A Better Atonement: Jesus Died with Trayvon

Every Wednesday during Lent, I’m going to explore an alternatives to the penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement, the dominant theory of the atonement in my part of the (theological and geographical) world. You can read all of the posts, and my past posts on this topic, here. I’ve got an ebook on the subject as well.

This ebook is available now

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness…He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and godforsaken can experience communion with him.”[i]

So writes Jürgen Moltmann at the climax of his groundbreaking book, The Crucified God. Growing up as a German humanist, Moltmann experienced the terror of war and imprisonment, and the love of God, during World War II. His subsequent career in theology has been indelibly shaped by that experience.

Common to human experience, Moltmann proposes, is the experience of godforsakenness. We’ve all felt it, that God has abandoned us, that there is no God. The Israelites felt it, and the Psalmist sang about it.

Of course, it is unthinkable that God would experience godforsakenness. How can a divine being experience his own absence? God is only able to do so because God’s very nature is trinitarian. In an act of ultimate solidarity with every human being who has ever existed, God voluntarily relinquished his godship, in part, in order to truly experience the human condition. And, as the early church hymn recorded in Philippians 2 states so eloquently, God was humbled even to the point of death on a cross.

Upon that cross, God himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth echoes the Psalmist’s cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God himself experiences—and redeems—godforsakenness.

[Read more...]

Too Late for Emergent?

Bill Walker has a very thoughtful post that is only partly about my new book on the atonement. More importantly, he has some excellent reflections on the theology — or lack thereof — of the emergent movement:

Over the past five years or so there seems to have been a climax and subsequent decline in optimism and enthusiasm surrounding the Emergent Church conversation.  Of course those on the conservative evangelical side have always dismissed the movement as heterodox and a return to theological liberalism, but even some of the more sympathetic critics that often describe themselves as “missional” have expressed concern about a lack of theological leadership.  There’s been no shortage of deconstruction and even ecclesial innovation amid this group, but the common question remains: what is it exactly that so-called emergents believe?

Be sure to read the rest: Bill Walker | Blog.

For Whom Did Jesus Die?

Well, on the very face of it, you have to say that Jesus died for Barabbas.

I had the good fortune of preaching at University Baptist Church in Waco last weekend. I cheated a bit on the lectionary and preached about Barabbas, the insurrectionist and murderer who was released by Pilate.

There are numerous problems with this passage. One is that there’s no extra-biblical evidence of what Mark writes: “Back in those days, there was a tradition…” That tradition was to release one prisoner during the Festival of Passover. The problems are: [Read more...]

Stop Praying In Church

Aloud, that is. That’s my contribution to the Pomomusings series, “(Re)Imaging Chrisitianity:

This post is part of an ongoing blog series on Pomomusings entitled “(Re)Imagining Christianity.”

What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that must die so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?

What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that we must hold onto and live out more fully so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?

I’m going to keep this brief: I think that we should stop having spoken prayers in worship services.

Read the rest of my post here: Tony Jones on (Re)Imagining Christianity – Pomomusings.