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On Thursday evening, April 18, at Loma Linda, California, the incoming Dean of the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary offered an interpretation of the death of Jesus. A native of the Czech Republic, something that became important toward the end of his presentation, his name is Jiri Moskala. The occasion was the first session of “The Cross: A Symposium on Atonement” which the Adventist Theological Society organized and the place was the Campus Hill Church.
Moskala unfolded his interpretation in three steps. In the first, he emphasized the significance of the topic, the need to approach it with a humble attitude and the importance of an inclusive theory today. He stressed the danger of allowing contemporary sensibilities to distort current interpretations.
In his second step, Mosksala reviewed eight of the theories which Christians have developed over the centuries. These are the ransom, satisfaction, moral influence, Socinian, governmental, Christus Victor, penal substitutionary and nonviolent atonement alternatives. He identified weaknesses of each; however, in keeping with his inclusive approach, he put more emphasis upon the positive contributions each one makes to our understanding of God’s character. He reviewed the contributions of several contemporary Seventh-day Adventists in the same way. These were A. Graham Maxwell, Jack Provonsha, George Knight and Dan Smith. He expressed special appreciation for the work of Norman Gulley of Southern Adventist University
Although he highlighted positive features of all eight, Moskala’s greatest sympathies were with the penal substitutionary interpretations of sixteenth century Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. He agreed with what they wrote about the seriousness of sin, the wrath of God and the contribution of Jesus in accepting the punishment that we deserve. But he explicitly rejected the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement that say that the positive consequences of the death of Jesus apply only to those whom God has chosen in advance. He didn’t say anything one way or another about the idea of original sin or about the Anabaptist or Roman Catholic Reformations views of the time.
In his third step Moskala outlined his own “Cosmic, Substituionary, Great Controversy Atonement Theory” and expounded it by appealing to a number of Biblical texts. This theory is “cosmic” in that it thinks of the battles with sin as more than the struggles within individuals, “substitutinary” because it says that Jesus accepted the punishment that humans deserve and part of the “Great Controversy” because of its focus on the universe-wide conflict about the character of God.. He described the atoning or reconciling accomplishments of the death of Jesus as “complete but not completed.” Only at the very end of the “Great Controversy” and the final elimination of sin will God be fully vindicated.
Centuries ago the Czeck Jon Hus declared that “The Truth of God will Prevail!” Moskala reported. During the “Velvet Revolution” Vaclav Havel proclaimed that “Truth and Love will Prevail!” Moskala’s own proclamation: “Truth, Love and Justice will Prevail!”