    • Administration at Patheos

      I’ve seen others say this is a problem (Disqus signin not working in Firefox), and two options are updated Firefox to the latest version (21.0) or clearing the cache in Firefox

  • Why redact Stephanie Drury’s name? Seems to me like you are not being entirely truthful, or there is something more to this that you are not telling.

    • People on Twitter asked me to. Do you think I should add it back. Maybe I should redact all the names, in fairness, since they are all Christian leaders, in some sort or another.

      • What is the reason for the desire to be nameless? I agree that the names should be all there or all not there… It draws a lot of attention to it if one is redacted and makes that the point of the post, which I’m not sure is your intent…

        • My point is NOT to call people out. My point is to use real-life examples, not simply hypotheticals. To show where I’m good at reconciliation (top of the post), and where I’m bad (bottom of the post).

      • Honestly, I can’t see why you would redact it, unless of course she herself asked not to be mentioned, but in reading her FB posts, I don’t think that was the case?

        • No, I have had no communication with her in many months. One of her followers on Twitter claimed it was underhanded and mean. So, I removed it.

          • Steve Chastain

            If you can reconcile with Stupid Church People, you can reconcile with anyone! Wait – let me think again… did we reconcile?? I can’t remember? 😉

            • Yes, We Did!

              • reverendswann

                You keep making the decision not to meet about her, which makes me think you won’t consider your part in it. From everything I’ve seen you’ve been dismissive, insulting, and reactive about her and the people who read SCCL. Perhaps, given your tone, you have a part to play in things that you’re not admitting. You can say you’ll meet anyone but when your attitude and demeanor is rude and dismissive, why would anyone want to meet you?

        • And, as you can imagine, I don’t visit that FB page. It is poisonous.

          • Poisonous? Why would you say that?

            • That may be the most rhetorical question ever posted on my blog.

              • I am not really familiar with your blog. I am an ex evangelical, now agnostic. And you avoided an honest question. I really would like to know why one would consider her page poison? Yes, she criticizes Christian culture, and, much of that criticism is due.

          • jtheory

            and referring to her page as poisonous is supposed to make her feel more inclined to reconcile?

            • The page that she curates is full of personal insults and outrageous mistruths, left uncorrected. I bet she and many readers agree with much of what I write, but none of that is ever noted or posted. I used to repost her stuff regularly, because we both were pointing out the same ridiculousness in the church.

              But something there changed. It got mean, really mean. It is a vicious place. And it’s not just because she didn’t like one of my posts — that’s fair. It’s the rampant mischaracterizations.

              I never thought it was possible to feel sympathy with Mark Driscoll, till she turned her venom on me.

              I made an honest attempt at reconciliation. I really did. I made it clear that she could call anytime she wanted and that I would simply listen. Do you think it’s unfair of me to make that public, with all of the nasty things she’s said about me publicly? Do you think it’s unfair to let my readers know that I attempted to find common ground?

              • jtheory

                we have two very different views of that place. I will admit when I first went there, I felt the same way. I came in guns blazing to defend the church. They listened to me, and we talked about it like adults. Since then Stephanie has become a really good friend of mine, and many other people there too. I’ve seen the hurt that engendered the stories. I’ve heard the backgrounds even to your situation. I read your blog about “where is the women” and Stephanie’s reply. I saw her say something felt abusive, and you go off on her for using that word.

                just like you went off on the lady recently for using the word racist to refer to something you said.

                I’ve listened to Stephanie’s story, to many others. I’ve changed my opinion of SCCL. I’ve realized that they are not there to mischaracterize, etc. but to point out flaws, and then to say, what can be done better?

                And sometimes that pain results in anger, but it’s understandable anger. Instead of being defensive of “my” church, I’ve learned to love them, to listen and to hear, and to be curious. I think I’ve even helped in healing some people of the wounds they had incurred. I’ve had at least one friend from there say that.

                So when I see you refer to the place as poisonous. when I see Jared C Wilson call it a cesspool, etc. I have to wonder if you really tried to get to know anyone there at all.

