I was trying to explain this to my grandparents and contrast with the Lutheran view. Does the Church teach anything like Anselm of Cantebury’s substitution view? If so, what exactly did Anselm teach? Thanks in advance:)
There isn’t an “exact” understanding. Anselm’s view has certainly been largely dominant in Western Catholicism in the past thousand years, but it’s not the only one. I wouldn’t say that the Catholic Church rests on a single “theory” of the Atonement the way some conservative Protestants do.
Anselm taught that
- God requires perfect obedience from us;
- When Adam and Eve sinned, this incurred a “debt” which needed to be paid back to satisfy God’s justice and his honor;
- Successive generations of humans go more and more deeply in debt, because since we are sinful we can’t obey God perfectly ourselves, much less pay back the original debt incurred by Adam and Eve;
- If the debt is not paid, God’s honor requires Him to punish us;
- As a sinless human being, Jesus paid God perfect obedience;
- By obeying God to the point of death, delivering up His sinless life in obedience to God, Jesus paid more than He was required to pay, because He didn’t deserve to die;
- And finally, because Jesus was also God His death was of infinite value and could pay off the debt of the entire human race.
Protestants merged this idea with the much older (and in my opinion Biblical) notion that Jesus was in some way punished for our sins, producing the theory called “penal substitution,” which is basically Anselm’s except that instead of Jesus’ death being an act of obedience that makes punishment unnecessary, Jesus’ death is the punishment due to our sin.
You might want to look at Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor from the 1930s. Aulen was a Swedish Lutheran theologian, and he argued that the early Church’s understanding of the Atonement was that Jesus overcomes the powers that held us in bondage, and thus reconciles us to God. He believed that Luther’s view was essentially that of the early Church, with the deeper twist that Luther identified the hostile powers with the Law. He argued that later Lutheran theologians had “reverted” to the medieval “Latin” view described above. I’m working on a blog post on this at the moment, and will link to it when I’m done.
Thanks:) Very informative.
=josephback;8268946]I was trying to explain this to my grandparents and contrast with the Lutheran view. Does the Church teach anything like Anselm of Cantebury’s substitution view? If so, what exactly did Anselm teach? Thanks in advance:)
No, and neither did Jesus…
NEVER forget my friend that Christ gave the keys [all access to heaven to ONLY Peter and the RCC] [Mt. 16:18-19]
Also be aware that nowhere in the Entire bible does God; Yahweh or Jesus EVER permit or indure more that the One God, One Faith [set of beliefs] and One Church…
Christ Himself promises in mt. 16:18-19 that Hell [Satan] shall NEVER prevale against her [Mother Church] teachings of Faith -beliefs and or Moral Issues.
Christ is the author of ALL seven of the sacraments. he created them to be used as this is HOW God desires salvation to be “merited.”
1John.1 Verses 8 to 10 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
1John.5 Verses 16 to 1 "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.
John.20 Verses 20 to 23" When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.** As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” **And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained"
And of course it remains GOD who actually forgives the Confessed sins. This is a perfection of OT priest forgiving sins.
Hope this is of some assitance to all of you. Let me know if you have other questions.
God Bless you,
Ok, so the sacraments are the means of grace. Also I’m trying to contrast the Catholic with the Lutheran view. So is it appropiate from the Catholic POV to say that Jesus “paid the penalty” for our sins? Thanks in advance:)
=josephback;8298923]Ok, so the sacraments are the means of grace. Also I’m trying to contrast the Catholic with the Lutheran view. So is it appropiate from the Catholic POV to say that Jesus “paid the penalty” for our sins? Thanks in advance:)
***No, dear friend that is a very wrong, yet an often accepted view taught in the Protestant communion of beliefs.
HERE IS WHAT CHRIST TAUGHT!*
While it is TRUE that Christ God DIE BECAUSE of our sins [We; all of us have and had a active role in Christ Passion and Death], His Sacrifice was NOT to actually remove our gulit from sin; rather to make that POSSIBLE through the Seven Sacraments He left behind for that very reason**.
IF His death had been some “magic” act of removing all sin from everyone who simply claimed belief in Him [TRUE BELIEVE IS EVIDENCED AND PROVEN BY HOW CLOSELY WE ACTUALLY DO FOLLOW HIS TEEACHING AND COMMANDS], there would be absolutely no need for the Sacramnets, ALL of which were either explicitly [Baptism, Confession, Eucharist and Eucharist; or [COLOR=“Navy”]implicitly: Marriage, the Priesthood, and the “last Rite/Final annointing.”]
