The Gospel is not just about guilt and forgiveness

Tim Chesterton continues to post excellent summaries of Yoder’s writings on the church and how it should maintain its distinction from the world.

Here is an extract which, although tangential to Tim’s main theme, is relevant to the ongoing atonement debate:

The Gospel is not to be understood as being simply about how individuals can alleviate their guilt and find forgiveness and peace of mind. That is to read the tortured psychological history of Martin Luther back into the New Testament. The Gospel, according to the New Testament, is about the creation of a new people for God, formed from communities (Jews and Gentiles) which historically have been at loggerheads with each other. Thus the God who loves his enemies calls into being a people who are learning to imitate him and love their enemies. According to Ephesians 3, this is the centre of God’s plan; this is the great and amazing mystery which has been revealed to Paul.

How true! And how sad that some people make penal substitutionary atonement, or for that matter any theory of the atonement, so central to their theology, and to their gospel presentations, that they almost ignore these implications which Yoder points out, and many other consequences.

As I wrote before, the gospel needs to be presented in a relevant way. The list I gave there of human needs, and how the gospel meets them, may have been a bit narrow, because it focused on individual matters. A more complete list would have included more communal needs, such as reconciliation and belonging in a community. These are met by other aspects of Jesus’ work which are in a sense models of the atonement, although sometimes considered separate matters: through his death and resurrection, he reconciled former enemies and founded his own new community, the church. These aspects of the matter must be included in a fully rounded presentation of the gospel.

But, Tim, we don’t have national flags in my Anglican church, except for the international set we got for the football (soccer) World Cup!

0 thoughts on “The Gospel is not just about guilt and forgiveness

  1. Thanks, Peter. Has anyone got a link to a web page/article that lists every aspect of the atonement (including cosmic, personal, social and divine dimensions) ?

  2. Good question, Alastair, but I think the link would have to be to a hefty tome, not just to a web page or article. Or perhaps I could suggest this link, which is to the Bible (TNIV as a PDF), as arguably this includes every valid aspect of the atonement.

  3. That would be great, Alastair. But you may need a lot of free time!

    Actually you may like to look at Norman McIlwain’s book, see here for details. It doesn’t list every aspect of the atonement, and I don’t endorse it all, but the whole book (not just the online extracts) goes into a lot of what you need to look at.

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