Before I leave the subject of the atonement and how our evangelical view leaves us with a conflicted view of the Godhead, I would like to recommend a book by Derek Flood titled, “Healing the Gospel: A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice and the Cross.”
While I’ve held this view on the atonement for some time, I just recently discovered the book. While Flood is a theologian, this book is an easy and quick read (only 97 pages). It gives scriptural support for this particular view of why Jesus had to come and die for us–one that the early church held, that was held by everyone for 11 centuries, and is still held in the Eastern Orthodox church.
Here is the description of the book from the Amazon website…
Why did Jesus have to die? Was it to appease a wrathful God’s demand for punishment? Does that mean Jesus died to save us from God? How could someone ever truly love or trust a God like that? How can that ever be called “Good News” It’s questions like these that make so many people want to have nothing to do with Christianity.
Healing the Gospel challenges the assumption that the Christian understanding of justice is rooted in a demand for violent punishment, and instead offers a radically different understanding of the gospel based on God’s restorative justice. Connecting our own experiences of faith with the New Testament narrative, author Derek Flood shows us an understanding of the cross that not only reveals God’s heart of grace, but also models our own way of Christ-like love. It’s a vision of the gospel that exposes violence, rather than supporting it-a gospel rooted in love of enemies, rather than retribution. The result is a nonviolent understanding of the atonement that is not only thoroughly biblical, but will help people struggling with their faith to encounter grace.
I’ve talked to lots of people who say they want nothing to do with God and I can attest that it’s mostly because of these faulty notions of the atonement that Derek Flood addresses.
What I really liked about this book is Flood’s point that we should let Jesus define the Gospel and not turn it into some bullet-point formula (which we are good at!) So…how did Jesus preach the Gospel? Did He not do so by loving people–doing good wherever He went, healing their sick, raising their dead children back to life, by not condemning them…by connecting with them where they were at?
So, if you were like me and first got saved by God’s amazing grace and filled with His unconditional love, and then were taught that God hates sinners and is “dangling them like a spider over the flames” (thank you, Jonathan Edwards), this book is for you. It will help you answer some of those nagging questions deep in your soul that have produced conflict and confusion about the nature of God. It will bring the love and goodness of God back into sync with His justice, helping you to see that when you’ve seen Jesus you’ve seen an exact representation of the Father (John 14:7; Heb.1:3).
I’m with Derek Flood. Our gospel message desperately needs healing–both for us and for the people of the world that the Father loves so much that He bankrupted Heaven to be with them forever.
And maybe, just maybe, the Good News we preach will be good news once again. 🙂