The Christian Doctrine of The Atonement

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To be sure, it has been framed sometimes in crude and even pathological ways. But it remains a way of looking at the atonement that deeply moves millions and draws them in grateful love to the one who hung on that cross. Contemporary theologians have done the church a service in reminding us of the many models of atonement alluded to in Scripture.


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Like the ransom model: We are held in the power of the devil until Christ died and freed us from his grip. And Christus Victor : The malevolent principalities and rulers of this age have been defeated by Christ on the cross.

Confronting Atonement Theology

And the moral model: Seeing the lengths to which Christ went to demonstrate his love by dying on the cross, we respond in love. Still, evangelical Christians believe there are persuasive theological reasons for privileging penal substitution among these and other models of the atonement. Perhaps the best concise case is a paper delivered by J. The main reason is simply this: It makes intuitive sense to men and women of an evangelical disposition. But they are not sophisticated theologians when they first find themselves astonished at hearing about what Christ has done for them on the cross.

Nor do arguments for the doctrine explain why they fall to their knees weeping as grateful recipients of forgiveness and eternal life. The despair is grounded by guilt and shame for transgressions against divine law, which evangelicals recognize not as an impersonal and arbitrary law, but one that is a direct expression of the Personality behind the law. When we sin, we are keenly aware of the connection between the law of God and person of God. We have not merely violated a law but a person, and as such we are subject not just to punishment but also wrath, not merely just consequences but also rejection.

These are not notions—the intimate connection between law and lawgiver, and between guilt and rejection—that sit comfortably with us today. Many argue such notions are more akin to primitive religion that seeks to appease angry gods. No one, we tell ourselves, really thinks like this anymore. But a little more thought and we recognize that the basic dynamics are well understood even today.

For example, you make a vow to your spouse to be faithful. The biggest problem is the sabotaging of trust; the teen has failed to respect, honor, and love his mother. Evangelicals Christians grasp this intimate connection between the law of God and person of God. They need a lifeline. Again the modern conscience balks.

The Restored Doctrine of the Atonement

What type of universe is this in which every day and relatively harmless behavior—lying, greed, pride, lust, and so forth—deserves eternal and irreversible damnation? A woodworker thoughtlessly moves his hand too close to the table saw blade, and in an instant, his hand is lost forever to him. Why the world is built this way—where small lapses in physical laws can have such devastating consequences—is hard to say, but evangelicals accept it for what it is, and even more when it comes to divine law. As noted, evangelical Christians are also more comfortable than most in calling such consequences a form of punishment.

To talk only about consequences drains the blood from the dynamic and moves us in the direction of deism, into a world where God sets up the moral and physical laws and steps away. The consequences of ignoring divine law are akin to the consequences of ignoring gravity—nothing personal, just cosmic business. The Bible reveals a much different God, one whose laws are a direct reflection of his very character—and that very character is, ultimately, love.

Scripture Voices Its View of the Atonement

So to disobey divine law is to reject not only the wise Lawgiver but also the Lover of humankind. And thus in Scripture, God reacts to sin less like a judge who impassively metes out justice, but more like a wounded lover who has been rejected. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.

The Atonement of Christ | syraleba.tk

This personal dynamic is what gives substitutionary atonement such homiletic force, and why it is a staple of evangelical preaching, teaching, and devotion. Of all the models of atonement, it best reflects the personal God of the Bible, in his loving creation of the world, to his anguished reaction to sin, to his sacrificial death on the cross to restore the broken relationship. That is why forgiveness as a mere act of the will is not sufficient. Sins must be paid for, as a debt must be paid for. Why this is the case, why the moral universe operates in this way, is hard to say, another deep mystery of life.

About this page

We first understand the nature of just punishment as children. Your sister repeatedly changes the channel you are watching on TV to watch what she wants. The contemporary discussion isn't so much about which theory is the right one, but about how the various models of the atonement are to be logically related to one another," explained Vidu.

About Paul Wells

Almost each theory affirms important truths; the question is how all of these truths weave a coherent and biblically faithful tapestry of the work of Christ. There are four major categories of atonement models that are generally agreed upon by most theologians. They are showcased in no particular order. Click arrow above. After working in France as a theological educator for many years, he now lives in Sussex and is also a director of the Greenwich school of theology. He evaluates knowledgeably and fairly the most significant denials on such crucial issues as the wrath of God, penal substitution, imputation and propitiation It will be an important aid for those who wish to preach effectively the Gospel'.


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  • Wells has performed a remarkable and necessary service for the 21st century church. Taking on all the major opponents of the doctrine of the atonement, Wells answers their objections with convincing and balanced arguments. He looks at every possible aspect of this profound doctrine Satisfying to your mind, this is also a text that will move you to tears and to praise.

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