The Problem with Christus Victor? (Part 1)

Derek Ouellette —  April 8, 2011

Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, wrote an article titled The Problem with Christus Victor. As someone who believes Christus Victor ought to be the umbrella atonement motif for the Christian faith, this post is a response to that article.

Mark writes:

I have noticed—and do tell me if you see otherwise—that in general those who publically champion Christus Victor don’t pepper their talks and prayers with personal guilt for sin or the need for divine forgiveness.

“do tell me if you see otherwise”, I take that as an invitation to discussion. I hope to “tell” Mark “otherwise” before this post is through and show how that perception can easily go both ways.

Some Significant Points:

There are a few things I believe that are significant to point out in this discussion. I believe it is significant that the Church Father’s held to the Christus Victor atonement motif unanimously up to the Augustine/Pelagian controversy of the fifth century, at which point it began to fall out of favour in the Western Church. It believe it is significant that the Eastern Church has always held to the Christus Victor motif from the time of the Father’s of the Church up to this very day. I believe it is significant that the Augustine/Pelagian controversy was virtually unheard of in the Christian East and remains a non-issue (notice the connection between that fact and that the Orthodox still holds to the Christus Victor motif). I believe it is significant that since the Reformation the dominant atonement theory in the West has been Penal Substitution. I believe it is significant that Protestants who react against the growing return to the Christus Victor motif seem to be most concerned with how they perceive that it raises “works” (global concerns and social agenda’s et cetera) above or against personal guilt and a personal need for forgiveness.

There is more going on beneath the surface of Mark’s article then just which atonement motif one prefers. It’s amazing how many “issues” raised by Protestants go back to the Augustine/Pelagian controversy and exposes the Protestant terror of anything that smacks of smuggling works-based salvation in through the back door.

Mark’s View of the Christus Victor View:

Mark correctly draws out some of the strengths of the Christus Victor “model”: That this view emphasizes Christ as the victor, that in his death and resurrection he overcame the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, those powers variously understood as the devil, sin, and death. But before long the article takes a decisively wrong turn:

While the model assumes humanity’s guilt for getting ourselves into this predicament—beginning with the original sin of Adam and Eve—the theory’s anthropology (view of humanity) emphasizes not our guilt but our victimhood, at least the way it is often discussed today. (emphasis mine)

That emphasis sets the direction of the article. One is left with the impression that there is a problem with the Christus Victor motif itself, when in reality Mark is concerned with “the way it is often discussed today“. The problem throughout the article is that Mark does not do a good job separating the Christus Victor motif from “the way it is often discussed today”. As the title itself suggests, it is the motif itself that has serious problems.  So in the readers mind Mark  appropriately  chucked out the baby with the bathwater. While acknowledging that the Christus Victor motif is biblical, according to Mark it is just one of those things we “Protestants” should be cautious not to over emphasize. We shouldn’t talk about it very much. Yet Mark’s double standard is that it is somehow okay for the Eastern Church to emphasize Christus Victor, just not us Western Christians.

Here, I’m simply suggesting that Christus Victor may not be a theory that Protestants, and evangelicals in particular, should tie their wagons to.

And why is that? Because, according to Mark, 1) “it’s clearly a secondary atonement theme in the New Testament”, and 2) “at least for today’s Protestants, it has an uncanny tendency to downplay a sense of personal responsibility, which in the end, sabotages grace”.

Is Christus Victor Secondary?

Mark acknowledges that the Christus Victor motif emphasizes the role of Christ’s atonement in regards to the whole cosmos. That being said it is difficult to reconcile his claim that it is secondary and that God is really (perhaps we might say, merely) concerned with individual sin, until you see that Mark has qualified his statement with the phrase “New Testament” by which it seems he means “Pauline Epistles and Hebrews”. (A very Protestant approach to the “New Testament”.)

It is significant that in discussing the role of the atonement of Jesus Christ Mark does not turn to the Gospel’s at all. It is also significant that when he speaks of the Christus Victor model he does so in terms of Christ’s death and resurrection, but not in terms of Jesus’ life and actions throughout his ministry which, incidentally, happens to be termed “The Gospels”. This is a Penal Substitution approach to the atonement applied to the Christus Victor motif. Furthermore the long held belief by Christians that the first reference to the atonement is in Genesis 3:15 happens to be a Christus Victor, not Penal Substitution, reference. When the rest of the scriptures are allowed to weigh in on the subject, the idea that Penal Substitution theory is dominant cannot be sustained.

