Subjective Atonement Theories

Ladodgers6

Well-known member
The moral influence and governmental views are basically subjective theories of the atonement. That is, they focus on the change that the cross effects in us, which moves us to faith and repentance. Our faith and repentance then become the basis of God's acceptance. The bad news is not as bad (since God's justice does not require perfect fulfillment of his Law) but the good news is not as good. Instead of the announcement that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness and borne our judgment, the message is that we can be saved by less strenuous obedience. The objective character of Christ's work as creating a new state of affairs in God's relation to sinners is diminished to the vanishing point.

Liberal Protestants like Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl broke entirely from any judicial (legal or courtroom) understanding of the atonement. "With them and with modern liberal theology in general, atonement becomes merely at-one-ment or reconciliation effected by changing the moral condition of the sinner. Some speak of a moral necessity but refuse to recognize any legal necessity."

Closer to home, the nineteenth-century American revivalist Charles G. Finney made the same arguments regarding Christ's work, although he did not deny Christ's divinity. Finney's scheme was essentially Pelagian, beginning with a rejection of original sin. Reflected throughout his Systematic Theology is a commitment to a combination of the moral influence and moral government theories. It is legally impossible for one person---even Jesus Christ---to fulfill the law and bear the sanctions of violating the Law in the place of others, Finney insisted, "If he had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non, of our salvation? The atonement is simply "an incentive to virtue."

Rejecting the view that "the atonement was a literal payment of a debt," Finney can only concede, "It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone." Going beyond most advocates of the subjective theories, Finney insisted that our own perfect obedience to God's Law is "the sine qua non" of our justification.

Yet even the softer versions fail to recognize that God's Law is not merely a reflection of his will of his moral nature. God cannot relax his holy will or his righteous demands. Death is not merely an example of his displeasure or an arbitrary punishment. Rather, it is the legal sentence for violating his covenant (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23). God is as incapable of being unrighteous in his judgment as he is of being untruthful in his word.

Especially in recent years, mainline theologians have pointed out the basically Pelagian and Socinian assumptions in modern theories of the atonement. Yale theologian George Lindbeck says that at least in practice, Abelard's view of salvation by following Christ's example (and the cross as the demonstration of God's love that motivates our repentance) now seems to have edged out any notion of an objective, substitutionary atonement. "The atonement is not high on the contemporary agenda of either Catholic or Protestants," Lindbeck surmises. "More specifically, the penal-substitutionary versions...that have been dominant on the popular level for hundreds of years are disappearing,"

This situation is as true for evangelicals as for liberal Protestants, Lindbeck observes. This is because justification through faith alone (sola fide) makes little sense in a system that makes central our subjective conversion (understood in synergistic terms as cooperation with grace), rather than the objective work of Christ. "Our increasingly feel-good therapeutic culture is antithetical to talk of the cross," and our "consumerist society" has made the doctrine a pariah.

In our day, the influence is varied, but there is a widespread revulsion among many Protestants theologians against any notion of penal-substitution---that is, the belief that Christ suffered in the place of sinners, bearing God's just wrath. In much of evangelicalism today, the emphasis falls on the question "What Would Jesus Do?" rather than "What Has Jesus Done?" Jesus provides the model for us to imitate for personal or social transformation. Especially in some contemporary Anabaptist and feminist theologies, the theme of God's wrath against sinners is regarded as a form of violence that legitimizes human revenge. rather than see Christ's work as bearing a sentence that we deserved, it should be seen as moral empowerment for our just praxis (good works) in transforming the world.

At least implicitly combining various subjective theories already mentioned, this trajectory represented in the work of Jurgen Moltmann and liberation theology, but also in much of the popular preaching and teaching in contemporary evangelicalism.

