Atonement: a means of reconciliation
Ron Channell, pastor, Family Church of Lawrence, 5150 Clinton Parkway:
After the fall of Adam, atonement was instituted by God to reconcile man's fellowship with him. This was accomplished by the shedding of blood to "cover" or atone for sin - ": for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11).
This sacrificial offering continued until Jesus Christ instituted the new covenant, fulfilling the prophetic announcement of John the Baptist when he identified Christ as "The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The purpose of his coming was "to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
As Jesus Christ shed his blood and died on the cross, it became the new covenant atoning act for all mankind "we were reconciled to God by the death of his son" (Romans 5:10). This verse literally defines atonement theology and reveals the heart of the Gospel, leading to the epitome of Christianity: the Resurrection.
Only in Christianity do we find a resurrected Lord. "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!" (Luke 24:5-6). God's word also tells us: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Jesus' last words on the cross were, "It is finished" (John 19:30). This is a beautiful example of the definition of atonement. When Christ died for our sins that day - it was finished! The atonement was accomplished completely. Once and for all time. Now the responsibility comes to us to receive he who died for our salvation. Romans 10:13 says, "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
- Send e-mail to Ron Channell at email@example.com
Does God demand sin be punished?
Joanna Harader, pastor, Peace Mennonite Church, 615 Lincoln St.:
During Lent, you might have sung: "I love that old cross, where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain."
This hymn presents the dominant theory of salvation in Western Christianity: God demands that sin be punished. God doesn't really want to punish humans to the extent that we deserve, though, so God sent Christ to be punished in our place.
It is wonderful to know that Jesus loves us so much he was willing to suffer and die. But beyond that, the theory stops being wonderful and begins to be very disturbing to me.
What kind of God even demands punishment? What kind of creative, all-powerful God has to resort to the violence and brutality of crucifixion to enact forgiveness? What kind of father plots the murder of his own son? And if God is that kind of parent, do I really want to be a child of God?
Fortunately, the Christian tradition offers a wealth of views on salvation. For some, salvation is spiritual; for others it is physical, economic, political. Some say we are saved because Christ defeated the powers of death. Some say salvation comes through following the example of Christ's great, life-giving love. Some view salvation as our movement closer to God and understand that the work of Christ allows us to move Godward.
These alternatives are not fringe or "new age." They are in the Bible. They are in the tradition. And they are increasingly in the writings of theologians.
Maybe you've sung another hymn: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." Saved through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Saved in ways that we cannot begin to understand. Saved by the grace of a God who loves more deeply than we can fathom.
- Send e-mail to Joanna Harader at firstname.lastname@example.org.