Atonement Models: Thoughts and Questions
June 14, 2008 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

Recently I have been involved in discussing various atonement models with friends when the following came to me:

A patient is dying with terminal condition, in order for the patient to get well, to be healed, to be saved the patient must “trust” the doctor and follow the treatment protocol.

The patient does not have to understand how the treatment works. The patient does not have to understand how the treatment was developed. All the patient has to do is trust the doctor and, if the doctor has a remedy that actually cures, the patient will be healed.

But from the doctor’s perspective, the doctor must properly diagnose the problem, the doctor must procure a remedy (which generally requires understanding how it is developed and is applied) and the doctor must provide evidence of his/her trustworthiness in order for the remedy to be accepted by the patient.

When the requirements of the atonement are stated as only needing to reestablish trust it seems this is true regarding the vantage point of the sinner. All we need in order to be saved/healed is to have trust reestablished in the Lifegiver. We don’t have to understand how Christ/God achieved our salvation. We don’t have to understand how the Holy Spirit administers what Christ achieved into our lives, but we have to trust God. So the “simple” atonement model which says Christ revealed truth to win to trust works quite well.

But is there another side? Is there, as we become understanding friends of God, an aspect where we begin to contemplate what was necessary for God to actually do in order to fix the damage sin caused to mankind? How Christ achieved the solution for sin, the actual restoration of righteousness into this species? Is there an aspect where we attempt to understand things from God’s vantage point, which takes us beyond trusting the physician but to also understanding Him and the actual steps necessary in the procurement of our salvation and application of Christ’s “merits” (aka remedy) to our lives? (of course recognizing this aspect of insight is not necessary to actually experience salvation and healing which occurs when we trust God).

Finally, is it possible disagreements and arguments occur because one person or group presents salvation or atonement models from the patient’s point of view only needing to trust and others are discussing God’s point of view and trying to understand what He actually needed to accomplish in order to heal the race, fix the problem and restore His law into the species?

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, international speaker, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (DLFAPA), Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (DFAPA), and Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association (FSPA). He is President and Founder of Come and Reason Ministries and has served as President of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.