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I was reading through my copy of Jesus and His Death that Scot McKnight gave me as a gift while here speaking at the WTS Emerging Church Forum, and I was thinking back on his lecture and Dan McCartney’s – both on atonement. Listen to some of Scot’s concluding thoughts in his monograph;

I sketch here only the rudiments of what I call an ecclesial atonement theory. The issue, so far as I see it, is not the how of atonement – there are various valid options for working out the how – but the whereunto. And the answer to the whereunto question is simple: the design of the atonement is to create a community, an ecclesia, a koinonia, a zoe, a new creation. The purpose is to take humans in one condition and put them in another condition, to take them from beign enslaved – from being in Adam, from being sinful – and put them in freedom, in Christ, and in holiness. (pg. 371)

…In these events, Jesus is both, representative and substitute, paving the way for those who are to follow by trusting in him, by obeying him, or in better terms, by loving him. The focus of the NT witness, again, is on the body and on the cosmos, not on the individual – though this does not rob individuals of significance. The death of Jesus protects the followers of Jesus from condemnation and ushers them into being right with God – so that, as an ecclesial body, they may worship God, love him, and serve him on earth while they await the final day when they will recieve the total redemption of their bodies. (pgs. 371-2)

When my semester ends I’m going to take this gift with me to Telluride where my wifes family spends a week skiing each year and read through Scot’s thoughts and labors (In between snowboarding and eating with the movie stars and millionare types – yea, they roll like that – praise God for fun family gigs!). My first impression is yes, yes my Lord’s death is that significant and has that broad a scope. Where I struggle is the idea  that the focus of the NT is not on the individual. Maybe I should also be struggling on why that focus is not on community instead. ‘Focus’, there’s a tricky word so loaded with our own values (how do determine a theological focus of a Biblical text?)…I will be wrestling with that word I’m sure as I read through the gift.  As well as the implications for viewing atonement both as a representative and substitutionary reality.  

MY QUESTION TO MY CENTERIST AND REFORMED COMMUNITY:

If Scot’s point is only that the atonement has data within the NT itself that support not only a substitutionary theological reading but also a representative one, is there a biblical theology that supports this? why, why not?

If Scot’s point is that the focus of the atonement theologies of the NT are on the ecclesial community and cosmos, and not on the individual, is there biblical data that supports this? why, why not?

A CRAZY, YET I ASSURE YOU QUITE SANE IDEA:

Purchase the book for yourself and wrestle through it. Here. I’m sure that you will find it a rewarding sparing partner and you and I may find it to be a teacher as well.

Thank you Scot for this wonderful and cumbersome gift, I’m sure Jess won’t mind me reading it over some cocoa…