Yesterday I drove past a neighborhood church sporting the sign, “Jesus paid the price… you can keep the change.” Disconcerting was the dissonance between the progressive denomination (United Church of Christ) and the regressive theology invoked (sacrificial atonement). Having walked away from my life in ministry just weeks earlier, I am loathe to jump into a theological conversation and I initially pass on the bait. ”To each their own,” I reply when asked to comment.
Later in the day I received an email from a former colleague, expressing his concern with theological integrity and requesting conversation. Like me, he explains, he believes Jesus about God but does not believe the church about Jesus. With this truth, he asks, how can we stand before congregations uncritically parroting phrases that infer sacrificial atonement? What, he wonders, is the price for claiming that Jesus already paid it?
Before I reply to the theological question, I must confess a personal investment.