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A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology) Paperback – August, 2007
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"McKnight isn't advocating a mushy `let's all get along' evasion of the issues, which are many and important. But he is seeking to practice what we preach whenever we preach atonement: that God calls us to reconcile with God, ourselves, one another, and all creation. That means that the way we treat one another when we disagree about atonement can't be separated from what we preach when we preach atonement. Theory and praxis are profoundly inseparable. At this critical time in history, I believe we need, not atonement wars (or other kinds of theo-combat), but rather mature and generative conversation on atonement, so we can together go back to the Scriptures and in their light savor the rich meaning of Christ's saving work. A Community Called Atonement joins books by Willard, Boersma, Green, Baker, and others as an excellent and accessible resource for this conversation, informed by both current and historical scholarship." -- ----Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) is an author, speaker, and former pastor active in the emergent conversation. His next book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, will be released October 2.
"Atonement theology, McKnight rightly insists, cannot operate with only one theory; it needs all of the biblical metaphors and each of the traditional atonement models. They all come together, he points out, in the patristic model of recapitulation--or, as he calls it, identification for incorporation. More than just being gutsy, orthodox, creative, as well as scholarly in character, this book actually atones; it models what it sets out to demonstrate, namely, that the church is summoned to work with God in his atoning work." -- Hans Boersma, J. I. Packer Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Regent College
"Few ideas are more central to Christian faith than the doctrine of atonement. And yet for too many atonement is merely that: a doctrine. In A Community Called Atonement, Scot McKnight takes the reader on a compelling, thorough, and creative exploration of the work of Christ and breathes into this doctrine a biblically robust understanding of God's intent for creation in Christ." -- Tim Keel, pastor of Jacob's Well Church and author of Intuitive Leadership: Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor, and Chaos
"It takes a village--or rather, an evangelical catholic community--to communicate everything McKnight wants to say about atonement. Sure both to stimulate imaginations and to raise hackles as it remixes biblical metaphors, integrates doctrine and praxis, and deconstructs one-sided theories of the saving significance of the cross, A Community Called Atonement may well turn out to be a theological manifesto called 'emergent.'" -- Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
About the Author
Scot McKnight is Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University in Chicago.
Top customer reviews
In his book A Community Called Atonement Scot McKnight weighs in on this weighty topic. His contention in this book is that atonement theories are like golf clubs. In the game of golf, there are different clubs that are to be used in different situations. You use a driver off the tee block. You use a wedge to chip the ball onto the green. You use the putter to putt the ball into the hole.
However, you don't use the putter the drive the ball off the tee. You don't chip with a driver. And you don't use a wedge to putt the ball into the hole. You would damage your clubs and lose the round your playing. Golf would become very frustrating.
Scot contends that Christians have become too enamored with a single club and insist on playing an entire round of golf with that one club. One uses his or her 3 Iron to drive, chip and putt the ball. Just like you can't win at golf playing that weigh, Scot argues that we can't understand the atonement by forcing a singular theory of atonement onto God and his story.
I liked a lot of what Scot said in this book. I have come to love his engaging writing style. It's extremely accessible to anyone as he avoids as much complex discussion as he can, and breaks down creatively the complexities he is forced to engage.
Also, he makes a lot of excellent points about atonement. The main point that I found most needed in my own understanding is the full extent of atonement. If one just takes the word "atonement" one can see "at-one-ment" there--which is where the word originated from. This at-one-ment act of God isn't just God setting individuals right with himself. It's much bigger. It's taking his Image bearers that have cracked their Image of God bearingness. The Trinitarian God incarnates as Jesus and deals with sin to create a community of people who do the will of God on earth. In other words, atonement is God healing the cracked images and invites them into his trinitarian existence--not as deities or divine beings but as he always intended his image bearing creatures to share.
Thus, when the church is functioning rightly, atonement is going on in that moment. Atonement isn't limited to just Jesus' death. It begins with his incarnation and reaches its goal/end in a community (Israel/Kingdom/Church). So any theory of the atonement that doesn't take image bearers and bring them into this community is a theory that falls flat.
The other thing I liked is that Scot reaches into Eastern Orthodoxy, not just Catholic or Protestant theologies, to bring about a solution. He argues that Irenaeus and Athanasius use of recapitulation to understand Jesus is the bag with which he holds all the clubs of atonement theories in. Jesus retells the stories of Adam (the first image bearer) and Israel (the community people of God in the OT) climaxing with his death and resurrection. The Church is the community that Adam and Israel are meant to be. Theories like Christus Victor and Penal Substitution and Satisfaction are all incorporated into this idea. Scot renames this theory as "identification for incorporation."
But it's right here that I found myself unpersuaded by McKnight. I hold to what is known as Christus Victor. But I don't confine it to just the realm of theory. Rather, for me, it's a theme in the biblical story, a motif. Christ's victory over sin and our sinful earthly powers is the most surface understanding of Jesus' life in Gospels. Recapitulation in the Gospels takes a bit of wrangling (though not incorrectly) of the temptation passages in Luke and Matthew. And recapitulation was already a part of my Christus Victor motif.
But Scot was right for me to incorporate the establishing of a community as part of atonement. The church is the victorious sign that Christ has won. Thus whenever the Church, along with its individuals, are being the community that God created them to be, we are still seeing atonement. We are seeing the goal of atonement.
Scot McKnight is commonly associated with the emergent church movement and this book is indeed the opening volume of a series from that community. The material itself, however, stands well on its own and it provides a very strong and very practical look at the atonement that will serve anyone, from any tradition or background, to see the panorama of the atonement and how it is understood throughout all of Christian History and across many Christian communities.
Lest anyone imagine that this is just a book of theology and history that operates in the intellectual realm McKnight keeps things very much rooted in the practical and speaks of how these truths tie into daily expression and community as a whole.
The primary theme of the book finds its expression in human beings as "cracked eikons" or the marred image of God within us. The atonement as the restoration of mankind is a constant theme as well with the multiple metaphors of scripture looked at with a caution against adopting any one of the them as the "master theme" to the diminishing or exclusion of the others. Of particular value to this reviewer was the examination of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). PSA tends to be at the core of most reformed, evangelical and fundamentalist theology and practice and it has been a particular target of many who see it as offensive and exclusionary. Instead of dismissing it out of hand or accepting it as it is popularly applied, McKnight takes a conciliatory tact viewing it in balance with several other metaphors within the Bible and reminding the reader that the metaphor is not the things itself.
This combined with a similar handling and familiarizing of the reader with the different themes and metaphors allows for a very rich appreciation of the atonement and it's beauty. Add to this that McKnight brings in as well an element often skimmed over in other venues, that being the title theme of the community and it's tie-in through Pentecost.
All in all, Frank didn't steer me wrong. This is a beautiful, educational, practical and inspiring thematic work that anyone, coming from any Christian tradition should come away from with a deeper appreciation of their own tradition as well as expand their understanding of others and perhaps even temper their understanding to see how pervasive the atonement is in all areas of life, fellowship and community.
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I read this for my Ministry Essentials course for Bible college and was incredibly blessed!Read more