                I just don’t see what you’re seeing. And it hurts my heart that you see it that way.

                • OK, I appreciate hearing the other side of the story. I’ve had many people email me to tell me they’ve left that page, but your comment will stand here as a record of someone who’s had a better experience.

                  I do know people in that group.

                  • jtheory

                    “if she turns on you however, you may change your opinion.”

                    Love takes no record of wrongs. Love endures all things. I love SCCL, I
                    love Stephanie as a good friend, and I will always love that place. I
                    know I will disappoint and hurt people there, and that sometimes I will
                    be hurt too, that’s just life. But I will never stop loving.

                    • I edited out that line right after I wrote it. That’s why you don’t see it anymore. I knew it wasn’t right.

              • Chris

                “I made it clear that she could call anytime she wanted and that I would simply listen.”

                That’s not reconciliation, that’s condescension. You are presenting an opportunity where you would dain to listen to her prattle on and acting like you are parting the Red Sea.

                “Do you think it’s unfair of me to make that public, with all of the nasty things she’s said about me publicly?”

                Thank you for making it perfectly clear that this is just about revenge for you. That’s also not reconciliation.

                “Do you think it’s unfair to let my readers know that I attempted to find common ground?”

                Calling her blog poisonous, vicious, and calling her someone that is full of venom directed at you. You’re doing common ground REALLY wrong here.

              • Ragnarok

                Tony, I often feel sympathy for you inasmuch as you seem to be laboring under the same persecution complex which once plagued me. You seemingly cannot comprehend how you might be responsible for people taking your words differently than how you meant them. Truthfully, the only way a standard in which the listener/reader is solely responsible for how s/he takes your words could possibly exist would be for history to cease being a factor in pretty much anything.

                You get these baffling (to you, at least) responses motivated by complex histories—both personal and communal—then respond not by stepping back and asking these people to help you understand what your words meant to them but by repeatedly denying your words warranted any such responses. For someone who claims to understand the undue privilege you enjoy due to no other factors than your race and your sex (which you and I share, incidentally), you don’t seem to understand the baggage that necessarily accompanies that privilege. You say you do, but your reactions to this sort of criticism indicate the contrary. You can claim to reject the privilege all you like, but you did nothing to get it and can do no more to relieve yourself of it than any of the rest of us can. Likewise, you cannot jettison the baggage which accompanies it regardless of whether you believe you deserve it. What’s more, it’s impossible to compartmentalize such things so there’s really no space you can occupy to escape the privilege or the baggage it brings. We can bemoan our predicament and curse the men who wrought it, but we can’t escape it. It sucks, but there’s nothing for it other than to accept those facts.

                In that vein, I would like to call something to your attention. You claim you “never thought it was possible to feel sympathy with Mark Driscoll, till she turned her venom on me.” Once more, you seem to misapprehend—or simply miss altogether—the implications of such statements.

                Let me begin by saying that I assume your intention in writing those words was to suggest that, while you do not actually sympathize with Driscoll in any meaningful way, Drury’s bilious missives—along with the personal insults and outrageous lies (let’s just call them what you believe they are) on offer at the SCCL FB page—lead you to believe that no one could possibly deserve such treatment, including Driscoll. There a several troublesome issues with the attitude I have described, and I would like to draw three to the surface for your consideration.

                First, in order to make the above statement, you would necessarily have to believe that Drury is also misrepresenting Driscoll to some degree, and calling it to our attention implies a de facto defense of Driscoll’s actions and teachings in the instances where Drury is misrepresenting him. If you choose to make such implications I, for one, would like to know what those things might be, and where you believe Drury has gone awry in her criticisms.

