A Community Called Atonement

As a staff, we recently went through Scot McKnight’s book, A Community Called Atonement. I love McKnight’s take on atonement. From my understanding, his view is that the evangelical community has limited what atonement is by picking one atonement theory and sticking to it rather than collecting a “golf bag” of theories to work from. He used a golf analogy saying that dogmatically sticking to a single atonement theory is like golfing with a single club: you don’t golf very well and in an incomplete manner. McKnight challenges us to expand how we see atonement… yes, there is still substitutionary atonement, but that is not it.

There are three themes that stood out for me:

  1. Sin is a distortion of our relationships in four directions: to God, to ourselves, to other people, and to creation. The atonement brings about the restoration of all four relationships. For me, this is a more full view of the atonement.
  2. We are broken images of God in need of being made whole again.
  3. We take are meant to be agents of atonement (not that we provide atonement, but the Holy Spirit uses us in bringing restored relationships to God, self, others and creation all around us)
I think this brings an even greater richness to the story of atonement and it makes the gospel less individualistic.
How does this play out in children’s ministry? Well, for one, I think these themes help children to understand the “sin problem” a little bit better. Instead of looking at sin as breaking rules, it is understood as broken relationships. They can understand that things in the world around them aren’t right: wars, the environment, bullying… We can let children know that God didn’t plan for things to be the way they are. He wanted everyone to be in perfect realtionships with him, themselves, others and creation. We can then invite children to be a part of making this world a better place… being a part of bringing a taste of God’s Kingdom to their communities, friends and families! Children learn that it’s not just about “me and God.”

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