What does it mean to be an inclusive church?

Being a community means welcoming those with diverse views, not cocooning oneself with like-minded people.

I’ve never felt comfortable with the label “progressive.” It buys into the narrative that “things are gradually getting better because of the activism of people like me”—a narrative that seems under-theologized, to say nothing of narcissistic. But I seem to have found myself in a place among people who basically believe all of it—the virgin birth and the resurrection, shall we say—but see Jesus as a figure of liberation and radical recalibration, rather than a signpost pointing back to the secure 1950s. And I find myself at a church that likes to be challenged to explore the theological roots of its largely soft-left social and political convictions.

So this year on Good Friday I decided to take on the theology of the atonement. My premise is that everyone has long had difficulty with satisfaction and substitution theories, and yet there is often an eerie silence when you ask a revisionist Christian to articulate precisely what place the cross has in Christian theology and whether Jesus’ crucifixion was necessary, inevitable, or unfortunate.

In my remarks I highlighted a number of features common to several atonement theories—utterly centered on human scarcity rather than God’s abundance, devoid of context, little engagement with the narrative of Jesus’ life, strains of subtle or less subtle antisemitism, overemphasis on the Fall—and landed on the key problem, manifest even in Christus Victor, which has had a recent comeback: they all forget that God’s means and God’s ends are identical. They tend to push God out of shape to achieve something more important than God’s character remaining unchanged. Which means we can’t, in the end, trust God’s character.