                Second, in order to write the words I quote with any sincerity, you would have to believe at least partly that Driscoll is guilty of exploiting his privilege while you are not. It is likely true that Driscoll would embrace the idea of privilege as part of a benighted notion of God’s plan, and it is also likely true that you would reject that idea on its face. But I feel compelled to point out that, apropos of my argument in the second paragraph above, your rejection of the rightness of such an idea does nothing to prevent you from benefiting from it whether you wish to or not. Therein lies the problem. You apparently believe that your rejection of this misguided and unjust idea makes you an ally to those of its victims who struggle against it, but all your rejection actually does is put you in a position to become an ally. Rejection of white, male privilege is a necessary condition, but it’s not a sufficient one. To fulfill that potential, you must listen to the words and delve the experiences of those with whom you hope to ally then, and I cannot stress this enough, prefer their interpretations to your own.

                Lastly, by describing Drury’s behavior as poisonous you remove any possibility that it could bear some degree of legitimacy. My point about which conclusions must be preferred in these cases applies here, but there’s something more problematic going on. You are guilty of the very dismissal to which you so strongly object.

                You and I cannot occupy the position of a woman in this culture either literally or figuratively which necessarily means that there will be aspects of that position we cannot possibly fathom. Most women I’ve known will patiently do their best to help me understand the differences between my perceptions and their realities, but what I’ve learned over the years is that I cannot frame questions regarding their explanations in a form which challenges the legitimacy of their experiences. I can say that my privileged position does not allow me to understand what they’re trying to tell me easily, and ask for more information. What I cannot do, however, is conclude even after long and exhaustive questioning that my understanding supersedes theirs. When you (or I) try to argue and reiterate and re-argue your positions it eventually turns into a refusal to accept that, despite your inability to understand, they are still correct.

                I can’t presume to speak for the women who have commented here much less those who have followed the discussion and chosen to stay out of it, but gun to my head I would guess that a great deal of the talk about you being dismissive and unintentionally misogynistic is based on your repeated seeming refusals to prefer their conclusions to your own. I’m equally comfortable venturing the guess that your apparently long struggle against claims of racist attitudes runs a parallel track to this one.

          • Saunders61

            Seems you prefer to paint many things with broad strokes

      • gal328

        My critical response via twitter was not about naming her, but specifically in reaction to the explicit comparison of Stephanie to Mark Driscoll in the original post. You don’t have to know her personally at all to guess how completely irritating that would be. In a post about reconciliation, that sort of jab seemed out of place.

        I was also speaking out of my own feelings about it, not as a spokesperson for Stephanie.

        Hope that clears everything up. 🙂

  • jtheory

    I think the “manner that is overly defensive” makes it a bit hard for that reconciliation to happen, and makes some people uncomfortable to meet with you, and discuss their differences.

    • That’s possible. But there must be grace on both sides for reconciliation to happen.

      • jtheory

        So who goes first? Sometimes we just gotta step out in faith and extend the hand of friendship even if we think it’s gonna be bitten off. Whenever I’ve hurt someone, even if I didn’t mean to, even if I don’t understand why they were hurt…I say “I’m sorry..” and leave it at that. I let go of the need to explain or anything til that hurt is healed, either by me giving them some space, or by talking it out. And sometimes it might be true that there will not be reconciliation. Sometimes we just gotta let people go. I have one friend that we hurt each other left and right and we will never be friends again, and as hard as that is for me, I had to let it go. I had to stop trying to fix it.

        But in this person’s case I think that they are waiting to see you change the way you react with other people, seeing if you become a less overly defensive person, because if you don’t, then reconciliation cannot happen, the whole entire conversation will be you trying to defend yourself, and them not being heard. And that’s really the point is it not, that both sides get heard? Not that the person gets your side and ends up agreeing with you. sometimes reconciliation is simply agreeing to disagree but loving each other anyways. And that takes at least one side being humble enough to hear the other, to listen, and to give them the space to speak, even if it means you give up your chance to be heard.

        And then maybe, after they’ve seen you care more about them than yourself, they’ll be willing to hear you too.

        • “Sometimes we just gotta step out in faith and extend the hand of friendship even if we think it’s gonna be bitten off. Whenever I’ve hurt someone, even if I didn’t mean to, even if I don’t understand why they were hurt…I say “I’m sorry..” and leave it at that.”

          I did that.

      • Is that why you blocked me on Twitter after I wrote a postcolonial critique of your last blog post?

