A Review of Gustaf Aulén’s Christus Victor

The following is the manuscript-outline notes of a presentation I delivered on September 8th for Dr. David Luy’s ST 8000 The Atonement at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The full title of this presentation was Synthetic Re-Description of and Critical Engagement with Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement by Gustaf Aulén.

I share this in case anyone might find this edifying or for the chance someone studying Aulén’s work might stumble upon this and find it helpful.

And I dedicate this to my grandfather, who, while I was in the process of writing this, told me to “add some jokes.” I hope I have accomplished that, although I admit the jokes may only be humorous to a very narrow audience.


I. Building Consensus

Gustaf AulenGustaf Aulén (1879–1997) was the Bishop of Strängnäs in the Church of Sweden (a Lutheran denomination), was a leading figure in the Lundensian Theology movement, and is probably best known for this work, Christus Victor.

Origin of Christus Victor – The book Christus Victor originated from a series of lectures delivered at the University of Uppsala in Sweden in 1930 (xxi).

Goal – Aulén claims that the aim of this book is to produce an objective historical account without any clandestine apologetic aims (158; cf. xxi). Having read the book, I imagine many of us can’t help but chuckle at such a claim. I myself wonder if he is somewhat disingenuous.[1] But I suppose we’ll have to take Aulén at his word. With that said, if I were to imagine myself in a world where such objective accounts could actually exist, I would argue that Aulén has failed to produce one. His bias is oozing through the text.

Thesis – The thesis that Aulén seeks to prove through this historical account is that the “classic view” of the atonement, in contrast to what he refers to as the “Latin” and “Humanist” views, is the view of the atonement which is “most genuinely Christian” (xxi, 158), evangelical, and catholic (xxvi). It is the truly Christian view because, as his historical count seeks to demonstrate, it is the view found in the New Testament, articulated by the early church fathers, and recovered by the thoroughly evangelical Luther.

Three views [Aulen’s depiction, not mine]:

