Why Did Jesus Die? 4 Views on the Atonement

3. Moral Example Theory

Grouped with and also known as Example Theory, Exemplary Theory, and Moral Influence Theory, this model focuses more on the life of Jesus rather than the crucifixion or resurrection.

"This view sees the atonement of Christ as simply providing an example of faith and obedience to inspire man to be obedient to God," noted

"Those who hold this view believe that man is spiritually alive and that Christ's life and atonement were simply an example of true faith and obedience and should serve as inspiration to men to live a similar life of faith and obedience."

Moral Example has been criticized for deemphasizing the importance of the divinity of Jesus, as well as the need for sins to be forgiven.

Crouse of Knox Seminary told CP that while there was biblical justification for all the major atonement models, he found this model to have notable shortcomings.

"I think the Exemplary model is there in Scripture — we should follow Christ's example on the cross of self-sacrificial love — but as a perspective of God redeems sinful humanity, it is very limited," argued Crouse.

"In other words, the Exemplary model 'works out' of Penal Substitution (and others), not 'toward' it. Once Christ has objectively removed the legal demands, we can be freed to follow his way of discipleship."

Deaver of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago spoke positively of the Moral Influence Theory, believing that "understanding Christ as a moral example can certainly be helpful for everyday Christians."

"I believe that these atonement theories become incompatible with sound Christian doctrine when we allow them to be interpreted or taught in ways that are oppressive and harmful," noted Deaver.

"For example, these theories of atonement have often been used to encourage women to remain within abusive relationships because it is 'their cross to bear' or they ought to live by Jesus' example and suffer just as he did. In cases like this the real problem lies not with the theories themselves but in the ways that we teach those theories to people of faith."

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