Atonement Book–Help Me Choose a Title

Dear Friends:

I haven’t been writing essays for this blog for a while. That’s because I’ve been trying to finish my latest book. It’s been over 5 years in the making, but I am almost finished! Within a week or two I will turn it over to my publisher, Cascade Press.

I’d like your help in choosing a title.

This book is about how Jesus saves human beings from everything that keeps us from becoming what we were created to be, that is, true images of God. In traditional terms, Jesus saves from sin, death, and the devil. I argue that the traditional and still popular evangelical doctrine of penal substitution—that God punished Jesus instead of us—is wrong and incomprehensible to our contemporaries, church or unchurched The liberal Protestant theory that Jesus “saves” only through the influence of his example is also wrong. That theory is too weak to deal the power of sin, evil, and death that dominates our world. I argue that Paul—and the church fathers Irenaeus and Athanasius—thought differently about the atonement. They see the atonement as recreating humanity and uniting us to God through Jesus’s life, activity, death and resurrection. The traditional theological terms for this way thinking are theosis—a Greek word meaning the process of becoming God or God-like—and recapitulation. That is, Jesus repeated or summed up the history of broken humanity and got it right. He rewrote history so that—to put it in common speech—it has a happy ending. And that happy ending is that we are raise to such glory that the church fathers called it deification. That is, we are given divine qualities like immortality, glory, and incorruptibility, to use Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 15.

The titles below reflect my indecision between titles that use the vocabulary of theology and those with more popular appeal.

Titles that appeal to the theologically literate:

  1. The Second Adam: Atonement Theology Beyond Penal Substitution
  2. The New Adam: Atonement Theology Beyond Penal Substitution
  3. The New Adam: Why the Early Church Got the Atonement Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong
  4. The Atonement: Why Paul, Irenaeus, and Athanasius Got it Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong

Titles that appeal also to the non-theologically literate reader:

  1. A New Beginning: How Jesus Rescues Us from Sin, Death, and the Devil
  2. A New Beginning: How Jesus Removes Our Guilt, Heals Our Wounds, Defeats Our Enemies, and Raises Us to Glory

Which of these titles do you think would make someone want to read this book?

Thanks for your help!

RCH

24 thoughts on “Atonement Book–Help Me Choose a Title

  1. natemup

    Definitely “A New Beginning: How Jesus Rescues Us from Sin, Death, and the Devil”.

    The best of both worlds and cuts straight to the chase! While the book obviously will cover the controversial divide seen in the more theologically literate titles, I’m sure controversy isn’t the point of the book. Since Jesus is, it seems right to focus the title on Him and the basics, and let the other stuff come out in the pages and argumentation.

    Glad you’re putting this book out, Professor!

    Like

    Reply
  2. H. Highfield

    I like this one: A New Beginning: How Jesus Removes Our Guilt, Heals Our Wounds, Defeats Our Enemies, and Raises Us to Glory

    Seems appealing to the widest array of folks. Which may or may not be what you want!

    Like

    Reply
  3. nokareon

    I fear 1-4 and 2-2 strike me as too wordy. 2-1 is definitely an option as Nate says, but you would have to accept dropping “Atonement” explicitly from the title (i.e., will you reach the audience you want to reach with the book if it is not clear that it is an ‘Atonement book’, as opposed to an ‘evangelism book,’ which 2-1 could sound like?). If that is not acceptable, then that leaves the first three. Out of these, I like 1-3 best, despite it being a bit more wordy. 1-1 and 1-2 exclusively differentiate from Penal Substitution which—though it would probably be eye-catching and sell well—would be somewhat misleading since you also push back to the Moral Influence theory.

    If I could nominate a hybrid alternative, you could try: “The Atonement: Why the Early Church Got it Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong”. I think that would combine the virtues I see in the other titles without the tradeoffs.

    I ma super excited for this book’s release and to hear your thoughts on this important topic? I love the direction you have sketched out.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Rahul Barmanray

    This is great: “A New Beginning: How Jesus Removes Our Guilt, Heals Our Wounds, Defeats Our Enemies, and Raises Us to Glory”. Your topic will have wide appeal, the title should too!

    Like

    Reply
  5. Stan Shelton

    I like “A New Beginning: How Jesus Rescues Us from Sin, Death, and the Devil”.

    It gets me to thinking even before I see the book.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ifaqtheology Post author

      Hi Jenny. Well, I’d like both to read it. But I suppose the bullseye of my target audience is undergraduate and seminary students taking a theology course. Thanks for encouraging me to keep this in mind!

      Like

      Reply
      1. Jenny

        My vote: “The Atonement: Why Paul, Irenaeus, and Athanasius Got it Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong.” I think it’s light enough for undergrad students not to outright assume it’s a bore (and the idea of controversy might appeal to them), but layreaders will still think it has some deep content.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. stan frank

    i like #3

    The New Adam: Why the Early Church Got the Atonement Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong

    Looking forward to reading it! Aloha stan frank

    ________________________________________

    Like

    Reply
  7. Adonis Vidu

    Anything that avoids the following words: ‘atonement theory’, ‘robust’, or ‘flourishing.’ 🙂 So you’re fine whichever of those titles you choose. My preference would be ‘The Atonement: Why Paul, Irenaeus, and Athanasius Got it Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong’.

    Like

    Reply
  8. randall haragan

    I like three.   – The New Adam: Why the Early Church Got the Atonement Right and Evangelicals and Liberals Get it Wrong I like this though, catchier: The New Adam Atonement: why the early church got it right and we get it wrong yours – randy

    Like

    Reply
  9. Dr Markus McDowell

    Congrats, Ron!

    I’ve learned that the best marketing makes the reader the hero of the story, and we come to them as a guide with a solution to their problem or question. So I’d say that the last two are the best, I like the last one for its specificity, but it is a little long.

    Scholars would probably appreciate #1 or #1, but #3 and #4 follow the marketing guidelines above better.

    >

    Like

    Reply
    1. ifaqtheology Post author

      Thank you. I believe the message of the book would appeal to a non-theological audience, and getting that message out is important to me. On the other side are two factors: sometimes I underestimate the level at which I write. I am always surprised when people tell me that they find some of my other books dense. Also, publishers like it when books are written so that they can be used as textbooks. I seem unable to write a popular work. My editor and his colleagues will have heavy input on the title. Thanks!

      Like

      Reply
  10. John Westbrook

    #2 is my choice for the the non-theologically literate reader: A New Beginning: How Jesus Rescues Us from Sin, Death, and the Devil A New Beginning: How Jesus Removes Our Guilt, Heals Our Wounds, Defeats Our Enemies, and Raises Us to Glory John Westbrook Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

    Reply
    1. ifaqtheology Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to think about this! Yours and the other comments I have received have been very helpful to me in thinking about the title. I am still undecided. But I need to decide soon. Thanks!

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s