Christus Victor or Penal Substitutionary Atonement?

  • The penal substitution theory teaches that Jesus suffered the penalty for mankind’s sins. Penal substitution derives from the idea that divine forgiveness must satisfy divine justice, that is, that God is not willing or able to simply forgive sin without first requiring a satisfaction for it. It states that God gave himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for our sin.

Source > Wikipedia

  • Christus Victor (Christ the Victor) is a view of the [atonement] taken from the title of [Gustaf Aulén] groundbreaking book, first published in 1931, where he drew attention back to the early church’s Ransom theory. In Christus Victor, the atonement is viewed as divine conflict and victory over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection. Aulén argues that the classic Ransom theory is not so much a rational systematic theory as it is a drama, a passion story of [God] triumphing over the powers and liberating [humanity] from the bondage of [sin]. As Gustav Aulén writes, "the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.

Source > Theopedia

I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking here. Could you please state your question?

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Christus Victor or Penal Substitutionary Atonement?

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That doesn’t really make things clearer. Are you asking which is right (what Catholics believe) and which isn’t?

Neither. Both are innovations.


How about both? The Bible speaks in terms of both when it speaks of justification.

Sorry. Must disagree. The man-made doctrine of penal substitution makes God punish the innocent (His son with Whom He shares substance) so that He can acquit the guilty. . . .


This! :+1:

Penal substitution is a theological theory developed (IIRC) by Protestant theologians, and includes aspects that stand in unity with Calvin’s novel doctrines.

The Catholic Church would agree with “substitutionary atonement”, but not with “penal substitution”.

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You can think its silly all you like, but those of us who take scriptures seriously see that redemption is spoken of in terms of penal substitution in places.

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Also, since Paul speaks in these terms, it precedes the Reformation by about 1450 years, give or take.

What? Catholics don’t take Scripture seriously? Are you certain that this is what you want to assert?

And better yet… are you certain that “taking Scripture seriously” is identical to “understanding Scripture with certainty”? Hmm… :thinking:

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My reply was to one person in this forum. So no, I would not take that as applying to all Catholics generally. As to your second question, I will leave that to you to decide. All I am saying is that scripture does speak of the salvific work of Christ in terms of penal substitution at times, as I demonstrated above. The issue I had was him misrepresenting the topic that was being discussed in a flippant manner without considering any scriptural evidence. And yes, when someone does that they demonstrate that at least at that moment, they weren’t taking the scriptural evidence seriously. I am very comfortable with THAT assertion.

Making a generic argument, whether you direct it to one person or to many, doesn’t absolve a person of making an invalid argument.

Can I correct that for you? Let’s try: “misrepresenting the topic that was being discussed in a flippant manner without considering the interpretation that I personally prefer with respect to any scriptural evidence.”

See? This isn’t about “Scriptural evidence”, but about your interpretation of it. Can you see the difference?

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If you refer back to my reply, it was not generic in any way shape or form. It directly addressed the issue being addressed, which is whether Penal Substitution is a valid way of understanding Christ’s work on the cross. I provided specific scriptural texts that demonstrate that yes, this is one valid way of understanding Christ’s work on the cross. There is nothing for which I need absolution. If you don’t like a direct answer, talk to your comrade about his demeanor in this thread which occasioned the response.

My “interpretation” has nothing to do with it. Paul stated it plainly. Words have meaning sir. When Paul says that Christ became the curse of the law for us, that directly demonstrates that the apostles viewed Christ’s work on the cross as Christ offering himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Nor is this a strictly Pauline argument. This goes all the way back to the Old Testament.

. . . .

Your interpretation has everything to do with it, especially when you consider that your interpretation wasn’t held by the Church for 1500 years, per se, and only held by others who left the Church at that time, and hasn’t been held by the Church since then.

If “words have meaning”, as you assert, how can you say that this ‘meaning’ was disputed after the Church had been given to us by Christ and existed for 1500 years? :thinking:


Actually it doesn’t. Again, this discussion was being had in Apostolic times. I find it somewhat odd that you can say with a straight face that this view wasn’t held by the Church for 1500 years when I showed you scripture where it clearly was. Additionally, it is in our shared liturgy. Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world ring any bells?

