MORAL INFLUENCE THEORY

The Moral Influence theory was put forth by Abelard, and has become the focus of modern liberal protestant groups.  The theory was originally set forth by Abelard as an answer to the Commercial theory that was previously discussed.  It is very interesting as it teaches that the death of Christ did not expiate for any sin[1].  The death of Christ did not bring about repentance, but made it possible for the hearts of sinners to be softened.  This softening of heart, or heart of stone turned to flesh, is what would lead the sinner to repent.  The early 20th century work titled named The Fundamentals states,” According to this, the sole mission of Christ was to reveal the love of God in a way so moving as to melt the heart and induce men to forsake sin[2].”

The theory itself is plagued with problems, and ignores the teaching of scripture that Christ did indeed come to save the people from their sin.  The death of Christ, though an act of love, was a natural act of him becoming human[3].  Scripture is clear that this is not the case, because Matthew 20:28 confirms that the death of Christ was substitutionary in nature.  That passage of scripture states, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many[4].”  It was his death that justified us in front of a God whose holiness was transgressed, and it was not merely a demonstration of love that gives us a soft heart.

[1] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angeles, CA: Life Bible College, 1983), 185.

[2] R.a. Torrey and A.c. Dixon, eds., The Fundamentals:  A Testimony to the Truth (Los Angeles, CA: Bible Institute Of Los Angeles, 1917), 65.

[3] A.h. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia, PA: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907), 733.

[4] Matthew 20:28 (New International Version).

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