The Difficulty of Atonement

**I received the following book from InterVarsity Press (IVP) in exchange for an honest review. The following is my personal review.**

Mark Baker and Joel Green’s Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in the New Testament and Contemporary Contexts challenges how we look at the cross and how we look at God amid Jesus’s crucifixion. Near the end of the first chapter of the book the authors give a thorough thesis-type explanation of why they are writing on atonement. Under the sub-heading of “Setting an Agenda” the authors describe that they intend to address issues related to penal substitution (or the idea that Christ’s death on the cross was simply to take our punishment for us and declare us a sort of not-guilty). Through the use of scripture, history, and our contemporary context they hope to, for a lack of a better word, atone for the wrongdoing and misunderstanding in atonement theology. For Baker and Green, I think there is a deep conviction to get the cross right. To better understand the fullness and the richness of the crucifixion of Christ and how it represents much more than simple penal substitution.

Overall, I did not personally find many weakness with the book outside of my own cognitive understanding of certain ideas. I think that the authors presented ideas in ways where I could understand them enough to move forward in the text, but perhaps they could have been slightly clearer in defining difficult terms. Others, however, have found this book to be heretical and representing a wave of liberalism in theology. I did not get that sense whilst reading, but these are ideas that some more fundamentalist readers may be uncomfortable with.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in either the historical development of theology (which I think this book is very much a part of) or simply those interested in atonement theology. I would suggest having some prior knowledge of the subject matter, or at the very least some form of Google alongside. This is not my absolute favorite piece of theology that I have encountered, but I think it is some of the best in its field.

Studying atonement in an in-depth and creative way is something that Recovering the Scandal of the Cross actualizes in its entirety. This book represents the kind of forward thinking that much of our generation is passionate about, and for that reason I think this book will stay relevant for a very long time. If not for its theology specifically, at the very least for its care to properly communicate and understand a very misunderstood idea in Christian theology.


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