Major themes running through both Testaments include Egypt and Exile, where the great atonement themes in the Egypt event with the sacrifice of a Lamb, the beginning of the passover with the blood spilled on the door posts so that the angel of death can pass over, are all within the context of deliverance, redemption, freedom and victory, and in fact the term “righteousness” is often used synonymously as “vindication” and in the context of military deliverance and victory as in the case with Deborah. The ongoing atonement for Israel’s sins are all conceived within this framework. The continuing sin of Israel landed God’s people right back into bondage in Exile in need of redemption, freedom and deliverance again. It needed another Lamb with spilled blood to end the Exile and defeat the principalities and powers of the air.

Christ’ work throughout his ministry in the Gospels is a testimony to this defining redemption motif.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news [Gospel] to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:18-19

Jesus’ mission was summed up in that Isaiac prophecy as he said himself. Through his ministry he did those very things including casting out demons everywhere he went, forgiving sins (yes!) and commanding, “go and sin no more” because it is not just that you have been forgiven of your personal sin, but that you have been set from and are no longer bound to them. In regards to an individual, this is what Christus Victor emphasizes against the raising up of the Penal View. Not just that you’ve been forgiven, but that now you can “go and sin no more” because the chains have been broken.

Is it any wonder John could write:

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” – 1 John 3:8

Of course this verse is in the context of personal sin, but that’s just it. Mark’s claim that Christus Victor fails to address personal sin and personal responsibility is simply wrong. “He who does what is sinful is of the devil” says John immediately before the one I just cited, but Jesus came to “destroy the devil’s work” so that you do not need to be of the devil any more. You’ve been forgive, of course, but you’ve also been set free. In fact, John’s point actually addresses the danger of raising the Penal View above the Christus Victor motif: if you claim to be forgiven but are still in sin, it means you have not been set free and are still “of the devil”.

Jesus told the disciples that he has given them authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the wiles of the evil one. When they returned from the mission field he sent them on, he hold them that he saw Satan falling from heaven. We are told by John that “the world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and Jesus called Satan the “prince of the world” (John 14:30) and Paul refers to Satan as “the ruler of the Kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Is it any wonder that the central message of Jesus throughout his ministry was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God in which Jesus says, “the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12 ESV).

Obviously the Penal Substitution view is not the dominant atonement teaching when all of the scriptures are allowed to weigh in. In light of this fact, I find it astounding that Mark would make this statement:

With “no extensive discussions of Christus Victor anywhere in the New Testament—one begins to wonder how much stock we should put in Christus Victor. In short, should we be so quick to marginalize substitutionary atonement?”

The whole of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, discuss Christus Victor. Is that extensive enough for you? The substitutionary atonement theory should not be marginalized, but it should be put in its place and not at the expanse of the complete work of God in redemptive history.

Does it Sabotage Grace?

Earlier I made the connection between Protestant fears of Pelagianism and Christus Victor. This is where I think Protestants tend to overreact and scurry away from anything that – to us – smacks of sneaking works based salvation in through the back door. We’re so scared of slipping into one heresy (works based salvation) that we run fool-headed into another (antinominism).

Where Mark sees Christus Victor as potentially sabotaging Grace, I see Penal Substitution theory as sucking Grace dry of its substance. The Grace of God is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the hole Gospel including his ministry, his death and his resurrection and ascension. It is not just about how “I am forgiven so that I can go to heaven” as is often emphasized by those who preach the Penal View exclusively. That cheapens Grace. It is about how God has set us free from the powers of Sin, Satan and Death – the three enemies of the Cross. It is about how “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Therefore go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18). So even the Great Commission is wrapped up in the Victor motif. It is about taking the Lord’s Prayer seriously that “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, it is about taking the Beatitudes seriously, it is about taking Grace and the Gospel seriously.

Where Mark sees the Christus Victor motif as emphasizing human’s as simple victims that need to be set free, the Eastern Church sees the Penal Substitution theory as emphasizing Christ as the victim. Both are an exaggeration. For the Penal View the idea is not that Christ is the victim, but rather the he is the Vicarious One. For the Christus Victor motif, humans are not so much mere victims, as they are in need to redemption from sin, death and Satan. This of course includes, but is not restricted to, Penal Substitution.

