Familiar words. A classic song. Lovely. Life giving. Theologically rich. But not to everyone. Much virtual ink has been spilled about the recent hub-bub over this hymn. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. decided not to include the familiar hymn because of these lines and the view of atonement it projects.
It prompts us to ask: what really happened when Jesus died?
I’d been thinking about this topic recently, and then a colleague posted a link on FB to a piece by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville as an example of how the church can recover a more traditional theology despite internal efforts for a broader view. The title of Mohler’s piece? The Wrath of God Was Satisfied: Substitutionary Atonement and the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. He gets into some interesting history in the Southern Baptist Convention over this issue, and how two seminaries decided to move toward a traditional view of substitutionary atonement when several professors started to teach that there are actually multiple views even in the Bible about the nature of Jesus’ death, and that perhaps substitutionary atonement is not the main one.
So I’ve decided to cultivate a conversation – via a series of posts – on atonement. I’d love your thoughts, comments and reflects on the topic – as well as any links or references to talks, articles, and posts that have helped your understanding of the issue.
I’ll begin with a few questions:
- What did happen when Jesus died?
- Does true forgiveness require someone to suffer?
- Does God require a blood sacrifice to be appeased?
- Was there a metaphysical transaction by which his blood really or metaphorically covered over the sins of people?
- Was there something else, like a display of the extent of God’s love over a broken creation?
- Was there not even that, but simply a man dying for provoking the powers that be?
These are questions with which we must wrestle, and such discussions should be happening in the church, not simply in academic circles, and yes, at the pub (for some of us the line between pub and church is a thin one).
So let’s get it started! Post your atonement questions and thoughts below! More posts to follow.