I recently finished a kindle only book by Tony Jones called A Better Atonement and for myself it was timely in my recent journey back into the world of theology. If there is anything that I have wrestled with over the past few years of this transition it’s been the need to find a more generous atonement theory. The classic evangelical penal substitution theory was not feeling right to me and the more I read the bible the less and less I actually felt it was even biblical. In fact this book finally tipped me over the edge and I can say strongly that penal substitution (although having some truth to it) is no longer something I would consider myself ascribing to as my main understanding of what happened when Jesus died on the cross.
Tony Jones does a very helpful thing in this book; by walking through the many different theories, of which many were the main held theories of the early church before penal substitution even became main stream he establishes a good base of where we have come from. One of his best points was the fact that of all the councils that were held during the churches early years, there was never one for “atonement” suggesting that it was never something that the early church considered critical. History in this regard does become very helpful in the journey and establishment of a generous and hopeful atonement.
I definitely recommend this short easy to read book for all people interested in reengaging the atonement topic. Especially if like me, you are wanting to challenge the theory you’ve been taught for so long as critical to your faith, when it is likely it was the best theory for an “in and out” Christianity. I am a both/and person and realizing that there is so much more that I don’t know that I can’t just settle on one theory or idea is capital T truth.