Soteriology -- By: Lewis Sperry Chafer
BSac 104:415 (Jul 47) p. 263
(Continued from the April-June Number, 1947)
Theories False and True of the Value of Christ’s Death
III. Theories in General.
4. The Rectoral or Governmental Theory.
In entering upon an analysis of the rectoral or governmental theory it is acknowledged that it is different, indeed, from those theories already mentioned, it being the one and only theory which recognizes the need of an objective work of Christ with respect to God. Other theories seek no more than the remission of human sin, without regard for the deeper moral issues which arise when it is asserted a holy God forgives sin apart from any penalty for the sin. There are but two theories—that of satisfaction and the rectoral or governmental—which can claim the attention of sincere men who respect the holy character of God and the revelation He has given. Thus, and for this reason, these two interpretations are placed over against each other in every worthy treatment of this great theme. It will likewise be necessary to hold these two systems in close comparison throughout this discussion.
The history of the rectoral or governmental theory has been traced above. There it was pointed out that, as a natural interpretation of the Scriptures, the church from its beginning held the doctrine of divine Satisfaction through the death of Christ, and, though the doctrine of Satisfaction was systematized by Anselm in the eleventh century, the doctrine was held in general, as much as any truth obtained, throughout the Christian era. In the sixteenth century attacks were
BSac 104:415 (Jul 47) p. 264
made upon the doctrine of Satisfaction by the Socinians which were rationalistic and against the very Scripture upon which the doctrine rests. These Scriptures were misinterpreted and rejected in the interest of human reason. It was then that Hugo Grotius, a jurist of Holland and a man of colossal intellect, undertook to devise a scheme of interpretation which would preserve some semblance of an objective value in Christ’s death and yet avoid much of the rational criticism then being launched against the doctrine of satisfaction. Though men have departed to some extent from the Grotian philosophy, the essential features of his theory remain as he propounded them. This theory has been the refuge of Arminians, it is largely the belief of the theologians of Continental Europe, and has been the accepted doctrine held by the independents of Great Britain and New England. In the latter region, this theory has been defended by such men as Joseph Bellamy, Samuel Hopkins, John Smalley, Stephen West, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., Horace Bushnell, and Edwards A. Park. The last-named st...
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