Atonement Symposium Part 3: Paulien’s Conclusions
by Adventist Today News Team
The same weekend that the Adventist Theological Society (ATS) convened a symposium on “the atonement” in Loma Linda, California, Dr. Jon Paulien, dean of the school of religion at Loma Linda University, preached on the topic at the University Church. Spectrum, the journal of the largest organization of Adventist academics, focused on his use of “golf clubs” as a metaphor to explain the variety of different Scripture concepts on the theme.
Paulien referred the congregation to his blog where he said that he made available a more detailed paper on the subject. He was evidently referring to the manuscript of a chapter he has prepared for a yet-to-be-published book being put together by a number of Adventist theologians and Bible scholars. The chapter is entitled, “Atonement—Accomplished at the Cross.” It states that the book will be entitled Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology and edited by Martin Hanna, John Reeve and Darius Jankiewicz, all faculty members at Andrews University who played key roles in a 2010 symposium on the Arminian tradition and its contribution to Adventist faith.
The manuscript is 37 pages and heavily footnoted with all of Paulien’s sources and word study clearly detailed. It provides an important perspective on this controversial subject. At the end of the manuscript, Paulien summarizes his conclusions in eight points.
“(1) The English word for atonement is most closely related to the concept of reconciliation. Atonement provides the means and the incentive for human beings to become reconciled to God.
“(2) In the New Testament atonement is clearly focused on the cross, but in Hebrews the principle of the atonement continues in the heavenly work of Jesus Christ.
“(3) The human race is in great need of atonement, being unable to save itself. …
“(4) Although sin is a barrier between God and the human race, God does not require sacrifice in order to desire reconciliation with the human race, instead He Himself lovingly provides the sacrifice … needed to reconcile all to Himself.
“(5) Human beings are called to respond to God’s reconciling action with an action of their own.
“(6) Although God has given humans over to the consequences of their own sinful actions, He continually desires fellowship with sinful humans. His love provides all that they cannot perform in order for atonement to take place.
“(7) The atonement at the cross is not limited to some humans or even all humans, but in some sense affects the entire universe.
“(8) The New Testament offers a variety of models to explain the atonement. There was no attempt to set one view as normative over against the others and various models could be mingled in a single sentence or paragraph.”
Adventist Today could not obtain any information about the plans for publication of the book for which this manuscript was prepared. One source told Adventist Today that it will most likely be published by Andrews University Press.