Lighthouse Trails Research Journal VOL. 7 | NO. 5 - Page 4

Lighthouse Trails Research Journal 4 Atonement Rejected!—continued from page 1 would vehemently object if someone told them that emerging church leaders don’t like the Cross. They would jump up and say, “Yes, they do. I’ve heard them talk about Jesus and His going to the Cross. They say they love the Cross.” Some emerging church leaders do say they love the Cross, but an underlying theme has entered the church. It says that while Jesus’ going to the Cross was an example of sacri- fice and servanthood that we should follow, the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death for the sins of mankind—well, that is not who God is. A loving God would never do that! Such a violent act would make Christianity a “slaughterhouse religion.” 1 Liberal theologian and pastor of the Riv- erside Church in New York City, Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), believed that the doctrine of the atonement, where “Jesus suffered as a substitute for us” because of our sins, is a “precivilized barbarity.” 2 In his book, The Modern Use of the Bible, Fosdick says that Jesus’ going to the Cross should be seen as an example of a life of service and sacrifice and not compared with “old animal sacrifices” and “made ‘a pious fraud’ played by God upon the devil.” 3 In Fosdick’s book Dear Mr. Brown, he states: Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice, Christ saved the world. 4 Fosdick ends that statement with a pronounced—“No!” He insists, “These le- galistic theories of the atonement are in my judgment a theological disgrace.” 5 Fosdick considered the idea that God would actually send His Son to die on a Cross to take our place to be the basis for a violent and bloody religion. He rejected the biblical message of an atonement and substitutionary sacrifice. Fosdick was the pastor of Riverside Church of New York City from 1925 to 1946. While he has been long gone, his ideologies have Volume 7—No. 5 remained intact and have drifted right into the evangelical church through emergent leaders. In October 2006, Riverside Church held the 5 th Fosdick Convocation in honor of their former pastor. Two of the emerg- ing church’s most influential teachers were there as speakers in honor of Fosdick—Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo. 6 As I will show you, McLaren resonates with Fos- dick’s view of the Cross. FALSE ADVERTISING FOR GOD n an interview, Brian McLaren ques- tioned the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death, calling it “false advertis- ing for God”: I [O]ne of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God. 7 (emphasis added) What an extraordinary example of faith under attack. If McLaren is right, all those who have ever lived and believed in Christ’s atonement have been misled and wrong. McLaren has taken the freedom to recon- struct what faith means by distorting the Scriptures, or worse yet, saying the very opposite of what the inspired Word of God says. This is blasphemy! McLaren also states: And I heard one well-known Christian leader, who—I won’t mention his name, just to protect his reputation. ‘Cause some people would use this against him. But I heard him say it like this: The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you—Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else. 8 To further elaborate on McLaren’s rejec- tion of the message of Christ’s atonement through His blood, we look to Episcopal priest Alan Jones. In his book Reimagining Christianity, Jones carries through with this idea that God never intended Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to be considered a payment for our sins: The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it. 9 The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution [the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine. 10 Brian McLaren has endorsed Reimagining Christianity and says of the book: Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from Continues on next page SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019