Historical Theology


Inchapter 30 of his book The Moody Handbook of Theology, Enns lays outhis views on the Reformation of the Atonement. To illustrate hispoint of view on this matter, Enns illustrates his main thoughts in agraphical illustration found in this chapter of the book. He alsogives the beliefs of other influential individuals like Martin Lutherand John Calvin pertaining this issue. The key aspects of thereformation of the Atonement, according to Enns, are as explainedbelow in the subsequent prose. This paper seeks to explore theideologies that Enns discusses in this chapter and their applicationto current world religious contexts.

Thischapter of Enns’ book gives several views of Reformation based onsome individual beliefs and schools of thought. He outlines thebeliefs of influential individuals and relates his stand to each ofthem. The highlighted individuals include Arminius, Socinus, MartinLuther and John Calvin. Reformation is from a wide perspective viewedas a kind of theological teaching that emphasizes the sovereignty ofGod in matters of salvation. In this context, Enns equatesreformation to Calvinism. Enns supports the beliefs of Luther,Calvin, and Arminius but adds a piece of his beliefs especially toLuther’s belief.

Arminiusviews the death of Christ as an alternative to a punishment the ledto forgiveness but at the same time neglects claims of justice. Socinus believed that the death of Christ was not justifiable ornecessary. He argues that God’s mercy was enough to pardoneveryone’s mistakes without the death of Jesus. According toGrotius, the death of Jesus is a token of payment for people’ssins, and it eliminated the role of the law. Finally, Martin Lutherand Calvin held the opinion that Christ’s death was a substitutecompensation for sin. They believe it kept God’s anger at bay andgave righteousness to those who believed and chose to accept it.

MartinLuther affirms that justification only comes through faith. He arguedthat no amount of self-cleansing could make one holy. To him, thedeath of Jesus was a payment for man’s sins, and when man acceptsChrist, they become acceptable. Luther argues that the only way thatman can make himself holy and acceptable before God is by seekingrighteousness. He insists that even a man who is justified is notrighteous unless he seeks righteousness.

TheArminian perspective is that election to God’s kingdom wasconditional. He believes that God chooses people to salvation basedon the likelihood they will believe in his son. The grace of God ismeant for all, but one must take the initiative to accept it beforethey can be accepted into God’s kingdom. Calvin and Luther seem toagree on justification by faith. However, unlike Luther, Calvin basedhis teachings on the view that God elects sinners to join Hiskingdom. He insists that apart from accepting Christ’s gospel, manmust also neglect their old ways and live a new life that is free ofsin.

Comingfrom a Protestant Christian church, I agree to Calvin’s doctrinemore than the rest. Like Luther, Calvin teaches that justificationcomes through believing and having faith in Christ. However, he goesahead to add a second part to his view of justification. he insiststhat apart from having faith and believing, one must also change fromthe path they used to follow before they embraced salvation and walkon a righteous path. In other times, Calvin implies that faith shouldbe accompanied by action. Believers must also change their habits tobe fully righteous. This teaching is what my denomination is foundedon. It preaches that if accepting Christ does not come with thedesired lifestyle habits and actions, and then the justification isin vain.


Enns,Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Revised ed. Chicago, IL: MoodyPress, 2014