  • Christus Victor (or “classic view”):
    • In the classic view, the atonement is presented as God’s act of overcoming the evil forces of sin, death, and the devil (ix; 4, 20, 32, 34-35, 153).
    • However, because these evil forces are simultaneously instruments of God’s judgment (54, 153), in the act of overcoming them, God reconciles himself to the world (4, 5, 35, 146). Thus, the atonement is said to have a “double-sidedness” of divine activity and passivity—the atonement is simultaneously related to the forces of evil and God (30-31, 34, 55-60, 153).
    • The incarnation is of central importance in this view, because it is the necessary reality by which God himself accomplishes atonement (20-21, 32, 42, 151-152). The human and divine natures of Christ receive full emphasis (ix, 151).
    • Rather than divine love and divine wrath coming to terms of agreement through satisfaction, as in the Latin view, divine love triumphs over divine wrath (91, 113, 118, 153). Thus, there is a discontinuity in God’s economy of merit and justice (68-69, 71, 79, 91, 145, 146, 153).
    • But this discontinuity in God’s justice preserves a continuity in the divine work of atonement (91). Because the classic view does not involve the need for humanity to make satisfaction to God, as in the Latin view, the work of atonement does not need to be intercepted by the work of man, i.e., Christ as man providing satisfaction. Thus, in the classic view, the atonement is God’s work from first to last (xxi; xxiii, 5, 34, 145-146, 152, 154).
    • To come at it from a different angle, the dualism of the classic view also serves to preserve the continuity in divine action. Because the atonement is an action directed towards the forces of evil and not a satisfaction by man directed towards God’s, atonement is entirely God’s act. It does not involve a pause in which God merely receives action (121). He is the actor at all times (145-146).
  • Latin – Christ’s death is directed towards God and effects change in him,[2] forensic satisfaction. Christ provides compensation for sin (93, 128).
    • In contrast to the classic view, which contains a discontinuity between the atonement and God’s economy of justice—where Christ provides a grace based salvation by bursting the bonds of God’s system of merit—the Latin view maintains continuity between the atonement and God’s economy of justice—salvation is accomplished by Christ satisfying God’s demands of justice (78-79, 89-91, 145-146). And thus, the Latin view is built on a legalistic (or moralistic) framework of man’s relation to God (xxv-xxvi, 54, 83, 129, 145-146).
    • But it is at this point that any meaningful sense of continuity in the divine work of salvation is lost (88, 91, 131 145-146). The atonement is fundamentally a work of man directed towards God, not a work of God himself (xxii, 5, 72, 77, 154). The atonement is the work of God only in the sense that God initiates and purposes it (88, 146). And sure, Christ is God (88). But that which accomplishes the atonement itself is purely Christ’s human nature (83, 86-88, 93, 94, 131-132). His divine nature plays a secondary role, merely granting efficacy to the work of his human nature (87, 93, 132). In essence, the Latin view commits a Christological error by separating Christ’s natures in his act of atonement. Unlike in the early church, where Christology was a living doctrine that flowed out of soteriology (i.e., the reality that Jesus was savior necessarily led to formulations about Jesus’s divinity; 41-42; 151), by the medieval ages, Christ’s divinity was merely a relic from the past to be incorporated into a foreign satisfaction theory of atonement (87-88, 152).
    • And even though the Latin view claims to take the justice of God seriously—maintaining, as it does, continuity between the atonement and God’s justice—Aulén accuses it of sidestepping the severity with which God takes sin. By [1] treating God’s fierce opposition to sin as something that can be appeased, that opposition is diminished (92). And [2] by treating the satisfaction accomplished by Christ as transferred to the sinner, the accountability of particular sinners to God is neglected (147-148).
  • Subjective – Christ’s death is directed towards men and women and effects change in them.
    • In the subjective view, any idea of God as displeased with humanity is seen as incompatible with his love (134, 141-142, 154). God’s disposition to mankind is purely one of benevolence (135). Thus, the problem to which the atonement is a resolution is not any sort of divine dilemma (134, 141-142; 154) (as is the case with the Latin view in which God’s justice needs satisfying), but the human Atonement is not needed so far as God is concerned, but only so far as humanity is concerned (6, 135).
    • Within the subjectivist camp, this human dilemma—the imperfection of humanity—is understood in different ways resulting in different views of how Christ meets that human need (134-135, 141). For example, if humanity is seen as needing an example, Christ is that example (134). Or again, if humanity is conceived of as needing to be made aware of God’s readiness to have communion with them, Christ serves as the expression of that intent (134-135).
    • At least in the Latin view, atonement involved what man (i.e. Christ’s humanity) does for God. But the subjective view is completely It becomes the work of man (i.e., Christ’s humanity) for men (141, 146, 151).
    • Furthermore, however the human dilemma is conceived in this view, it never seems to require divine Salvation comes in the form of Christ being the Ideal Human (152-153).
    • Salvation in effect becomes the act of men and women as they respond properly to Christ’s work, however conceived, and experience the resolution of their dilemma, however conceived. God’s role in this salvation is diminished to a divine sanction of humanity overcoming its dilemma (137, 139). Salvation becomes not God’s work in Christ, but man’s actions in response to Christ (136-137, 140, 141-142, 146-147; 154).
    • Aulén criticizes this view of suffering from an anemic view of sin (135), weakening God’s opposition to sin and evil (135, 154), and diminishing the “hard work” of God’s love by considering love as self-evident (x).

Historical account [again, Aulén’s depiction, not mine] – Aulén boldly asserts that the popular portrait of the history of the doctrine of the atonement significantly distorts reality (1). Thus, he sets out to set the record straight by painting his own portrait. How broad of a brush he uses in this painting project is something we’ll have to assess.