Returning to the quote at the start of this post.

I have noticed—and do tell me if you see otherwise—that in general those who publically champion Christus Victor don’t pepper their talks and prayers with personal guilt for sin or the need for divine forgiveness

The perception goes both ways:

I have noticed—and do tell me if you see otherwise—that in general those who publically champion [the Penal Substitution theory] don’t pepper their talks and prayers with personal [freedom] from sin or the need for divine [deliverance].

Thinking about Lent

It is fascinating that Mark concludes his article with this:

Something to think about, anyway, especially during Lent, when many of us ponder the great mysteries of sin and atonement.

In my home city a 40 Day Prayer Vigil for Right For Life has been taking place this Lent, and it is significant that Protestants make up less then 5% of the Christians who are actively involved in this event. But with the dominant view of the atonement being what it is in Protestant teaching still today, (that I have been forgiven from my personal sins so that I can go to heaven, i.e. Penal Substitution), is it any wonder that Protestants are not always front-liners in matters of contemporary social Kingdom agenda concerns. That is best a matter for those who believe that Jesus’ mission is bigger then me and my heavenly future.

One of Mark’s primary concerns in the article is how many who hold to Christus Victor polemically distort the Substitutionary View. I think he’s right, and so from one who holds to Christus Victor as the dominant atonement motif, I want to address the concern and add a corrective measure. It is unfortunate though that in reacting to an overstatement on the part of the Victor adherents, Mark himself would make so many overstatements.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • T. C. Moore

    Amen brother! The statement that no extensive discussion Christus Victor exists in the New Testament is simply astounding. What are they teaching kids in seminary these days?!

  • Mike Spreng

    This guy Mark is jumping into something he has no idea about.

  • Kyle Pitts

    I do not understand why Jesus would have to suffer if He were only saving us from Satan, why couldn’t God just tell Satan to piss off without dying? I mean, Satan like man is a created being, he has no authority with God. In fact it was God who cursed and tossed Satan out of Heaven. We were saved but not from Satan, we were saved from the wrath of our God, because Christ died as a propitiation for us. Yes Christ is victorious, but I do not think that His death and suffering was necessary to defeat Satan. He could have easily given Satan a physical man body and tossed him into the vacuum of space to be turned into a gel without suffering.

    • brad dickey

      Kyle, Do you accept God is omnipotent?

      If you do, then would you accept Christ didn’t HAVE to die, God could have accomplished his goals any number of ways? God put Christ on the cross, because that was how we were engineered to recognize it. Christ on the cross didn’t FORCE God to forgive us. What could force something that is omnipotent. It’s how he CHOSE to do it!

      Why did he choose that way? We were built to love. There is no greater love than one lay down his life for another. So in a way He knew man could recognize, he sacrificed his son, for US. Who are most certainly unworthy.

      Had God chose to, it could have been by a quest for a purple pomegranite, or quest for some grail, etc.. Why would I say that? Because He’s God. He could have done it anyway he chose. Sin doesn’t over power God. He can forgive us via confession now, and he could in the OT too. Melchizedek didn’t have to sacrifice for sins, but he did so out of thanksgiving.

      If you look through Paul’s letters he makes reference several times to man’s conscience. That always concerned me. I was raised SBC, and according to what I understood there, I was guilty, end of story, and my conscience reflected that. But Paul wanted people to have a Guiltless conscience. WHY?

      Remember the prodigal son story? Remember the Adam and Eve story? Sin seperated them from God. But how? It made them guilty and they fled and hid from God. Had they had a clean conscience they could have gone back for forgiveness and gained God’s trust again, and perhaps stayed in Eden. Afterall, sin wasn’t what got them kicked out, keeping them, whom were untrustworthy, where they could reach the tree of life, that was why they were booted.

      Prodigal son, he slept in Pig Slop and ate their leftovers before he was bottomed out and as a last resort went home to father. It was guilt, after the party, that kept him away.

      Christ on the cross, your son, whom you would protect with YOUR life, you willingly give up, so other’s can have peace. By accepting that is why Christ died on the cross, your conscience should now be clean, and you should be able to go back to him.

