fully satisfied the justice of His Father, and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.”
Individual theologians have sought to define more exactly the points on which the standards are vague. For instance, how was justice satisfied by Christ? The early Fathers, from Irenaeus (d. c. 200) to Anselm (d. 1109), held, inter alia, that Christ paid a ransom to Satan to induce him to release men from his power. Anselm and the scholastics regarded the atonement as an offering to God of such infinite value as to outweigh men’s sins, a view sometimes styled the “Commerical Theory.” The leading reformers emphasized the idea that Christ bore the punishment of sin, sufferings equivalent to the punishments deserved by men, a view maintained later on by Jonathan Edwards junior. But the intellectual activity of the Reformation also developed other views; the Socinians, with their humanitarian theory of the Person of Christ, taught that He died only to assure men of God’s forgiving love and to afford them an example of obedience—“Forgiveness is granted upon the ground of repentance and obedience.” Grotius put forward what has been called the Governmental Theory, viz. that the atonement took place not to satisfy the wrath of God, but in the practical interests of the divine government of the world, “The sufferings and death of the Son of God are an exemplary exhibition of God’s hatred of moral evil, in connexion with which it is safe and prudent to remit that penalty, which so far as God and the divine attributes are concerned, might have been remitted without it.”
The formal legal view continued to be widely held, though it was modified in many ways by various theologians. For instance, it has been held that Christ atoned for mankind not by enduring the penalty of sin, but by identifying Modern views. Himself with the sinner in perfect sympathy, and feeling for him an “equivalent repentance” for his sin. Thus McLeod Campbell (q.v.) held that Christ atoned by offering up to God a perfect confession of the sins of mankind and an adequate repentance for them, with which divine justice is satisfied, and a full expiation is made for human guilt. A similar view was held by F. D. Maurice. Others hold that the effect of the atoning death of Christ is not to propitiate God, but to reconcile man to God; it manifests righteousness, and thus reveals the heinousness of sin; it also reveals the love of God, and conveys the assurance of His willingness to forgive or receive the sinner; thus it moves men to repentance and faith, and effects their salvation; so substantially Ritschl. In England much influence has been exerted by Dr R. W. Dale’s Atonement (1875), the special point of which is that the death of Christ is not required by the personal demand of God to be propitiated, but by the necessity of honouring an ideal law of righteousness; thus, “the death of Christ is the objective ground on which the sins of men are remitted, because it was an act of submission to the righteous authority of the law by which the human race was condemned ... and because in consequence of the relation between Him and us—His life being our own—His submission is the expression of ours, and carries ours with it ... (and) because in His submission to the awful penalty of sin ... there was a revelation of the righteousness of God, which must otherwise have been revealed in the infliction of the penalties of sin on the human race.” This view, however, leads to a dilemma; if the law of righteousness is simply an expression of the divine will, satisfaction to law is equivalent to propitiation offered to God; if the law has an independent position, the view is inconsistent with pure monotheism.
The present position may be illustrated from a work representing the more liberal Anglican theology. Bishop Lyttelton in Lux Mundi stated that the death of Christ is propitiatory towards God because it expressed His perfect obedience, it manifested God’s righteous wrath against sin, and in virtue of Christ’s human nature involved man’s recognition of the righteousness of God’s condemnation of sin; also because in some mysterious way death has a propitiatory value; and finally because Christ is the representative of the human race. Towards man, the death of Christ has atoning efficacy because it delivers from sin, bestows the divine gift of life and conveys the assurance of pardon. The benefits of the atonement are appropriated by “the acceptance of God’s forgiveness in Christ, our self-identification with Christ’s atoning attitude, and then working out, by the power of the life bestowed upon us, all the (moral and spiritual) consequence of forgiveness.”
At present the belief in an objective atonement is still widely held; whether in the form of penal theories—the old forensic view that the death of Christ atones by paying the penalty of man’s sin—or in the form of governmental theories; that the Passion fulfilled a necessity of divine government by expressing and vindicating God’s righteousness. But there is also a widespread inclination to minimize, ignore or deny the objective aspect of the atonement, the effect of the death of Christ on God’s attitude towards men; and to follow the moral theories in emphasizing the subjective aspect of the atonement, the influence of the Passion on man. There is a tendency to eclectic views embracing the more attractive features of the various theories; and attempts are made to adapt, interpret and qualify the imagery and language of older formulae, in order so to speak, to issue them afresh in new editions, compatible with modern natural science, psychology and historical criticism. Such attempts are necessary in a time of transition, but they involve a measure of obscurity and ambiguity.
Bibliography.—Atonement: H. Bushnell, Vicarious Sacrifice (1871); J. McLeod Campbell, Nature of the Atonement (1869); T. J. Crawford, Doctrine of the Holy Spirit respecting the Atonement (1871); R. W. Dale, Atonement (1875); J. Denney, Death of Christ, Atonement and the Modern Mind (1903); A. Lyttelton, Lux Mundi, pp. 201 ff. (Atonement), (1889); R. Moberly, Atonement and Personality; A. Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre van der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung (1870–1874); G. B. Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation (1905).Day of Atonement: articles in Hastings’ Bible Dictionary, and in the Encyclopaedia Biblica. (W. H. Be.)
ATRATO, a river of western Colombia, South America, rising on the slopes of the Western Cordilleras, in 5° 36′ N. lat., and flowing almost due north to the Gulf of Uraba, or Darien, where it forms a large delta. Its length is about 400 m., but owing to the heavy rainfall of this region it discharges no less than 175,000 cub. ft. of water per second, together with a very large quantity of sediment, which is rapidly filling the gulf. The river is navigable to Quibdo (250 m.), and for the greater part of its course for large vessels, but the bars at its mouth prevent the entrance of sea-going steamers. Flowing through the narrow valley between the Cordillera and coast range, it has only short tributaries, the principal ones being the Truando, Sucio and Murri. The gold and platinum mines of Choco were on some of its affluents, and the river sands are auriferous. The Atrato at one time attracted considerable attention as a feasible route for a trans-isthmian canal, which, it was estimated, could be excavated at a cost of £11,000,000.
ATREK, a river which rises in 37° 10′ N. lat. and 59° E., in the mountains of the north-east of the Persian province of Khorasan, and flows west along the borders of Persia and the Russian Transcaspian province, till it falls, after a course of 350 m., into the south-eastern corner of the Caspian, a short distance north-north-west of Astarabad.
ATREUS, in Greek legend, son of Pelops and Hippodameia, and elder brother of Thyestes. Having murdered his stepbrother Chrysippus, Atreus fled with Thyestes to Mycenae, where he succeeded Eurystheus in the sovereignty. His wife Aërope was seduced by Thyestes, who was driven from Mycenae. To avenge himself, Thyestes sent Pleisthenes (Atreus’ son whom Thyestes had brought up as his own) to kill Atreus, but Pleisthenes was himself slain by his own father. After this Atreus, apparently reconciled to his brother, recalled him to Mycenae
- Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation, p. 138.
- Ibid. p. 151.
- Shedd, Hist. of Christ. Doctr. ii. 385 ff.; cf. van Oosterzee, Christ. Dogmatics, 611.
- Shedd ii. 358 f.
- Crawford, Scripture Doctrine of the Atonement, pp. 327 ff.
- Orr, Ritschlian Theology, pp. 149 ff.
- Dale, Atonement, pp. 430 ff.
- Pp. 209, 212, 214, 216, 219, 221, 225.