Christus Victor and Penal Substitutionary Atonement

I just read this article from Greg Boyd about atonement theories. Most of you that have been around for a while probably know that I have a broader understanding of atonement than many, and I definitely have some problems with traditional PSA, namely, the idea that God was wrathful and punished Jesus for our sins. That doesn’t sit well with me, as it doesn’t make much sense that a God of love, a God of mercy would need to punish before he forgives. I tend to hold to the Christus Victor model which, to put it in a nutshell, says that Jesus’s death on the Cross defeated evil and freed us from oppression. It seems natural to me that Jesus death wasn’t needed in the sense that God needed to punish someone or something for forgiveness of sins. He has the power to do it if he wants (how many people were told by Jesus that their sins were forgiven before he died and rose?) but the sacrifice of blood was needed for US to understand what was going on. This is the point of sacrifices all through the old testament. God didn’t need a goat or a lamb to be slaughtered… WE needed that for us to truely understand what was going on.

Anyway, check out Greg’s post… and if you haven’t read any of his books or articles, I highly recommend them!


15 responses to “Christus Victor and Penal Substitutionary Atonement

  1. I just read this post on his blog last night and I really liked Adam’s explanation of PSA.

  2. So what was the purpose of Christ’s death? If God didn’t need a substitution, Jesus didn’t need to die. But Jesus was lead like a lamb to the slaughter — he was punished for our sins, etc. The OT was very clear that God demanded blood be spilt for sin. The image of sacrifice and substitution is all over the Bible. I just don’t see it…

  3. This may or may not be useful, but here is a link describing several views of atonement.

  4. In a nutshull IH, Jesus’s death on the cross is the ultimate end to a life lead according to God’s purposes in a fallen world. He spoke truth to power, he stood with the oppressed, he loved the unlovable, and the principalities and powers wouldn’t have it. Jesus’s death showed us the evil of the principalities and powers of this world, that they will stop at nothing to protect their power, even killing a completely innocent man. And it appeared that the powers had won. This messiah, this new king, was killed, just like all the other “messiahs” before him… but God vindicated him and raised him to life again. Jesus was the firstborn of the resurrection… his death and subsequent raising free us from fear, they free us from the one thing that keeps people from living the life God intended… the fear of death. Now that we don’t fear death, we are able to live our lives like Jesus did… doing what is righteous, even if it results in the (temporary) end of our own. Jesus fulfilled the prophets who said that salvation would come to the Jews.

    When they expected salvation, they weren’t thinking “man, if God would just invent a place called heaven, then we could be saved.” They didn’t understand things that way… salvation to them was once again being God’s people, a beacon to all other nations. This is what Jesus did… but not by entering in on a steed, and leading an israelite army to defeat the Romans and lead Israel out of exile. He did it by showing them that there’s another way to live… a political way of living that doesn’t make sense in a world obsessed with power, peace through strength. He showed that living under God’s rule is not dependent on kings and empires… that one must be born again, repent of the ways that the world has operated by since the fall, and live under God’s rule now.

    That was the nutshell view. I can recommend plenty of books if you would like 😉

  5. I admit I have never heard that theory before. There are many ways that it doesn’t make a lot of sense and you have pointed those out. One that I thought of just now is that if God “punished” Jesus for the sins of man, why did he have this plan of salvation set before the world or man was even created?

  6. Can you give me a scriptural reference for God having the plan of salvation set before man was even created?

    Seems to me that his original creation was good, but things went awry because in order for man to truly be in relationship with God, there must be choice to reject God. This occurred, and there has been a spiral of chaos resulting ever since. He tried to use Israel, his chosen people, to be a light to the world, living in accordance with the laws he set in place for them… not to be a burden, but to make them free. But sin turned the law that should have lead to life into another tired system that leads to oppression (man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for man) but at just the right time, God sends his son to live according to the intention of the law… to set into place the year of jubilee which was a very important part of God’s plan for Israel that we have no historical record of it every occurring. Jesus simultaneously freed us from what the law had turned into, and freed us from the powers that lead us down a path of oppression and injustice.

  7. I Peter 1:20: “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

    I believe to say that his creation went awry from his plan is to make God falliable. That He, in essence, made a mistake. Or, that the sacrifice of His son was some sort of cosmic accident.

  8. How do you deal then with the fact that God changed his mind?

    “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people,” (Exodus 32:14, NASB).

    There are other examples, but I thought I’d provide one.

    I don’t know how I’d respond to that verse, except to say I’ve been flirting with open theology, which concludes that God chooses to not be all knowing to allow us free will.

  9. Justin, I would have to say that a mistake and changing ones mind are two different things. Also, we start to fell into the unanswerable issues such as did God know in advance he would change his mind? Whoa!

    I think that too often we tend to think of God in terms of having a human mind that can make mistakes, change and choose to not be all knowing. I just don’t think we can comprehend God with our tiny little minds. We do know a few things though . He is. He loves us. He sent his only son to die for us.

    It’s interesting to talk about this stuff though.

  10. Is the fact that Christ died for our sins the same as PSA?

    I read on Mike Cope’s blog that PSA theory was relatively new. How new? If it is the same thing, how could it be new since the fact that Christ died for us is the central theme of the New Testament?

  11. Its a little more than just “christ died for our sins”… PSA as an understanding and focal point didn’t come about until the time of Anslem, around the turn of the first milenium. Christians before then believed that Jesus died for them… but not that he was the only perfect sacrifice whose blood had to be shed so that mystically their sins would disappear. That’s part of PSA (so is the part that God’s wrath needed to be avenged)

    I’m sure if you google searched it, you could do some more research. Probably a better place than asking a dope like me.

  12. Hi Justin, I found your site on a Google Search. I’ve been doing some research on Christus Victor and am finding it to be the one explanation of the atonement that doesn’t have the problems PSA does or the lack of power as the moral views do. You mentioned in one of the above posts that you had many books to recommend. Would you be able to email me those…raised in a conservative Christian home and having been deeply imbedded in the evangelical subculture, I’m still not aware of a lot of resources that don’t fit “the tradition” so to speak. Hope to hear from you soon. Peace.

  13. Theodore A. Jones

    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom 2:13
    One thing you folks are missing is the fact that God made a change to the law by adding to it after Jesus’ crucifixion.
    “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” Rom. 5:20 also see Heb. 7:12b “also a change of the law.”
    Therefore the Lord’s command given through the apostles can only be obeyed this Way.
    “And for Your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man too I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Gen. 9:5 NIV
    The only Way the Acts 2:38 command can be obeyed is by the faith of confessing directly to God that you are sorry Jesus’ lost his life by bloodshed and be baptized into this Way of faith for the forgiveness of all sins. But if you will not obey God by this Way of faith the addition to the law has made it a sin for which it is impossible for there to be forgiveness.

  14. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in all situations in
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  15. Theodore A Jones

    And just who are these “experts” you are referring too?

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