  • Hey Tony, I think a lot of the hubbub of last week rose out of your comparison between your understanding of the Gospel and others. Am I right? These two posts have been good, but what makes this unique from other understandings, and why is it better? You hinted a little bit here with metanoia happening on the cross, but I think I want more. These two post seem like something that most Pentecostal, liberation, process, evangelical, liberal, and reform theologians can agree with. I think a part 3: distinction and comparison would be really helpful.

    • Ric, for now I’m just interested in articulating my view of the gospel, and what I meant when I said it’s a “better version than the regnant version in the West.” I’m not attempting to sow discord. I’ve done plenty of critique of other theologies here, and I will in the future, but for now I’m going to let these two posts stand as my flag in the ground.

      • Ric Shewell

        Wow, I’ve never heard of SCCL before. I just took a look. yowzers. And here I was asking you to draw harder lines and distinguish your view even more! I can only imagine what that would have done to the flame war! Anyway, brother, I hope you are well, thank you for your work and providing a place where we can all sharpen our theological tools.

  • willhouk

    Reading your blog, Tony, has been very confusing to me. On paper we
    agree with a lot of stuff, and I like what you have to say about a
    number of bible related issues. But I struggle with how you go about

    This post for instance is honestly confusing to me. You
    say you want to have reconciliation but there is no admission in this
    post that you have done anything wrong. The opposite is true, you do a
    lot of justifying. I just read Donald Miller’s post this morning where he says this; “Manipulators have a very difficult time admitting they’re wrong.” I can’t help but think this applies here. For reconciliation to occur people need to say they were wrong and they are sorry. If you just keep justifying your actions then no progress can be made.

    I’ve never met you, I don’t know you personally, and we are all complex people with good and bad mixed together. I don’t judge you as a horrible person, or hate you, but I think if you’d really like to be reconciled to people, then you need to start by admitting where you did them wrong.

    • I have admitted I was wrong, even in the way that I initially responded to Dr. Cleveland. It was overly defensive and, thus, overly aggressive. I have approached her privately asking for reconciliation.

      • willhouk

        This is what I don’t understand. As best as I can understand this is how the last few posts have gone.

        You gave a speech at a conference in which you said things that Christena took as being exclusionary. She wrote a blog in response to this, and then you responded to her response, in a blog titled “I’m tired of being called a racist.” You have admitted that the last post mentioned was “overly defensive.” As far as I can tell that is the only time you’ve admitted to any wrong doing in this whole affair. And to be honest, you didn’t admit you were wrong you said you were “overly defensive.”

        That is a red flag for me. I think if you really wanted to pursue reconciliation then you would address the original concerns with more humility. Am I missing something? Is there another point in the blog where you actually apologize to anyone?

        I’m not trying to be a bully or be pushy, but this post is about your desire for reconciliation. If you really want this than I feel like you should address the concerns about being exclusionary more directly. When you say “I was overly defensive” and then move on to justify your position that does not move towards healing. That just throws up more division.

  • Reconciliation means that you’re actually going to have to listen to dissenting voices, rather than dismiss them entirely. I find it difficult to believe that you’re really concerned about reconciliation when there’s no evidence in your public persona that you take it seriously. You’ve never upheld your agreement to speak to Stephanie Drury, for example, and for whatever reason, you’ve decided to block me on Twitter rather than acknowledge that your statements on Christianity in the global South have deeply colonialist implications.

    If you’re concerned about reconciliation, prove it. We’re all waiting.

    • It was Stephanie who refused to speak to me.

      And blocking you on Twitter had nothing to do with your ideas. It had to do with your meanness.

      Also, my critique is of Pentecostalism — most pointedly, the “prosperity gospel” — not Christianity in the Global South.

      • I don’t recall insulting you. I do recall pointing out that you said a racist thing, which is true. I also recall writing a thorough academic takedown of your perspective, based on my background in postcolonial theory, that you’ve also refused to acknowledge. If your criticism is that I communicate aggressively, that seems rather hypocritical on your part.

