“Identification for Incorporation”

I am living with the book, A Community Called Atonement.  I have been strengthened and challenged in my thinking of what atonement is and what atonement accomplishes. 

Towards the end of the book McKnight (to use a phrase of McKnight’s) develops a bag that is able to hold all the metaphorical clubs of atonement.  Atonement is not just being atoned for our sins; “atonement is identification for incorporation (pg. 107).  McKnight wants us to understand that Jesus has died for us so that his life might become our life.


If McKnight is right that we are atoned “so that his life can become our life” then our churches will look drastically different than what they are today.  No longer will we be individually focused, no longer will be delivering hell, fire and brimstone sermons and then forgetting to tell “the sinners” what kind of life they are to live.  Instead we will become vessels in which the world sees God and what God is about.  We will find churches intentionally incorporating practices that bear witness to God’s love, peace and justice.  We will see churches participating in the work of God and becoming “the neighborhood church” rather than asking the neighborhood to come across the street to “our church.”  To quote McKnight,

In the rest of the book there is no attempt to be comprehensive or exhaustive about what a missional praxis of atonement looks like.  At rock-bottom reality each community will work out its own praxis of atonement, and that praxis will have a different shape and orientation in each community.  The central question of a missional praxis is this: “How can we help?”  This central question springs from a desire to go out into the community rather than an overwhelming desire to have the community come to the local church (pg. 118).

Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 1:30 am  Leave a Comment  

A Community Called Atonement

When are there moments of atonement?  Is the cross the only means of atonement?  Is the atonement simply being forgiven, redeemed, restored from our (individual) sin or is there a macrocosmic scope to the atonement?  Several chapters of McKnight’s book are dedicated to those moments of atonement where God redeems us from the problem of evil and sin.  Below are four moments of atonement and some quotes that I find very thought provoking.

 Atoning Moments: Incarnation As Second Adam

“God identifies with us in the incarnation.  Without identification, without incarnation, there is no atonement.  Which is to say that the atonement is an ontological act – God’s sharing our nature and our sharing God’s – at its core: it is about God identifying with us so that we might participate in God (2 Pet. 1:4)” (pg. 54).

Atoning Moments: Crucifixion

“I suggest that we see the achievement of the cross in three expressions: Jesus dies ‘with us’ – entering into our evil and our sin and our suffering to subvert it and create a new way; Jesus dies ‘instead of us’ – he enters into our sin, our wrath, and our death; and Jesus dies ‘for us’ – his death forgives our sin, ‘declares us right,’ absorbs the wrath of God against us, and creates new life where there was once only death.

Not only is this death saving, this same death becomes the paradigm for an entirely new existence that is shaped, as Luther said of theology and life, by the cross.  A life shaped by the cross is a life bent on dying daily to self in order to love God, self, others, and the world.  And a life shaped by the cross sees in the cross God becoming the victim, identifying with the victim, suffering injustice, and shaping a cruciform pattern of life for all who would follow Jesus.  The cross reshapes all of life” (pg. 69).

 Atoning Moments: Easter

“When, then, is the resurrection all about?  If the death of Christ wipes away sin, the resurrection of Christ makes all things new.  Resurrection is about new creation.  A theory of atonement that does not flow into the resurrection is an atonement that rids one of the sin problem but does not transform life and this world.  Stopping that flow of life from God into God’s people is the abortion of full atonement” (Pg. 70). 

 Atoning Moments: Pentecost

“Pentecost is both justification and judgment.  In this one act at Pentecost (1) the people of God, in God’s act of justifying and making his judgment clear, receive the power of the Holy Spirit to create a community wherein the will of God can be done, and (2) that new community creation is at the same time a judgment on the unjust rulers of this world” (pg. 76).

Published in: on February 4, 2008 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Community Called Atonement

I’m living with Scott McKnight’s book, “A Community Called Atonement.”  Here are some of the things McKnight is saying in the first few chapters.

Where do we begin?  What does the atonement atone us from and what does it make us?  One cannot start with a single theory or in a single location for the atonement.  The atonement must begin somewhere but this somewhere encompasses many areas.  But first the atonement must start with Jesus. 

The atonement creates the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is “what God is doing in this world through the community of faith for the redemptive plans of God – including what God is doing in you and me” (pg. 9).  From here we are introduced to Luke’s gospel and how the kingdom of God is seen and experienced with the poor receiving justice, the blind receiving sight, the lame being able to walk again, etc.  The kingdom of God continues to be seen in the book of Acts when the early church continued to be empowered by the Spirit of God so that there would be equality, justice, and fellowship – the very things Jesus inaugurated and we are left with the idea that the kingdom of God continues to be seen and experienced through his people when they too practice equality, justice and fellowship.  Thus, the atonement creates the kingdom of God. 

Where else do we begin?  McKnight suggests we also start back at Genesis 1-2.  Our image (eikons) was distorted with sin and the atonement restores our image.  With this restoring we are now called to be in union with God, in community with other “eikons” and to be partners with God.  To read Genesis 1-2 through an atonement set of eyes is refreshing yet challenging.

The atonement also creates us into a worshipping community which can be classified as ambassadors of God.  As we become a community we become God’s representatives of what eternity is and will be.  We thus become performers of the gospel. 

To finish this section I quote McKnight,

Atonement is not just something done to us and for us, it is something we participate in – in this world, in the here and now.  It is not just something done, but something that is being done and something we do as we join God in the missio Dei (30-31).


Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Community Called Atonement

Over the next several blogs I will highlight and interact with Scot McKnight’s book, A Community Called Atonement.

The atonement of Jesus must change us!  Yet as McKnight says, “The bad news, the anti-gospel as it were, is that the claim Christians make for the atonement is not making enough difference in the real lives of enough Christians.”  Ouch! 

If Jesus has atoned us of our sins what then does this mean?  How does this translate into our daily lives?  How does this translate how we be and do church?  How does this translate as we interact with the stranger on the street?  How does this translate as we interact with our own family (sometimes estranged family)?  Unfortunately, as McKnight points out, it hasn’t translated into much and the most glaring example is how we still have segregated churches. 

God atoned our sins and with this restored our relationship with him, with others, with self, and with the world.  Now that we are atoned we must live different lives and participate with God in redeeming this world.

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment