Affirmation of being: In defense of atonement theology

Explanations of the cross have been subject to major critiques in recent decades. Is it really the case that, given human sin, someone has to pay?

During the waning days of the 1970s Jesus movement, I was 15 and clueless, like most people that age. My church’s youth group had a tradition of traveling each year to a large, outdoor Christian music festival. The event, a self-styled alternative to the Woodstock legacy, offered camping, communal sources of drinking water and food—not to mention outdoor sanitation—and plenty of Jesus served up through “Christian rock” music. Of course, it was really the camp meeting tradition redux. The first evening, with several thousand others and in an atmosphere of drum kits, guitars and evangelical preaching, an “invitation” to faith was issued.

When the call came, I went forward. Several of us were ushered into the old tabernacle building, part barn and part chapel. It was a misty night, and I was greeted by a young bearded seminarian in a rain poncho. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember him being genuinely kind, not condescending or controlling. He listened as I shared my heart, and we prayed.

I was not harangued about my sins. The discussion that night revolved around God’s love, the conviction that God entered the world in human form with a tenacious care that never quit. When those wielding power and privilege sought to make him stop, God in the person of Jesus remained steadfast, even accepting execution.