Book Review: A Community Called Atonement

A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight (… yes that is one ‘t’, there is another author Scott McKnight)

This is the first book I’ve read from an author belonging to the emergent movement. A while ago I used to follow his blog – jesuscreed.org. He seems to be very balanced and nuanced in the emergent scene. Perhaps Victor could share with us from McLaren one of the leaders of emergent.

It seems one of his chief goals, both in writing and emergent, is to make theology more that just facts, beliefs, or propositions. If theology does not impact your life and change you, in his view, then either your theology has a problem or you do. I know many of us here agree with him on that fact. So when he writes a book about atonement, and titles it A Community Called Atonement he is going to differ significantly, and he does. So let’s get started.

One of his biggest conclusions, I find, to be wonderful. He acknowledges that however you define the problem – will define your solution for you. So first he defines the problem as “cracked Eikons (icon, aka image of God)”. As a broken image of God we need to be fixed up. I don’t agree that the atonement is the solution to entirely restoring us as true images of God (we still sin, fall short, and fail to represent God to the world), and he might agree with me there. But as the church we are to be involved restoring people. We all agree that God doesn’t fly in from the heavens to tell everyone what the truth is, and help people with their serious emotional and material needs. God works through us, the church, to accomplish that. That is, essentially, what he means by a community called atonement – for the church to be a bunch of people that help others restore their relationship to God, their inner selfs, their relationship to others, and to the world. That is the controversial point of the book. Many of a conservative trend might react against using the atonement in such a way.

Though on another point, the Kingdom, I have to disagree. McKnight seems to presume, along with most of the evangelicals, that the Kingdom of God is the Church – and that Jesus’ death came to bring that Kingdom, the place where God’s will is done. It almost seems funny that Schweitzer took exactly the opposite argument. The Kingdom did not come and that is why Jesus sacrificed himself as a plea to God for it to come. I don’t really find either of these positions tenable.

McKnight defends the traditional metaphors such as Passover, ransom, and penal substitution. The last has come under considerable fire lately being likened to cosmic child abuse. Though that is not a fair criticism of the true picture we paint of Christ’s death in light of God, it would only be true of a caricature that no one of faith holds to. The author, to me rightly, insists that we need not pick only one metaphor to live by – but all of them. They each have their place.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] Anna wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptA Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight (… yes that is one ‘t’, there is another author Scott McKnight) […]

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