  • Where are all the women? And why aren’t they commenting here?

    • Probably because he tells us we’re mean and blocks us when we voice valid criticisms of his arguments and his attitude toward minorities.

      • Hmmm. Good point. Will change my name to something obviously male, and will phrase all my comments using big words so that Tony will think I’m “bringing something to the table”. Because that’s what Jesus thought was most important, too. Oh wait.

  • No_6

    Hi, Tony–thoughts from a stranger.

    One thing that doesn’t sit well with me is that your overt reaction to criticism is one of damage to pride, where you feel a critic “owes” you something beyond voicing their critique. Academia–seminary included–is not for the faint of heart when it comes to caustic personalities, delivery, or opinions. But no one is entitled to live an agreement-filled life, where reconciliation happens at a whim. Critique is what hones. It’s what stings. It’s what helps mold tighter arguments, more facile and firm personalities. And while every person receives critiques that stick with them or wound more than others, your defensive posturing isn’t reflective of a person confident or firm in his beliefs–it betrays the insecurities under the surface, rather than a desire to learn, reflect, hone, and move forward.

  • S_i_m_o_n

    Tony, if it is not easy to explain can I presume it is perhaps not easy to understand either. Does this put this gospel out of reach of the simple minded?

  • i don’t even know what is happening in this post. reconciliation is awesome, but it’s not something that can happen exclusively on your terms. it’s also disingenuous to claim that you desire reconciliation and then continue to throw your critics under the bus in this very thread. what happened to the benefit of the doubt being a christian virtue and all that?

    there are often uneven power differentials at play within conflicts, and if there is to be reconciliation, those need to be taken into account. if a woman doesn’t feel like you are a particularly safe person to interact with, she does not owe you face time or a phone call. (also, reconciliation implies that there is an existing relationship to repair.) if you truly care about reconciliation, a little humility would go a long way, but you’re still out here guns blazing.

    • No one owes me anything.

      • Then stop acting like they do.

        Let it go man. Your not a victim or somehow wronged here. Someone disagrees with you. ZOMG!!! What ever will you do?

        Seriously. Your actions are saying something much louder than your words of humility. Just let the horse lie. You are beating a pot and pan, calling it a drum.

      • I am having a hard time understanding this. “No one owes me anything.” But, have you thought that maybe, you might owe them something? Maybe some criticism has been the result of miscommunication? Or not communicating an idea or a thought clearly enough? I know I have been guilty of this many times. I am not saying that you owe those that misunderstand you an apology every time, and let’s face it, some people will just be assholes because they are assholes and nothing you say or do will change that. Maybe at times owing them a clearer explanation of what you are saying, or listening to their side of an issue rather than being dismissive? Something to ponder, anyway.

  • Adriene Buffington

    You wrote: “In my book on the atonement, I’m attempting to answer how, exactly, that happens in the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s hard to explain.” Isn’t this because some of the reconciliation in Christ takes place in the Incarnation and Resurrection? ( and probably in the outpouring of the Spirit on all ?)

    I know your Theology of the Atonement is “better” at emphasizing the other parts of the Christ event, not JUST the cross. The aspects of the gospel that give me assurance of reconciliation are that God became human, like all of us; and that Christ rose victorious over everything that separates and alienates us from God; and that the real presence of the Spirit provides grace and power for healing all that alienates us from ourselves and one another.
    And maybe hope of the eventual resurrection and restoration of the whole world would reconcile us to all of creation- to push us towards renewing, towards justice, and beauty. It is the assurance of having been reconciled, and hope that it will be completed in That Day, that move us towards the 2nd thru 4th elements of that fourfold reconciliation. The Cross alone is about the 1st. (Although maybe there’s a 1b: reconciliation between me and God- I’m forgiven, but I have to ’receive’ it.)

  • Jonathan Fillis

    Hey Tony having a skim through the comments it looks like you generally get a pretty tough time. I guess that is the nature of sharing an opinion particularly in the Blogosphere but as a regular reader who doesn’t generally comment I just wanted to say a Thank you. I may not always agree but your blogs usually make me smile and challenge me. So just a word of thanks from a silent grateful reader!

