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March 12, 2008


Eric Kieb

Hey Brett, great, thoughtful stuff. I'm looking for some more mutual mental and theological stretching. Thanks for your willingness and authenticity.

I guess when I think of "personal" and "communal" [because I don't think it to be an either or but both] what I think about is the systemic nature of sin. We tend to speak of sin, at least it seems to me, as our own personal affronts to God and what we need God to do is to forgive us as individuals. In my own reading of the Scriptures it seems to me that sin, from the outset is systemic, in that it affects relationship on the vertical and horizontal axis. For example that first sin of our ancestors estranges us from God and one another and so much so that we hide from both [behind a bush or something like that] God and behind fig leaves from each other]. I guess what concerns me about our popular understanding of one specific metaphor of atonement amongst the several that are found in the Scriptures is that sometimes we interpret what has to be done in us as simply a transaction that primarily or even only affects relationship on the vertical axis. Sure we assume that it will also affect our relationships with each other but we almost seem to treat that as a byproduct and don't even consider that it could be a chief part of the intention of the Father.

You wrote "It absolutely does not reconcile humans and humans, but it reconciles those who believe with their Creator for eternity."

I'm not sure if you were speaking of the substitutionary theory here but if you are I would question how you understand how we spend eternity. If it only reconciles me with God then what am I to think eternity is? Simply a grand cacophony of individual experiences between God and me, or living in the New Jerusalem with God dwelling in the midst of his people.

To be sure, Christians don't always "get along" church history has proven that, although I don't think I'd set the bar for a healthy vision of the kingdom based on the sketchy history of the church. We have done horrific things in the name of Christ.

Also, and I think I can say this with assurance, although I agree to be a follower of Christ can and in some way will [and even in some countries does] incorporate "teasing, mocking, and martyrdom" I don't see within early annals of Church history that we have recorded in the Scriptures, Christians martyring other Christians. But there are plenty of references where it suggests that those who are hypnotized by the power systems of the world will do these very things to those whose allegiance lies in the Kingdom of God and not the empires human beings set up.

I realize that you were paraphrasing my quote from McKinght, but I don't think he would say that a new theory is needed but perhaps just a revisiting and sitting awhile with the old.

Brett again great stuff lets keep the dialogue going it's truly energizing and inspiring to me.

Peace to you my friend,



I'm still trying to understand exactly what the distinction is between the atonement being personal and communal. They are both true at a certain level. The atonement is deeply personal on one leve, and also could be communal in nature to some extent (I need to do some further thinking).

When McKnight says that the old fashioned atonement theology doesn't make a difference and does nothing to reconcile humans with humans so therefore a new atonement theory is needed (paraphrasing from the quote above) he is directly attacking the substitutionary atonement theory. It appears that he sees no value at all with it because it does not go as far as he wants it to.
It absolutely does not reconcile humans and humans, but it reconciles those who believe with their Creator for eternity. I can't think of anywhere in the Bible where it says that Christians will always get along with other Christians. But I can think of quite a few that say the opposite. Christians have and always will be (we have it very easy in certain countries) teased and mocked and martyred for their faith.


Hey Brett, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm always up for healthy dialogue! Just wanted to clarify a thought: I hope that you didn't get the feeling that I would rather throw out the penal substitutionary theory of atonement, because I wouldn't. What I would like to see is a greater attention given to the different metaphors used throughout the Scriptures and begin to piece together a atonement theology with power to redeem the here and now as well as participate in the there and after. Too often the atonement is so individualized, when I look at Jesus and his ushering in of the kingdom what see it as a holistic model of redemption for all of creation that groans and waits.

Look forward to some great dialogue.

Peace to You,



I was asked to do a book review for the book "The Truth of the Cross" by RC Sproul. I received it this morning and will be going through it in the coming days. It is "peddling a primarily penal substitutionary theory atonement." It will quite certainly be at odds with what you are reading, so we could have some good discussion.

The doctrine of the atonement is under attack from liberal theologians like never before. Yes, it has been attacked before, but not like it is now. Quite honestly I cringe when I see it being attacked. No other "theory" of atonement fulfills everything that needs to be required to bring about our redemtpion.

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