satisfaction and the Socinians

I was reading volume 3 of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics this morning, and I came upon his description of the Socinian view of the atonement.  The Socinians were the followers of Faustus Socinus, a 17th century rationalistic Unitarian who lived in Poland.  Bavinck explains their opposition to the satisfaction theory of the atonement in words that are strikingly similar to what many are saying today.


Socinians believed that “satisfaction is not necessary” because “Whether or not God wants to punish or forgive sins is determined not in any way by his nature but by his will.  God can just as well—and better than a human being—forgive sins without satisfaction.  In fact, his justice is nullified by satisfaction, because it punishes the innocent and acquits the guilty; and his mercy loses its value if it can only manifest itself after satisfaction.  God, accordingly, has always promised forgiveness to the penitent and wants us to follow him in that respect” (3:348).


Socinians believed that “satisfaction is also impossible,” for “unlike money debts, personal moral debts cannot be transferred from one to another.  To punish an innocent for the sin of another is unjust and cruel” (3:349).






6 responses to “satisfaction and the Socinians”

  1. Funny, I was reading the same book over breakfast

  2. mikewittmer

    I’m glad you said breakfast and not the lunch you keep blowing off.

  3. DREW

    I think Tim Keller did a great job clearing up the confusion by stating this:

    “…the Christian faith has always understood that Jesus Christ is God. God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the cross absorbed the pain, violence, and evil of the world into himself. Therefore the God of the Bible is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. Rather, this is a God who becomes human and offers his own life–blood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that some day he can destroy all evil without destroying us.”

    I clear theology of the Trinity would clear up some confusion about what happened on the cross.

  4. @Dr. Mike,

    Wow harsh words… Next Wednesday/Thursday I’m free for lunch. Drop me an email if that works out

  5. mikewittmer


    I was just teasing, but I’ll check my calendar and get back with you.

  6. Dr. Wittmer,

    You might be interested in some of Ben Cooper’s work then, if you can get hold of it:

    Must God Punish Sin?

    That’s actually too technical for me! So thankfully he has written something for the layperson – Just Love

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