Monday, August 18, 2014

golf clubs or violin strings...or..

Sometimes Scot McKnight's image of "atonement theories"  as golf clubs belonging to a golf bag, from which we choose the proper club for the shot has seemed a bit cheesy/down home/utilitarian.  (Also, Tad DeLay makes the case that the analogy breaks down, see this). I was delighted to find he also offered another image: violin strings.  Also, his  suggestion of "identification for incorporation" as end to theory wars, and his  work on making atonement practical are wonderful:

"What we are most in need of today is not a continuance of the atonement wars for a privileged metaphor, but a vigorous discussion of the value of each of the metaphors so that each image is invited to the table. And I contend that identification for incorporation is such an invitation and.. ... Lest it be charged that I am simply turning the tide back a notch in arguing for one . . . I'm arguing instead for an embrasive category, one that includes each metaphor in a larger, rounded whole. We need to use all the clubs in our bag and we need a bag that can hold them all.

Let me try another image. The magic of a violin is the capacity for the violinist to make each string work in harmony with the others to create the appropriate sound. If a violinist somehow managed to play only one string on the violin, the sound could never be complete. Some theories of atonement ask violinists either to pluck all but one string or to play gospel music as though only one string really mattered. I want to contend that we need each of the strings, and that we need to seek for a violinist with a bow that can stroke the strings so well that the potency of each string creates a harmonious composition that puts our hearts at rest." (p. 114)

At this point many discussions of atonement end. But there is more ground to cover. We are now ready to explore atonement not only as the act of God but,as is the case with all emerging theology, as something we are invited to perform  perform with God in this world. Atonement is praxis..

I stand here on the threshold of a doorway that few enter: atonement is something done not only by God for us, but also something we do with God for others. This door opens to those who are learning that atonement is also praxis. That we suggest that atonement is also praxis is not an attack on the view that atonement is something God does for us. Instead, it is the conviction that atonement is embodied in what  God does for us in such a way that we are summoned to participate with God in his redemptive work.."But lest I be accused of something worse than heresy, let me make it clear up front: I do not believe humans atone for others and I do not believe humans can atone for themselves. Atonement is the work of God---in Christ, through the Spirit---but God has chosen to summon us to participate in God's work, even though we are cracked Eikons or, to use Paul's words, 'clay jars,' (2 Cor. 4:7)...We are a community called atonement"  A Community Called Atonement
pp  114,  117-188, 156

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!