Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2015


As a person trained primarily in philosophy, Peter Abelard employed an intense questioning mentality in fleshing out his theological ideas. His extreme debating style of totally deconstructing theological positions and then afterward including some of those same aspects into his own views made it easy for his religio-political enemies to take apparently heterodox statements and declare these as representative of Abelard’s entire atonement theology. However, many of his theological beliefs are supported in the New Testament and were already held by the church fathers. He frequently affirmed Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice as the ransom to redeem man. He rejected various contemporary views in support of a partial human free will, divine predestination preceded by divine foreknowledge, the idea of sin as an internal attitude rather than merely an act, and the view of God as the ultimate Good. Yet, for reconciliation between God and man to be accomplished entirely and completely the Holy Spirit has to perform a change within the individual believer. Therefore Abelard emphasized that Christ’s passion and death was a manifestation of divine love that touches the believer and awakens in him love towards God; yet it is an act of divine grace and not a human merit. Thus Abelard’s view of atonement was actually more comprehensive and orthodox than the views of his contemporaries.