"Overcoming the widespread Christian belief that 'Jesus died for my sins seems an insurmountable challenge! Preachers, liturgical rites, hymns and religious education curricula continue to reinforce 'atonement theology/theories.'"..."Personally and pastorally, 'atonement' thinking creates a mire of destructive results and I, for one, would well appreciate your cogent analysis of how we might best approach this."
The above quotation is from a letter written to Bishop John Shelby Spong by a liberal pastor decrying the prevalence of the atonement in the church. (ht: Slice of Laodicea) Sadly, he is not alone in his belief that a "bloodless" Christianity is to be preferred in this enlightened age.
However, in order to overcome this widespread Christian belief, it is necessary to gut the heart and soul of the Good News. From the Garden of Eden, where God knits Adam and Eve animals coverings, to the last pages of John's Revelation where the saints overcome by the blood of the lamb, the story of our faith is etched in blood. The details of foreshadowing sacrifices fill dozens of pages in the Old Testament, the majority focus in the Gospels are upon the passion of Christ and what is to be done with the 43 references in the new Testament to the "blood of Jesus?"
Rather than being the source of violence, brutality and suffering - the atoning death of Christ is the answer to these things. There is no other solution for the evils wrought by sinful humanity. We cannot save ourselves from the blood-lust. It needed to be confronted, engaged in a life and death struggle and defeated in terms it could understand. Blood for blood.
David Legge is correct when he proclaims: "When He wanted to redeem you, He had to shed his blood. A word wouldn't do it! A sentence wouldn't do it! A lifetime of holiness and an example to the world of humanity that they had never seen before, the teachings that far outstretched every philosopher, every religious leader ever- that wouldn't do it! He had to shed His blood!"
What we need today is not less attention paid to the atonement but more. Not less singing of the blood of Jesus, but more. The truth that Jesus died to save us from sin is not a doctrine to be discarded, but embraced. Rather than removing the cross, as some do out of seeker-sensitivity, let us give it again its central place in worship. Let us once again preach Christ and Him crucified!