Like some Arminian theologians in the past, Clark Pinnock dismisses the penal-substitution doctrine as if it were simply a curious and dangerous holdover from Calvinism. Even in evangelical circles substitutionary atonement is held in theory, the popular message seems to be that the principal purpose of Christ's death was simply to display God's love, which should provoke us to love him in return. However, as Roman Catholic scholar John Knox observes, "The concept of the cross, as sacrifice belongs to the very warp and woof of the New Testament, while there is no evidence whatsoever that the early Church entertained the view that the purpose of Christ's death was to disclose the love of God." Of course, it does disclose God's love, but only because, beyond expressing good intentions, it actually secures our salvation. In fact, if Christ's death was merely teaching you a lesson rather than sine qua non for satisfaction of God's justice, it exhibits cruelty rather than love.​
 

fltom

Well-known member
The moral influence and governmental views are basically subjective theories of the atonement. That is, they focus on the change that the cross effects in us, which moves us to faith and repentance. Our faith and repentance then become the basis of God's acceptance. The bad news is not as bad (since God's justice does not require perfect fulfillment of his Law) but the good news is not as good. Instead of the announcement that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness and borne our judgment, the message is that we can be saved by less strenuous obedience. The objective character of Christ's work as creating a new state of affairs in God's relation to sinners is diminished to the vanishing point.

Liberal Protestants like Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl broke entirely from any judicial (legal or courtroom) understanding of the atonement. "With them and with modern liberal theology in general, atonement becomes merely at-one-ment or reconciliation effected by changing the moral condition of the sinner. Some speak of a moral necessity but refuse to recognize any legal necessity."

Closer to home, the nineteenth-century American revivalist Charles G. Finney made the same arguments regarding Christ's work, although he did not deny Christ's divinity. Finney's scheme was essentially Pelagian, beginning with a rejection of original sin. Reflected throughout his Systematic Theology is a commitment to a combination of the moral influence and moral government theories. It is legally impossible for one person---even Jesus Christ---to fulfill the law and bear the sanctions of violating the Law in the place of others, Finney insisted, "If he had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non, of our salvation? The atonement is simply "an incentive to virtue."

Rejecting the view that "the atonement was a literal payment of a debt," Finney can only concede, "It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone." Going beyond most advocates of the subjective theories, Finney insisted that our own perfect obedience to God's Law is "the sine qua non" of our justification.

Yet even the softer versions fail to recognize that God's Law is not merely a reflection of his will of his moral nature. God cannot relax his holy will or his righteous demands. Death is not merely an example of his displeasure or an arbitrary punishment. Rather, it is the legal sentence for violating his covenant (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23). God is as incapable of being unrighteous in his judgment as he is of being untruthful in his word.

Especially in recent years, mainline theologians have pointed out the basically Pelagian and Socinian assumptions in modern theories of the atonement. Yale theologian George Lindbeck says that at least in practice, Abelard's view of salvation by following Christ's example (and the cross as the demonstration of God's love that motivates our repentance) now seems to have edged out any notion of an objective, substitutionary atonement. "The atonement is not high on the contemporary agenda of either Catholic or Protestants," Lindbeck surmises. "More specifically, the penal-substitutionary versions...that have been dominant on the popular level for hundreds of years are disappearing,"

This situation is as true for evangelicals as for liberal Protestants, Lindbeck observes. This is because justification through faith alone (sola fide) makes little sense in a system that makes central our subjective conversion (understood in synergistic terms as cooperation with grace), rather than the objective work of Christ. "Our increasingly feel-good therapeutic culture is antithetical to talk of the cross," and our "consumerist society" has made the doctrine a pariah.

In our day, the influence is varied, but there is a widespread revulsion among many Protestants theologians against any notion of penal-substitution---that is, the belief that Christ suffered in the place of sinners, bearing God's just wrath. In much of evangelicalism today, the emphasis falls on the question "What Would Jesus Do?" rather than "What Has Jesus Done?" Jesus provides the model for us to imitate for personal or social transformation. Especially in some contemporary Anabaptist and feminist theologies, the theme of God's wrath against sinners is regarded as a form of violence that legitimizes human revenge. rather than see Christ's work as bearing a sentence that we deserved, it should be seen as moral empowerment for our just praxis (good works) in transforming the world.