  • Popular account:
    • Aulén says that according to the popular account, the early church had no significantly developed doctrine of atonement. The Patristics were simply too preoccupied with Christology to make any meaningful contribution here. Therefore, we can safely paint over this section in our pursuit of the historical development of this doctrine (1).
    • However, a thousand years later, along comes Anselm, the Father and originator of atonement theology. Although we may find crumbs here and there of atonement theologizing prior to Anselm, he is the first person to articulate a fully thought out theory of atonement; and it just so happened to be the Latin type (1-2).
    • The entire historical doctrine of atonement boils down to Anselm: you’re either for him or against him; you either advocate his objective, satisfaction theory or some sort subjective theory. A pure, direct, unbroken stream flows straight from Anselm, through predominant Medieval scholasticism, into the Reformers, including no less Martin Luther, and finding its present home in current Protestant Orthodoxy (2-3). Those opposed to the Anselm doctrine find their precedent in Peter Abelard, the father of a great tradition of subjectivist views (2).
  • Cause of Neglect – Now, obviously if you are going to argue that almost all other scholars in your field are wrong and have nearly completely overlooked something you see as dominant, you will need to provide some explanation. So Aulén suggests reasons for the neglect of the classic view:
    • #1 – Modern atonement debates between objective and subjective theories over-shadowed the classic doctrine and skewed the way its literature was read (7-8).
    • #2 – And any hint of classic doctrine that was seen was casually discarded as primitive or distasteful (9-11).
  • Aulén’s account – And so Aulén advances an alternative account, one in which the Christus Victor view will be seen to be the classic, original, and true atonement doctrine of Christianity.
    • The Christus Victor view dominated the first 1,000 years of the church (143). It is the true Christian view, emerging with Christianity itself (143). It is the view held by the New Testament (ch. 4). And the Patristics, such as Irenaeus, are in direct continuity with the New Testament (143).[3] Rather than have nothing substantial to say about the atonement, they articulate and develop this classic position (chs. 2-3).
    • In the 3rd century, Cyprian brought the Latin view into being by taking Tertullian’s theology of penance and merit and applying them to the atonement (81-82).
    • But it took as long Anselm for the Latin theory to be given its fullest expression (84). From then on, except for a few outliers like Abelard (95-97), it becomes the dominant view in the moralistic world of Medieval scholasticism (95), although occasional glimpses of the classic view still persist (6, 95, 98-100).
    • Although Martin Luther is often depicted as a champion of the Latin view, Aulén argues that this is a misunderstanding which stems back from Luther’s immediate successors, such as Melanchthon (123-128). Luther was actually a champion, recoverer, and developer of the classic view (xxii; 15, ch. 6, 143). In fact, it is inconceivable that Luther, with his doctrine of grace, would succumb to an atonement theory structured by legalism (14, 107, 112-113, 120-121, 123, 126 144). Nonetheless, his successors—Protestant Orthodoxy—did not get the memo, and drifted back to the Latin view (xxii, 123-133).
    • The subjective doctrine, which finds its beginnings in Abelard (95), emerges most fully in the 18th century as a reaction to the Latin view and its legalistic structure of relating to God (xxii, 141, 150). “God doesn’t need to be appeased,” it claims. “His disposition to us is purely that of love. It’s we that need the changing.” And thereby, the subjective position moves even farther away from original Christianity (i.e., classic view). There is no longer any enmity between God and the world that needs overcoming (xxii, 133-142, 150).
    • In conclusion, the Latin and Subjective views of the atonement are just detours in the church’s doctrine of atonement. The heir of true Christianity is Christus Victor (14). 

Comprehension questions:

  • Is there any part of my synthesis with which you disagree, that you would like to challenge, or that you would want to nuance differently?
  • Are there any remaining questions we have about understanding the message of the book (not in terms of critique at this point, but comprehension)?

II. Engaging the Argument

Intro: I had mixed feelings as I read this work.

