Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Importance of the Atonement - Forlines

... Of all the events in the experience of Christ, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His return, His death stands central. As important as the other events are, both in themselves and in relation to His death, the death of Christ remains central, because apart from atonement there would be no forgiveness of sins. Christianity would be nonexistent. It is the birth that makes the death of Christ possible, but it is the death that makes the birth important. It is the resurrection that makes possible the application of the benefits of His death. It is the death that makes His resurrection important and makes the one who has been restored to life the Redeemer.

It is of the utmost importance that we maintain a sound doctrine of atonement. The study of the atonement must be done with the whole personality, not just the rational mind. While a study of atonement is fascinating in its logical consistency, it must go deeper than that to be comprehended. It must grip the heart also. There is nothing that sheds light on the serious of holiness and sin like the atonement that God provided to bring forgiveness of sin. A proper view of atonement puts seriousness into the whole study of theology. Any system of ethics that does not read from atonement the seriousness of sin and understanding of God's holiness and God's love that is seen in atonement will be grossly inadequate. Any view of grace that is not grounded in the understanding of sin, holiness, and the high regard for law that is manifested in atonement will be empty, shallow, and shot through with the tendencies of antinomianism…(1)

1. Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, F. Leroy Forlines, ed. Pinson, pp 199-200, (Nashville, Randall House, 2011)


SLW said...

I do not agree with the first paragraph AT ALL! It is senseless. Without the resurrection Calvary was just another instance of Roman efficiency in death and terror, and Jesus just another pitiable human victim. Anything declarative and trustworthy the cross accomplished concerning forgiveness was settled by the resurrection. The victory was not in the cross but the resurrection. There are no benefits of his death apart from the resurrection.

A.M. Mallett said...

I do not believe the matter is simply framed by placing the resurrection as preeminent and cause of all things in Christ. The resurrection is essential doctrine and as Forlines points out is the necessity for the benefit s that arise from Christ’s sacrifice. However, without a sinless and perfected sacrifice at Calvary there would have been no resurrection and no redemption. Everything in the Old Testament points to Calvary and not the opened tomb. The entirety of the Tabernacle is clothed in representation of Christ’s work at Golgotha. Our faith should be Calvary grounded with the person and work of Christ our object and focus. None of this is to diminish the importance of the resurrection. Instead it is to point to the absolute certainty of the resurrection due to the perfection of Calvary. In other words, the resurrection is the result of that perfect sacrifice rather than the sacrifice a mere means to resurrection. The scriptures preach blood over and over again throughout the old and new testaments. Consider the following passage regarding where Christ’s victory was accomplished.

Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses, Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. – Col 2:12-15

I bring a particular bias to the discussion because Forlines represents my perspective very well. It is Calvary centered and I struggle with your notion that such a focus is senseless. I do not believe there was any battle in hell or in the grave and when Christ stated it was finished, I believe He referred to the very work of redemption completed on the Cross.

SLW said...

Forlines said:
It is the death that makes His resurrection important and makes the one who has been restored to life the Redeemer
How can the singular instance of a man resurrecting from the dead not be significant in it's own right. Everyone dies, nothing too special in that. No one rises from the dead. It is the resurrection that makes the death important, not vice versa. The resurrection is what proves that Jesus was the Son of God in power, that his vicarious sacrifice successful, and that demonstrates Jesus victory over our unbeatable foe. I do not intend to diminish the atonement, it is just that without the resurrection, Jesus is just another guy who lived and died and who we would never have even heard of all these years later. Without the resurrection we still be in our sins. The resurrection was the piece de resistance of the atonement process.

From your comment:
In other words, the resurrection is the result of that perfect sacrifice rather than the sacrifice a mere means to resurrection
I don't know that the "mere" quite describes what was happening, but Jesus said he came not only to lay his life down, but to take it up again. It was not like the Son of God was going to die by any other means than purposely laying his life down. By his own word, he did so to take his life up again.

Is it not telling that the formula for salvation in Romans 10 requires belief, not in the atoning nature of the cross (although I think it was entailed) but in the resurrection and the confession of His lordship collaterally?

A.M. Mallett said...

What Forlines is stating and I concur is that the perfected sacrifice of Christ at Calvary is the cause of the resurrection rather than the success of the atonement being dependent upon the resurrection. Once Christ was victorious at Calvary, the resurrection was a certainty. For that matter, it was a certainty when God authored the plan of redemption.

Salvation depends on trust in the person of Christ which includes his birth, life, death, burial and resurrection. That however does not state the preeminence of the resurrection over the atonement itself. Throughout scripture we are told it is by the blood and not the risen body. We are cleansed not through resurrection but by the washing regeneration of His blood. Please keep in mind that none of this is to place the resurrection in any secondary place. That is not what Forlines stated.

SLW said...

What Forlines is stating and I concur is that the perfected sacrifice of Christ at Calvary is the cause of the resurrection rather than the success of the atonement being dependent upon the resurrection.
Not to belabor the point, but I think Paul was speaking about more than salvation by faith being dependent on underlying historical fact when he said:
...if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15:14-17

There is no other singular event, whether in the earthly life of Christ, or the history of creation, which is more important, more telling, or more significant to eternity than the resurrection of Christ. That is not to diminish the atonement, nor to not acknowledge its functionality, but to put it in its proper light. The atonement wasn't the end in itself, a life of oneness with God for eternity was. That is intrinsically a resurrection principal. Christ went first, we will follow. The atonement was merely a necessary step on the way.

A.M. Mallett said...

If Christ had not been raised, it would have meant that the atonement was a failure. The atonement is not a success because Christ rose. Christ rose because the atonement was a success.

SLW said...

If Christ was sinless in his own right, and had the authority from his Father to lay his life down and to take it up again, there is no way that he was dependent upon the atonement's success one way or the other for his resurrection. He did not rise, in other words, because he successfully navigated a necessary roadblock before him. He rose because he could and there was nothing that could stop him. Because of the demonstration of power that entails, we can believe what he says about his atoning sacrifice and take to ourselves its benefits.

If he did not rise, it would have meant he died for his own sin, and wasn't divine after all. That in no way equates to his resurrection being the dependent result of a successful atoning action.

A.M. Mallett said...

We shall have to agree to disagree. I do not believe one can hold to a Calvary focused faith and consider the atonement unnecessary to the resurrection itself. It is critical from my perspective to keep our focus on Calvary. As the scriptures repeat ...

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Heb 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,

Re 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Blood is the central, prevailing theme of the entirety of the Bible.