Further a GREAT MANY bible teachings would HAVE TO BE COMPLETELY voided in order for this TO BE EVEN A POSSIBILITY. :eek:
Keep in mind dear friend that Jesus gace "the key’s to the Kingdom of heaven to ONLY Peter and Christ CC]. Also no-where [not even one time] did God [Yahweh or Christ EVER permit belief in any God but Him, any Faith beliefs BUT HIS [as taught and is boblically proveable] by His RCC] or more than one weel defined and authorized by Jesus Personally; Ark, Temple, or Church. …WHILE these facts weigh heavily on EVERYONES persoanl salvation; they are ignored because they are “catholic doctines”. WELL FRIEND GUESS WHAT… Jesus Christ IS, IS, The First Catholic! And the Church he established is factually todays Catholic Church.
John.20: 20 to 23" When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained"
The FOLLY of belief that ANYONE can follow Christ in Glory without FIRST “meriting” the Grace necessary for salvation through suffering with and FOR Christ is contemporary silliness at best:o
Phil.2: 8 “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross Luke.9 :23 And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Mark.8: 34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Luke.9: 23 And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke.14: 7 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
**1Pet.4: 13 **” But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
**1Pet.5: 1, 9 **“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.”
**2Tim.4: 5 “**As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
**Phil.1: 29 **“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, “
2Thes.1: 5 “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering “
Heb. 2: 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.
God Bless you,
Substitutionary atonement is a rather silly, largely Protestant invention and frankly makes little sense, especially as there are much better theories of atonement
I’ll try to keep this concise: Substitutionary atonement is correct to a point, although it should probably be avoided because it means different things to different people. Jesus was a substitutionary atonement, in the sense that his sacrifice was representative. Both Catholics and protestants can agree on this. The problem is the “penal substitution” viewpoint. The Catholic sees the sacrifice as a propitiation of God that repairs a rip in a relationship. The penal substitution viewpoint sees Christ as actually becoming sin and becoming punished in the place of the sinner. Whereas the Catholic viewpoint leaves man in the position to be able to respond to the floodgates of Grace in a process of salvation because God has been appeased, the penal viewpoint inevitably leads to salvation as being an “event” at one point in time, since Christ paid it all on the cross.
The protestants point out that Christ “became sin” and hence penal substitution. The Catholic rejoins with a few points:
To “pay the price,” Jesus would have had to have gone to hell, i.e, Gehenna, and there is no Biblical basis for this. More than that, He would have had to spend eternity there, or the legal transaction (using the protestant forensic view of salvation) would not be just.
“To become sin” has been pointed out by numerous fathers as actually being technical sacrificial terminology for “becoming a sin offering.”
If Christ actually became sin in the ontological sense meant by the reformers, this would utterly negate the point of being a sinless passover lamb.
Penal substitution does not fit in with Jewish ideas of atonement. The “ransom” terminology in many second temple documents was used in terms of the birth pangs of the messiah ushering in a tribulation that would atone for the sins of Israel, and ransom/gather the lost tribes into a “New Exodus” into the promised land. This sweeping, corporate concept had little room for the forensic, juridical penal-substitution view geared more toward the largely protestant (although Augustine can be credited to some extent for this) introspective notion of individual salvation. A good resource for this particular point is Dr. Brant Pitre’s doctoral thesis.
Far more sensible is the moral influence theory of atonement that was taught by the Church Fathers, which avoids the necessity of Christ’s death to appease the wrath of a bloodthirsty God which is really quite blasphemous when you think about it.
I do definitely think that Christus Victor, the moral theory, and the healing theory all have positive truths to them. Interesting side note, Christus Victor has fallen out of favor largely because the western mindset had an aversion to the almost deceptive nature of this “Divine Mousetrap,” in which Satan unknowingly brings his own doom about. This aversion to so called “deception” was lacking in the near-eastern Semitic mind, as one can see in much of their folklore. It was seen as more of a strategic master-stroke.
That being said, Catholic dogma is rather firm about the propitiatory nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Anselm is largely responsible for focusing primarily on the idea of appeasing a wrathful God’s *honor *(which has Biblical basis), but he necessarily imported the feudalistic viewpoint of his times onto the concept, giving it an unsavory feel. St Thomas did a rather better job of softening those aspects.
