Atonement ==> Discipleship

By Steve Manskar

Atonement was to topic explored at the March 7-8, 2014 annual meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society held at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. I presented a paper in the Practical Theology group titled "Active Faith That Lives Within: A Wesleyan Response to Atonement". I am sharing the content of the paper in several posts. The paper continues to be a work in progress. Your comments are welcome.

The various theories of atonement have one thing in common: God desires to be in relationship with humankind, in spite of human rebellion against God and his law of love. God initiates and restores the broken relationship through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. The death of Christ removes the guilt of sin and sets people free to respond to God’s reach toward us. The atonement of God in Jesus Christ reveals the relational character of God and the depth of his love for the world.

I will briefly explore the relational character of God. I believe the Wesleyan way of Christian formation acknowledges that human beings are created in the image of God. One of the implications of the imago Dei is that humans are, like God, innately relational creatures. We come to know God and God’s love through relationships with others who know and love God. Wesley understood that women and men are creatures who are shaped by practices and experiences that involve the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Jesus provides the compass heading for people to participate in his atoning work in Luke 9:23

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

The telos of the Wesleyan way is a people who profess to pursue holiness of heart and life in order to join Christ in his mission of preparing this world for the coming reign of God. A culture of holiness develops in congregations that provide the means for people to participate in Christ’s atonement by learning and practicing the discipline of loving God and neighbor through self-denial, cross-bearing, and following Jesus in the world.