Thursday, June 21, 2007

Boyce on the Socinian View of the Atonement

The following is an excerpt from Chapter XXVIII of J.P. Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology pp. 295 and 296. (click here for online version)

The Atonement of Christ.

Several prominent theories have been presented as to the atoning work of Christ, and the method by which God pardons sin.

1. The lowest of these is the Socinian. This proceeds on the principle that God is pure benevolence, that vindictive justice is incompatible with His character, and that upon mere repentance, God can and will forgive the sinner. That work of Christ, therefore, is regarded as one in which he simply reveals or makes known pardon to man. Nothing that He has done secures it, because He had nothing to do to this end. It was already prepared in the benevolence of God's nature, and is simply now made known. [Symington on the Atonement, pp 2 and 3.]

The advocates of this theory explain away all that the Scriptures say in the subject of Christ's death for us, by maintaining that his life and death were mere examples to us of the manner in which we should live and submit to God. In their view, therefore, Christ is merely a great teacher and a bright example.

Some of these have even gone so far as to speak of the sacrifices of the ancient dispensation as things suitable only to a barbarous age, and so far from regarding them as types of Christ's sacrificial work, have looked on them as arrangements permitted only from sympathy for the weakness of the people, whom God ordered to offer them. [Nehemiah Adams, Evenings with the Doctrines, p. 197.]

The objections to this theory are:
  1. It ill accords with the Scripture description of the nature of sin.

  2. It is inconsistent with other attributes of God than mercy.

  3. It is at variance with the letter and spirit of divine revelation.

  4. It is irreconcilable with the exalted nature of the mediatorial reward conferred
    on Christ. [Symington p. 3.]