  • I was optimistic, because, as I noted last week, I’m attracted to Patristic theology; and I’d like to see it incorporated into an evangelical framework. I see it as a helpful supplement to what in our common evangelical views.
  • But I was frustrated with Aulén, because (1) he pitted Christus Victor against any idea of satisfaction theory, whereas I would like to see them brought together. And (2) I felt the work was bad scholarship in that it represented other views rather poorly. 

[1] Does he fairly depict the Latin view, under which we might place classic evangelical positions? He depicts this view as follows:

  • Aulén: The Latin view contains a discontinuity in divine action in the work of atonement.
    • Response #1: In his proposal of a “double-sidedness” to the atonement, Aulén himself recognizes that a Godward aim in the atonement, in which God is “the object of the reconciliation” (56)—like that found in the Latin view—does not necessitate a void in divine action.
    • Response #2: When Aulén hears the Latin view say that Christ provides satisfaction for humans, he hears an atonement void of divine action. But he wrongly pits the divine and human natures of Christ against one another such that if Christ acts humanly he does not act in terms of his divinity. But certainly all views of the atonement (including Aulén’s!) must give an account of the necessity of Christ’s humanness no less than his divinity.[4] And we should not assume that, when they do, divine action in the atonement is now devoid of all meaning. Now, it may be a fair criticism that in reality the Latin view does not account well enough for Christ’s divinity in his atoning work. But the conclusion that the Latin view necessarily excludes divine action should not be assumed a prior just because it stresses Christ’s work in terms of his humanness.
  • Aulén: “[T]hat a satisfaction paid to God is regarded as making amends for man’s fault shows quite decidedly that the radical opposition of God to sin has become weakened down” (92).
    • Response: Not if God provided fully and genuinely satisfying satisfaction in Christ. God’s radical opposition to sin is not diminished, but realized in Christ.
  • Aulén: When men and women are imputed Christ’s righteousness, “there is no direct relation between Christ and” them (150); thus, “the direct personal relationship between God and the sinner is obscured” and “the claim of God on man has not been fully faced” (147).
    • Response: Aulén has not satisfactory grappled with the role of Christ as representative and the believers’ union with him such their justification is no “legal fiction.”
  • Aulén: In contrast to the classic view, in which atonement, salvation (or justification) are really the same thing, as the victory of Christ merely flows into present and future realities (136, 150; cf. 71), the Latin doctrine presents “a series of acts standing in relatively loose connection”—atonement, then justification, then sanctification, etc. (150; cf. 136).
    • Response: Both justification and sanctification are the application of Christ’s atonement and are effected through union with him. They are not separated, unconnected events, but the application of the one atonement events. 

[2] Are the classic and Latin views necessarily incompatible? Is this an “either/or” situation? Aulén thinks so (118).

  • For example, it seems that Aulén approaches Luther with a false dichotomy: either Luther holds to a Latin view (e.g., penal substitution) or he holds to Christus Victor. And therefore when he sees elements of Christus Victor in Luther, he concludes that Luther doesn’t hold to a Latin view. But what if the two are not necessarily incompatible?
  • Even Aulén recognizes in the writings of the early church fathers in the West that “the Latin doctrine was never … set consciously in opposition to the classic idea; for points belonging properly to the two different types of view often stand side by side without any apparent consciousness on the part of those who use them of their essential diversity” (39; cf. 41). Nonetheless, Aulén chalks this up to the fact that the Latin doctrine just hadn’t been fully developed yet, and that, even at this point, the Latin view is in “concealed opposition” to the classic view (39).
  • On pp. 144 Aulén explains any attempt to bring these views together, as if they are not at odds with one another, as an indications that the true nature of the classic view is not really understood.

[3] Is Aulén’s historical account accurate?

