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ISBN/ASIN : 0830815716
Manufacturer : InterVarsity Press|
Release data : September, 2000
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A book that opens a much needed discussion...
The book offers a critique of the penal substitution model of atonement. Penal substitution is found through evangelical theology, and enjoys wide popularity today (see for example Christianity Today's "Call for Unity" of June 14th for a list of theologians and authors who consent to this view). The book begins with an examination of the various "models" or "ways of speaking about atonement" present in the New Testament. The authors argue that the New Testament writers did not present only one view of the atoning work of the cross, but instead presented a variety of metaphors and models that were rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and connected to the specific contexts of the writers.
The book then proceeds to survey some models of atonement from church history, looking at thinkers such as Irenaeus, Anselm, Charles Hodge and others. With respect to Hodge and penal substituion, the authors argue that Hodge's notion of justice is too deeply entrenched in a Western idea of justice, and can lead to a warped view of God. The book concludes with examples of people who are trying to re-articulate the saving significance of the cross today in their own specific contexts.
This book is an important book because it highlights the need for evangelical Christians to think seriously about how to contextualize the message of the atonement. If missionaries in Africa or Japan need to contextualize the gospel, why shouldn't Western Christians do the same? This book is a call for Christians in North America to re-engage their culture with a message of the cross that speaks clearly into their situation.
This book is also important because it offers a balanced, biblical critique of penal substitution. For too long evangelicalism has allowed penal substitution to remain the dominate model, without seriously looking at the implications and consequences of this model. This book opens up the question of atonement in evangelicalism to re-examination, while still trying to be faithful to the biblical text.
Finally, a note to those who might be scared off by all this theological language. Don't be! This book is dense, but also very readable and understandable and would be a valuable resource for anyone interested in recovering the scandal of the cross for their own contexts.
Also, for those of you who have read this book, more of Mark's writing can be found [on the internet].