The Aim of the Atonement, part 2


In part 1 of the series, I described how that the evangelical debate regarding the atonement does not concern: the nature, value, or benefit of the atonement, but simply the design or intent. There are several positions regarding the aim of the atonement:

  • Semi-Pelagian – The Semi-Pelagian view is that man failed under his first arrangement to maintain his righteousness; so God gave him a new covenant, based on easier and more gracious terms, in which salvation is attained on the condition of faith and repentence (which man has the natural capacity to provide) as a new form of obedience. In this view, then, Christ’s atonement applies equally to every man and every man has an equal chance to attain it (or lose it).
  • Weslyan – The Weslyan view is that the Atonement of Christ removes original sin from every man and secures the drawing work of the Holy Spirit for every man. Those that cooperate with the drawing work of the Spirit are led to salvation
  • Lutheran – The Lutheran view is that Christ made actual satisfaction for the sins of all men; on this basis the gospel is to be preached to all. Grace is offered in the sacraments, which if unresisted, aid the sinner to have faith and accept the gospel
  • Amyraldian – This view is that Christ made a full satisfaction for all men, but all men are fallen in sin and unable and unwilling to receive it. Since the gospel would be universally rejected, God elects some to eternal life and gives them the grace to believe
  • Calvinist – According to the Calvinist, all men are spiritually dead in their sin and unable to do anything for the benefit of their souls. God determined before time to show his mercy and grace on some and provided the needed atonement for them and enables them to receive it.

Each view sees man as sinful and unable to be saved apart from God’s grace. Each sees Christ’s atonement as having an infinite value. Each limits the atonement to a portion of sinners either by the choice of man or the choice of God. Lutherans, Amyraldians, and Calvinists base (at least in part) the cause of some coming to faith in eternal election. Semi-Pelagians and Weslyians tend to put more faith in human effort and free-will. Calvinists and Amyraldians see Christ’s atonement as ‘saving’, the other views see it as making men ‘savable’.

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