Author Tim Barnett
Published on 10/15/2018

If God Requires Atonement, Does He Lack Something?

Is God really God if He needs something? Tim responds.


When Christians talk about God, they mean something very specific. They’re referring to a being with essential attributes, and one of these attributes is divine aceity. Now this means that God is self-existent. He is not dependent on anything else. Therefore, there could be no lack or need in God.

Now, underlying this challenge is an equivocation on the word “require.” The question treats the word “require” and the word “need” as if they mean the same thing. In the context, the word “require” implies a demand, when the word “need” implies a dependency.

Here’s a question to help flesh out the distinction. We could ask, if a tenured professor required a passing grade, does he lack something? Well, of course, the answer is “no.” A teacher demands a passing grade but doesn’t need or depend on a passing grade. It’s the student who needs or depends on the passing grade.

Well, likewise, God demands an atonement but doesn’t need or depend on an atonement. It’s sinners who need an atonement. So when Christians talk about God requiring an atonement, they’re talking about a demand, not a dependency. Because God is perfectly just, He demands atonement for sin. We’re all guilty of breaking God’s law and rightfully deserve to be punished. But because of God’s perfect goodness and love, He graciously offers an atonement for sin through His Son. He didn’t need to save anyone.

Therefore, it is not as if God needs something, but rather, God is owed something. He is owed a payment for sin. So the lack isn’t in God. The lack is in us. We lack the ability to pay what is owed. But thanks be to God. What God requires, Christ provides.