In a course I’m taking this semester, one of the assignments is to evaluate the different “theories” of Christ’s atonement and either support them from Scripture or reject them.
Part of the reason that studying theology as an abstraction and academic discipline or even looking through the historic creeds and confessions is not sufficient to be a healthy Christian is because of this principle I first heard described by Paul Washer. In sum, you can grasp Calvin, Luther, Lloyd-Jones, and on about any particular doctrine. They build upon one another, they draw from Scripture, but ultimately they can be mastered and exhausted for everything they understood about a doctrine, say of atonement. You cannot do this with Scripture. You will never have an exhaustive knowledge of anything in Scripture so that you have drained it to the dregs and no one else ever has to think through it or find some buried treasure in studying it.
The illumination of the Holy Spirit is like seeing the light gleam through a diamond or crystal. You may think you’ve seen all there is to be seen in a text, but the Holy Spirit is free to turn the diamond before the eyes of another tomorrow that has an insight that you never saw. Or even yourself a year from now. Scripture, as a living and active, though unchanging, document will never yield everything to anyone no matter how erudite, how spiritual, how holy.
The different denominations, so far as they are faithful to the gospel’s essentials, often have an abundance of light on a particular facet of life, truth or something else which, left isolated, leaves that church or denomination imbalanced. Together with the light given to each member of the body of Christ we will display the whole of what can be seen on Earth until we see face to face rather than through a glass darkly.
I think I’m going to look for light in each theory in so far as I think they faithfully represent the scriptures.