I tend to use propitiation in the sense of repairing a rupture in a personal relationship such as marriage, since God frequently uses this imagery Himself. In some sense, yes, God must demand Justice, but this is satisfied with the eternal love and eternal sacrifice due to Jesus being eternal. Jesus had to die to save us. He didn’t have to die to please God, because His love in the giving of any sacrifice would be perfect and eternal. However, He had to die to save us, because only in dying to sin might we be united to Him, only in dying could he ascend and present the sacrifice in heaven, and this very act in itself would be a perfect self-offering; the essence of sacrifice as an example to all. And God freely accepted this self-giving by the Son. How could He not? It was Jesus’ decision to make. In the process, Christus Victor, Moral, etc are inseparably intertwined, as all have a truthful aspect about them.
Good examples of propitiation are found with Moses, fasting prostrate for an inordinately long time, even going so far as to ask God to blot him out of the book of life rather than the Israelites. Those are brass stones. That is love. Perfect, self-less love. And God was appeased. I highly doubt in the sense of a wrathful, pagan deity, but rather because this act echoes of the great Act to come: the self-giving of Christ freely offered to mend a rift.
Where do you find the moral influence theory being taught by the church fathers? The patristic view is usually characterized as “Christus Victor,” sometimes in the specific “ransom” form. There are, however, definitely substitutionary elements in patristic atonement theology as well. I wouldn’t claim that there are no “moral influence” elements, but that’s hardly their primary approach, it seems to me. Insofar as the “moral influence” theory is trying to avoid either substitutionary/satisfaction elements or “mythological” language about defeating Satan and/or ransoming us from him, it is completely alien to the Fathers.
Aulen would further argue that both the later Western theories see Jesus as atoning for our sins primarily as a human being, while the Fathers (and Luther, according to Aulen) saw atonement as the work of God. This is a matter of some debate–arguably Aulen plays down the importance of Jesus’ humanity too much.
That’s specifically the “ransom” theory. “Christus Victor” is somewhat of an abstraction created by Aulen, though I think he was definitely on to something.
And I don’t think the objection was just to the deception aspect, but more broadly to the idea that “Satan has rights.” It seems clear from the OT that Satan does in some sense have rights (see Job), and I think Anselm and Abelard were just wrong on this. Devastatingly wrong, in fact (though I believe David Hart has undertaken to defend Anselm from an Orthodox perspective, and I need to read his argument).
You’re right, and I should clarify. The Ransom theory seems to have a more Christus Victor “flavor” in the sense that Satan and the powers are always clearly in view, as opposed to the Anselmian approach, in which Satan regrettably almost seems to disappear from view. What Christus Victor seems to get right is it’s emphasis on freedom from the sin and evil as a real kingdom, in a sense. I suppose this is why Christus Victor proponents seem to prefer the gospel of Mark, with its vivid depiction of Jesus vs the kingdom of the Strong Man…As for Satan having rights, there does seem to be evidence to the positive, and some Catholic theologians have noted that the NT almost seems to allude to the fact that the unsaved are in fact in covenant with him, which would seem to neccessitate rights. The propitiation aspect of Christ’s sacrifice is dogma, however I would like to see the Western Church to do more theological work on the issue, since the nature of that propitiation is still a bit muddled. I think we are already moving a bit closer to the Eastern viewpoint on things, perhaps in time we will reach a common understanding through the Holy Spirit…
The moral influence theory of the atonement was universally taught among writers in the early church.See, for example: the Epistle to Diognetus, The Shepherd of Hermas, and works by Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, Origen, Irenaeus, and Arnobius. Some writers also taught other atonement models in conjunction with it, but the majority of Christian writers in the second and third centuries AD expressed only the moral influence view.
I dislike the ransom, satisfaction and substitutionary atonement theories - it makes perfect sense from the perspective of ancient people used to sacrifices to appease God but not much sense from the view of a transcendant, all loving God
Wikipedia is wrong here. The article is one of the worst examples I’ve seen on Wikipedia yet of one-sidedly pushing a particular agenda and cherry-picking (or outright misrepresenting) the evidence. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I have edited it to reflect more accurately the fact that it’s relying on the position of certain secondary sources. In fact, the article depends heavily on one source–Wallace and Rusk–which appears to be self-published (at least, I find two different publishers listed in different places: Bridgehead and CreateSpace, and CreateSpace is certainly a set of tools for self-publication). I’m not saying that that makes it bad, only that it hasn’t gone through a peer-review process as more conventional academic works do.
The article mentions “Christus Victor” and “ransom” theories but shows no understanding of them whatsoever, and works primarily with the assumption that if you think the Atonement is about transformation you must hold to a purely or primarily moral influence theory. This is just nonsense, and shows a complete lack of understanding of early Christianity.
