The Root Principle Of The Atonement -- By: C. Norman Bartlett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 090:360 (Oct 1933)
Article: The Root Principle Of The Atonement
Author: C. Norman Bartlett

The Root Principle Of The Atonement

C. Norman Bartlett

No more profound theme can ever engage the mind of man than the doctrine of the Atonement. It is beyond the power of the human intellect to comprehend the sacrificial death of Christ in the full range of its significance for God and man. Our most elaborate interpretations are but feeble approximations to the truth in its sublime totality. In this paper the writer modestly offers for consideration a point of view that has helped him into a little clearer understanding of the Cross as rooted in divine necessity and as efficacious for human redemption.

Innumerable and widely divergent have been the theories whereby philosophy has sought to explain the mystery of ultimate reality and to unlock the secret of the universe. It may seem almost presumptuous for us to offer another key, for where the doctors disagree, what can a mere layman hope to accomplish? And yet we make bold to submit our suggestion for what it may be worth. There is a principle at work everywhere, namely, self-fulfilment through self-surrender, that if followed far enough may lead us at least within hailing distance of the very heart of reality. At any rate it offers promising possibilities. It is a lead that may repay investigation. We shall, however, pursue this trail only so far as we find it bearing upon the doctrine of Reconciliation.

Self-acquisition through self-impartation appears to be a very common, if not universal, method of procedure operative in the world of nature whereby physical reality is produced, sustained and increased. Rock crumbles into soil. The seed dies that it may live and bring forth fruit. The clouds empty themselves in showers of blessing. Water that does not flow and give of itself stagnates. Strength of body comes through expenditure of strength in exercise. The sun pours out light and heat through the radiation of its own substance. The whole material universe, according to the generally accepted conclusions of present-day science, is nothing more or less than

electricity, that is to say, protons and electrons achieving marvelous and variegated self-realization through reciprocative self-giving on a well-nigh infinite scale. And as for applied science with all its vaunted triumphs, it finds self-realization only through the self-abnegation involved in absolute obedience or surrender to the inviolate laws of nature that govern physical reality.

Not alone in the world of matter, but in the realm of spirit as well this law of self-fulfilment through self-surrender seems to hold universal sway. “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (

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