The Moral influence theory of the atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology related to the meaning and effect of the death of Jesus Christ. In this view, the purpose and result of Christ's death was to influence mankind toward moral improvement. This theory denies that Christ died to satisfy any principle of divine justice, but teaches instead that His death was designed to greatly impress mankind with a sense of God's love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance. Thus, the Atonement is not directed towards God with the purpose of maintaining His justice, but towards man with the purpose of persuading him to right action.
Formulated by Peter Abelard (1079-1142) partially in reaction against Anselm’s Satisfaction theory, this view was held by the 16th century Socinians. Versions of it can be found later in Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Horace Bushnell (1802-1876). It was largely taught in liberal Christian circles.