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Atonement, Theories of.

Among the theories of atonement, which objectors to the Scriptural doctrine of the vicarious atonement of Christ offer as substitutes, are 1. The Accident Theory: Christ's death was an accident, as unforeseen and unexpected as that of any other victim of man's hatred (held by Modernists; see Modernism); 2. The Martyr Theory: Christ gave up His life for a principle of truth that was opposed to the spirit of His day (held by Modernists; see Modernism); 3. The Declaratory Theory: Christ died to show men how greatly God loves them (see also Ritschl, Albrecht Benjamin); 4. The Moral-Example Theory (Moral-Influence Theory; Moral-Power View of the Atonement): Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement (held by Socinians [see Socinianism and H. Bushnell*); 5. The Governmental Theory: God made Christ an example of suffering to exhibit to erring man that sin is displeasing to Him; or: God's govt. of the world made it necessary for Him to evince His wrath against sin in Christ (held by H. Grotius* and New* Eng. Theol.); 6. The Guaranty Theory: Reconciliation is based not on Christ's expiation of sin, but on His guaranty to win followers and thus conquer human sinfulness (held by F. D. E. Schleiermacher,* O. Kirn,* and J. C. K. v. Hofmann*); 7. The Classic or Dramatic Theory: the atonement as divine conflict and victory (held by G. E. H. Aulén*). All these and other man-made theories of atonement deny Christ's vicarious satisfaction and are based on the same leading thought: salvation by works, or salvation through personal sanctification, stimulated by Christ's death. See also Christus Crucifixus; Double Reference Theory of the Atonement; Lund, Theology of; Recapitulation; Sweden, Lutheranism in, 6. JTM

R. S. Franks, A History of the Doctrine of the Work of Christ in Its Ecclesiastical Development, 2 vols. (London, 1918) and The Atonement (London, 1934); G. Aulén, Christus Victor, tr. A. G. Hebert (London, 1931); P. A. W. H. Althaus, Die Theologie Martin Luthers (Gütersloh, 1962), pp. 191–195, 2d ed. (Gütersloh, 1963) tr. R. C. Schultz, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia, 1966), pp. 218–223.


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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