Just to give one counter-example, one of the sources listed as teaching the “moral influence theory” is the Epistle of Diognetus. Yet here’s what the Epistle of Diognetus says:
He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!
Reducing this to a “moral influence theory” does not do it justice. Of course moral transformation was central for the Fathers. But modern Protestants, reacting to the penal substitution view, are missing the richness of patristic theology when they use the Fathers to champion a purely exemplarist position (and they can support this by citations from conservative Protestants, who similarly assume that if the Fathers don’t use their approved penal-substitution language they must be “exemplarists”).
But you aren’t a transcendent, all-loving God, so you don’t view things from that view. What you mean is that it doesn’t make sense based on your understanding of God as transcendent and all-loving. But your notions of what that means are going to be formed by your culture. That’s why paying attention to Christian tradition is so important–the sacrificial and mythological and even penal themes found in the tradition can’t simply be discarded, because they give us a view of God that our sentimental culture would never have come up with on its own.
I’m curious to see you advocating Aulen’s Christus Victor work. I see the value in Aulen’s work in that it promoted the themes of Christus Victor and Ransom which had often been neglected in Western Christianity since the time of Anselm. However, I don’t think Aulen did a particularly great presentation of those ideas. I have seen people come away from reading Aulen with not very clear or systematic ideas about what the Christus Victor or Ransom approaches actually teach. But I think the biggest problem with Aulen’s work was his failure to treat the moral influence model in a factually accurate way. Aulen seems to make the mistake of attributing the origin of the moral influence model to Peter Abelard, which is simply wrong. Aulen appears ignorant of the strong presence of the moral influence model within the early Church Fathers, an ignorance I find hard to fathom since other Western scholars around his time were publishing numerous books and articles exploring the way that moral influence thinking pervaded the early Church Fathers. Rashdall’s 1919 work The Idea of Atonement in Christian Theology, and Grensted’s 1920 work A Short History of the Doctrine of the Atonement both point to the moral influence model as primary within the early Church Fathers, as did the earlier massively influential work History of Dogma by Harnack in 1886. Works published subsequent to Aulen’s book would continue this trend - eg McGiffert’s 1932 History of Early Christian Thought, and Turner’s 1952 The Patristic Doctrine of Redemption, Fischer’s 1949 History of Christian Doctrine. Aulen fails to deal with the literature about the prevalence of the moral influence view in the fathers, and seems to simply be wrong in his discussion of moral influence thought in the Fathers. The recent work by Wallace & Rusk is hardly novel in the claims it makes about the prevalence of the moral influence model in the Fathers.
The wikipedia article should certainly be updated to include a lot more of these works, and I will do that if I get some time. Although the Ransom and Christus Victor pages could equally use work.
Just to give one counter-example, one of the sources listed as teaching the “moral influence theory” is the Epistle of Diognetus. Yet here’s what the Epistle of Diognetus says:
Debate has long raged over how the passage you quote should be interpreted, and I have seen advocates of every atonement theory claim it endorses their view of the atonement. That passage aside, the epistle contains a lot of other passages which are relevant to atonement thinking. The epistle certainly has a lot of support for moral influence theory throughout it, regardless of how this particular passage is interpreted. So I don’t see a problem with a claim that moral influence theory is an important or essential part of the atonement view of Diognetus, and the passage you cite cannot in and of itself disprove that claim. We need to bear in mind that a huge proportion of the Church Fathers endorsed more than one model of the atonement - especially around the fourth and fifth centuries we commonly find three or four models being taught by all the major theologians (moral influence, ransom, Christus Victor, recapitulation). To assert the popularity of one theory is not to deny the others. The moral influence view is certainly present in the epistle of Diognetus and was extremely popular right throughout the patristic period, but to say that is not to deny that Diognetus or other patristic writers also held other theories too. It is an interesting topic of study to attempt to understand how the multiple different theories of atonement interacted within the thought of these theologians.
(and they can support this by citations from conservative Protestants, who similarly assume that if the Fathers don’t use their approved penal-substitution language they must be “exemplarists”).
I am unaware of any works which do this. Admitting that the evidence proves exemplarists are right would seem to me to be a very strange thing for a pro-penal substitution conservative Protestant to do!
Substitutionary atonement started with Paul, who came up with the idea of Original Sin and Jesus as a new Adam - however the Gospels do not really get you to substitutionary atonement (except perhaps parts of John)
No, substitutionary atonement is exactly what i’d expect from people brought up in the Jewish & pagan traditions which revolved around sacrifices to appease God.