At least implicitly combining various subjective theories already mentioned, this trajectory represented in the work of Jurgen Moltmann and liberation theology, but also in much of the popular preaching and teaching in contemporary evangelicalism.

Like some Arminian theologians in the past, Clark Pinnock dismisses the penal-substitution doctrine as if it were simply a curious and dangerous holdover from Calvinism. Even in evangelical circles substitutionary atonement is held in theory, the popular message seems to be that the principal purpose of Christ's death was simply to display God's love, which should provoke us to love him in return. However, as Roman Catholic scholar John Knox observes, "The concept of the cross, as sacrifice belongs to the very warp and woof of the New Testament, while there is no evidence whatsoever that the early Church entertained the view that the purpose of Christ's death was to disclose the love of God." Of course, it does disclose God's love, but only because, beyond expressing good intentions, it actually secures our salvation. In fact, if Christ's death was merely teaching you a lesson rather than sine qua non for satisfaction of God's justice, it exhibits cruelty rather than love.​
All theories of atonement are just that theories

The early church generally held to a combination of theories as no one theory can capture all that is in the atonement

They held to Ransom, Recapitulation and Moral influence

Penal substitution and moral government are much later theories

Penal substitution originated in the 16th century by Martin Luthor and especially Calvin

It is I have heard claimed the first to posit atonement as incorporating punishment

although some claim the Commercial or satisfaction theory (these are same under two different names) did as well; I believe most others deny it

This was Anselm's theory around 1000 A.D. and is generally considered the forerunner of Penal substitution

though it is acknowledged Penal substitution goes further

and it is not that Christ just suffered


It is the belief that Christ was punished in the place of sinners, bearing God's just wrath.

Penal refers to punishment

Other theories worth consideration are Christis Victus and Priestly-sacrificial atonement

The first being that the cross was a place of victory in which Christ conquered sin , death and the grave

The later that Christ was acting both as a priest and a sacrifice in atonement

Other than that I see a number of claims which are inaccurate

It is simply not true that the principal purpose of Christ's death was simply to display God's love, nor is that the view of the

moral government theory of the atonement which also teaches the atonement is substitutionary

It claims as its justification

Romans 3:25-26 (KJV)
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
 
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Ladodgers6

Well-known member
All theories of atonement are just that theories

The early church generally held to a combination of theories as no one theory can capture all that is in the atonement

They held to Ransom, Recapitulation and Moral influence

Penal substitution and moral government are much later theories

Penal substitution originated in the 16th century by Martin Luthor and especially Calvin

It is I have heard claimed the first to posit atonement as incorporating punishment

although some claim the Commercial or satisfaction theory (these are same under two different names) did as well; I believe most others deny it

This was Anselm's theory around 1000 A.D. and is generally considered the forerunner of Penal substitution

though it is acknowledged Penal substitution goes further

and it is not that Christ just suffered


It is the belief that Christ was punished in the place of sinners, bearing God's just wrath.

Penal refers to punishment

Other theories worth consideration are Christis Victus and Priestly-sacrificial atonement

The first being that the cross was a place of victory in which Christ conquered sin , death and the grave

The later that Christ was acting both as a priest and a sacrifice in atonement

Other than that I see a number of claims which are inaccurate

It is simply not true that the principal purpose of Christ's death was simply to display God's love, nor is that the view of the

moral government theory of the atonement which also teaches the atonement is substitutionary

It claims as its justification

Romans 3:25-26 (KJV)
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
How much of this did you google?
 

TibiasDad

Well-known member
The moral influence and governmental views are basically subjective theories of the atonement. That is, they focus on the change that the cross effects in us, which moves us to faith and repentance. Our faith and repentance then become the basis of God's acceptance. The bad news is not as bad (since God's justice does not require perfect fulfillment of his Law) but the good news is not as good. Instead of the announcement that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness and borne our judgment, the message is that we can be saved by less strenuous obedience. The objective character of Christ's work as creating a new state of affairs in God's relation to sinners is diminished to the vanishing point.

