Ok, I am now officially fed up with these guys that pass themselves off as some kind of Christian leader. I found a page on the website of Brian McLaren, founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, MD, with the heading, “Theory of Atonement.” The text is partially quoted here as follows: (original link is found here)
“Could you elaborate on your personal theory of atonement? If God wanted to forgive us, why didn't he just forgive us? Why did torturing Jesus make things better?
This is such an important and difficult question. … Short answer: I think the gospel is a many faceted diamond, and atonement is only one facet, and legal models of atonement (which predominate in western Christianity) are only one small portion of that one facet.
Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in “The Divine Conspiracy.” Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management,” to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I'd suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God.”
I find these statements to be so offensive that I must comment on them. First of all a little background. Atonement is not just one facet of the diamond of the Gospel, it IS the Gospel. In order for God to be God, He must be Holy first and foremost. The fact that He is the Creator and Giver of life in and of itself demands that we bow to His authority and that if He declares a matter to be true, by definition, it must be true. It also stands to reason that He has all rights to do as He pleases to, or with anyone He chooses.
Man is the rebellious creation of the most righteous and Holy God. When given the choice to serve God and enjoy fellowship with Him, Man made the choice to strive to be like God, which is the sin that banished Lucifer from God forever. At that moment, Man's spirit died (Ephesians 2:1) and his will became enslaved to his sin nature, and God would have been just to send Adam and Eve straight to Hell without any recourse. Isaiah 64:6 says “…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” If our righteousnesses are sickening to God, imagine what our sin is to Him!
But God chose not to immediately banish Man to Hell (I know, some of you emergents don't BELIEVE in a literal Hell, but that's fodder for another discussion). Romans 5 tells us that by His grace and through our faith (which itself is a gift of God Ephesians2:8-9) we are reconciled to God. Only by the work of Jesus's death on the cross and His resurrection is atonement made for our rebellious sin. The ONLY payment that can be made for sin is the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).
Second of all, Dallas Willard's comments that “atonement-centered understandings of the Gospel … create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else.” This is highly offensive to me because it demonstrates that Mr. Willard has no regard for the sacrifice that the blood of Christ accomplished and that that sacrifice it is not enough for the payment of sin. Life is in the blood and atonement can only be made through the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11). In order for Man to be redeemed and have his sin atoned, a perfect sacrifice had to be made and Christ was that perfect sacrifice.
I am growing so tired of hearing these emergent pastors talking about questioning everything. The way they are questioning seems to come from a doubter's heart. Do we really want to be led by someone who doesn't even know what they believe or worse yet, bases their belief system on the shaky foundation of their own intellect. All questions are able to be answered in the proper context of the Bible. It is the infallible Word Of God and is relevant to all generations. Doctrine must be taught and must be studied in its proper context in order combat this kind of heresy. Our concern must be for the souls of those that these emergent pastors are leading astray. The Bible has stood the test of time and will forever stand. Doctrine is the foundation that is strong and sure enough to build all of our lives upon. Psalm 94:16 asks us, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” Are we willing to stand for the truth, or are will more willing to let people die in their sin, but feel really good about themselves in the process. I pray that God makes me one of the former!