Here at Campbell, we are in a worship series about the atonement. Each week, we’ve been preaching on one of the various ideas about how the atonement happens.
Having discussed three atonement theories (ransom, recapitulation, and satisfaction), and with two more to go (substitution and moral example), a few people have asked me if I’m going to share which theory is the “right one.”
Or they’ve asked me which of the theories does the church affirm as orthodox, or which one do United Methodists believe, or some variation thereof.
One of the goals of doing this worship series was to show that “the church” believes a diverse array of things, and that’s okay. Even when it comes to a pretty important doctrine like the atonement, there is room for discussion, room to ponder, room to think.
That’s because God is ultimately mysterious. I ought never dare to claim that I understand fully and exactly just how God works. To do so would border on blasphemy, in my opinion.
The atonement, the belief that humanity is reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, is a foundational Christian belief. These various theories we have been discussing are different answers to the question of “how” this reconciliation happens. The fact that it happens is not in question; how exactly God does it, is.
Nor do I want anyone to think that we are supposed to be figuring out an answer once-and-for-all to this “how” question. This series isn’t supposed to be a multiple choice quiz and at the end the correct answer will be given. The journey into the mystery of God is a life-long endeavor, so be comfortable in the ambiguity.
So we will take up another atonement theory on Sunday, the “Substitution” theory. I’ll be honest with you - this is my least favorite of all of them. But it is a part of our faith, so we’ll think, we’ll discuss, we’ll ponder the mystery together. See y’all in church!