Since finishing my undergraduate studies in theology I have read very few books on systematics. This is not a confession, just a statement of fact. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, far from it. My Prof was John Thompson who had studied under Barth and was a world expert. A fine gentleman as well. He was a gracious teacher who made sytematics exciting, even thrilling sometimes I remember him talking of those places in theology where understanding blurs into paradox – and he wasn’t frightened by it (unusual for a Presbyterian).
Anyway, I’ve read very little since then because the sterile debates of we students often found ourselves in. They just never got anywhere. And as I got back involved in work after study, involved in the real sectarian and community divisions that afflicted us in NI, I realised that unless these theological arguments cut some street-level ice, I wasn’t interested. I believed and continued to believe passionately in good theology, I just didn’t have the time for sterile debate.
Anyway, I was reminded of all this last week (in a good way) as I read Scot McKnight’s latest offering, A Community Called Atonement, my first book of theology in years. This is not a review of the book, but I do want to acknowledge it as the kind of book I wished I had access to in those early years after graduation.
Though I got a bit bogged down in the middle as he building his case, memories of those earlier days came back, the book was wonderfully applied, and the journey through it was worth it to get to the last section on Atonement as Missional Praxis – one of the best examples of applied theology I’ve encountered.
"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" (p117)
Scot’s blog is well worth checking out as an example of careful, thoughtful scholarship, presented in an irenic spirit. And for a relatively brief and accessible book on atonement theology, this is excellent.