“The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.” (Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity, p. 132) Some Christian writers minimize the atonement; others have given the word a new definition. What they mean by Jesus’ “atonement” is that he was merely an example of sacrifice (not an actual sacrifice); his death was an act of love that melts our hearts and makes us want to take care of people.
Yeah, it’s muddy. Especially if we look at what the Scripture actually says. Besides the phenomenal Hebrews 9 and 10, there are other passages that spell things out. The purpose of Jesus’ death was to “destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice . . . for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2; see 4:10; Romans 3:25) “The blood of Jesus . . . purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) The heavenly creatures sang to the Lamb: “With your blood you purchased men for God.” (Revelation 5:9) A voice in Heaven said that believers “overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11)