The Moral Exemplar Theory

‘The Moral Exemplar theory of atonement doesn’t say we are saved by Jesus’ teachings, but by his example. It isn’t only what Jesus said that is salvific in this understanding it is the entire pattern of his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ example doesn’t give us a list of instructions, it provides us a trajectory, a paradigm, a narrative to live into. Jesus as Moral Exemplar becomes the context which reframes our entire existence. Incarnation, Mission, Crucifixion, Resurrection – these become the sea we swim in, the grammar that structures our every waking moment.

What we are talking about here is the power of story to reshape lives. What this atonement theory grasps in a way the others miss is that a saved life must be a transformed one. And the criteria of a transformed life is whether it conforms to the example of Jesus. What is more beautiful, more inspiring, than a cruciform life? I might well suggest, following James, that if Jesus is not your Moral Exemplar then you are not actually saved, because being in Christ means living like him.


It is less about formation of behavior and more about formation of character. Jesus as your Moral Exemplar is awakening virtue deep within you, literally making you a better person.’

Source: Aric Clark, “The Moral Exemplar Theory of Atonement is Deeper Than Everyone Thinks” (twofriarsandafool)

Read also: ‘3 Quotes from “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?”‘.

Read also: “Moral Influence Theory“, “Governmental Theory of The Atonement“, “Christus Victor” and my favourite view on the atonement: “Ransom Theory“.


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