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What is your view of atonement?

Discussion in 'Traditional Theology' started by rturner76, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    This question has been fascinating to me since my further study into Catholicism revealed the view something like the "Satisfaction Theory" or that is the classic description that comes the closest to what I have come to understand. Christ's infinite love and obedience satisfied God's judgement not his pain and suffering. through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:20

    That is my personal view of Christ;s atonement, what is yours? I have looked up some popular theories or maybe you have your own? Let the board know what you believe, and what church you learned it in. Maybe you can leave some details as to what it means to you personally, why you believe that way, or how it affects your faith walk(?) :preach:



      • The Ransom Theory: The earliest of all, originating with the Early Church Fathers, this theory claims that Christ offered himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45). Where it was not clear was in its understanding of exactly to whom the ransom was paid. Many early church fathers viewed the ransom as paid to Satan.
      • The Recapitulation Theory: Originated with Irenaeus (125-202 AD). He sees Christ as the new Adam, who systematically undoes what Adam did. Thus, where Adam was disobedient concerning God's edict concerning the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Christ was obedient even to death on the wood of a tree. Irenaeus is the first to draw comparisons between Eve and Mary, contrasting the faithlessness of the former with the faithfulness of the latter. In addition to reversing the wrongs done by Adam, Irenaeus thinks of Christ as "recapitulating" or "summing up" human life. See main page on Recapitulation
      • The Satisfaction (or Commercial) Theory: The formulator of this theory was the medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109), in his book, Cur Deus Homo (lit. Why the God Man). In his view, God's offended honor and dignity could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ. "Anselm offered compelling biblical evidence that the atonement was not a ransom paid by God to the devil but rather a debt paid to God on behalf of sinners."^ [1]^ Anselm's work established a foundation for the Protestant Reformation, specifically the understanding of justification by faith.
      • The Penal-Substitution Theory: This view was formulated by the 16th century Reformers as an extension of Anselm's Satisfaction theory. Anselm's theory was correct in introducing the satisfaction aspect of Christ's work and its necessity, however the Reformers saw it as insufficient because it was referenced to God's honor rather than his justice and holiness and was couched more in terms of a commercial transaction than a penal substitution. This Reformed view says simply that Christ died for man, in man's place, taking his sins and bearing them for him. The bearing of man's sins takes the punishment for them and sets the believer free from the penal demands of the law: The righteousness of the law and the holiness of God are satisfied by this substitution.


      • The Moral-Example Theory (or Moral-Influence Theory): Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement. This theory denies that Christ died to satisfy any principle of divine justice, but teaches instead that His death was designed to greatly impress mankind with a sense of God's love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance. Thus, the Atonement is not directed towards God with the purpose of maintaining His justice, but towards man with the purpose of persuading him to right action. Formulated by Peter Abelard (1079-1142) partially in reaction against Anselm's Satisfaction theory, this view was held by the 16th century Socinians. Versions of it can be found later in F. D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Horace Bushnell (1802-1876).
      • The Governmental Theory: God made Christ an example of suffering to exhibit to erring man that sin is displeasing to him. God's moral government of the world made it necessary for him to evince his wrath against sin in Christ. Christ died as a token of God's displeasure toward sin and it was accepted by God as sufficient; but actually God does not exact strict justice. This view was formulated by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and is subsequently found in Arminianism, Charles Finney, the New England Theology of Jonathan Edwards (the younger), and Methodism.
    Modern theories



      • The Declaratory Theory: A version of the Moral Influence theory, wherein Christ died to show men how greatly God loves them. This view held by Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89).
      • The Guaranty Theory: Reconciliation is based not on Christ's expiation of sin, but on His guaranty to win followers and thus conquer human sinfulness. This view held by J. C. K. von Hofmann (1810-77).
      • The Vicarious Repentance Theory: by John McLeod Campbell (d. 1872). It assumes that a perfect repentance is sufficient to atone for sin. In his death, Christ entered into the Father's condemnation of sin, condemned sin, and by this, confessed it.
      • The 'Christus Victor' or Dramatic Theory: by G. E. H. Aulén (1879-1977). The atonement is viewed as divine conflict and victory over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection. This is a modified form of the classic Ransom theory with the emphasis on Christ's victory over evil. See main article Christus Victor.
      • The Accident Theory: Christ's death was an accident, as unforeseen and unexpected as that of any other victim of man's hatred. This view is usually found outside of mainstream Christianity.
      • The Martyr Theory: Christ gave up His life for a principle of truth that was opposed to the spirit of His day. This view is usually found outside of mainstream Christianity.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
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  2. Winken

    Winken Heimat Supporter

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    You can pose the same question while leaving off all the "theories."
    :holy:
     
  3. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    I wonder where you got your list?

