The Nature of the Atonement (John Macleod Campbell)

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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
J. Macleod Campbell represents a different stream of Scottish theology. It is Reformed theology without limited atonement. His argument, to be presented below, is incomplete in many ways. He really doesn’t develop a constructive case for universal redemption that would overturn the Owenian dominance in Reformed theology. Nonetheless, he offers a more impressive challenge than one would normally find in other synergistic accounts.

Further, he knows, like many of his traditional critics, that federalism and limited atonement go together. Summary of thesis: Is the inner relation of God one of abstracted lawgiver or as merciful Father revealed in the innermost being of Jesus?

If God provides the atonement, then forgiveness must precede the atonement. The atonement is the form of the manifestation of God’s love, not its cause. We begin with the presupposition that God is communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He doesn’t have to be “contracted” into being gracious to us.

We can look at the problem this way: If you and I have a falling out, and I come to you and say, “I forgive you,” it’s a word of love. It’s also a word of condemnation, for I am implying that you are in the wrong.

The below is an outline of the argument. I'll end with a few criticisms of his project:

(1) LA substitutes a legal standing for a filial standing (76). Campbell points us to Gal. 4:4-5 instead. He sees the problem that we collapse the Fatherhood of God into that of Judge.

(2) LA does not reveal the name of God in Christ--that of love (79).

Response: Maybe, but that in itself does not mean LA is wrong.

(3) A prima facie reading of the NT teaches that Christ died for all men (82). You cannot preach the good news to all otherwise.

(4) Public justice rests upon distributive or absolute justice (83). Campbell is focusing on the supposed “legal fiction” involved in imputation.

Response: This is a particularly weak objection. The Reformed have numerous responses to "legal fiction" rebuttals.

(5) God was not angry at the Son on the cross. We know this because of perichoresis.

Response: That is not what perichoresis meant in the early church.

(6) If I can’t know that Christ died for me, how can I truly have filial trust in the Father (98)?

(7) The love of God is the cause of the atonement, not the effect (46).

(8) Campbell distinguishes between an atoning sacrifice for sin and a penal substitution (107). Must the Savior experience an equivalent punishment, or an adequate one (119)?

(9) The pardon of sin is connected in direct relation to the gift of eternal life (128).

(10) Christ came not to deliver us from punishment but to cleanse and purify our worship (144; see Hebrews’ use of Psalm 40).

Response: It just seems intuitively wrong to say that Christ does not deliver us from punishment.

(11) Christ is “confessing” our sins (145) This is a filial understanding of atonement. It brings us to adoption as sons.

(11’) The Father’s heart did demand an atoning of our sins, but so that he could bring us back to filial relation (147).

(12) Union with Christ solves the need for imputed righteousness. If all is perfect in Christ, and I am in him, then what need is there for imputed righteousness (168)? There is no “as if” in Christ (222).

(13) There is a corresponding unity and relation between Incarnation and Atonement (228).

(14) The Fatherhood of God is antecedent to God as moral governor (242). This is precisely the correction Athanasius made to Origen.

Criticisms:

It’s not clear how Christ’s “feeling sorry” for my sin actually removes my sin. Further, it’s not clear on what ground Christ has any right to “feel sorry” for my sin.
 

wyattchosen

Puritan Board Freshman
The fact of a eternal torment speaks to a limited atonement. Christ on the cross sufficiently broke the curse of sin. God's justice being saticfied now is made evident in those who find salvation. The fact forgiveness must be granted to those not seeking forgiveness says God must intervene. The fact men will be cast into eternal torment means universal atonement is not possible and limited atonement is God's gracious act towards man.
 

Knight

Puritan Board Freshman
"If God provides the atonement, then forgiveness must precede the atonement."

How does that follow? I could somewhat understand if the argument was that "love must precede the atonement."

One difficulty in a lot of these conversations (and it could be a personal failing) is that I don't know what the author means by "atonement." For example, does he think Christ actually made "atonement" for all men without exception? Does God "providing" atonement entail "application"? If so, since all men are not saved, what does that mean? This would seem to be an especially important question for this author, for if atonement presupposes forgiveness, how can all men without exception be forgiven yet not be saved?

Or if he does not think Christ made atonement for all men without exception, then isn't the scope of the atonement "limited"? He could say that atonement is available or possible for all men without exception (on the condition of faith)... but that means not all experience atonement or have atonement applied to them.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
One difficulty in a lot of these conversations (and it could be a personal failing) is that I don't know what the author means by "atonement." For example, does he think Christ actually made "atonement" for all men without exception? Does God "providing" atonement entail "application"? If so, since all men are not saved, what does that mean? This would seem to be an especially important question for this author, for if atonement presupposes forgiveness, how can all men without exception be forgiven yet not be saved?

That's likely a problem for any English language discussion. Atonement just isn't that good a term. The medieval term "satisfactio" is superior (which allowed Peter Lombard to make a distinction between sufficiency and efficiency). The Hebrew term kippur is even better.
 

alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
Sounds like a heavy dose of Romanism really.. the heresy of the universal fatherhood of God, the heresy of Arminianism, several heresies about the atonement.. just loads of heresy here sadly, mixed in with some wrested truths.

He doesn’t represent reformed theology at all I’m afraid. He was deposed for heresy.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I certainly wasn't endorsing Campbell. I offered my own criticisms. I simply noted that his comments, whether we like them or not, (and I do not find them persuasive) are better than the standard Arminian "But that's not fair!" remark.
 
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