      So, God could have done it anyway he wanted to. He chose this way, and thus that is the way it had to happen.

      To say otherwise, is to say Jesus’ blood had some power over GOD which would remove His omnipotence in any honest conversation.

      b d

  • Kyle Pitts

    Oh and by the way, I see no problem with holding to both Christus Victor and Penal Substitution.

  • Peter Berntsson

    Thanks for a great article, Derek! Amen!
    I’m so Christus Victorized now that it’s not funny 😛
    Maybe because I just finished writing a 31 page essay on it :)

  • FrGregACCA


    While you are incorrect, you have put your finger on the center of the disagreement. We are first saved from sin and Satan by the redemption of death, meaning that death, also a result of sin, becomes the route to life via the death and resurrection of Christ, if we indeed die with him in baptism and endure to the end (which includes eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man). This is straight out of Paul. See Romans 8, for example.

    In John’s gospel, the wrath of God is poured out, not because of sin per se, but because people refuse the God’s remedy for sin, the Divine Remediator, who is Christ. St. Paul speaks of being saved “from the wrath to come” which means the same thing. Or, as we read elsewhere: “In the past, God overlooked their sin, but now, God commands all to repent.” Why is this? Because the definitive solution to the fallen and sinful human condition has appeared.

    You ask why God simply did not defeat Satan. First, bear in mind that it is very likely that fall or no, the Word of God would have become human, that this is the purpose of the creation, specifically creating humanity in the Divine image and likeness, in the first place. It is even opined that Lucifer and his angelic colleagues rebelled when they learned of this plan. That being the case, given that the fall occurred, Christ’s coming would inevitably result in his death. In death, Christ comes face-to-face with Satan in the spiritual realm. Christ, however, is there voluntarily. Satan has no claim on Him in that Christ is sinless and thus, Christ is able to free those from Hades who, in dying, were imprisoned there. (See the Hebrews reference, below.)

    However, even if that is not the case that the whole purpose of creation is the Incarnation (I think it is), humanity was given the earth as their domain. In succumbing to the seduction of Satan, humanity gave Satan something of a claim upon earth and over humanity, if not legally then certainly existentially (see Hebrews 2:14-15). Therefore, humanity has to be the agent which liberates itself, and creation, from sin and Satan. This, in and of itself, refutes the point about lack of human responsibility in Christus Victor. However, at the same time, only God actually has the power necessary to affect this liberation; also, the agent of redemption must be both God and human so as to effect the reconciliation between God and humanity which is the positive aspect of what Christ…

  • Kyle Pitts

    I cannot subscribe to Christus Victor alone, and that is my point. There is truth to penal substitution, that Christ by becoming cursed has freed us from the curse. That through Christ’s suffering in our place we have become justified, justified before who? Satan? We do not need to be justified before Satan, but before Him who judges and punishes. We did however need victory from Satan who was our former master, I truly believe that and believe through Christ’s suffering He is victorious and saved us from our previous master.

  • brambonius

    what I found strange was that Galli was putting Christus victor against ‘substitutionary atonement’ which seems for some strage reason equated with penal substitution. I don’t understand this, and neither do I think Christus Victor rules out substitutionary atonement.

    Growing up as a pentecostel kid my idea of atonement was that Jesus on the cross endured all sin, disease and pain of the world, in our place. That’s clearly substitutionary atonement, but not at all penal.

    The second thing that shaped my understanding of atonement is probably the story of Edmund in the narnia book, who betrays the others and gets enslaved by the witch. Aslan then gives himself in Edmunds place to get killed by the evil one. Classical Ransom atonement, and purely substitution, but still not penal substitution. I would think that Christus victor and this Ransom motif are closely connected.

    And yes, I do think that Jesus endured in our place not the wrath of God on the cross, but evil, sin and death; but I fail to see how that would not qualify as substitutionary atonement. And the good news is the resurrection victory, in which we also share. I don’t think we should or even can separate both!!

  • Kyle Pitts

    Did Christ endure our punishment on the cross?

  • brambonius

    No, God does not need to punish to be able to forgive, but to take away sin. Jesus endured sin itself, and death (it’s natural outcome, ‘the wages of sin is death’) and evil.

