Atonement Theories (powerpoint)

Atonement Theories
Historical views on how God
makes reconciliation possible
• Atonement brings to mind many ideas…
- Animal sacrifices
- Forgiveness
- Redemption
- Death
- Priesthood
- Ransom
- Debt
- Wrath
• Since the 2nd century AD, theologians have proposed
numerous theories to explain how God accomplishes
• ATONEMENT = Being made “at one” with God, being
reconciled, being reunited
Why Atonement is Needed
• God’s eternal intention (desire) is to be in communion
with man
• Each person who sins separates himself from God
• Atonement restores the broken communion
• OT “atonement” ≈ NT “reconciliation”
• But how does God’s reconciliation work?
• “In the early church there seems to have been little
attention given to the way atonement works” (Horton, 2006)
New Testament Words for God’s Role
Justify (Romans 5:9) – to regard one as innocent, as righteous
Sanctify (Hebrews 10:29) – to set apart for a purpose
Redeem (Titus 2:4) – to buy back, reclaim, restore to rightful owner
Forgive (Ephesians 1:7) – to not hold sin against a person
Ransom (1 Timothy 2:6) – price to purchase another’s freedom
Propitiation (1 John 4:10) – turns away God’s wrath by removing sin
Reconcile (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) – unify, bring together
Raise up (Romans 6:4) – to bestow or restore life
Grace (Ephesians 2:8) – unearned favor
 God made these available to man in Christ
 Any “atonement theory” must consider all of them
 But none of man’s theories have been all-inclusive…
Ransom Theory
• Taught by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa (3rd century)
• Based on Scriptures that Christ came as a ransom
• Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6
• Ransom Theory
AKA: Classical theory, Satan theory
God abandoned mankind when Adam sinned, Satan took souls hostage
Jesus was offered to Satan as ransom in exchange for the souls of men
Satan honored the deal, but God didn’t
Makes God compromise with Satan
Makes Satan honorable & God the deceiver
Does not provide forgiveness of man’s sins
Not comprehensive of all facets of salvation
Satisfaction Theory
• 11th century: Anselm of Canterbury rejected classical Ransom
theory, denied that God paid ransom to Satan
• Man owes honor to God, but is unable to satisfy it adequately
• God’s honor is offended by man’s sin, His honor must be satisfied
• Jesus satisfied God’s honor, was rewarded for it because He was
sinless, and passed the reward (eternal life) to man
• AKA: Commercial Theory
• Ransom was paid to God, not Satan
• Problems:
– Overlooks God’s ability to forgive sins
– Does not require man’s participation
– Does not connect Christ’s death to salvation
Moral Influence Theory
• 12the century: Peter Abelard’s response to Anselm’s theory
• Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement
• Emphasizes God’s love, exemplified in Christ’s self-sacrifice, which
inspires man to respond with repentance & following His example
• Found in hymns like “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” and
“Ten Thousand Angels” and “None of self and all of Thee”
• Based on 1 Peter 2:21 and 1 John 3:16:
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us;
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”
• Emotional appeals based on this theory are popular today
• Problems: There is some truth in this theory, but alone it does not
capture the entirety of reconciliation. It does not attribute saving
power to Christ’s death, but portrays it as a demonstration of love
that calls us to change.
Governmental Theory
• Proposed by Hugo Grotius (16th century)
• God hates sin so much, He proffered the threat of death to man by
killing His Own Son; this threat should deter man from sinning
• Based on Ezekiel 18:4 “The soul who sins will die”
• But God didn’t really want everyone to die, so…
• God accepted the reduced penalty of Christ’s physical death
• Grotius taught that God is not required to follow through with the
penalty of His law
• Hymn: “The All-Seeing Eye”
• Taught today by Methodists, Nazarenes
• Problems: makes God’s law arbitrary and penalty flexible
Penal Substitution Theory
• Product of 16th century Reformation
• John Calvin, a lawyer, re-interpreted Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory
in terms of a legal system of penalty
• Says that Jesus substituted Himself in our place, obeyed the Law
perfectly in our place, had our sins transferred to Himself, took all
of God’s wrath in our place, died on the cross in our place.
• Substitution theory terminology is dangerously pervasive!
• Hymns like “Hallelujah What a Savior!” and “He bore it all” and
“They are nailed to the cross” and “He paid a debt”
• Calvin’s “TULIP” is based on this theory
• NIV, translated by Calvinists, is slanted toward this theory
• Problems are very numerous: next 5 slides…
Problems with Penal Substitution Theory
• The Law of Moses does not permit this theory
– The Law of Moses specifically prohibits substitution
• Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:30; Ezek. 18:19-20; 2 Chron. 25:3-4
– The Lamb of God died like a sacrificial animal. Sacrificial animals
were not punished, nor did they receive God’s wrath.