  • Is the New Testament void of “Latin” elements? I think many of us can think of several texts that are often used to support penal substitution, for example (e.g., Isa 53:4-6, 9-12; Rom 3:25-26; 4:25; 5:9; 1 Cor 5:21; 15:3; Gal 2:20; 3:13; Heb 9:15, 28; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18; 1 Jn 2:2).
  • No doubt Christus Victor is a prominent theme in the Patristics. But are they void of “Latin” elements? In my understanding, penal substitution elements seem to be interwoven into broader motifs of Christus Victor and recapitulation.[see footnote 5 for specific citations from the patristics.]
  • Is this an honest reading of Luther?
    • Does Aulén’s reading of Luther satisfactorily account for statements like the following that ring of penal substitution?
      • “He [Jesus] has and bears all the sins of all men in His body—not in the sense that He has committed them but in the sense that He took these sins, committed by us, upon His own body, in order to make satisfaction for them with His own blood” (emphasis added).[6]
      • “Christ suffered, died, and was buried that he might make satisfaction for me and pay for what I owed….” (emphasis added).[7]
    • Aulén pits Luther’s doctrine of justification against a Latin view of atonement, arguing that the Latin view assumes a system of legalism while Luther’s justification doctrine involves God’s grace that bursts the bounds of any moralistic system. However, might it be more accurate expression of Luther’s theology to say that justification is based on the satisfaction made by Christ’s death? In that case, Luther’s doctrine of justification entails a Latin atonement theory element, rather than being opposed to it.

[4] Aulén frequently abhors that Latin view for maintaining a continuity between God’s system of justice and the atonement of pure grace. He calls such a view “legalistic” or “moralistic.” But is Aulén’s anti-satisfaction account sustainable?

  • #1 – Aulén criticizes the Latin view as advancing the idea [1] that God’s mercy is only allowed to act with the permission of God’s justice, as if it was not free (130, 155-156),[8] and [2] that God’s mercy is reduced to God’s readiness to accept satisfaction (130).
    • But if God’s mercy usurps God’s justice without satisfying it, what does that say about God’s justice? Is it free?
    • Would it not be better to hold that both God’s mercy and God’s justice are to be fulfilled and that the tension between them is what gives birth to the gospel?
    • Furthermore, it is not that God’s mercy acts with the permission of God’s justice. It was God’s very mercy that sent Christ to satisfy God’s justice!
    • Finally, even in the classic view Aulén recognizes “an opposition between the retributive justice of God on the one hand, and His Love on the other” (115; see also 53[9]) and can even say, “the suffering which Christ endured is treated as the endurance of the punishment which men deserved….” (57). So we ask, how is this so different than the Latin view?[10]
  • #2 – Romans 3:21-26, esp. vv.25-26, seems to require that we understand the atonement in terms of satisfaction.

[5] Does Aulén’s presentation satisfactorily account for why the savior needed to be man?

  • #1 – Statements like the following are characteristic of Aulén: “The redemptive work is accomplished by the Logos through the Manhood as His instrument” (emphasis added; 33).
  • #2 – His constant emphasis in his exposition on the incarnation is the need for God to be savior. But he provides little explanation for why God became man in order to do so.[11]

Engagement questions:

  • What do you make of my challenges?
  • What additional challenges or questions might you add?

III. Exploring Implications:

[1] Aulén’s work is helpful in stressing the Christological implications of our atonement views.

  • Aulén’s presentation has sought to account for the necessity of both Christ’s humanity and divinity in the atonement. He has done so by advocating a dualistic framework for Christ’s atoning work: even as Jesus, being human, faces the judgment due humanity, his action is, nonetheless, unbroken divine action overcoming these agents of judgment.
  • On the other hand, the Latin view satisfactorily answers the question, “Why the God-man?” But has it provided a satisfactory explanation for the necessity of the God-man? Aulén puts his finger on a weakness in common evangelical, penal substitution formulations, in which Christ’s divinity plays a secondary, subordinate role—that which grants efficacy to what is in effect a human act of Christ.

[2] Aulén’s account challenges us to grapple with the salvific nature of the entire work of Christ (see 20, 28-29, 31-34, 42-44, 59, 70, 87, 89, 150; cf. 136).

