31 Mar 2021

What the Church Does Best

As the body of the risen Master reels from aftershocks of lockdowns, a year of “virtual gatherings,” and the impact of capacity restrictions, I spent this past weekend being reminded of what the body of the King does best. The Church heals, and it heals most effectively when we spend time in the physical presence of one another. As someone who suffers daily from the effects of a rare spinal condition, one that surgery and

08 Jun 2020

Christus Victor in Romans 5

Here I belatedly conclude a three part series on Christus Victor, first having attempted to clarify the meaning Christus Victor, then having considered its place in the Old Testament, and now pointing out one of its clearest presentations in the New Testament. To summarize the previous articles:  Circa A.D. 1200, Thomas Aquinas taught the Roman Church something utterly novel to the Christian tradition. He said that the suffering of Jesus satisfied God’s need to punish

17 May 2018

Christus Victor and the Old Testament

CHRISTUS VICTOR AND THE OLD TESTAMENT Until A.D. 1200, Christians around the world all saw the cross as liberating believers from darkness. After A.D. 1200, Roman Catholics added the idea that God’s wrath and justice were satisfied by our Lord’s suffering and torture. That view of the cross dominates Protestant theology, and it does so with several misunderstandings. To summarize the previous article in this series: The term “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” is a misnomer, because

07 Mar 2018

Christus Victor Clarified

Does torture satisfy God? Thanks to a book by Gustaf Aulen, the term “Christus Victor” (or CV) has become shorthand for the traditional Christian view of the atonement prior to the work of Thomas Aquinas. The view of the cross by Aquinas and the subsequent view of Protestantism are both commonly referred to as “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” (or PSA). Without taking sides between these two views, I hope to clarify three misunderstandings about Christus Victor.

19 May 2017

Permuting Atonement Theories: Leviticus 16 as a Typological Foreshadowing

In modern Western theology, we like to think in categories. While these are generally helpful, they can also cause polarization and controversy: Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology, Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism, Young Earth Creationism vs. Evolutionary Creationism, and the list could go on. While useful and necessary, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the original writers of the biblical text and their immediate audiences would be strangers to many of these labels. Instead of falling

02 Dec 2015

An Ex-Calvinist’s Tiptoe Through TULIP – Limited Atonement

The Calvinist teaching of Limited Atonement is an understanding based upon a penal substitutionary model of Christ’s accomplishing salvation on the cross.  That is, salvation is understood to consist in Christ receiving God the Father’s wrath and punishment on the cross in the place of mankind, which results in a legal acquittal in the sight of the Father of people who accept this substitutionary gift.  However, since not everyone will accept this gift and be

08 Oct 2015

The Atonement of Irenaeus

Imagine if one of the twelve disciples of Jesus had personally discipled a man whose pupil had written a short book for us, a book that explains the barest essentials of the apostles’ teaching. What a treasure it would be if we found such a book! In 1904, a priest of the Oriental Orthodox Church of Armenia uncovered exactly such a book, the Demonstration of the Preaching of the Apostles. Its author, Bishop Irenaeus of

13 Aug 2015

The Destructive Kingdom of God

In my Protestant background, I heard many claims that “the kingdom of God is advancing.” Yet in my experience, very few Christians know where scripture actually defines what Jesus so often spoke about: the kingdom of God. A proper definition of the kingdom can dramatically color our experience of scripture, pointing us ultimately to the Eastern understanding of atonement, “Christus Victor.” DEFINING THE KINGDOM When I ask believers for a definition of the kingdom of