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THE NATURE OF ATONEMENT AND JUSTIFICATION

J. Matthew Pinson, President of Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee, and editor of F. Leroy Forlines’ Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, published by Randall House, 2011, explains that Dr. Forlines found in Arminius a penal satisfaction view of the atonement which authors such as Hugo Grotius, Charles Finney, John Miley and Orton Wiley rejected. In Arminius’s disputations on the Priesthood of Christ, he “plainly articulated a more Reformed understanding of atonement that accorded with the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism, to which he eagerly subscribed.”1 

Dr. Pinson continues, “For Arminius, Christ, in His execution of the role of priesthood, becomes the human victim that is offered up to God to appease His justice. Indeed, as the priest-sacrifice, Christ offers Himself up as an oblation to God.”2 Jesus Christ is the only one who was able to offer up a sacrifice for humanity’s sin because He alone is without sin. No other entity could have atoned for sin. We should not think that we could have been crucified — as the old hymn “I Should Have Been Crucified” claims — but that Jesus, instead, took our place. Had we been crucified for our sins, we still would have spent eternity separated from God in hell. Only Christ Jesus could have atoned for our sins. Dr. Pinson continues: 

This oblation, this offering, consists of the sacrifice of His body — His shedding of blood and subsequent death. Arminius describes this oblation as a payment that Christ renders to God as the price of redemption for human sin. In Christ’s oblation, Arminius argues, Christ as priest and sacrifice suffers the divine punishment that is due for human sin. This suffering constitutes the satisfaction or payment to the divine justice for redemption of humans from sin, guilt, and divine wrath. Thus Arminius presents an understanding of atonement, in the context of his view of the priestly office of Jesus Christ, that is consistent with the penal-substitution motifs regnant in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Reformed theology.3 

While some Wesleyan-Arminian theologians had for a couple hundred centuries espoused a governmental theory of the atonement, in Arminius Dr. Forlines found a Reformed view of Christ’s atonement that was non-Calvinistic. In his latest book, Forlines writes the following on the nature of atonement and justification. 

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It is not enough to proclaim the statement: Jesus died to save sinners. That statement must be grasped in its essential meaning before it is the gospel. That statement could be made by either a liberal or a fundamentalist, but with drastically different interpretations growing out of drastically different views of the authority of Scripture. . . .

The penal satisfaction view of atonement rests on five basic assumptions: (1) God is sovereign. (2) God is holy. (3) Man is sinful. (4) God is loving. (5) God is wise. It is from a development of the inherent principles in these basic assumptions that we see the necessity, the provision, and the nature of atonement.

Lest we fall into the trap of mechanical versus personal reasoning, it is important for us to remind ourselves that atonement is designated to settle a conflict between persons — God and man. We must see sovereignty as personally administered by one who thinks, feels, and acts. God is capable of feeling joy, satisfaction, sorrow, and holy wrath. To deny God the ability to feel is to deny the integrity of His personality. As Henry C. Thiessen explains, philosophers often say that God does not feel things, that feeling would require “passivity and susceptibility of impression from without.” They argue that this is incompatible with divine immutability. However, as Thiessen rightly argues, “immutability does not mean immobility. True love necessarily involves feeling, and if there be no feeling in God, then there is no love of God.”

Holiness is not an abstract principle, but an attribute of personality. It is not simply an attribute. It is an experience of the divine personality. It involves the principles and attitudes by which the divine personality operates. The same observations that have been made about holiness can also be applied to love and wisdom. These are experiences of the divine personality.

Man is personal. Sin is an experience of the human personality in conflict with a personal God. Atonement is designed to resolve this conflict and to form the foundation for restoring holiness as the experience of the human personality.4    

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1 J. Matthew Pinson, “Introduction,” in Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2011), iv. 

2 Ibid, iv-v. 

3 Ibid., v. 

4 Ibid., 200-01.

Filed under: JESUS CHRIST, THE ATONEMENT Tagged: ARMINIUS ON THE ATONEMENT, ATONEMENT, CHARLES FINNEY, CLASSICAL ARMINIANISM, F. LEROY FORLINES, J. MATTHEW PINSON, JOHN MILEY, ORTON WILEY, PENAL SATISFCATION, PENAL SUBSTITUTION, REFORMED ARMINIANISM

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