    I'll have to be careful (maybe) not to say what I USUALLY say in regard to theories of Atonement, which is that Christ's death accomplished MANY things, but the foremost was perhaps the victory over death. Of course it is a matter of putting mankind back into right relationship with God as well. So I would have said Christus Victor was the most important, to me, but that all theories hold value and truth (sometimes in differing degrees) except that I absolutely reject Penal Substitution.

    But your list ...

    Christus Victor is not a modern theory. Many of the ones you list have not been included in any work I've ever read on Atonement theories. And some very important ones seem to be missing.

    So with your list specifically in mind, I would NOT say the above.

    I took a quick glance at Wikipedia and I see their Christus Victor page has been changed and suffers from some revisionary work, it seems. But the sidebar still includes classic theories.
     
  4. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    Oh, and Christ's victory was specifically over DEATH, not evil. I can't really relate to your list?

    From Orthowiki:
    This sermon is a fine example of the "Christ Victorious" model of the atonement that was the dominant image of the work of Christ among early Christians and among the Orthodox today. Orthodoxy sees chiefly Christ the Victor and interprets the Crucifixion primarily as an act of triumphant victory over the powers of evil. This is the reason for the festal hymn of the Resurrection being Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
     
  5. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    I got that list from "Theopedia" Atonement of Christ | Theopedia

    Can you elaborate on the ones that were missing?
     
  6. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    Well, I confess that I didn't read and analyze every one you posted, in case they are simply renamed, but I read many of them.

    But Recapitulation and Ransom are two very important ones that seem to be missing?

    To be honest, Christus Victor, Recapitulation, and to a lesser degree, the Ransom theory are probably the most important theories to the first millenium of Christianity ... it seems a little odd to me that two are missing and one is re-imagined and made a "modern" theory?
     
  7. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Here they are, I missed 'em

    • The Ransom Theory: The earliest of all, originating with the Early Church Fathers, this theory claims that Christ offered himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45). Where it was not clear was in its understanding of exactly to whom the ransom was paid. Many early church fathers viewed the ransom as paid to Satan.
    • The Recapitulation Theory: Originated with Irenaeus (125-202 AD). He sees Christ as the new Adam, who systematically undoes what Adam did. Thus, where Adam was disobedient concerning God's edict concerning the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Christ was obedient even to death on the wood of a tree. Irenaeus is the first to draw comparisons between Eve and Mary, contrasting the faithlessness of the former with the faithfulness of the latter. In addition to reversing the wrongs done by Adam, Irenaeus thinks of Christ as "recapitulating" or "summing up" human life. See main page on Recapitulation
     
  8. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    At any rate, considering such things as an actual "theory" that Christ's death was an unforseen accident, I should no longer say that all have merit. I'm glad, I guess, to have heard about it. But the "landscape" of Atonement theories seems strange to me.

    I would put most emphasis on the Christus Victor which is victory over DEATH, but also heavily on Recapitulation, and to a lesser degree a number of others. Christ's death WAS a sacrifice for our sins, and that is also important.

    Oh, I also just realized, Kinsman Redeemer is not there ...


    As to what all of this meant to me, having grown up under the sole understanding of Penal Substitution, it was a whole new view of God that made such a change in my mind necessary. Frankly, I was first taught a rather bloodthirsty God the Father, who was determined that SOMEONE was going to DIE (and painfully at that!) and that He took satisfaction in that suffering and death, and only then would He be willing to forgive. It was rather like Christ stood up to protect us from His Father - a strange sort of battle going on within the Godhead itself - God forbid! And none of that ever REALLY made sense to me ...

    Seeing God as good, and loving, and the One Who created all, who desires all men to repent and be saved and made the ultimate sacrifice to make that possible and to reconcile all creation to Him, was a major discovery to me. And all things fit into a reasonable story now when they never did before. And my heart is drawn to worship and prayer. It was quite revolutionary to me, and the differing atonement theories were a part of that.
     
  9. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The Satisfaction speaks to me the most. In a way it's a form of substitution but not penal. In this theory, Jesus goes to the cross out of love for us and obedience to the Father. The thing is even though the act is the same,it'snot the suffering that redeems us but the perfect love and obedience. On Colossians 1:20 it says having made peace through the blood of His cross which to me gives even more significance to the Eucharist as a Sacrament. The Eucharist is so important to us Catholics and like I say through his blood by his perfect love and obedience our debt to God is paid.

    A Catholic brother shared a video with the board in another thread I made specifically about the difference between penal substitution and satisfaction. On the video the guy explained it like if I had a son that threw a rock through someone's window. I can't go over there and accept his punishment. Only he can do that. However I can go over, pay for the window and nake it right with the neighbor and and my son to not throw rocks. So the same with Christ, he doesn't accept our punishment but he does pay our debt out of love. We respond by following the gospel and making disciples of others (I added my own stuff in that story but you get the picture I'm sure)
     
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  10. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    I think you explained that well. :)

    As long as there is no focus on necessary torture or suffering, as though THAT is what makes it right, I accept those theories as being worthwhile.
     
