From ‘Moral Influence’ to ‘Penal Subsitution’ to ‘Christus Victor,’ Theologians and Philosophers Continue to Reshape a Central Christian Doctrine
by Joshua R. Farris | Missional University
The teacher might cluster atonement theories in two general camps. The first camp approaches atonement by searching for the view that best captures all the major aspects of Christ’s person, work, and ethic. In the second camp, one is keen to find that one theory implied by the collective mind within Christian history.
The first camp resembles a tool-box approach. Think of it as a collage, with different pieces that can be fit together in various ways. The theologian simply takes all the tools and tries to make sense of them as one whole with different parts, perspectives, or motifs. However, this approach is met with the obvious challenge that atonement doctrine occupies a central place—doctrinally akin to Christ’s nature (i.e., as both human and divine) and theology proper.
The second camp, then, attempts to meet the challenge of isolating a theory of the atonement that accurately reflects the doctrinal parameters laid out by the tradition. This approach is met with the obvious challenge that there is no dogmatic statement that determines for us which atonement theory accurately embodies that which is fundamental. Some of the most fascinating developments in contemporary atonement literature reflect these approaches.1[Read more…]