Liberal Protestants like Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl broke entirely from any judicial (legal or courtroom) understanding of the atonement. "With them and with modern liberal theology in general, atonement becomes merely at-one-ment or reconciliation effected by changing the moral condition of the sinner. Some speak of a moral necessity but refuse to recognize any legal necessity."

Closer to home, the nineteenth-century American revivalist Charles G. Finney made the same arguments regarding Christ's work, although he did not deny Christ's divinity. Finney's scheme was essentially Pelagian, beginning with a rejection of original sin. Reflected throughout his Systematic Theology is a commitment to a combination of the moral influence and moral government theories. It is legally impossible for one person---even Jesus Christ---to fulfill the law and bear the sanctions of violating the Law in the place of others, Finney insisted, "If he had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non, of our salvation? The atonement is simply "an incentive to virtue."

Rejecting the view that "the atonement was a literal payment of a debt," Finney can only concede, "It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of anyone." Going beyond most advocates of the subjective theories, Finney insisted that our own perfect obedience to God's Law is "the sine qua non" of our justification.

Yet even the softer versions fail to recognize that God's Law is not merely a reflection of his will of his moral nature. God cannot relax his holy will or his righteous demands. Death is not merely an example of his displeasure or an arbitrary punishment. Rather, it is the legal sentence for violating his covenant (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23). God is as incapable of being unrighteous in his judgment as he is of being untruthful in his word.

Especially in recent years, mainline theologians have pointed out the basically Pelagian and Socinian assumptions in modern theories of the atonement. Yale theologian George Lindbeck says that at least in practice, Abelard's view of salvation by following Christ's example (and the cross as the demonstration of God's love that motivates our repentance) now seems to have edged out any notion of an objective, substitutionary atonement. "The atonement is not high on the contemporary agenda of either Catholic or Protestants," Lindbeck surmises. "More specifically, the penal-substitutionary versions...that have been dominant on the popular level for hundreds of years are disappearing,"

This situation is as true for evangelicals as for liberal Protestants, Lindbeck observes. This is because justification through faith alone (sola fide) makes little sense in a system that makes central our subjective conversion (understood in synergistic terms as cooperation with grace), rather than the objective work of Christ. "Our increasingly feel-good therapeutic culture is antithetical to talk of the cross," and our "consumerist society" has made the doctrine a pariah.

In our day, the influence is varied, but there is a widespread revulsion among many Protestants theologians against any notion of penal-substitution---that is, the belief that Christ suffered in the place of sinners, bearing God's just wrath. In much of evangelicalism today, the emphasis falls on the question "What Would Jesus Do?" rather than "What Has Jesus Done?" Jesus provides the model for us to imitate for personal or social transformation. Especially in some contemporary Anabaptist and feminist theologies, the theme of God's wrath against sinners is regarded as a form of violence that legitimizes human revenge. rather than see Christ's work as bearing a sentence that we deserved, it should be seen as moral empowerment for our just praxis (good works) in transforming the world.

At least implicitly combining various subjective theories already mentioned, this trajectory represented in the work of Jurgen Moltmann and liberation theology, but also in much of the popular preaching and teaching in contemporary evangelicalism.

Like some Arminian theologians in the past, Clark Pinnock dismisses the penal-substitution doctrine as if it were simply a curious and dangerous holdover from Calvinism. Even in evangelical circles substitutionary atonement is held in theory, the popular message seems to be that the principal purpose of Christ's death was simply to display God's love, which should provoke us to love him in return. However, as Roman Catholic scholar John Knox observes, "The concept of the cross, as sacrifice belongs to the very warp and woof of the New Testament, while there is no evidence whatsoever that the early Church entertained the view that the purpose of Christ's death was to disclose the love of God." Of course, it does disclose God's love, but only because, beyond expressing good intentions, it actually secures our salvation. In fact, if Christ's death was merely teaching you a lesson rather than sine qua non for satisfaction of God's justice, it exhibits cruelty rather than love.​
I have but a moment to respond right now, and will only applaud your well written OP. For now, I would only ask for the source citations of your various quotations, which is not only helpful, Edit per mod and, if memory serves, CARM rules.

Doug
 
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