It makes absolutely no sense in any other context.
Well, *I *was surprised to see you proceeding as if Aulen had never written!
I have seen people come away from reading Aulen with not very clear or systematic ideas about what the Christus Victor or Ransom approaches actually teach.
Certainly Aulen’s presentation is not perfect. But until Aulen most Western Christians assumed that the choice was between some kind of Anselmian/penal substitution model and the “moral influence model.” Aulen blew that dichotomy apart by pointing to the way early Christians incorporated the positive elements of both views without their weaknesses. I think there’s a lot that remains to be done, particularly incorporating the developments of the past three-quarters of a century! And Aulen’s approach comes close to Marcionism at times, which I think is its biggest flaw.
The fact that one doesn’t come away from Aulen with “clear or systematic ideas about what the Christus Victor or Ransom approaches actually teach” is actually a great strength. As Aulen pointed out, these aren’t theories. They don’t necessarily attempt to be systematic. What most people describe as “Christus Victor” and “Ransom” theories (particularly when these two are absurdly contrasted with each other instead of the second being a more specific form of the former) don’t have a very close relationship to what Aulen found in the Fathers. And hence the Christus Victor model, which actually gives a perspective from which to understand all Atonement theories, has been neutralized by being turned into just another “atonement theory/model” alongside the others.
But I think the biggest problem with Aulen’s work was his failure to treat the moral influence model in a factually accurate way.
I don’t see this at all. Precisely the reverse. Once you take Aulen on board, what you’re claiming as the “moral influence” model of the early Church simply disappears. It’s an unnecessary hypothesis, because Aulen accounts for all the supposedly “moral influence” evidence as far as i can see.
Of course what Aulen calls the “classic” model has “moral influence” elements. That’s the problem with the whole “rival models” approach, which Aulen tried to challenge but wasn’t able to subvert (instead, the “classic” model just became one more alongisde the others, under the name “Christus Victor”). That’s one way in which I think follow-up is still needed all these decades later.
Aulen seems to make the mistake of attributing the origin of the moral influence model to Peter Abelard, which is simply wrong.
Actually, if anything, his mistake was in putting it so early:p.
One of my potential disagreements with Aulen is his sharp dichotomy between human and divine agency–he criticizes both the traditional Western models for seeing the Atonement as the work of Jesus’ humanity primarily rather than Jesus’ divinity. I take his point, but I think he pushes the dichotomy too far.
However, I think your claim that the “moral influence” model was prevalent in the early Church founders on the fact that early Christians pretty uniformly held to a “Christology from above.” The moral influence theory held by 19th and 20th-century liberal Protestants depends on a “Christology from below,” in which Jesus’ divinity is shown through His perfect humanity. That makes Jesus in principle “imitable.” In early Christianity, on the other hand, Jesus is “imitable” only because He has broken the hold of sin and death and Satan over us through His divine power. That’s why converts needed to be exorcised–an act of which modern liberal Protestant theology can make no sense whatsoever. Of course Jesus saves us through transforming us–if that’s what you’re arguing, I’m with you 100%. But the “moral influence” theory as promoted by traditional liberal Protestantism doesn’t do an adequate job of describing this, because in the liberal Protestant model the transformation is accomplished through the moral example of Jesus the perfect human rather than (first and foremost and fundamentally) through the divine power of Jesus the Logos Incarnate.
The modern “moral influence” theory looks at everything through Kantian lenses, which inevitably distort one’s view of early Christianity.
Aulen’s great contribution was to expose the rationalizing premises of both the Western models and to promote instead the frankly mythological and “dramatic” model that he rightly found in the Fathers. What you’re seeing as “moral influence” in the Fathers only makes sense in that mythological/dramatic context.
Aulen appears ignorant of the strong presence of the moral influence model within the early Church Fathers, an ignorance I find hard to fathom
I think you find it hard to fathom because it isn’t “ignorance” at all. It’s rejection of the interpretive paradigm that says that if you find early Christians talking about moral transformation in connection with the Atonement, they must be teaching something called a “moral influence theory.”
Debate has long raged over how the passage you quote should be interpreted, and I have seen advocates of every atonement theory claim it endorses their view of the atonement.
Indeed, because the whole “rival models” approach is nonsense in the first place. That’s not how the early Christians thought.
You’re working with the assumption that there was something called a “moral influence models” that co-existed with other “models,” each of which can in principle be isolated. I don’t see any evidence for this, and the passage I cited is an extremely good example of why that approach makes no sense.