Atonement Theories and apologetics


#1

Greetings,

What did Jesus do by dying on the cross? How does his dying acheive atonement with God? There are many different theories:

Christus Victor(ransom) theory: Somehow the devil had a hold over humanity. Jesus gave himself over to the devil as a Ransom. The devil did not expect the resurrection so the Resurrection is a victory of satan, a victory over sin and death. (The obvious atonement theory found in CS Lewis -the lion, the witch and the wardrobe).

Satisfaction theory: Sin is an infinite affront to God. Jesus came into the world and offered himself to recover what was owed to God. Jesus gave satisfaction. This theory came in around AD 1000.

Penal Substitution theory: This takes Satisfaction theory into a different direction. We are in judgement before God and deserve hell. Jesus stands in our place and is judged in our stead. God then punishes his Son for our sins. This was in development by the reformers. (In my mind is a terrible unjust concept of God).

Moral theory: Jesus died on the cross to show us how to live as a Christian. He offers us a model.

As you realize, there is NO theological precision in a One or two line explanation of a theological theory. Please correct any MAJOR flaws, but don’t get to picky on the little things.

Here is the problem. For the first 1000 years of the Church, the Ransom theory was the norm for an explanation of atonement. In about AD 1000, the satisfaction theory became predominant. It fit the medieval mindset very well. However, it has been claimed by protestants that this was an outright change of theogy by the church. The Church changed the theory of atonment. There was no doctrinal GROWTH in this area, it was pure change.

What are your ideas of atonement? And how would you answer this question.


#2

[quote=TKMP]Greetings,

What did Jesus do by dying on the cross? How does his dying acheive atonement with God? There are many different theories:

Christus Victor(ransom) theory: Somehow the devil had a hold over humanity. Jesus gave himself over to the devil as a Ransom. The devil did not expect the resurrection so the Resurrection is a victory of satan, a victory over sin and death. (The obvious atonement theory found in CS Lewis -the lion, the witch and the wardrobe).

Satisfaction theory: Sin is an infinite affront to God. Jesus came into the world and offered himself to recover what was owed to God. Jesus gave satisfaction. This theory came in around AD 1000.

Penal Substitution theory: This takes Satisfaction theory into a different direction. We are in judgement before God and deserve hell. Jesus stands in our place and is judged in our stead. God then punishes his Son for our sins. This was in development by the reformers. (In my mind is a terrible unjust concept of God).
[/quote]

However - 2 Cor. 5:21:

“For our sake he = the Father]made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him = Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Sin” may also mean “sin-offering” - so that Jesus was totally identified with sin. Sin is hateful to God - therefore, on the Cross, Christ is both the Beloved Son of the Father, and also is uniquely accursed, as being the unique sin-bearer Who is crucified (and therefore accursed - see Deuteronomy 21.23). I think this is a very profound idea - because it underlines the paradox of the Cross. So I think the Reformers were on to something. ##

Moral theory: Jesus died on the cross to show us how to live as a Christian. He offers us a model.

This is true as far as it goes, but we need more than good example - we need grace.Otherwise we end in mere moralism; at best, in a way of life with a high moral tone.

As you realize, there is NO theological precision in a One or two line explanation of a theological theory. Please correct any MAJOR flaws, but don’t get to picky on the little things.

Here is the problem. For the first 1000 years of the Church, the Ransom theory was the norm for an explanation of atonement. In about AD 1000, the satisfaction theory became predominant. It fit the medieval mindset very well. However, it has been claimed by protestants that this was an outright change of theogy by the church. The Church changed the theory of atonment. There was no doctrinal GROWTH in this area, it was pure change.

What are your ideas of atonement? And how would you answer this question.

By saying that they all do justice to some passages of the NT, but that none does justice to all.

I think the Atonement is a work of Love, therefore, of grace: therefore, that it undercuts justice: to recall Lewis, in the same book :), I think there is a deeper justice in grace and Love, than in justice as such. For this reason: that grace and Love reflect the inner character of God Himself better than justice does. So in that way, the Love of the Trinity is better reflected in the Love and grace of Calvary, than in justice. I don’t like the term “justice” much - it’s not always clear whether one one means the righteousness of God whereby He is righteous, or, an abstract idea of equity.

Either way, ISTM that Love and grace exceed it: for the exercise of righteousness implies the existence of creatures - whereas Love and grace can act even where no creatures exist: for creation itself was an act of sheer grace and sheer love: not of justice owed to creatures in any way, as there were none. ##


#3
  1. Various Fathers (such as Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Ambrose) were wrong in their explication of the “ransom to the devil” theory (the Catholic Church does not assert that individual Fathers are infallible). However, this state of affairs was not as unanimous as some Protestant polemicists would have us believe. As clearly stated by the non-Catholic historians above, many Fathers either rejected the “ransom theory” or held implicit or explicit elements of the later more fully-developed “satisfaction” theology of St. Anselm (e.g., St. Clement, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenæus, St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nazianzus, St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. John Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, and St. Augustine).

  2. This matter of theology was not defined dogmatically by the Catholic Church until the Middle Ages, so this cannot be a matter of official Church teaching changing, or a disproof of conciliar or papal infallibility. The early Church was much more concerned with trinitarian and incarnational Christology, because that is where the attacks of the heretics were concentrated.

  3. One might also take the position (following the thought of J.N.D. Kelly above, which is implied also by Schaff and Pelikan) that the essential kernel of the later developed theory of Atonement - as classically formulated by St. Anselm - was present in the Fathers to a sufficient degree, and also that the three main patristic theories of the Atonement were not so much contradictory as they were complementary.


closed #4

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