    • brad dickey

      If he endured sin itself, then by definition he did not succumb to sin. TEMPTATION is not sin. ALthough there are mental sins.
      So if he never sinned, why do you say that is why he died? He died for being the ONLY PERSON to endure and not surrender to temptations to sin from birth to death? Wow, that seems sorta backwards.

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  • Kyle Pitts

    Why did Christ have to take away our sin?

  • Kyle Pitts

    Why did Jesus need to take away our sins?

  • Aaron

    Great post Derek,
    I really appreciate Mark Galli and feel that he is usually a fair very minded guy. Maybe he was over reacting to the whole Love wins book where Bell seems to take some shots at PSA. As I read the post I kept thinking about the Christus Victor themes in Paul that are missed as well. I think of Romans 6 which seems rich with Christus Victor themes!

  • FrGregACCA

    Yes, there is an element of substitution. Since Jesus is sinless, he alone can redeem death by death and thereby reconcile us to God. However, we also must die with Christ in order to appropriate this redemption and reconciliation. He has done all heavy lifting, so to be speak, but we do not escape death or any other negative aspect of being human. We are redeemed through the negativity of human life. If we suffer with Christ, again as St. Paul writes, we shall also be glorified with Christ.

    Thus, the main problem is not “substitution” but the notion that the death of Christ “satisfies” the wrath of God or that, somehow, Christ is punished for our sins by His Father.

    However, Christ indeed takes “our punishment”, the consequences of our sin, in that the Incarnation into a fallen humanity necessarily entails His death.

    To be “justified” means to be MADE righteous, not merely to be declared righteous or acquitted before some court. To be made righteous requires that communion between us and God is restored. We are restored to communion with God by being incorporated into Christ via His Body, the Church, as we die with Christ in baptism, and we are simultaneously rescued from sin and Satan.

    Christ must take away our sin(s), must heal us, because it is sin that destroys us and the rest of creation and makes us captive to Satan via the fear of death. This question is analogous to asking why we need to be healthy.

    One thing: the article suggests, perhaps correctly, that Christus Victor in a PROTESTANT context is one-sided, and the author refers the reader back to a Byzantine Rite Orthodox prayer. The trick, within Protestantism, is, I think, not to reject a balanced notion of sin and human responsibility in the name of getting away from Calvin and Augustine’s understanding of sin in terms of crime, of lawbreaking, etc. Humans are indeed victims in this drama, but they are not merely victims. They stand existentially responsible for their behavior and especially, for their relationship with God through Christ in the Holy Spirit. However, they are also powerless, apart from Christ, to change their fallen, alienated condition. Christ comes, not to punish, not to deflect punishment, but to “seek and to save that which is lost” and return the lost sheep to the sheepfold.

    In other words, all of our understanding of these matters must be determined, first, by the fact that “God is love” and that we see this love manifested…

    • brad dickey

      Umm, actually, to be justified means the scales are balanced. It means your offense is accepted as paid for. That doesn’t make you righteous. It means you are looked upon as Righteous. That would be the Christ’s imputed righteous. To be actually MADE righteous, means you would be changed and your life would BE righteous, committing to righteousness.

      Being made holy, vs grace of perceiving you as holy are not the same. Romans 6:22 shows atonement is the first step in a process to sanctification, or to be made holy. Atonement is that “victory” over sin most claim. But that isn’t a victory over satan, or sin. It’s a door to Grace, which overlooks the sin. But you still sin, thus satan and sin were not defeated YET at that point.

      I’d argue victory of “satan/sin” is not a corporate, macro-defeat, but a potential defeat in each individual. That is where Sin became manifest according to Paul, and is where Satan does His damage.

      Of course that opens a whole can of worms.


  • FrGregACCA

    (Continued from above)

    …we see this love manifested in the Story of the Prodigal Son. The father in this story IS the Father of Jesus Christ without qualification.

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  • http://irishanglican.wordpress Fr. Robert (Anglican)

    Interesting! Christus Victor is certainly true, but only part of the truth of the great Death & Resurrection of Christ! St. Paul says that we were “enemies” (our unregenerate selves before God)..Rom. 5:10. But we are only “reconciled” to God through the death of the Son, and now “much more” since being reconciled, we shall be “saved” everlastingly by the life and resurrection of the Son. Here in Reformed theology we call it the “session” of Christ,”we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 1:1)

  • brad dickey


    I find it interesting that most people’s “victory over sin” claim, isn’t really a victory, but rather a claim to forgiveness, which doesn’t defeat sin/satan at all, just the penalty of relating to Him, it.