– Sacrificial offerings were made on one’s behalf not in one’s place
• Lev. 1:4; 5:6; 5:10; 8:34; 14:18, 29, 31; 15:15, 30; 23:28; et al.
– If Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses for anyone, it was for the
Jews, and that doesn’t help the rest of us (Gal. 4:5)
– If Jesus’ vicarious perfect obedience to the Law merits
salvation, then we are saved by law and not by grace
Problems with Penal Substitution Theory
• When we read the phrase “for us” in the Bible, we tend to think “in
our place.” But the original Greek word huper which is translated
for actually means on behalf of or for the sake of (Strong’s #5228)
• Huper appears 160 times in Greek New Testament , such as:
Luke 22:19-20 – “body which is given for you…blood which is shed for you”
John 10:11 – “shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (is the wolf fooled?)
Rom. 5:8 – “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (no imputed sin!)
Rom. 8:34 – “Christ…intercedes for us” (I cannot intercede for myself)
• Christ came “for my sake” not “in my place”
• 1 Cor. 8:11
• 2 Cor. 8:9
• 1 Pet. 1:20-21
• When we read or speak of Christ doing something for us, we need
to understand that He does it for our sake, not in our place!
Problems with Penal Substitution Theory
• No Scripture says God punished or penalized Jesus. His death was not
Leviticus 4:21
Hebrews 13:11-12
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Problems with Penal Substitution Theory
• The penalty for sin is eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:9); Jesus did
not experience this spiritual death…He went to Paradise & was
resurrected on the 3rd day
• If physical death is the penalty for sin, and Jesus’ physical death
satisfies the penalty, why do people still die?
• Per 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, if Christ died as our substitute then He
also was raised up as our substitute and we won’t be resurrected!
• 2 Corinthians 10:6 – Paul is still punishing disobedience
• Hebrews 10:29 – some deserve more severe punishment
• Romans 1:27 - people still receive their “due penalty”
• Colossians 2:14 - Jesus did not “pay” the debt…
• If Jesus took our cross, why Matt. 10:38?
Problems with Penal Substitution Theory
• If Jesus took all my sins on himself and paid the full penalty in my
place already, why should I repent and what do I have to fear by
sinful living?
• If there is anything I have to do to be saved, whether it is recite a
“sinner’s prayer” or be baptized, then substitution theory cannot
• This theory does not take into consideration the blood of Christ,
only the death of His body. Yet the Scriptures show that all the
power for our salvation is in the blood of Christ!
• It also makes Christ’s resurrection and intercessory
priesthood unnecessary
• A substitute takes the place of another to do exactly what the
original could have done. Jesus did God’s work, not man’s work!
Calvinist terminology…a dangerous problem!
Indeed, even among brethren today, there are those who have
been reading and absorbing denominational ideas and terminology
from suspicious sources: periodicals, tracts, commentaries and
books of avowed Calvinists. Bible subjects are phrased in Calvinistic
terms. Positions which faithful Gospel preachers have opposed in
debates with Baptist and other Calvinist preachers in the past are
now advocated by preachers in the church of Christ. And these
positions are being widely circulated in sermons and bulletins.
- Tom Roberts, Neo-Calvinism In The Church Of Christ, 1980.
Examples: Barnes’ Notes, Matthew Henry Commentary, Adam Clarke’s
Commentary, Pulpit Commentary, A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures
Calvinists (Presbyterian, Southern Baptists, etc.) vigorously defend Penal
Substitution Theory today…it is the foundation of their doctrine…it is the hand
inside the 3-fingered glove of imputation!
Calvinism and Arminiunism
• Calvin’s salvation theory has 5 points:
– Total hereditary depravity (inherited sin, totally evil nature)
– Unconditional election (predestination of who will be saved)
– Limited atonement (substitution theory, but only for the elect)
– Irresistable grace (God is sovereign; you can’t resist salvation)
– Perseverance of the saved (once saved, always saved)
• Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) started off as a Calvinist
• Decided to reject the “U” and the “I” of Calvin’s TULIP
• Wrote his own “5 Articles of Remonstrance” based on Governmental
Theory of Atonement
• Later, John Wesley used Arminius’ views to found
the Methodist denomination.
• Church of the Nazarene, Seventh Day Adventists, Assembly of God,
Pentecostals, & Salvation Army denominations teach Arminiunism &
Governmental Theory
Atonement Theories: What Do We Believe?
• There is no “atonement theory” taught in the New Testament.
There are only atonement facts.
• The New Testament presents God’s reconciliatory work in many
different manners, and all of them involve the blood of Jesus
• Let us take comfort in knowing that God’s work is sufficient to
make salvation possible
• Let us concern ourselves with our own role in responding to
God’s gracious offer and invitation (2 Cor. 5:20)