  • Aulén frequently notes how in the Christus Victor view, and especially the theology of the Patristics, all of the elements of Christ’s work, e.g., his incarnation, life of obedience, resurrection, etc., can be spoken of as salvific.[12]
  • In contrast, in common evangelical formulations of the atonement, Christ’s death is often the only element of Christ’s work that is viewed as salvific. All other elements are only saving in a derivative sense, i.e., they are prerequisites for, confirmations of, or expressions of his saving cross-work.

[3] Aulén’s historical account confronts us with Patristics theology, and the claims of the Christus Victor position. As evangelicals, is there something to be learned from this perspective? Can the Christus Victor view be assimilated into an evangelical perspective?

  • Corollary: Aulén forces us to grapple with the idea in the Patristics that Christ deceived the devil and ransomed his people from him (47-55). What do we do with this? Do we reject it, embrace it, assimilate a more refined version of it (see e.g., Jn 12:31; 16:11; Rom 8:38; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; 1 Jn 3:8)? 

Implication Questions:

  • How should we respond to Aulén’s observations about the Christological implications of our atonement doctrine? What can we do to sharpen our positions?
  • Do you think our positions ought to give a more substantive account of the salvific nature of each aspect of Christ’s work, as we see done in Patristic theology? What would this look like?
  • What do we do with Christus Victor?
  • What other implications of Aulén’s work do you see?

Notes:

[1] His translator remarks, “With all his restraint, he [Aulén] cannot conceal where his own sympathies lie” (xxii).

[2] Aulén recognizes that the Latin view does not propose that the atonement effects a change in God’s attitude towards men, since God of course initiates and purposes the atonement (131, 146).

[3] Interestingly, he begins his account with the Patristics rather than the New Testament, which seems to be symptomatic of his overall approach (16, 61-62).

[4] And I would argue that the reason for Christ’s humanity is substitutional or representational—to enter into the dilemma that was humanity’s and, from within that position, to bear it and overcome it.

[5] For example, note the following:

“For to this end the Lord endured to deliver up His flesh to corruption, that we might be sanctified through the remission of sins, which is effected by His blood of sprinkling” (“The Epistle of Barnabas,” in The Ante-Nicene Father, vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, eds. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe [Buffalo: Christian Literature Company, 1885], 1139).

“And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense … in pity for us [He] took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust…. For what else but His righteousness would have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God? O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!” (“Epistle to Diognetus,” in The Apostolic Fathers, eds. Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer [London: Macmillan and Co., 1891], 508–509).

“[B]eing over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt by His death” (Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 4, St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Archibald T. Robertson [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892], 441).

“But since it was necessary also that the debt owing from all should be paid again: for, as I have already said, it was owing that all should die, for which especial cause, indeed, He came among us: to this intent, after the proofs of His Godhead from His works, He next offered up His sacrifice also on behalf of all, yielding His Temple to death in the stead of all, in order firstly to make men quit and free of their old trespass…. For there was need of death, and death must needs be suffered on behalf of all, that the debt owing from all might be paid. Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all” (Ibid., 447).

“Formerly the world, as guilty, was under judgment from the Law; but now the Word has taken on Himself the judgment, and having suffered in the body for all, has bestowed salvation to all” (Athanasius of Alexandria, “Four Discourses against the Arians,” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 4, St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald T. Robertson [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892], 4341).

“He has not Himself become a curse, but is said to have done so because He took upon Him the curse on our behalf….” (Athanasius of Alexandria, “Personal Letters,” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 4, St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Archibald T. Robertson [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892], 4573).

“[F]or my sake He was called a curse, Who destroyed my curse; and sin, who taketh away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account.” He makes “our condition His own…. Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ … He was in His own Person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the Sufferings of Him Who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, He makes His own our folly and our transgressions….” (Gregory Nazianzen, “Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen,” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 7, S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894], 7311).

