Satisfaction or Atonement (Part 2)?

The Reformed Reader

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes Several weeks ago I mentioned the difference between these theological terms: satisfaction and atonement.  By way of reminder the word “atonement” specifically has to do with Jesus’ death in the place of sinners (his passive obedience).  The word “satisfaction” means that Christ satisfied the demands of God’s justice in the place of sinners (he lived and died for them; this is his active and passive obedience).

In the past, Reformed theologians usually used the term satisfaction when talking about Christ’s saving work for us.  Charles Hodge, for example, preferred the term “satisfaction” to the term “atonement.”  His objection to using the term “atonement” when talking about the work of Christ is three-fold.  First, he said the term itself is ambiguous; it means several different things (reconciliation, compensation, expiation).  Second, he said the term isn’t comprehensive enough to define Christ’s work of salvation: “His saving work includes far more than…

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