We’ve heard for decades that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Adam and Eve sinned and God broke off the relationship with humankind. Our sin separated us from God and the only way to restore the relationship between humankind and God was for Jesus to suffer and die. Jesus died that we might live. God had to have a sacrifice. Once Jesus died all was forgiven. The problem with this view of what Jesus accomplished by his life, death and resurrection is that God is made out to be bloodthirsty, judgmental and unmerciful. This is a very different portrait of God from the one Jesus paints of God as a God of love.
J.D. Myer addresses this problem in his book, The Atonement of God. Myer points out that this view of the cross of Christ (Myers call it the Penal Substitution View) is not the only view. In fact, this view of Christ’s cross was not the “gospel” of the early church and wasn’t the “gospel” of the Christian Church for a significant part of its history.
After establishing these facts about the Penal Substitution View, Myer offers an alternative that is both Biblical and historical. He does so in a clear manner that both Christian and non-Christian can understand. Myers does this, in part, by sharing his own faith journey and changing theological views.
I like Myer’s clear writing style, his use of Scripture and his solid theological foundations for his argument. What I really like, though, is the way Myer demonstrates how our view of what Jesus accomplished on the cross affects our approach to justice issues, diversity, service, stewardship–in fact every area of our lives as followers of Jesus.
If you are uncomfortable with the Penal Substitution View this is a good book for you to read. Even if you aren’t uncomfortable with the idea that God had God’s son killed, Myer’s book is a good read. It is an important read, too. Not only does it enlighten our understanding of the Bible, it also enlightens our lives of faith.