“He also took up death that the sentence might be fulfilled and satisfaction might be given for the judgement, the curse placed on sinful flesh even to death. Therefore nothing was done contrary to God’s sentence when the terms of that sentence were fulfilled, for the curse was unto death but grace is after death”(Ambrose of Milan, “Flight from the World,” in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 65, St. Ambrose: Seven Exegetical Works, trans. M. P. McHugh [Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1972], 314-315).

John Chrysostom illustrates Christ’s work the following way: “If one that was himself a king, beholding a robber and malefactor under punishment, gave his well-beloved son, his only-begotten and true, to be slain; and transferred the death and the guilt as well, from him to his son, (who was himself of no such character,) that he might both save the condemned man and clear him from his evil reputation” (“Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Second Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 12, Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, eds. Philip Schaff, trans. J. Ashworth and Talbot B. Chambers [New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889], 12335).

“[H]ad not God hated sin and our death, He would not have sent His Son to bear and to abolish it. … But as Christ endured death as man, and for man; so also, Son of God as He was, ever living in His own righteousness, but dying for our offences, He submitted as man, and for man, to bear the curse which accompanies death. And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment” (Augustine of Hippo, “Reply to Faustus the Manichæan,” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 4, St. Augustin: The Writings against the Manichaeans and against the Donatists, eds. Philip Schaff, trans. Richard Stothert [Buffalo: Christian Literature Company, 1887], 4209).

“The Only-begotten was made man, bore a body by nature at enmity with death, and became flesh, so that, enduring the death which was hanging over us as the result of our sin, he might abolish sin; and further, that he might put an end to the accusations of Satan, inasmuch as we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us” (Cyril of Alexandria, “De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate,” in Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, vol. 68, ed. J. P. Migne [Paris, 1857-], 293; English translation from Garry J. Williams, ‘A Critical Exposition of Hugo Grotius’s Doctrine of the Atonement in De Satisfactione Christi (unpublished dissertation: University of Oxford, 1999).

“[The second Adam] being made incarnate, had no sins of His own, and yet being without offence took upon Himself the punishment of the carnal” (Gregory the Great, “Morals of the Book of Job,” in Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, vol. 1 [London: Oxford, 1844], 148).

[6] Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians (1535),” in Luther’s Works, vol. 26, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan, et al (St. Louis: Concordia, 1968) 277.

[7] Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism,” in Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 414.

[8] Interestingly, similar to how in the Latin view one may speak of God executing justice out of divine necessity, one finds in the Patristics a similar sort of divined necessity with regards to God showing mercy (45).

[9] Here Aulén defends often presents Christ as having to ‘deal with the devil’ “in order to deny that God proceeds by way of brute force….” He “does not stand, as it were, outside the drama that is being played out, but Himself takes part in it, and attains His purpose by internal, not external, means” (53). But if God does not proceed by compulsion, but ‘plays by the rules,’ so to say, presumably there are some ‘rules’ that request satisfaction.

[10] However, later he seems to differentiate the classic position from the Latin view when he states regarding the image of sacrifice, “The idea that God receives the sacrifice is not based on a theoretical calculation of what God must demands from man’s side for the satisfaction of His justice before atonement can be effected. Rather the idea is that sacrifice stands in the Divine Economy as the means whereby the Divine will-to-reconciliation realizes itself, and which also shows how much it costs God to effect the Atonement. … [T]he sacrifice stands not in an external but in an internal relationship to God’s will” (57-58).

[11] The closest thing he comes to providing an explanation may be on page 32 where he states that God himself “has entered in under the conditions of sin and death” in order to defeat them (emphasis added). Another possible explanation is found in his exposition of the Patristics: “Christ appears as it were incognito, His Godhead being hidden under His human nature; hence the devil thinks that He will be an easy prey” (51).

[12] Of course, each part can only be spoken of as salvific in consideration of its connection to the whole of Christ’s work. But, nonetheless, they are not salvific in a mere derivative sense. Each makes a significant salvific contribution, so to say.

Advertisements