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Calvin at the Centre$
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Paul Helm

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532186

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532186.001.0001

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The Atonement

The Atonement

(p.163) 6 The Atonement
Calvin at the Centre

Paul Helm

Oxford University Press

Calvin's views on the atonement are regularly taken to be Anselmian. This chapter explores this assumption by examining Anselm's view, which probably is that the atonement is conditionally necessary, conditional upon God's plan to provide salvation to mankind. His view is compared with those of Augustine and Aquinas, who argue that the atonement is not necessary, or at least that it would be overconfident, given the infinite power of God, to argue that it must be necessary. Calvin's own views are more complex. There are a number of places where he argues that God ‘could have saved us by a word’. But the main exposition in the Institutes is quite Anselmian. Can these two strands be reconciled? It is argued that for Calvin, while salvation might be willed by the simple power and authority of God, it has maximal value for us by means of the propitiation of Christ, for then all the blessings of being ‘in Christ’ are available. So Calvin's views have an Anselmian character to them after all.

Keywords:   Anselm, Aquinas, Atonement, Augustine, Cur Deus Homo, omnipotence, propitiation

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