    The conern over works you mention, this just kills me. Since Luther jumped Tetzel’s actions two concepts have been rising. The YOU ARE EVIL AND WILL BURN, and the WORKS DO NOT SAVE YOU!

    Works may not save you, but you were saved to do works. Eph 2:10
    Works may not save you, but they are where maturity comes from, Eph 4:12-14.
    Works may not save you, but in the sheep and goats parable, end of matt 25, the ones that did the works were the ones that went to heaven.
    Works may not save you, but you are saved by Grace and that through faith, not works so you can’t boast, but if you have this faith, you will also have those works. So if works aren’t occuring in your life, you don’t have faith, without which you can’t have grace and your salvation is in question anyway. I’ll provide the specific verses upon request.

    Life with Christ isn’t about what you know, but what you do. The Western church puts their faith in what they know. Thus Xian bookstores sell a ton of books where some man is telling you what you should believe. And fewer people are studying it themselves and working it all out.

    Also, not everyone has the gift of “theological comprehension”. That is why eph 4 says the Church leaders are to prepare the people through works of service to be as mature as Christ. (extremely cut down but accurate.) The Church leaders are allegedly the “teacher gift” people. Not every member. So to teach yourself, is ummm, well, I tend to lean with the RCC on this principal, but I still can’t accept them as the ones. :(

    The you must accept His atonement or you will burn, concept started to be a main focal point, as best I’ve found, around Tetzel. It’s become something that makes God, not a God of LOVE, but a terrorist or a Tyrant. What makes a terrorist? If you don’t do what I want you to do, I will blow you up and kill you! Which is exactly how it’s described in the “gospel message” of many folks.

    sorry for the rant,


  • gs

    Found you all on a Google search and really like that this conversation is healthy.

    I am still learning. I don’t feel confident enough to debate on this yet b/c I’m still learning. Done some research on atonement views, then got Aulen’s book on Christus Victor and read the first page and the intro. At the very beginning, he himself said that he would not be explaining his own atonement theory. Am I missing something? Is it explained somewhere else? How are we supposed to know what his theory is when he himself will not explain it? All he did in his book was say why he thinks the other theories are incorrect. That said, I have to admit that I did not read the rest of his book past the intro and first two pages b/c he said he wasn’t going to be explaining his own theory. (Saying that now I am going to get the book back and read it in its entirety.)

    1. Where is Aulen’s ‘Christus Victor’ theory described? (In his book he states that he sees this thing as Christ against Satan -that’s it. His very first sentence sums it all up and it’s completely vague.)

    2. Where are all you people getting your interpretations on Aulen’s theory –is it hinted at in the rest of his book?

    3. Someone here said, “God put Christ on the cross.” This is an excellent way of saying what at least one of the atonement theories says. I have a difficult time with this concept. Isn’t there an atonement theory that says Satan effectively put Christ on the cross? If yes, which theory is that?

    4. (This is my biggest question, the one most important to me.) Can someone explain, in one short paragraph (getting to the point and without using jargon), how Christ dying on the cross saves you and me.


  • gs

    I lied. I have one more question. I guess this is probably a big one…

    Question # 5
    Is there an atonement theory that does not base itself on the principle of sacrifice, whereby sacrifice is related to the animals sacrificed in the OT?