I have no qualms with saying it was disputed after the Reformation. In fact, many practices that we shared with you were disputed for the simple sake of having a disputation. As one example, we were castigated for having Communion in two kinds, a clearly Biblical practice that had innovated away from the scriptural form by the Renaissance. Disputation doesn’t prove anything when there is precedent before. Again, we go back to the scriptures to establish what was taught by the apostles and have ample proof that Christ’s work on the cross was seen as making atonement for our sin.

“Scripture” =/= “interpretation”. You’re pointing to Scripture and asserting that it’s of a particular interpretation. The Catholic Church disagrees with your interpretation. If you need any further proof that your conflation is in error, then I don’t know what I can say. :man_facepalming:

Sorry… that speaks to “substitution”, not “penal substitution”. Is that the difficulty you’re laboring under – that you’re conflating the two?

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No, I am merely saying that words have meaning. I reject your assertion that the meaning of scripture is different than what is plainly stated.

Again, the passages above describe Christ as having born the curse that is due us on the cross. It appears to me you are erecting a nuance without meaning, which goes back to my statement about disputation for the sake of disputation alone.

Agreed. And then… you’re asserting that your interpretation of that meaning is the correct one. :wink:

Nah… and if you were more well-versed in pre-Reformation Christian thought, I think you’d see the error in the assertion. That Christ “bears the curse” doesn’t mean that He is punished for the curse, as penal substitution would assert. Rather, as we see in Scripture, it’s merely the fact that we regarded Him as punished by God (Isaiah 53:4), not that God regarded Him in that way.


What about Moral influence theory of atonement?

The moral influence or example theory of the atonement in Christianity, developed or most notably propagated by Abelard (1079-1142), is an alternative to Anselm’s satisfaction theory of atonement.

According to Abelard, “Jesus died as the demonstration of God’s love,” a demonstration which can change the hearts and minds of the sinners, turning back to God.

The moral influence or example theory of the atonement holds that the purpose and work of Jesus Christ was to bring positive moral change to humanity.

This moral change came through the teachings and example of Jesus, the Christian movement he founded, and the inspiring effect of his martyrdom and resurrection.

This view teaches that the purpose of the Cross was to demonstrate how much God loves us. Jesus demonstrated to humanity the full extent of God’s love for them.

It was humans’ fear and ignorance of God that needed to be rectified.

This was accomplished by Christ’s death.
So the major effect of Christ’s death was on humans rather than on God.

It changes our view about God—not God’s view about us.

Jesus’ self-giving love, expressed in his death on the cross, leads us to love God and love others fully, giving our lives back to God.

They emphasize that the central problem with humanity is our view of God—not our sin.

Nothing in God’s nature needs a payment for our sins; he loves us unconditionally.

Rom.3:24; Being justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
COUNCIL OF TRENT Session 6 Chapter 8
. . . None of those things which precede justification - whether faith or works - merit the grace itself of justification.
And the Cross demonstrates this love to us, so we can trust him.
Passages supports it, for example.

Peter writes, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

Likewise, John writes, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 Jn. 2:6).
As Gorgias wrote: Rather, as we see in Scripture , it’s merely the fact that we regarded Him as punished by God (Isaiah 53:4), not that God regarded Him in that way.
Please consider:
If God the father needs someone to “pay the price” for sin, does the Father ever really forgive anyone?

Think about it. If you owe me a hundred dollars and I hold you to it unless someone pays me the owed sum, did I really forgive your debt?

It seems not, especially since the very concept of forgiveness is about releasing a debt — not collecting it from someone else.
God bless

I would say that Jesus did come to fulfill all righteousness, and to set an example. However, I would not relate this function to justification. I would say that Jesus’ example is a function of sanctification. I believe that Abelard confused these two things making our works in imitating Christ a salvific act, rather than a response to Christ’s salvific work on the cross. Abelard confused categories and actually introduced some significant obfuscation.

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