The Necessity of the Atonement

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Puritan Board Freshman
Given that God wanted to redeem a people for his name, do you believe the atonement was necessary?


I see it in terms of the Covenant of Redemption made in eternity between the Persons of the Godhead, so the plan was set and each part of it was/is how it was meant to be carried out.

I find the atonement interesting because it is so central to biblical doctrine and yet it inspires such questions as "was it necessary?"

I also think it's interesting because it (the atonement and issues surrounding it) forces even the most biblically on-the-mark Christians (I define that as Calvinists) to think about the 'grand plan' in ways that perhaps most orthodox types prefer to avoid.
Yes it was necessary because it was the way in which God ordained that His people be redeemed. To philosophically speculate as to a "better" way that God could have redeemed His people is to engage in a form of "out-smarting" God - "Well if I was God, I might redeem my people without the Atonement..."
There was no other possible way to redeem that would have accorded with God's good pleasure, or He would have done it. As we know, the Bible never speaks in "hypotheticals." It always speaks about nature of reality.
Originally posted by Ron
How about, was there another possible way to redeem?


The atonement is an absolute consequent necessity. By that, we mean that God was not obligated to redeem His people, but once He had chosen to do so (by His own will and for HIs good pleasure) the atonement became absolutely necessary. It was consequent to His decree, but necessary.

That also means that there is no other way for God to be both just and the justifier of sinners.
Yes, had there been another way, the cup would have passed.

John Murray is spot on I think:

But having purposed to redeem, was the only alternative the blood-shedding of His own Son as the way of securing that redemption? There appear to be good reasons for an affirmative answer.
A. Salvation requires not only the forgiveness of sin but also justification. And justification, adequate to the situation in which lost mankind is, demands a righteousness such as belongs to no other than the incarnate Son of God, a righteousness undefiled and undefilable, a righteousness with divine property and quality (cf. Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 22; 10:3; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). It is the righteousness of the obedience of Christ (Rom. 5:19). But only the Son of God. incarnate, fulfilling to the full extent the commitments of the Father's will, could have provided such a righteousness. A concept of salvation bereft of the justification which this righteousness imparts is an abstraction of which Scripture knows nothing.

B. Sin is the contradiction of God and he must react against it with holy wrath. Wherever sin is, the wrath of God rests upon it (cf. Rom. 1:18). Otherwise God would be denying Himself, particularly His holiness, justice, and truth. But wrath must be removed if we are to enjoy the favor of God which salvation implies. And the only provision for the removal of wrath is propitiation. This is surely the import of Romans 3:25, 26, that God set forth Christ a propitiation to declare His righteousness, that He might he just and the justifier of the ungodly.

C. The cross of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God (cf. Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9, 10). But would it be a supreme demonstration of love if the end secured by it could have been achieved without it? Would it be love to secure the end by such expenditure as the agony of Gethsemane and the abandonment of Calvary for God's own well-beloved and only-begotten Son if the result could have been attained by less costly means? In that event would it not have been love without wisdom? In this we cannot suppress the significance of our Lord's prayer in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). If it had been possible for the cup to pass from him, his prayer would surely have been answered. It is when the indispensable exigencies fulfilled by Jesus' suffering unto death are properly assessed that we can see the marvel of God's love in the ordeal of Calvary. So great was the Father's love to lost men that He decreed their redemption even though the cost was nought less than the accursed tree. When Calvary is viewed in this light. then the love manifested not only takes on meaning but fills us with adoring amazement. Truly this is love.

Those who think that in pursuance of God's saving purpose the cross was not intrinsically necessary are, in reality, not dealing with the hypothetical necessity of the atonement but with a hypothetical salvation. For, on their own admission, they are not saying that the actual salvation designed and bestowed could have been enjoyed without Christ but only salvation of lesser character and glory. But of such salvation the Scripture knows nothing and no good purpose can be served by an imaginary hypothesis
Aquinas did not think that the atonement was an "antecedent" necessity. But, according to Thomas, once God did set out to redeem, then it had to be by the God-Man's atonement.

How does this differ from what Fred mentioned?
There was no other way. Mankind since his creation has been obligated to perfection in order to be in communion with God. We can only be saved by works, and that is where Christ acts in our stead, by grace, which we rest on by faith.
:amen: Fred!!!!

A good read on that question is the first Chapter of John Murray's book; Redemption Accomplished and Applied

I encourage all Christians to read this book

In Christ

Heb 9:22-23 And all things are by the Law purged with blood and without shedding of blood there is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens be purged with these but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices then these.

Nah 1:2 God is jealous and the Lord revengeth, the Lord revengeth and is furious, the Lord will take vengence on his adversaries and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Hab 1:13a Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity.

Gal 3:10 As many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them.

Ditto to Fred. God's redeeming love of the cross issues only from his mere good pleasure, but having decided to save some the cross is the only way he could have possibly met the exegencies of sin and his justice.
Originally posted by Preach
Aquinas did not think that the atonement was an "antecedent" necessity. But, according to Thomas, once God did set out to redeem, then it had to be by the God-Man's atonement.

How does this differ from what Fred mentioned?

Fred gave the answer I was looking for. In fact, he touched it with a pin when he noted that the cross was the only way for God to be the just and the justifier.


Originally posted by Preach
Aquinas did not think that the atonement was an "antecedent" necessity. But, according to Thomas, once God did set out to redeem, then it had to be by the God-Man's atonement.

How does this differ from what Fred mentioned?


I don't think it differs at all. The absolute consequent (as opposed to antecedent) necessity explains that:

1. God was not obligated to redeem fallen man
2. Once He did decree to redeem fallen man, the atonement became an absolute necessity.
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