If Jesus’ Crucifixion Is the Solution, What’s the Problem?

A Better Atonement cover

I’ve got an article on Patheos’s homepage. It’s on — you guessed it — the atonement. It’s a summary of my thoughts on the issue (so far):

Christians know why Jesus died: He died for our sins. That’s what we’re taught from the earliest days of Sunday school.

And we all know how he died: A particularly gruesome form of public execution known as crucifixion.

But many Christians are less sure of how it works. How is it that Jesus’ death accomplishes the forgiveness of my sin? By what cosmic mechanism does that take place?

In other words, there comes a time in every Christian’s life when the Sunday School answer, “Jesus died for my sins,” falls short. We want to know how it works.

Read the rest: If Jesus’ Crucifixion Is the Solution, What’s the Problem?

A Better Atonement: Your Turn

We’re on the brink of Holy Week. I have been absolutely heartened at the robust conversation that we’ve been having on this blog around the atonement. It’s not an easy topic, I know. But it is extremely valuable.

So, next week, I’m going to post on the atonement every morning. (In the afternoon, Scot will be guest posting on Gagnon’s book, which will be great.) And I’m really hoping that you will join the conversation. I’ve set up a Storify and a Tumbler for the Atonement.

Here’s how you can join in: if you reflect on the atonement over the next week or so, let us know. Post your sermons, blog posts, Facebooks, tweets, for the rest of us to interact with.

You can join the Storify stream by posting your tweets with #ABetterAtonement.

You can post to the Tumblr by sending an email to fubrauf476@tumblr.com. You can also submit a post directly here.

Let us know about your post, sermon, even your tweet. We’re all in this together.

You can read all of the posts, and my past posts on this topic, here.

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...]

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...]