Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Emergent "Atonement"


Here is what Emergent Church leader Tony Jones thinks about Christ's work of atonement:


Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God's wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.
Even though I have come to expect these kinds of statements from Jones, MacLaren, Pagett, etc. I still am stunned by their bold heresy. Nevermind that Christ's death in the place of sinners is inescapably biblical, Tony Jones does not find it intellectually or spiritually "compelling." Can you hear the wanton hubris in those words? That he does not find Christ's atoning work "in keeping with the biblical narrative" only shows his ignorance of the biblical narrative. Of course once one throws away the inerrancy of the Scriptures then we are free to discard those portions of the Bible that we do not find to be "in keeping" with the bits we find "compelling."
Now consider the words of J.I. Packer from the book Knowing God:

Has the word propitiation any place in your Christianity? In the faith of the New Testament it is central. The love of God [1 John 4:8-10], the taking of human form by the Son [Heb. 2:17], the meaning of the cross [Rom. 3:21-26], Christ's heavenly intercession [1 John 2:1-2], the way of salvation--all are to be explained in terms of it, as the passages quoted show, and any explanation from which the thought of propitiation is missing will be incomplete, and indeed actually misleading, by New Testament standards.

In saying this, we swim against the stream of much modern teaching and condemn at a stroke the views of a great number of distinguished church leaders today, but we cannot help that. Paul wrote, "Even if we or an angel from heaven"--let alone a minister, a bishop, college lecturer, university professor, or noted author--"should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! ("accursed" KJV and RSV; "outcast" NEB; "damned" Phillips--
Gal. 1:8). And a gospel without propitiation at is heart is another gospel than that which Paul preached. The implications of this must not be evaded.

* Thanks to Justin Taylor

8 comments:

Belle Geary said...

Todd,

Very well said and an excellent quote by J.I. Packer. Far too many American “Christians” are being lead astray by a gospel more interested in tickling people’s ears than in Biblical truths.
God Bless,
Bill

Bev G said...

Today, I immersed myself in the Biblical narrative of Isaiah 53 and found it exceedingly compelling... both spiritually and intellectually. What Bible is Tony reading?

Thanks Todd for beating this drum to which I also march.

Bill Legge said...

Todd,

I am new to this. I wouldn't consider myself a mature Christian, much less a scholar, or academic so please forgive any ignorance I may display here. Disclaimer out of the way, I have three questions:

First, does the emergent church own a dictionary made up of their own definitions? Compelling does not mean interesting. It means, overpowering, or having a powerful irresistible effect; requiring acute admiration, attention, or respect.

The proper definition prompts my second question. What could Mr. Jones possibly find more spiritually compelling than, “That God’s wrath burned against his son instead of me”? I personally can’t come up with anything more spiritually compelling than Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Third, and finally, why on earth would I need to find propitiation intellectually compelling? I would have to agree that the inclusion of that statement reeks of hubris.

Todd Pruitt said...

Bill,

You wrote:

"What could Mr. Jones possibly find more spiritually compelling than, “That God’s wrath burned against his son instead of me”? I personally can’t come up with anything more spiritually compelling than Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Third, and finally, why on earth would I need to find propitiation intellectually compelling? I would have to agree that the inclusion of that statement reeks of hubris."

SPOT ON my friend! Spot On!

Mainline Mom said...

As I commented previously, I read Tony's entire blog post on the atonement on Friday and was so saddened by it. So it was on my mind Sunday when in church I heard the sacrificial atonment message repeated over and over, by the pastors, by the lyrics in the songs we sang...and it just makes no sense to believe otherwise. Frankly, everything...I mean EVERYTHING I've heard Tony say or write so far has been entirely MAN-centric...all about us, all about him. The idea that Christ's becoming human and dying is just some nice way of God showing us how much he is like us or we can be like him is REDICULOUS. *sigh*

Mike said...

Agree with the critique of Jones here...my only issue with this post is the label attached. Yes Jones is "emergent" but we should not assume that Jones speaks for all who might call themselves emerging/emergent. He does not. As far as I'm concerned he speaks for Tony Jones.

For comparison's sake I know many evangelicals who do not want to be associated with the Osteens just because they happen to label themselves christian and evangelical...and are famous from their books and TV appearances. I doubt many who comment on this blog site want that moniker either.

Todd Pruitt said...

Mike,

I agree that many of us do not want to be associated with the Osteens.

But you must admit that Tony Jones does not just speak for Tony Jones. He is a leader in the Emergent Church movement. His voice is prominent. He was the coordinator of Emergent Village.

Also, what Jones believes about the cross is, from what I can tell, unanimously held by every emergent person of influence out there. Name me one who does not deny the substitutionary atonement.

Mike said...

Agree with you Todd regarding Jones' role in the movement...he certainly is very prominent voice and many follow him...but I don't think my comparison to the Osteens was necessarily unfair either. In fact it may have been understated if you consider how many people know who Tony Jones is compared to the Osteens.

Regarding the substitutionary atonement issue I have heard (from others) that McLaren denies this but have not read it or heard it myself....but I have not read all of his works or heard all his interviews either. Would be interested to know McKnight's view on the subject.