  11. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Cool :oldthumbsup: I had hoped more people would be chiming in by now but I guess it's not as exiting as I thought. Maybe if I would have started the thread attacking some positions I would be hearing from some people :sleep:
     
  12. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    I've noticed Saturday evenings (that's what time it is here) are slow around here ...
     
  13. PloverWing

    PloverWing Episcopalian

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    Like Anastasia, I think that multiple things were going on in the Atonement, so several of the theories have some element of truth to them. With that said...

    The statement of the atonement that means the most to me is that He became what we are, that we might become what He is. (This is a paraphrased rendition of a quote from Athanasius and Irenaeus.) The Incarnation is the central act, and in the Incarnation God joins himself to humanity in a way that transforms all of us. I'm not sure which theory-label goes with this; maybe Recapitulation, but I confess that Irenaeus says some things about recapitulation that I don't quite follow.

    The Christus Victor theory is also compelling to me. It has the drawback that it makes Satan a major player in the story (and Aulen has that reservation too, as I recall), but if you think of Satan as a storyteller's way of talking about the corrupting hold that evil has on us, then the story works for me.

    I do not like St Anselm's idea of God requiring the death of (the incarnation of) himself in order to pay a debt to himself -- God is twisted into too many strange knots in that picture.
     
  14. All4Christ

    All4Christ ✙ The Handmaid of God Laura ✙ CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

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    Especially now that it is partway through Advent! Most evenings are packed full for me now. I have about 20 notifications and I'm barely keeping up. Not to mention a musical hangman that I'm supposed to put together!!
     
  15. bcbsr

    bcbsr Newbie

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    A Theory I endorse which you hadn't mention is the Unjustified Suffering Theory in which God's judicial nature is viewed as having two arms. One being the punishment of the wicked, and the other being compensating victims of unjustified suffering. The second going along with things like justice for the poor. So justice involves more than just punishment.

    This being the case, when the innocent suffer unjustly they are entitled to compensatation as a matter of satisfying justice. Jesus' death being the ultimate and infinite example of unjustified suffering he was entitled to compensation of which he used to pay for the sins of the world. Essentially one arm of God's judicial nature paying off the other arm.

    In this case God is not viewed as pretending that Jesus was guilty of the sins of the world, as some popular theories may have it. Nor was he involved in pouring out wrath on Jesus, but rather as Peter put it, "you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." God was not viewed as one of the wicked men that crucified him, but rather, as Jesus put in on the cross, God kept his hands off, allowing Jesus to be tortured to death by the wicked, as an innocent victim, in order to win his entitlement to compensation to pay for the sins of the world.
     
  16. dqhall

    dqhall Well-Known Member Supporter

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    There is more than one useful description in the OP list.

    Christ came to do the will of his Father. He came not to judge, but to heal and preach. In spite of death threats against him for his non-conforming speech and actions, he carried out his work and earned a glorious reward. Christ trained his followers for them to be blessed with gifts and skills too. With these rewards there was threat and incidence of persecution. My sins may be atoned for, if I live the way Christ lived.
     
  17. Daniel Stinson

    Daniel Stinson Junior Member

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    As a Confessional Lutheran, LCMS: We practice vicarious atonement and universal atonement (not to be confused with the atonement of universalism).

    Sent from my SM-G930P using Tapatalk
     
  18. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The Incarnation males a lot of sense. I do agree with St Anselem but he also said that Christ's work was accomplished by showing his perfect love and obedience. I believe the Incarnation theory shows a similar view of Christ (love and obedience) but he showed it through his life not through his death.

    I rather like the Incarnation view. It is more uplifting and it highlights God's love more than God's justice. Well, God going to the cross is showing love as well but in a different more sacrificial way. I will have to contemplate this as it conflicts with my Catholic faith but it seems to be sound theory to me.
     
  19. rturner76

    rturner76 Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Would you mind elaborating on what that theory is? I could look it up otherwise
     
  20. DeepWater

    DeepWater Just The Truth

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    Its interesting that even tho you read that the BLOOD of Jesus, according to your own scripture you posted....is what satisfied the justice required by God for the sins of the world....that you dont even comprehend what you wrote.

    Blood.
    Blood.
    Blood.

    Not "love, and not just "obedience", as if Jesus had not DIED , had He not become a SACRIFICE,....had he not BLED OUT, shedding HIS BLOOD for SINS, then you have no ATONEMENT.
    There is no ATONEMENT without the CROSS.
    There is no ATONEMENT without the shed BLOOD, the death, and the resurrection, of Jesus The Christ.

    So where does "Love' come in?
    LOVE is the reason that God allowed His boy to be slaughtered on a BLOODY CROSS so that you could be forgiven of all your sins.
     
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