  • Tony named me in this post so I am going to tell my side of the story. This is my version. Mind you, Tony’s is probably different.

    Last year after I commented on Tony’s post in which he asked why women don’t comment on his blog, Tony had his friend contact me and say “Tony said to give you his phone number so you can call him and apologize.”

    When I didn’t do anything I got an email from Tony saying “call me if you think we need to talk.” I wasn’t sure we needed to. We had never met and have no relationship besides my answering when he asked why women don’t comment on his blog. I asked him “do you think we need to talk?” and he said “yes.” As the emails went on I gave him my number and was agreeing to talk even though my intuition was acting way the fuck up over it. Then David (my husband) and several people who know Tony personally told me “I don’t think you should talk to him. It won’t go well, nothing will get done. This stuff he’s writing to you doesn’t bode well that you will get anywhere.”

    I initially felt like I should make a good faith effort and talk to him but my intuition would not leave me alone and his tone was getting more aggressive and it got to where I couldn’t sleep, so I told him “you don’t have a posture of reconciliation. This feels like a contest for you. And now you are going to tell people that you reached out to me and that I wouldn’t meet with you.” And he finally did.

    I don’t feel safe commenting here for the reasons I said why I don’t comment in his Where Are The Women? thread, which are also the reasons I don’t feel safe speaking with him, but since Tony used my name in this post and comments, I am telling my side of the story.

    • lscottfreeman

      Thank you for sharing your side of the story, Stephanie!

      • This would have been the chance for things to get patched up … and yet, somehow, they weren’t.

        • jtheory

          he had to “sign off” heh.

        • See my rather long comment above.

    • Tony? Rebuttal?

      • Stephanie, I just read back through the email correspondence between us. There is nothing about you apologizing to me. I never mentioned that, nor would I have thought that was necessary. I reached out to you because you were publicly attacking me on your Facebook page. I’d be happy to publish the correspondence if you agree.

        You and I had had earlier interactions on Twitter and Facebook before the post about women on my blog. They’d all been positive.

        In any case, I’m glad you got to tell your side of the story here. In all honesty, I only approached you in order to build some kind of bridge. You definitely don’t owe me a conversation.

        • Jona

          I don’t think she’s saying you asked her to apologize, or that you mentioned that she should apologize. She says in the second paragraph that a friend of yours contacted her and suggested she apologize to you.

          • Yes, I know. I’m just saying that was a miscommunication. I never wanted her to apologize. I hope I’m not responsible for what other people do and say.

            However, those who tried to broker a conversation had good and kind intentions.

            I’m signing off of the Internet till Tuesday, so I won’t be able to respond to any more questions or comments in this thread. Also, I won’t be able to approve comments that get caught in the Disqus spam filter. Sorry. I’ll approve them all on Tuesday.

            • So what did you tell the mutual friend? In your word?

            • Jona

              I wasn’t saying you’re responsible for what others do and say, I was correcting the way you wrote that paragraph, which made it sound like Stephanie had said you personally asked for an apology. That’s different.

              I’d be interested to know why your friend thought Stephanie should apologize to you, and why they felt it was appropriate to involve him/herself by giving her your phone number.

            • Jona

              OK, trying this comment again, since others are getting through:

              I wasn’t suggesting you were responsible for what others do and say. I think you misrepresented what Stephanie is saying in her comment:

              I’d be interested to know why your friend thought you needed an apology and why they thought it would be appropriate to give someone your number.

            • So, in the spirit of this reconciliation thing you have been going on about, you basically dismiss Stephanie with the following statements:

              “Well, that wasn’t ever my intention.
              Have a good weekend.” Also:

              “Yes, I know. I’m just saying that was a miscommunication. I never wanted her to apologize. I hope I’m not responsible for what other people do and say.”

