In Christianity, atonement is important. For the uninitiated,1 refers primarily to how the death and resurrection of Jesus… changed things. Exactly what things were changed and the nature of that change? Well, that’s what the rest of the post is about.
Understanding the Atonement is important whether you are an outsider wondering why Christians think God’s son had to die in order to enable God himself to forgive sins, or whether you are an insider making sense of your community’s story-of-the-world.
The Christian sacred text, the Bible, uses a variety of images, metaphors, and allusions to speak about the Atonement. Some Christians latch onto one one interpretation of one of these metaphors (such as penal substitutionary atonement), excluding any Christians that dare to even put the metaphors on an even playing field.2
Again, this emphasizes a need to understand atonement within Christianity if you are an outsider who interacts with Christians, or an insider who interacts with Christians of differing camps (or is trying to understand their own).
Tony Jones has a series exploring the topic of atonement over at Theoblogy. He mixes his personal views with scriptural discussion, philosophy and historical theology. If you’re looking to wade into a discussion about atonement, it’s a great way to get started.