Systematic Theology - Vol. 2

By Charles Hodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX.

THEORIES OF THE ATONEMENT.

THE history of this doctrine is commonly divided into three periods, the Patristic ; the Scholastic ; and the time of the Reformation and from that event to the present day. The method which the writers on this subject have usually adopted, is to pass in review in chronological order the distinguished theologians living during these several periods, and present a general outline of the teaching of each.

The two great objects to be accomplished by the work of Christ are, the removal of the curse under which mankind laboured on account of sin ; and their restoration to the image and fellowship of God. Both these are essential to salvation. We have guilt to be removed, and souls dead in sin to be quickened with a new principle of divine life. Both these objects are provided for in the doctrine of redemption as presented in the Scriptures and held in the Church. In the opposing theories devised by theologians, either one of these objects is ignored or one is unduly subordinated to the other. It was characteristic of the early Greek church to exalt the latter, while the Latin made the former the more prominent. In reviewing the history of the doctrine it will be found that there are five general theories which comprise all the numerous forms in which it has been held.


§ 1. The Orthodox View.

The first is that which has been for ages regarded as the orthodox doctrine; in its essential features common to the Latin, Lutheran, and Reformed churches. This is the doctrine which the writer has endeavoured to exhibit and vindicate in the preceding pages. According to this doctrine the work of Christ is a real satisfaction, of infinite inherent merit, to the vindicatory justice of God; so that He saves his people by doing for them, and in their stead, what they were unable to do for themselves, satisfying the demands of the law in their behalf, and bearing its penalty in their stead; whereby they are reconciled to God, receive the Holy

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