So, in my recent study of theories of The Atonement, I bought an Amazon Prime membership so I could borrow for "free" Tony Jones' book, A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin. Then, yesterday, for Ash Wednesday, Tony puts it on sale for free to buy! Now I can't borrow another book for free until the month is up. (In actuality though, I was going to buy a Prime membership anyway, but I thought I'd share my experience of life messing with me, at least now I can read it on any device for "free".)
Tony does a good job discussing Original Sin and the origins of how we think about it due to Augustine and others. Basically, Tony proposes that the notion that we inherit the guilt of Adam's sin through biological parentage is ridiculous. Why should we be held accountable for someone else's sin? That's not justice. Tony reminds us of the corporate/social aspects of sin. Sin is bigger than just my individual, personal mistakes. The point he makes is that we inherit Death from Adam, but not the guilt of his sin. So that changes how one views The Atonement and the work of Christ.
He then goes on to outline a few theories of The Atonement, ending with the one that he thinks is most helpful. He touches on the Penal Substitutionary or Satisfaction Theory of Atonement and in his words wishes to "dethrone" it from being the primary understanding of The Atonement. As you can guess, I agree. As I've already written in the last week, the PSToA can be useful, but for the most part can prove to be toxic to faith because it takes power away from the Resurrection and promotes a concept of justice that is not Restorative or Redemptive. Tony even includes some discussion of current proponents of PSToA Mark Driscoll and John Piper. He even discusses a conversation he had with Piper about different theories of the Atonement. All along the way, Jones reminds us these are just "theories" not scripture, and all of them can be used to communicate what God is doing in Jesus Christ on the Cross in different ways to different contexts.
Jones also talks about the Christus Victor Theory of Atonement and The Ransom Captive Theory of Atonement, which are closely related to each other. He writes those off because he doesn't believe in Demons or personified evil like Satan. You can choose to agree or disagree as you please. I am ambivalent about it because I leave the possibility open that those things exist, but I doubt it.
The last two theories of The Atonement are the ones that I think deserve the most thought: The Last Scapegoat and Solidarity. Since this post is getting long enough, I'll discuss those in a couple of future posts and conclude this one with some general thoughts on Tony's book.
I recommend the book because it is a pretty quick read that is not overly academic. However, that is also my main complaint about it. It goes through everything very quickly. I really wish the Solidarity Theory of Atonement was developed more. Jones basically just quotes Jurgen Moltmann a few times to explain it. Including some reasons why this should dethrone PSToA would be nice. He would just have to answer the question: How is thinking of the Atonement in this way more helpful in today's context than PSToA? He had previously stated why he doesn't like PSToA, and he briefly says why he likes the Solidarity Theory of the Atonement, but I'm looking for more explanation. I guess "de-throning" PSToA is enough. He relativizes all of the theories as useful. If I were supporting a particular theory, I guess I would want to put it on the throne instead of PSToA. But as Tony says "It is just a theory, right?"
All in all, it is a good read to get a quick overview of Theories of the Atonement. The ideas presented could be made into a much lengthier more academic book.
You can also read Tony's blog, Theoblogy, at www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.