Christus Victor and Penal Substitution Blog

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hi and welcome to the new webpage/blog!

You'll still find all the familiar content here in the "Articles and Essays" sidebar on the right, plus I've added a blog to chronicle the researching and writing of a book on the Atonement I am working on based on a four part essay that you can read here called "Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor". At the time I had no idea it would be such a popular essay. But it apparently touched on a nerve in people and positive responses flooded in. So I expanded the essay with new sections, until finally I decided I needed to make this all into a book to really flesh out the ideas. There have been over the years lots of books criticizing Penal Substitution, but next to none that offered a biblical alternative from an Evangelical perspective with a high view of Scripture.

So I've been working on taking the essays and adapting and expanding them into book form. A big part of that has involved reading everything I could on the Atonement. If I was going to take on a major doctrine of my Evangelical faith I wanted to make sure I was critiquing the most intelligent version of that doctrine I could, rather than a straw-man, so I could know whether the doctrine itself needed to be revisited or it simply needed to be better stated. After I read around 70 books and had developed things quite a lot I decided it would be fun to start a blog and share some of the stuff I'd been reading and thinking.

Theology is ultimately something that should be done in community, and a blog seems like a great way to get that interaction and feedback. So I look forward to any comments.

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At 3:05 PM, Blogger T. Baylor said...

So Shark,

How do you understand Justification and the legal motifs apart from a penal-substitution model?

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Luther S,

I decided to answer you in a blog entry since the answer gets into some stuff I wanted to blog about any way.

here tis
Luther's theology of the Cross - pt 1 Justification

At 9:23 AM, Blogger said...

Hey, glad you started a blog. I read your 4 part article on the Christus Victor model a long time ago (perhaps 2000'ish) and it has consistently helped shape my thinking since. I come from an Anabaptist background, so I'm familiar with some of the ideas, but just wanted to say how valuable your essay has been to me...

Have you ever read Vernard Eller's "King Jesus: Manual of Arms for the Armless"? I see (or suspect) that you've read most of the stuff I have to recommend along these lines (Bonhoeffer, Yoder, Kraybill, I assume you've read Ellul)... Eller is frequently fairly light in his theological writings but was a good friend of Ellul's and Eller's take on Christian anarchy influenced Ellul's. Anyway, "King Jesus" is a Genesis to Revelation look at the role of violence in what God is doing that I think dovetails nicely with Christus Victor ideas...Might give it a read.

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey MetaPundit,

Just saw this post. Thanks. I'm quite influenced by Aulen, Moltmann. I have read Yoder, Bonhoeffer, and Kraybill, but have not read Ellul or Eller. Looks liie they are both into Christian anarchy. Looks like very intreaging stuff, can you recommend some books to get started with?

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Derek,

I'd like to start by saying that the "Christus Victor" piece is unique in my experience so far, and it is *outstanding*! The evangelical community so badly needs to read and understand this! This should be the mainstream view, rather than the near universal view of "penal substitution" that so sadly distorts the truth.

Having said all of that, I must say that I disagree with much of part two. I think that in part two you're trying too hard to harmonize too much of the Bible. Two main thoughts on this are, one, that what you wrote there about Yahweh ignores his murderous, hurtful qualities that are plain to see in the Old Testament (quite the opposite of the god of justice and mercy you portrayed), and two, that I find it quite difficult to see the Temple sacrifices as acts of communion. On these points, I think you're just off the mark.

But in spite of that, I strongly support the document, because the main message is such important truth. I did notice, though, that it is in dire need of a good proofreading. I'd love to help you out with that if it's possible. My email is - let me know if I can be of assistance with that.

As you might guess, there's a lengthy back story to my experience with this. I've recently had to make the decision to stop attending services at an evangelical church I am (was?) a member of because I just couldn't deal with the fear-based distortions of the biblical teachings anymore. I could expound on this at length but will leave it there for now...

Blessings and best wishes,

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,

Glad you liked the article. I can sympathize with you struggles with the OT. I think lots of people (myself included) find it difficult. What I try to do is remind myself that even if I cant always see it, that Jesus read those Scriptures and saw in there a loving Father, so I try to see what he did in the OT. Ive written a bit more detailed approach to the temple sacrifices on the blog here that you can check out if you like:

Temple Sacrifice Pt 1

Temple Sacrifice Pt 2

Temple Sacrifice Pt 3

At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Derek,

So as I mentioned in the email, I'm continuing to work on the proofreading, and came across the section about the Temple sacrifices again. Now I've also read through your links above - thanks for those. It's all becoming a bit clearer to me. I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I completed a manuscript of my own last year that discusses evangelical doctrines. In one part of it I did say that the animal sacrifices appear to be a statement of worship, inasmuch as they are essentially a giving up of the currency of those times to God. Those animals were their livelihood and physical sustenance. By sacrificing them, they were essentially saying to God that God was more important to them than life and wealth.

However, what we have with the concept of the blood being used as a cleansing agent is a focus on a 'physical' representation of what is really mental and spiritual. As such, it fails. It fails because the physical structures of those rituals distract from and obscure the truth. The truth is that this is about thought. The truth is that this is about mind. There can be no true cleansing without a cleansing of the mind. This is what repentance is all about, and your Christus Victor essay agrees with this statement.

The Old Testament practices and structures are archaic and basically meaningless to us today. Why perpetuate such confusing, confounding and harmful constructions when we are capable of just stating it all far more clearly in different terms that will actually lead to understanding?


At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"what we have with the concept of the blood being used as a cleansing agent is a focus on a 'physical' representation of what is really mental and spiritual. As such, it fails. It fails because the physical structures of those rituals distract from and obscure the truth."

I think there are two things at issue here:
1) the 'physical' representation. It is true that temple sacrifice was symbolic for the realities in the heavenlies as Hebrews says. So is communion. I love communion and find that while it is physical pointing to spiritual realities that it does help me to connect to them. Which brings me to...
2) "obscuring the truth". This I could see with temple sacrifice because it comes from a time so far away from ours that we don't have any real connection with it and it just seems awful. As you say "The Old Testament practices and structures are archaic and basically meaningless to us today"

which brings us to your final question

"Why perpetuate such confusing, confounding and harmful constructions"

Maybe so that we can come to the conclusion you have. We work to understand them in their original context so that when we do formulate them in a way that speaks to us today, we can know that we are not simply making up what suits us, but are remaining true to Scripture. I think if I did not doe that hard work I would be open to the criticism of those who could say "but what about the temple sacrifices?"

At 11:29 AM, Blogger dave said...

love the is the book coming?

This topic is a big part of a class I am teaching adjunct at Fresno Pacific U. What is cool is that often half the class is not Christian..everyone has to take the "Jesus and the Christina Community" class even if a business major. And the non-Christians get the point better than the evangelicals.

We have been using the Green/Baker book so far, but I will start recommnending your articles

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

That's so cool! I'd love to hear how that goes with your class.

The book is completed, and I am trying to find a publisher. So far a lot of editors have expressed enthusiasm about the book, one even calling it "the most solid historical and theological treatment out there", but I am still looking for a house that is willing to take a chance on a new author.

At 3:54 AM, Blogger Maris Mols said...

Where is the book, cant find it on amazon or throuh google.

At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

It has not been published yet. See my above comment.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Maris Mols said...

Oh sorry. I saw that article was published in 2006, so I decided that those comments should be pretty old. In case if you have difficulties finding a publisher, I could consider investing some money in this noble cause :]


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