The Problem With Christus Victor? (Part 2)

Derek Ouellette —  April 16, 2011

The history of theology has been a history of reactionary overstatements.

It boggles my mind why people react against Christus Victor as an atonement motif. Not the driving atonement theory? Fine, we can disagree there. But to tell people that even though it’s biblical it’s not something we “Evangelicals” should talk about too much. Now that bothers me. After all, it is biblical isn’t it? And Evangelicals are known for their high view of scripture aren’t we?

In Mark Galli’s article, The Problem With Christus Victor, he writes disapprovingly about the overtones of what Rob Bell had to say on substitution theory in Love Wins:

“The book also attacks “toxic” forms of substitutionary atonement, and advocates the use of a plurality of atonement theories.”

As if to say that “toxic” forms of substitution theory are actually a good thing and the use of a plurality of atonement theories is a bad thing. If this is what Evangelicalism is coming to, I’m ashamed. Do we find one bit of doctrine so venerable that we suppress other equally valid biblical doctrines because we feel they might somehow pollute Christian character? Dare we suggest to God that he should have left out the victory we have in Christ because people might stop talking about the need for forgiveness? Why is it that Christians would rather suppress biblical teaching simply because some have abused it, rather than to redeem what the scriptures teach.

This is the history of Christian theology. It is reactionary. It perpetuations the lopsided traditions we are all involved in. We don’t like how this or that particular doctrine has been abused, so we warn against emphasizing this or that particular doctrine, against talking about it too much, against suggesting that it might be important enough to preach with all vigor.

This is the problem with the history of Christian doctrine; from Augustine to Calvin to Galli, we do away with the baby with the bathwater. We pit grace against works, tradition against scripture, love against justice.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Pumice

    You make a good point. While I enjoy Wesley and find him inspirational, it is because I find he agrees with scripture. I hope I don’t twist the Bible to agree with him. More of the Word, less of words.

    As to Bell, I have not read his book and at this point don’t plan to read it. I would wonder though what he means by the word “plurality” in the quote you gave. If you used it I would be comfortable because I have read enough of what you write to know where your anchor is. With him I am not so sure because “plurality” can also mean the post-modern idea of many paths to God.

    Grace and peace

    • Derek Ouellette

      Pumice, the quote above was Mark’s assessment of Bell’s atonement theology and the word “plurality” is Mark’s. What he means by that is that Bell advocates using more then one atonement theory when discussing Christ’s atoning work. Mark does not like that and thinks we should just use the substitutionary theory.

  • FrGregACCA

    There is a very deep-seated reason why people are so fanatically committed to the various forms of Anslemian soteriology. It rationalizes and justifies the all-too-(fallen) human propensity to wreak vengeance in the name of justice on the personal, social, and political levels. It does so by subjecting even Almighty God to its demands, positing that even God cannot, will not, be reconciled to humanity without a quid pro quo.

    This, being itself a result of the fall, is tragic enough, but it is also tragic in that it provokes a “liberal” reaction which, in effect, denies the fall and human sinfulness and therefore, also denies the need for the redemption that only God can provide, and has provided, in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

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  • Ryan Collins

    First time visitor to the blog and I like this post, primarily for two reasons. First, I was a stranger to the Christus Victor view of atonement until recent, and I am often confused as to why there is such a big deal with it from many evangelicals. I understand that the substitution theory has a “lock-jaw” on atonement theories in many circles, but why the guff about other atonement theories that are formulated from Scripture? This point brings me to the second reason that I like this post: it is almost a like a proclamation of the necessity for the acknowledge that there is room for thought. This may not be entirely acceptable to many, but I never want to get to a position where I feel “comfortable” in my doctrinal stance. I constantly want to make sure that my position is in a status of examination, not because it needs to be (it may very well however), but because I want to make sure it is Scripturally sound. When there is a resounding alarm from evangelicals whenever an individual considers something Biblical that is not in relation to the majority-held doctrine, who will have the desire to investigate Scripture for truth? Every time you open Scripture to study, you will be fearful of what will be said and what claims will be made regarding your Christian faith. It is not only saddening, but it is downright absurd.

    I am going to make sure to come to this blog more often.

    • Derek Ouellette

      Hey Ryan, thanks for stopping by. It seems to me that you’d fit well at a party room full of post-conservatives like myself. :)