Friday, April 06, 2012

Christus Victor: An Alternative to Penal Subsitution

A redated post.

Defended also by Charles Taliaferro as the Narnian Theory of the Atonement.


Anonymous said...

Except Paul specifically says that Christ's death was for our sins in our place.

Col 2:14 " canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

Gal 3:13 "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'"

Joel said...

I don't see why they have to be mutually exclusive.

Mike Darus said...

For those who affirm penal substitution, there is no exclusivity. They also believe all the moral influence theories. Christus Victor is offered as an alternative to penal substitution as a way to reject talk about blood sacrifice, payment of a penalty, and threat of hell.

Edwardtbabinski said...

So the verses about the necessity of spilling blood are all unecessary?

And all those animals sacrificed in the O.T. also didn't have to be bled and die? Unless they represented "goat and bull VICTORS!"

And the commandment in Exodus 34 about the "redeeming of each human firstborn with an animal slaughter is also unnecessary? "The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed."

Edwardtbabinski said...

Your name is "Victor," so we might expect you to go with Lewis on his Christus "Victor" interpretation.

But also see these books:

1) The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views by Thomas R. Schreiner

2) The Atonement Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Theology of Atonement by Derek Tidball (Editor)

3) Problems With Atonement: The Origins Of, And Controversy About, The Atonement Doctrine by Stephen Finlan

Anonymous said...

While it was God's will to hand Christ over to be crucified I don't see anywhere in the Bible where it says the Father was taking His wrath out on Christ. The closest thing that comes to mind is the word propitiation. Evangelicals follow the Pagan understanding of this word which means to placate an angry deity. To the Jews and the Eastern Orthodox Church the word simply refers to the mercy seat. The sacrifices in the O.T. were never used to appease an angry God but to cleanse one of one's sin. Moreover, the sacrifices in the O.T. were types and shadows of the self-sacrificial love of Christ. The cross was not a parallel to the earthly temple. Jesus was a self-sacrifice offering of love. His entire life was a fragrent offering of selfless servant love. He was revealing God's heart of compassion for us as He chose to suffer. The entire life of Christ was a sacrifice as He took on the life of a servant. Likewise we are called to bring our lives as a living sacrifice by living a life of selfless other directed love. We are united to Christ as He takes on our sin and suffers with us and for us becoming a curse as He dies and is raised again defeating sin and death. The cup that Christ drank from was a cup of suffering. He told (I think it was James and John) that they would drink from the exact same cup that He was going to drink from. It makes no sense to say that the cup they would drink from was God's punitive wrath. God would be punishing them for their sins after He already punished them on Christ which is a double punishment for their sins. This is why the cup that Christ would drink from was a cup of suffering only. Not a cup of God's punitive wrath.

Ilíon said...

Joel: "I don't see why they have to be mutually exclusive."

They're not.

Moreover, the Incarnation and Passion (and Resurrection) rightfully ought also to be seen as a "type" of what God has *always* been doing for his creation. ALL Creation -- including God-haters such as Edward T Babinski -- has *always* lived one moment to the next by feeding off the life of The Son. The Son didn't put himself into the hands of his rebellious creation only during the Passion, he has *always* been doing this: we could not exist otherwise.

Papalinton said...

'Penal substitution'
'Blood sacrifice'
'threat of hell'
'the incarnation'
'the passion'

It all sounds so .............. folkloric.

Anonymous said...

Yet not as entertaining as the Silmarillion.

BeingItself said...

"Except Paul specifically says that Christ's death was for our sins in our place."

Why do Christians give such credence to what Paul said? He's just another guy with an opinion. Why does Paul have any more credibility than your next door neighbor?

Jason Pratt said...

I actually agree with Ilion on this one. {g}


Jason Pratt said...


Yep, it's folklore, too. Not all lore of the folk is false, though.

(Devoted Christians were largely responsible for the start of systematic folk anthropology in the West; something that always amuses an agnostic folk anthropologist friend of mine. She may not be a Christian, but she doesn't hold to the derogation of Christian folklore any more than she holds to the derogation of other religion's folklore--including by Christians.)


