Anecdotal Thoughts on Atonement

Posted: October 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

During my Emergent days, I taught that Jesus died on the cross as an example of sacrifice, as an empathetic move for all of us that face death and as a mysterious way to ultimately drain evil of its power.  All of these are true but after submitting myself to the plain meaning of Scripture, I believe they are largely secondary. 

The primary reason Jesus died on the cross was to take the punishment for the sins of his followers (see Romans 4:25; 5:8; Galatians 3:13; and 1 Peter 3:18).  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus because my penalty has been paid by the Lord and this is grace.  For everyone deserves eternal punishment for even one of their sins because sin is a crime and an insult against a Holy God and, as John Piper puts it, “The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted.”

My Emergent peers informed me that this was “bloody” and “unjust.”  They think that God doesn’t need to punish and He certainly doesn’t need to punish an innocent third-party for the “lapses” of another.  Moreover, I was told by gurus such as Brian McLaren (who is a very nice man) that such a medieval belief no longer resonated with people anyway.

With all due respect to Brian and those who agree with him, I have found the exact opposite to be true. 

I pastor a church with a lot of jacked up people.  Of course, every church is this way but God has truly blessed Revolution in that our people seem to readily admit their problems.  For instance, every Sunday night 20-30 young men from a local rehab program worship with us.  These young men are from all over the state of Ohio and once they finish the program then typically return to their hometowns and 20-30 new ones always seem to take their place at Revolution.  When I preach and teach on various atonement theories the only one that truly resonates is the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.  Why?

I think that most people believe they are hurt or unhappy or victimized but few believe they are truly bad and deserve to be punished.  So, they come into church looking for a message that will help them “feed their spirit” as Oprah puts it rather than be cleansed from sin.  I think these are the people who Brian McLaren typically encounters but when you meet those who have truly hit rock bottom, you encounter a different perspective.

Those who have been sentenced to a rehab program after running afoul of the law are better able to comprehend justice and true guilt.  They understand passages like Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”) with a depth that few of us truly do.  They don’t recoil in disgust but often cry for joy. 

Now, someone will undoubtedly object that arguing against experiential objections to penal substitutionary atonement based on conversations with 20-30 addicts is “anecdotal evidence” and that someone does not have to face such extreme personal struggles to understand concepts like justice and guilt.  Perhaps. 

However, I simply find it interesting that every batch of recovering addicts feel the same way.

Beyond the Biblical evidence, that I believe is compelling in-and-of-itself, I submit that their reactions are something to prayerfully consider.  

Grace and peace,

Pastor Matt

  1. Theodre A. Jones says:

    Well…… according Jesus there not too many people who ever find out what the small narrow gate that has been perfected by Jesus’ crucifixion actually is, but there are a lot of people who make the claim of knowing. Isn’t the crucifixion of Jesus the sin of murder caused by bloodshed? So now, you think that the commission of this sin has atoned for all other sins?
    The truth about Jesus’ crucifixion is that it has atoned for a change of the law of God.
    “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there MUST also be a change of the law.”
    “It is not those who hear this law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who OBEY this law who will be declared righteous.” by God. I think you might need to take a brake for awhile and find out what this law is and the Way it must be obeyed to avoid paying the penalty for an action of disobedience for which there is no possibility of forgiveness.

    • Revolution says:

      Theodre, thanks for stopping by. I don’t think my post every states that the gate isn’t narrow or that the atonement covered every sin. Don’t believe that…didn’t that. Grace and peace, bro.

  2. Theodore A. Jones says:

    The small narrow gate is a law that has been added to the law after Jesus’ crucifixion. Therefore the crucifixion of Jesus was not a punishment in place of you. What he has perfected is the Way by law that you might escape from the from the punishment you deserve, but escaping is predicated upon your compliance to the law which has been added or no escape is possible.

  3. Theodore A. Jones says:

    It is not me with whom you are in disagreement.

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