              Actually, sir, you do bear some of the responsibility, not necessarily for what they say, per se, but, when what they actually said, is brought to your attention, you need to be responsible in approaching that individual who made the statement, and correct them, and then approach/contact the individual that the comment was directed towards – in this case Stephanie, and yes, APOLOGIZE for the miscommunication, and then make it very clear what you were trying to communicate. This is the problem when we set up others to be the go between. It is much like the game we used to play, where we all sat in a circle, and the person next to us would whisper in our ears, and we had to pass on what they said to the next person. By the time it gets around the circle, the message is so convoluted and so far from what was actually said. In a game, this is hilarious. In real life, such miscommunication and misunderstanding can be devastating and completely destroy relationships.

              To me, in reading your comments here, you are completely dismissing this situation. In effect, what you are doing is exactly the opposite of what you are writing about – reconciliation. There is a word for that. Hypocrisy.

        • No, the apology bit wasn’t in the emails, but a mutual friend told me that you told her to give me your number so that you could apologize to me. That was before the emails.

          • Well, that wasn’t ever my intention.

            Have a good weekend.

            • Guest

              “Have a good weekend, M’kay”

            • Here’s the thing. I’ve seen many people come to Stephanie with the accusation, “You’re being bitter / angry / unforgiving”, because of the things she posts on her blog and fb page. A wise person, if they see the same criticism coming from several different sources, would take the words and use them to self-reflect — it what these people saying about me true? I’ve seen Stephanie do this. She’s even posted, “This is what I’m hearing. Am I in the wrong here?” (which is courageous in and of itself, being that she posts it on a public forum, opening herself up to criticism of the intranets) Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no. But when the answer is yes, I’ve seen her come with humility and love to apologize both publicly, and to the offended parties.

              I’ve also seen you get the same criticism from several different people, and across time. The difference is, I haven’t yet seen you apologize in what seems to be an authentic way, or with humility. Mostly, you equivocate, dismiss, or curtly say the bare minimum (“Well, that wasn’t my intention. Have a good weekend.”) There’s no love there, Tony.

              We are all wrong, we all say things we regret, we all put ourselves in the position to have to leave everything at the alter and seek forgiveness from the brother we offended.

              • jtheory

                probably the best thing I’ve seen said here yet. Beautiful.

      • No. No rebuttal.

  • Sofia

    Beautiful words. Thanks for posting.

  • Bob


    I have followed your blog for a good while. And while I have never commented, I do follow the comment section closely. It is the in the comment section that I feel the reader is most able to see the true character of the author. If the article content and the posture in the comment section line up, it gives great credence to the words posted by an author. However, where there is discrepancy, it becomes very clear that the theology and the actual life application are not on par with each other. This is what I see in your work. Grant it, I do not know you in person, but what I see represented here, in this online community, is sad and discouraging.

    You say you want reconciliation and yet you hold so tightly to your arguments that no matter what is said on the other side, no reconciliation can be found.

    You take a posture of blame rather than respect.

    You seem to exclude rather than create an environment of inclusiveness.

    You open the door to discussion only to slam it shut in the face of those who would challenge you.

    You say you are open to criticism and yet your defensiveness is synonymous with almost every discussion I have read in your comments section.

    That being said, I am not surprised that many of your critics have refused to meet with you. Yours is not a posture of dialog and mutual respect. It is a posture of arrogance and a desire to defend at any cost. Sadly, the cost is quite great. You regularly demean those who do not share your view point as well as anyone that you do not determine to be on your level of knowledge/expertise. You have had the opportunity to have open, meaningful discussions with those of differing view points, minorities, and even more importantly with those whom you have hurt or shunned. You say you want reconciliation, but to me, it would only appear that you want a fight.

  • Tony, you said, ” I’m just saying that was a miscommunication. I never wanted her to apologize. I hope I’m not responsible for what other people do and say.

    However, those who tried to broker a conversation had good and kind intentions.”

    Seems like an easy problem to fix. Have you gone to the mutual friend, and asked his/her perspective? What does this friend have to say about the situation, in their own words?

    • No, because I don’t know who she’s talking about.

      Even if I did, I don’t know what good it would do to go to that mutual friend and ask for a correction of the record.