That’s the question that Mark Heim, professor of theology at Andover Newton Theological School asked his class this morning as I sat in. Mark thinks not, and he explicates that idea in his excellent book, Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. Therein, Mark explores Rene Girard‘s brilliant theories of mimetic desire and the scapegoat mechanism in common in human culture.
That reminded me of a great podcast interview at Entitled Opinions in which Robert Harrison of Stanford interviews Girard on these very notions.
A lot of former evangelicals have been looking for a rich and rewarding understanding of the atonement without the violence inherent in the “penal substitutionary” theory in which God demands, or at least requires the blood of his perfect son to assuage his wrath.
It also got me thinking about the contest we ran at Emergent Village back in 2008 looking for alternative metaphors for the atonement. That contest was judged by Mark Baker, who has also written on the subject, and won by Steve Sherwood.
The atonement isn’t quite the hot topic it was couple of years ago, but it’s still an animating question for most who follow Christ. It’s good to be reminded that, along with Mark’s book and Scot’s book, there’s yet another good treatment of the subject.