What Does the Bible Say About Atonement?: An Interview with Joshua M. McNall https://chrisonet.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/what-does-the-bible-say-about-atonement-an-interview-with-joshua-m-mcnall.jpg
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Joshua M. McNallThe Bible presents the thriller of salvation by way of Jesus Christ in a number of pictures. What if these separate pictures have been match collectively to comprise one grand impression of Christ’s saving work whereas additionally permitting each bit to retain its recognizable particularity?

Bible Gateway interviewed Joshua M. McNall about his guide, The Mosaic of Atonement: An Built-in Strategy to Christ’s Work (Zondervan, 2019).


What’s the theological that means of the phrase atonement?

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Joshua M. McNall “Atonement” is without doubt one of the few phrases in our theological lexicon that really originates from English. It speaks to the “at-one-ment” (reconciliation) made potential between God and people due to Jesus’s work. Within the phrases of Scripture, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting individuals’s sins towards them. And he has dedicated to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19 NIV; italics added).

Why is it vital that Christians (if not in a position to totally perceive, no less than) take into account the work of Christ’s atonement?

Joshua M. McNall There’ll at all times be a degree of thriller surrounding salvation. For that purpose, Paul speaks of being “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1 ESV). However the incapability to know atonement totally shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring vital questions that encompass it. If a doctrine appears absurd or self-contradictory, then our religion known as into query.

The purpose of theologians like myself is to not expel the thriller however to steward it properly, and to concentrate to the understanding of the atonement that we can have by way of Scripture and custom.

Briefly clarify why there are variations in interpretation on the best way the Bible addresses Christ’s atonement.

Joshua M. McNall One purpose there are variations is that Scripture itself makes use of completely different metaphors and pictures to assist us grasp Christ’s work. My declare, nonetheless, is that these completely different biblical “images” of atonement usually are not contradictory: they match collectively specifically methods—just like the items in a grand mosaic.

In a nutshell, what are these variations?

Joshua M. McNall In church historical past, Christians constructed upon Scripture to conceive of various “models” of atonement. Like a mannequin of a toy airplane or a fireplace engine, these interpretations of the atonement are imperfect tips to a actuality that’s a lot bigger than the “thing” (salvation in Christ) that we will maintain in our palms or in our minds.

These completely different fashions embody:

  1. Recapitulation: The concept that Jesus acts for us as a type of true or second “Adam.”
  2. Penal Substitution or Vicarious Judgment: The concept that Jesus takes upon himself the divinely sanctioned penalty for human sin.
  3. Triumph: The concept that Jesus conquers Devil and achieves a victory over the forces of evil. That is usually known as the Christus Victor view.
  4. Ethical Affect: The concept that Jesus’s actions encourage us to comply with his loving and holy instance by the facility of the Spirit.

Sadly, there’s a downside in lots of therapies of atonement: these completely different fashions have usually been pitted towards one another in a type of aggressive hierarchy, or just unfold out on the desk however with none connectedness between them (in a type of disconnected plurality).

We badly want an built-in strategy to Christ’s work. That’s the place The Mosaic of Atonement is available in.

Why have you ever chosen the mosaic metaphor?

Joshua M. McNall A mosaic is a useful metaphor as a result of the person “pieces” of the biblical image of atonement (recapitulation, triumph, and many others.) are supposed to come collectively for a much bigger function. They’re meant to level us to God in Christ, by way of the facility of the Spirit.

The mosaic metaphor additionally helps keep away from the 2 extremes I discussed earlier:

  1. defensive hierarchy (pitting one “piece” or mannequin towards one other) and
  2. disconnected plurality (leaving the “pieces” or fashions unrelated to at least one one other).

In a mosaic, one can see the person items, however the final function is for the elements to return collectively within the service of one thing greater: the purpose of worship (for instance, Romans 12:1–2).

In laymen’s phrases, how do you piece collectively in your guide the varied atonement views to point out that they mutually help each other?

Joshua M. McNall Certainly one of my favourite Bible passages includes Paul’s imagery of the physique of Christ (1 Cor 12).

His declare is that one a part of Jesus’s physique (the church) can not say to a different “I have no need of you.” Every half is vital, even whereas every half is related in a specific manner.

It’s the identical with my “pieces” of atonement doctrine. The guide is damaged down into 4 physique elements: the Toes, the Coronary heart, the Head, the Fingers.

  • The Toes: In my mannequin, recapitulation represents the “feet” of Christ’s mosaic physique, as a result of the thought of Jesus because the true Adam offers a basis for the opposite fashions.
  • The Coronary heart: Penal substitution represents the “heart” inside my metaphor, as a result of Scripture portrays Christ’s sacrificial demise as the middle of the doctrine. It stands solely due to the “feet” but it surely pumps lifeblood to the entire physique.
  • The Head: On the apex (or “head”) of atonement imagery is the theme of divine triumph (Christus Victor). That is the outcome that’s led to by Christ’s penalty-bearing demise.
  • The Fingers: Lastly, the outstretched “hands” of Christ’s mosaic physique (each beckoning and restraining us) symbolize the theme of ethical affect. These communicate to the best way Christians are known as to be brokers of reconciliation ourselves (again to 2 Corinthians 5:19 the place I started) as we’re remodeled by the facility of the Spirit.

What are your ideas about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?

Joshua M. McNall I take advantage of Bible Gateway virtually daily, for sermons, lessons, and analysis. Thanks for all you do!


The Mosaic of Atonement is revealed by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the mother or father firm of Bible Gateway.


Bio: Joshua McNall (PhD, College of Manchester) is Assistant Professor of Theology at Oklahoma Wesleyan College. He’s the writer of The Mosaic of Atonement, A Free Corrector: Colin Gunton and the Legacy of Augustine (Fortress, 2015), and the popular-level Lengthy Story Quick: The Bible in Six Easy Actions (Seedbed, 2018). He lives in Bartlesville, Oklahoma along with his spouse Brianna and their 4 kids. He blogs repeatedly at joshuamcnall.com.

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What Does the Bible Say About Atonement?: An Interview with Joshua M. McNall

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