A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice and the Cross

Derek Flood

foreword by Brian D. McLaren

Why did Jesus have to die? Was it to appease a wrathful God’s demand for punishment? Does that mean Jesus died to save us from God? How could someone ever truly love or trust a God like that? How can that ever be called “Good News”? It’s questions like these that make so many people want to have nothing to do with Christianity.

Healing the Gospel challenges the assumption that the Christian understanding of justice is rooted in a demand for violent punishment, and instead offers a radically different understanding of the gospel based on God’s restorative justice. Connecting our own experiences of faith with the New Testament narrative, author Derek Flood shows us an understanding of the cross that not only reveals God’s heart of grace, but also models our own way of Christ-like love. It’s a vision of the gospel that exposes violence, rather than supporting it—a gospel rooted in love of enemies, rather than retribution. The result is a nonviolent understanding of the atonement that is not only thoroughly biblical, but will help people struggling with their faith to encounter grace.

DEREK FLOOD is an author, theologian and artist. He holds a masters degree in systematic theology from the Graduate Theological Union and is a featured blogger for the Huffington Post and Sojourners Magazine.

Healing the Gospel

What people are saying:

“No book focuses on the question of what’s wrong with conventional penal substitutionary atonement theory better than this one ... combining the mind of a theologian with the eye and heart of an artist, Derek sees that meaning comes in images and narratives, not just formulas, theories, or models. So he combines the two, and in the process, presents us with something we thought we knew but didn’t really.”

—Brian McLaren, from the foreword

“Quietly, deftly, brilliantly, Flood takes on the story of the Christian doctrine of atonement, turns that story on its end, and then lays out before us a beauty almost beyond theology. Read it for yourself and see.”

—Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence

In this readable and balanced book, Flood gently—yet firmly and provocatively—challenges and enriches our understanding of the cross. He shows how the New Testament writers (and their earliest interpreters) present saving death as God’s act of restorative rather than retributive justice, as an act of nonviolent, enemy-loving, reconciling, and healing love. Such amazing love beckons us to follow in the way of Jesus and justice. It is a book to read, mark, and digest.”

—Michael J. Gorman, author of Apostle of the Crucified Lord

“There has been a spate of books on atonement this past decade. None of them treat the salvific healing of Jesus’s death better than this one. It is well-researched yet easy to read, full of insight, and sure to be a go-to book on the subject.”

—Michael Hardin, author of The Jesus Driven Life

“Healing the Gospel brings the latest insights in biblical scholarship to the ongoing and lively atonement debate. Flood’s work is biblical, straightforward, and accessible for the lay reader. He surveys the restorative justice of the wondrous cross with fresh eyes, engaging many head-scratching texts with utmost clarity. A great contribution!”

—Brad Jersak, author of Stricken by God?

“In this provocative book, Flood exposes the grave deficiencies of the penal substitution model of atonement, pinpointing its shallow treatment of the depth and the gravity of sin . . . Armed with astute interpretations of Scripture, he focuses on the love of God and reinterprets justice as restorative . . . Finally, after centuries of suffering under a legal perception of atonement, Flood has shown us that the good news is truly good news!”

—Sharon L. Baker, author of Razing Hell

“On a cresting wave of reaction against violent atonement theory, Healing the Gospel charts a sea-change course back to Jesus’s ministry as a model of gracious restoration, moving far beyond the traditional, abusive contours of penal substitution as explanation of Christ’s death . . . Jesus dies to show us God’s enemy-love, which changes everything. A splendid, stirring, and essential book!”

—Anthony Bartlett, author of Cross Purposes

“Anyone concerned about the connection between theology and violence in American society will welcome Flood’s Healing the Gospel. In a readable format, he explains why we should abandon violence-accommodating, penal substitutionary atonement, and replace it with atonement imagery that reflects the restorative justice Jesus lived.”

—J. Denny Weaver, author of The Nonviolent Atonement