    • HK

      There are plenty of different motifs of the gospel and the atonement. Some based on law, some on covenant, some on influence, some on substitution, some on sacrifice, some on redemption, some on punishment… even the word atonement means one thing in the east and another in the west. I get the feeling from your last question that you may percieve the sacrificial system negatively (many see it as bloody and vengeful or penal), but careful study of the practice proves otherwise. The primary focus in sacrifice is life (giving the life to God). It is not about killing or punishing the animal. (In fact, the sacrifice was not supposed to suffer at all.) Reading Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy with this in mind will bring a whole host of revelations that clearly apply to the crosswork of Christ. The Bible does clearly portray Christ as God’s Sacraficial Lamb.
      There are many views on what the atonement is about, what sacrafice is about, and just exactly what, why, and how God is doing what He’s doing not only at the cross, but throughout history as well.
      My question is, why does the Christus Victor side acknowlege Penal Substitution as if the two views are mutually compatable? Certain aspects of these two theologies clearly make them irreconcilable with one another. On some level, it seems like the Penal Substitution camp percieves this, although they fail to pinpoint the most basic areas of intrisic conflict. The fact remains, however, that one simply cannot fully understand and subscribe to both viewpoints simultaneously without compromising logic. Beyond a mere lack of familiarity with Christus Victor, this may account for why the Penal Substitution camp would seek to discredit Christus Victor or try to cast it as irrelavent, weak and incomplete.
      Perhaps, the Christus Victor side percieves this as well, but the posture of East and West is the reason for the Christus Victor crowd overlooking the insurmountable obstacles in fusing these two perspectives. East does not seek a true debate (although East could win based on content). Rather, East seeks to “explain more fully” and find shared truths within both theological constructs in order to build a bridge to a wider and deeper understanding. Conversely, West loves debate, especially the theological variety. It’s a well-honed skill! (West may win the debate on skill alone.) So, West seeks to highlight points of contrast, debate logically, and is satisfied when one viewpoint emerges as “correct” while the other is defeated as “incorrect”.
      East is more inclined to take a win/win approach while West favors a win/lose approach to discussing theology. East thinks in terms of multiplication and division while West thinks in terms of addition and subtraction.
      Look to God the Father as He is portrayed in each view (CV and PS). How does He behave toward mankind and the problem of sin in each view? What is His primary goal? What is His posture? What is His emotion, His attitude, His approach? How is His role primarily viewed? How does our view of Him shape our approach to preaching His gospel? It is true that a child’s view of their father is displayed in the child’s behavior. So, it is not merely what we believe, but more importantly how well we know God that is important to our understanding of the atonement and our ability to express it.

  • Ryan

    Paul says in Romans 3 that Christ was “sent for as a propitiation, by His blood, to demonstrate God’s righteousness because He had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”

    How does the sacrifice for Christ reveal God’s righteous in regards to passing over sins previously committed? In appears that only in a penal substitutionary scheme this makes sense.

    Then Paul says that this one done so that God would be both “Just” and the “Justifier” of the one who has faith in Jesus. How does God sending Christ a propitiation reveal His justice? It appears to me that it is only in a penal substitutionary view that this text makes sense on its face value.

    I think both views are compatible, but penal substitution is at the heart of my justification. Job 1 teaches that the devil has nothing on God. And the idea that God send His give up His most precious Son, even the second person of the Trinity to the devil, a rebel creature, is a bit looney to me. He drunk the cup of God’s wrath so that I would not have to “Father let this cup pass from me.” It is clear from the OT that the cup is always referring to the wrath of Almighty God against wickedness and perversion.

    • Derek Ouellette

      Ryan, you have narrowed down the Gospel to “the sacrifice for(sic) Christ”. That is your first mistaken. Paul defines the Gospel in 1 Cor. 10 as Jesus’s life, death, resurrection and ascension. In other words, not just the cross, by all of Jesus’ activity. Romans 3 and Galatians 2 both teaching that people are justified by Jesus’ faithfulness to the father, climaxing in the cross but including all of the Gospel, not just the sacrifice. In Romans Paul takes up the question, “How can God be faithful to his covenant with Abraham, how can God be righteous in other words, if that covenant people failed to be faithful.” The answer to that question is explained in Romans one and developed throughout the rest of the book: in Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. In other words, in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ – or in sum: in the faithfulness of the Messiah, the true Israelite and son of Abraham – the faithfulness of God to his covenant with Abraham has been revealed. This connects Romans 1 to 3 and straight up to 11.

      And yes, the Penal Substitution is a part of that. But it’s not all of it.

      I used to be like you, thinking that Reformed theology had it altogether only to come to realize how much of God’s message I was never taught, how much of God’s message Reformed theology misses because it focuses on only bits and pieces of it as if the rest didn’t matter.

  • gaipou panmy

    Hi! I want more information on Christus Victor coz I am doing my thesis on this view!! Thank U!!!