What do Christians describe as the gift of atonement? Atonement is the gift of reconciliation offered by God that justifies us from our sin. Simple enough? But the Church of Jesus Christ plays with this gift and the following is a little taste of various recipes that attempt to offer clarity to a woman at a well in the Gospel of John. There are two broad categories of atonement.
Limited atonement is a belief that only some individuals are chosen (elected) to be Christians and others are not. This election took place before creation and if you are elected, you are secure and if you are not, you are doomed. “Predestination” is all about this form of atonement. Unlimited atonement is the belief that all have the possibility for atonement, all are elected to receive atonement, if some conditional confessions and works are achieved. This is called Armenianism, and John Wesley is firmly in this camp of atonement.
Within these two areas are these more de-terminate beliefs. The Patristic view states that Jesus was the ransom for the souls of all humans from their inherited evil due to the sin of Adam. The Governmental con-cept believes that Jesus suffered and died for all humanity that God might be able to forgive us. Otherwise, God’s hands are tied due to the punishment from Eden. Moral Influence defines atonement as an influential death on the cross by Jesus to show us the love of God thereby caus-ing us to transform our lives and to turn back to God of our own accord. Substitu-tionary atonement is a belief that Jesus died so we might have life. His death is a substitution for our death by sin. Penal atonement is a form of Substitutionary atonement emphasizing the suffering and punishment of Jesus (as witnessed in a cru-cifix). Ransom atonement states that Jesus paid a price to Satan to satisfy our bondage debt. Recapitulation defines Jesus as the new Adam making up for the original fail-ure. Satisfaction is a belief that Jesus’ death on a cross satisfied the wrath of God. Substitutionary atonement focuses on Jesus dying on the cross as a substitution for the punishment for our sin.
All of this confuses me while the Samaritan woman at the well brings me great triumphant joy. Jesus forgives, and I am offered living water.