I’m going to do a short series on the theories of atonement. The week before Easter seems an appropriate time to do this. During this season we are particularly aware of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf.
How is it possible that God can forgive us of our sins and reconcile us to himself? It is possible only through the person of Jesus, and by his death and ressurection. But how did these acts make reconciliation possible? This is what atonement explains.
Interestingly, the word “atonement” is not native to the English language. It was proposed by William Tyndale, who recognized that English did not have a word that adequately describes the concept. He proposed the word “at-one-ment”. The word describes two things: the forgiveness of sins, and the reconciliation of man to God. These concepts are married together in the word atonement.
I’m doing this series in part as a way to educate myself, and to help clarify my own thinking. Reader comments and insights are welcome! For those who are curious, I believe that the penal substitution theory best explains the concept of atonement, however, I also believe that all of the theories are valuable and can help contribute to our understanding of what Jesus did for us.
- The Ransom Theory / Christus Victor
- The Satisfaction Theory / Penal Substitution
- The Governmental Theory
- The Moral Example Theory