Thursday, August 23, 2012

A week of atonement

This week is brought to you by A Better Atonement.

This post is inspired by three things:
Within the podcast and in his book, Tony Jones offers wonderful, articulate, valid critiques of many traditional theories of atonement, especially Penal Substitution Atonement (PSA).  Basically, he challenges his readers to consider alternative ways of explaining just what meaning we make out of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I'll let you check him out to learn more.

Then, I attended an event advertised as a worship service.  It consisted of standing in a room with a band leading us in song for over an hour.  Two scripture passages were read that were seemingly unrelated to any of the songs we were singing, and no attempt to expound on said scripture was made.  Practically every song promoted PSA (you know, Jesus took the blame, God's wrath is satisfied, Jesus-you're awesome because you died for me), or talked about elevating God above everything else, or threw around holy, worthy, and glorious so much they lost all meaning.  To be fair, we did sing Be Thou My Vision, and My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.  The final hymn to go home on was How Deep the Father's Love For Us (find the lyrics here) in which we are reminded of our wretchedness, our blame for the crucifixion, and about the unspecified reward we have received because of the gruesome event of the cross.

I left feeling convicted that there is a great need to introduce people, through song, liturgy, and preaching to alternative views of the incarnational event and thus the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I found myself wondering if God might actually be a bit embarrassed by some of the so-called praise songs that are sung in God's name.  Does God delight in "Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other Our God is Healer, awesome and power Our God, Our God..."?  What happened to Christ being found in the least of these? Does God want us to sing about how wretched we are to God except for Jesus changing the channel with the cross?

To quote Tony Jones as he addresses those who claim the wrath of God: "So it seems odd to first have to convince people that God's wrath burns against them, then to convince them that Jesus lovingly took on that wrath."

2 comments:

Lindsey W said...

Your post popped up on Facebook so I read this-didn't even know you were still blogging. Anyway, this quote got my attention: "So it seems odd to first have to convince people that God's wrath burns against them, then to convince them that Jesus lovingly took on that wrath." because isn't that somewhat of a critique of Calvinist type theology. Isn't that exactly what the Heidelberg Catechism states...guilt -> grace -> gratitude? Isn't that one of the reasons why we have the prayer of confession before the preaching of the Word? I totally agree that PSA (I don't think I've ever heard it called that but I think I know what you're talking about) is the only theory of atonement most people have and that our understanding of atonement and what happened on the cross/in resurrection needs to be expanded greatly, but I'm wondering if there is some truth in understanding that we don't deserve the grace/can't earn the grace before we can fully understand grace

Alan Bancroft said...

Thanks for your comment, Lindsey. I'm all about the Heidelberg Catechism. It's probably my overall favorite in the Book of Confessions. I think Tony does intend to offer critique of classic Calvinist theology, especially the doctrine of original sin. As for me, I'm not a fan of starting with wrath as the attribute of God that requires satisfaction. I think we can talk about falling short of the glory of God without jumping straight to a God who is red in the face and stomping around the heavenly mansion with a desire to zap us all straight to hell. I'm also not saying we simply talk about our bad choices. I think we can place confession in the context of broken relationship with God due to our status as flawed creatures, and then lift up the relational love exhibited in the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. So, grace is something transformational, not simply the eternal get of jail free card.

And, I totally agree with your comment, "but I'm wondering if there is some truth in understanding that we don't deserve the grace/can't earn the grace before we can fully understand grace."