Atonement Theory

Why did Jesus have to die for our sins?

By Deane Barker tags: faith, apologetics

There are lots of theories for why Christians believe Jesus had to die on the cross – called “the atonement” – many of which have been around for over a thousand years. Why Jesus went to his death is generally accepted in Christianity – to save Mankind from their sins and to give Mankind eternal life. Atonement theory asks the question, why was this required?

While the theories get pretty granular, they all tend to boil down to a few concepts:

  • Example/Declaratory/Moral Influence: Jesus died to be an example to humanity. He wanted to show us how serious the stakes were, and how far He was willing to go to ensure our salvation
  • Ransom/Justice/Satisfaction: Jesus died to pay a debt for our sins. The natural question becomes, who did he pay the debt to? Some say God, some say Satan. A variation says that justice logically required a payment or compensation for sin, and Jesus’s death was provided for this.
  • Victory/Dramatic: Jesus died to defeat death. By willingly going to his death, Jesus was demonstrating that death had no power over Him.

Some of these get very dense, and are backed up by complication reasoning and formulation. Atonement theories are often fall along denominational lines.

Why I Looked It Up

I found a Reddit thread that discussed it. I’ve always been interested in the question, so I did some reading.

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