Recovering the Scandal of the Cross

by Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker

Historically, the Christian church has preached that Christ's death on the cross was a judgment for sin and a reconciling substitution for us as sinners. The authors contend that we today in our postmodern society must find new metaphors that "connect" with modern audiences. Even the New Testament does not present the atonement of Christ in a single fashion. Christ's work also includes reconciliation, justification and fellowship.

The authors believe that we should not become too engrossed in the "penal substitution" aspect of Christ's death. "We believe that the popular fascination with and commitment to penal substitution atonement has had ill effects in the life of the church in the United States and has little to offer the global church and mission by way of understanding or embodying the message of Jesus Christ." The authors appear to waffle between two extremes: Christ's death on the cross was a necessity, but we must not insist on it as the only message of God's redemptive purpose.

What are some alternative ways of presenting Christ's salvation message? The writers present at least three. One, He is the One who removes shame. Two, He removes human alienation. Third, He is the One who has conquered the Devil. Different cultures, the authors contend, respond differently depending on their societal context.

This book has disturbing features. The authors seem to enunciate their belief in the substitutionary death of Christ's death on the cross, yet they seem to believe that it is not the only way of salvation. They seem to say that we must interpret the cross in terms of the society in which we live.