Jason Pratt said...


Sometimes Christus Victor is offered as a substitute for penal substitution (as typically promoted), not "as a way to reject talk about blood sacrifice, payment of a penalty, and threat of hell" (since many Christ Victor proponents still believe in hopeless punishment, or else in Christ not being much of a Victor saving sinners from sin--and not a few Christian universalists became so by following out the logical implications of the "wrath of God" being "completely satisfied" on Christ), but as a way to avoid schisming between the Persons of God.

A penal substitution where the Son has to convince the Father thereby not to be angry against actually guilty people (instead of against the innocent Son), is not coherently trinitarian. (Neither is it anything more than the most selfishly human kind of 'justice'. As if Chaka Zulu was talked out of throwing a bunch of rebels against him into the fire, by his softer-hearted son who jumped in first. Or who convinced his father to be so angry at him that Chaka eventually got tired beating him and stabbing him with a spear and didn't have enough anger left to care about crushing his opponents anymore.)

St. Paul's concept of the Son becoming a curse for us should not be taken in exclusion from Paul's insistence that the Son was reckoned with the transgressors (not apart from them or instead of them). And, if we agree Paul was teaching (what came to be called) trinitarian theology, then it cannot and should not be taken in contravention to the unity of the Deity in substance or in intention. After all, Christ is the YHWH inflicting the ultimate punishment on sinners (whatever that may mean), as Paul talks about in 2 Thess.

Those are all just as important for Calvinists to keep in mind as Arminians (and trinitarian universalists such as myself for that matter.)


Jason Pratt said...


ultimately that comes down to "because Paul was once a huge opponent to Christianity, and after his conversion the men chosen by Jesus to be the chief representatives after Him agreed that Paul was in agreement with them, and they continued to recognize his standing as an apostle throughout his life--even after he heavily criticized them."

A non-Christian would have to think they were wrong to do so in sevearl ways, of course; but a non-Christian still ought to be able to understand and even sympathize with the principle involved. Christians didn't just randomly choose some random guy to follow.


Jason Pratt said...


Yes, the term propitiation (and its cognates) as used in the NT is subtly but crucially different from pagan expectations. Sinners, or our sins, are always the object of the verb, or of the action implied by the noun (such as "the propitiation" as the mercy seat of ultimate judgment and authority). Never God.

This isn't always immediately clear grammatically; but the grammar for "atone/reconcile" in the NT is very clear. God reconciles us to Himself. The Son reconciles us to God. The Son never reconciles God to us. Paul is very emphatic that there was no need to do that! (But that's how it has often been interpreted by mistranslation. I'm glad to see in recent years we're starting to get back to the original concept in the West.)

Happy Easter Sunday to the Christians here, btw! {g} (And to the non-Christians, too, eventually. It's Easter for your sake, too. Including for the pagans who originally came up with the term "easter". {g!})


Ilíon said...

"I actually agree with Ilion on this one. {g}"

Grlaashoppa, Ilíon is always right. For, he keeps his mouth shut where he is ignorant.

BeingItself said...

"they continued to recognize his standing as an apostle throughout his life"

But why?

And so what if they did (whoever "they" are), my question is why do you?

Ilíon said...

It was something a Rabbi wrote, in reference to the (often-times intellectually dishonest) objection: "Where was God in the Holocaust?" which lead me to think about, and begin to comprehend, what it means to say that "God is the ground of all being."

If one is interested, the Rabbi's answer was (to paraphrase): "God is right there, being murdered with the Jew ... and murdering him with the Nazi"

God isn't watching our lives, as though we were a program on television. God is participating in our lives, in all ways, in all things -- our sins, all our sins, even the most 'petty', are offences against God precisely because in sinning we compel the Sinless One to experience sin: we compel Truth Himself to experience the Lie; we compel Life Himself to experience Death.

God didn’t have to create us, and he knows what we do to him; he knows that our creation must introduce He-Who-Is-Integral to non-integration; and still he loves us so much that he creates us and continuously upholds our existence.