Q & R: Atonement

Here’s the Q:

You missed a great event at C21. Sorry you weren’t there but you were proclaimed “The McLaren” at the conference, I don’t know whether that will buy anything at MacDonalds.
Question – Where are you now on atonement? I’m reading everything I can find and like Denny Weaver … Recovering the Scandal was good but not definite. Any wisdom?

Wish I could have been at C21! (If folks want to order cd’s of what they missed, they can get them here.)
On atonement … there is so much important work being done on this at the moment, and like you, I’ve been reading a lot on the subject.
As a follow-up to Recovering the Scandal, Proclaiming the Scandal is well worth reading. (Full disclosure: I contributed a chapter to it.) Michael Hardin and the folks at Preaching Peace are doing important work in this area as well …
In my upcoming book, I try to go one level deeper than I have gone before in dealing with this subject.
I’ve only dealt directly with the subject of atonement in a few of my writings: primarily A Generous Orthodoxy and Story We Find Ourselves In. In those books, I tried to alert people to the reality that there are multiple theories of atonement, and we don’t need to limit ourselves to just one. Then in Secret Message of Jesus and Everything Must Change, I challenged the conventional assumption that “the gospel = a theory of atonement.” (Instead, I propose, “the gospel = the proclamation of the kingdom of God.”) But in writing NKC, I finally got closer to what I think is the root issue – why many of us are uneasy about the conventional articulations of atonement theories.
Atonement involves the solving of a problem or the treating of a disease … and Christian theories of atonement deal with how Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, and resurrection solve the problem or treat the disease. The problem is … too often we don’t question the conventional framing of the problem or disease.
The problem/disease which atonement solves/heals, in my view, is always framed within a narrative, and if the narrative is faulty, our atonement theories will be inherently problematic. Until we excavate and evaluate the implicit narrative that we tend to assume pre-critically, I don’t think we’ll get the breakthroughs we need in thinking about atonement. We’ll just keep arguing about which theory has the best solution/treatment when, in fact, we’re defining/diagnosing the underlying problem/disease in very different ways.
So … my upcoming book is structured around ten questions, the first of which is, “What is the shape (or arc) of the biblical narrative?” A pretty obvious question, I suppose, but not one that I’ve felt we’ve grappled with effectively so far. By articulating a different vision of the shape of the biblical narrative, I hope we can at least see why the issue of atonement is so important, and we can better understand the root source of our disagreements.
And for many of us who can no longer fully subscribe in good conscience to some of the conventional atonement formulas, it’s encouraging to see how some very hopeful, beautiful, and more biblically-faithful alternatives are coming into view – helping us cherish afresh the profound and powerful and truly scandalous meaning of the cross and its relevance to our lives and world today.