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What did the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus actually do? Many Christians today genuinely believe the answer is simple: Jesus died for our sins. But sincere followers of Jesus have wrestled with this question for nearly 2,000 years and arrived at very different conclusions along the way. In this episode, we dive down the rabbit hole into the world of Christian atonement theory, asking questions that lead us to more questions. Have we missed major components of The Gospel? Do we really understand Jesus? And why does it feel like some people who are so certain of The Gospel fail to live as Jesus did?
Dr. Jennifer Garcia Bashaw is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Christian Ministry at Campbell University. She is also an ordained pastor. In her book Scapegoats: The Gospel through the Eyes of Victims, she shows how many Christians today read the New Testament as victors, not as victims. The teachings and actions of Jesus thus lose much of their subversive significance. The Gospels become one harmonized story about individual salvation rather than distinct representations of Jesus’s radical work on behalf of victims.
In the first half of this conversation, Jennifer teaches us what atonement theory is and walks us through a few of the more significant theories found across Church history. Then, Mark and Jennifer discuss the embodiment of these beliefs in the real world and explore a new theory — Scapegoat Theory — which illuminates an essential truth of the Gospels: that Jesus modeled a reality in which victims become survivors, and the marginalized become central to the Kingdom of God.
- Purchase your copy of Jennifer’s book Scapegoats: The Gospel through the Eyes of Victims
- Read Mark’s essay: Exploring the kaleidoscopic world of Christian atonement theory
- Read Jennifer’s Commentary on John 4:5–42
- Read Jennifer’s article: What The Gospels Teach Us About Salvation
- Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @garciabashaw
- Follow Mark on Twitter: @mchackett