Atonement Debate in the News

In John by Bradley Cole

“Controversy surrounding William P. Young’s “The Shack” has drawn attention to a major theological debate that many readers of the popular novel may not be aware of. The debate concerns how Christians understand the significance of Christ’s death on the cross. Questions are being raised about one of the traditional concepts of the atonement. The controversy came to light in a popular forum recently, when Baptist pastor Kendall Adams interviewed Young on radio station KAYP in Iowa. Adams pressed Young on why he had God assert in the book: “I don’t punish sin. Sin is its own punishment.”

Adams replied that Young was denying “penal substitutionary atonement” — that Jesus paid the penalty for human sins on the cross — which Adams stated was “the heart of the gospel.” Young agreed that he did not fully accept the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. In the interview, Young defended his position by stating that there is ‘a huge debate that’s going on in theology right now within the evangelical community’ concerning the doctrine of the atonement.”

You can read the article in its entirety here. The article then goes on to describe 3 models of the atonement: Christus Victor, Penal Substitution, and Moral Influence. Everyone agrees that moral influence is a part of the atonement – if you are not morally influenced by the death of Christ then there is a real problem! I think that it’s a good thing that people are discussing this today. We need to continually strive for greater light on this all important subject. The cross should be the pinnacle moment in universal history where we discover that God is good, that God can be trusted, that God even forgives people who would torture him to death, and that God would lay down his own life to save others. Some views of the cross, however, paint an entirely different picture.

It will forever be remembered as both the greatest and worst day in universal history. The cross is the clearest revelation of God’s character, but also it is the clearest revelation of “the other side”: sin, Satan, and humanity. Everything of real consequence comes into perfect focus at the cross.

Video recorded at the Good News Tour 2008 – Chattanooga, TN (March 28-29)