World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Substitutionary atonement

 

Substitutionary atonement

El Greco's Jesus Carrying the Cross, 1580.

Technically speaking, substitutionary atonement is the name given to a number of Christian models of the atonement that all regard Jesus as dying as a substitute for others, 'instead of' them. It is expressed in the Bible in passages such as 'He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness,'[1 Pet. 2:24] and 'For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.'[1 Pet. 3:18] (although other ways of reading passages like this are also offered).[1][2]

There is also a less technical use of the term 'substitution' in discussion about atonement when it is used in 'the sense that [Jesus, through his death,] did for us that which we can never do for ourselves'.[3]

There are a number of differing theories that come under the umbrella term 'substitutionary atonement'.[4] The four best known are the Early Church Fathers' ransom theory; Gustaf Aulen's demystified version of the ransom theory, called Christus Victor; Anselm of Canterbury's satisfaction theory; and the Reformed period's penal substitution theory. Care should be taken when one reads the language of substitution in, for example, Patristic literature, not to assume any particular substitution model is being used but should, rather, check the context to see how the author was using the language.[5][6]

Contents

  • Types of substitutionary theories 1
    • Four best known models 1.1
      • Ransom and Christus Victor theory 1.1.1
      • Satisfaction and penal substitution 1.1.2
    • Other substitutionary models 1.2
  • Meaning of the Doctrine 2
  • Belief in the Doctrine 3
  • Key Bible texts 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Types of substitutionary theories

Four best known models

Ransom and Christus Victor theory

The ransom and Christus Victor theories present Jesus as dying to overcome (supernatural) powers of sin and evil. In this model, the devil has ownership over humanity (because they have sinned) so Jesus dies in their place to free them. The doctrine is that Jesus gave himself as a ransom sacrifice in behalf of the people. (Matthew 20:28) This is known as the oldest of the theories of the atonement,[7][8] and is, in some form, still, along with the doctrine of theosis, the Eastern Orthodox Church's main theory of the atonement.

Satisfaction and penal substitution

The widest held substitutionary theory in the West is the penal substitution model. Both the penal theory and Anselm's satisfaction theory hold that only human beings can rightfully repay the debt (to God's honour [Anselm], or to God's justice [penal substitution]) which was incurred through their wilful disobedience to God. Since only God can make the satisfaction necessary to repay it, therefore God sent the God-man, Jesus Christ, to fulfil both these conditions.[9] Christ is a sacrifice by God on behalf of humanity, taking humanity’s debt for sin upon himself, and propitiating God’s wrath.[10]

Other substitutionary models

There are a number of other substitutionary theories of the atonement besides the four described above. A few are listed below:

  • [17] but is still substitutionary itself in that Christ, in his exemplary sufferings, substituted for believers and the punishment they would otherwise receive.[16] The governmental theory rejects the notion of penal substitution,[15]
  • John McLeod Campbell (The nature of the Atonement [1856]): 'Campbell rejects the idea of vicarious punishment [...And] Taking a hint from Jonathan Edwards, ...develops the idea that Christ, as representative and complete man, was able to offer a vicarious repentance to God for men.'[18]
  • Horace Bushnell (The Vicarious Sacrifice [1866]): Bushnell rejected penal substitution and, instead, speaks of Christ as 'my sacrifice, who opens all to me'. 'Beholding Him with all my sin upon Him', he says, 'I count Him my offering....'[19]
  • SJT I [1948] 282-293): in his 1948 paper, Camfield spells out 'a non-penal view of substitution'.[20]

Meaning of the Doctrine

The word atonement is a theological term that is used to describe some act that pays for or erases one's sins and transgressions. The word often is used in the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew words kipper and kippurim, which mean 'propitiation' or 'expiation'. The word occurs in the KJV in Romans 5:11 and has the basic meaning of reconciliation. In the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible or Tanakh), atonement was accomplished by the sacrifice of specified animals such as lambs to pay for one's sins.[21]

The word atonement encompasses Christ’s work of redemption on behalf of his people. The center of Christ’s work, to which the whole New Testament expounded, was Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Christ’s death is the very heart of the Christian faith.[Heb. 9:11ff]

A distinction is often made between substitutionary atonement (Christ suffers for us), and penal substitution (Christ punished instead of us) which is a subset or particular type of substitutionary atonement.[10] Both affirm the substitutionary and vicarious nature of the atonement (that Christ did His work in place of something required of us), but penal substitution goes beyond this general statement to specifically state that the substitution is of Christ's punishment instead of our punishment.

A central component of substitutionary atonement is the element of Jesus' intention to die on the cross as a substitute. Supporters cite the statements by Jesus in John 3:14-18 and 12:27-33. This is in comparison with theories that Jesus' death was unanticipated by Jesus and/or purely the fault of the Romans and/or the Jews alone. The following quotes provide some views on the nature of the atonement; they come largely from the Protestant interpretations and/or the specific theory of penal substitution, and do not necessarily express the whole spectrum of beliefs that may be properly termed substitutionary atonement.

The very idea of atonement is something done, which, to the purpose of supporting the authority of the law, the dignity and consistency of divine government and conduct, is fully equivalent to the curse of the law, and on the ground of which, the sinner may be saved from that curse…a less degree or duration of suffering endured by Christ the Son of God, may, on account of the infinite dignity and glory of his person, be an equivalent to the curse of the law endured by the sinner. —Jonathan Edwards Jr.[22]
His sufferings were in the place of the penalty, not the penalty itself. They were a substitution for the penalty, and were, therefore, strictly and properly vicarious, and were not the identical sufferings which the sinner would himself have endured. There are some things in the penalty of the Law, which the Lord Jesus did not endure, and which a substitute or a vicarious victim could not endure. Remorse of conscience is a part of the inflicted penalty of the Law, and will be a vital part of the sufferings of the sinner in hell—but the Lord Jesus did not endure that. Eternity of sufferings is an essential part of the penalty of the Law—but the Lord Jesus did not suffer forever. Thus, there are numerous sorrows connected with the consciousness of personal guilt, which the Lord Jesus did not and cannot endure. —Albert Barnes[23]
If free pardon is to be extended to penitent sinners, some great measure must be substituted for the punishment of sinners that will uphold the moral government of God at least equally as well as the pronounced consequences would have done. —Gordon C. Olson[24]
Atonement is, properly, an arrangement by which the literal infliction of the penalty due to sin may be avoided; it is something which may be substituted in the place of punishment. It is that which will answer the same end secured by the literal infliction of the penalty of the law… The atonement is the governmental provision for the forgiveness of sins, providing man meets the conditions of repentance and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. —Harry Conn[25]
The atonement is a governmental expedient to sustain law without the execution of its penalty to the sinner. —Charles G. Finney[26]

Belief in the Doctrine

Many but by no means all ancient and modern branches of Christianity embrace substitutionary atonement as the central meaning of Jesus' death on the cross. These branches however have developed different theories of atonement. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics do not incorporate substitutionary atonement in their doctrine of the Cross and Resurrection. The Roman Catholic Church incorporates it into Aquinas' Satisfaction doctrine rooted in the idea of penance. Most Evangelical Protestants interpret it largely in terms of penal substitution.[27]

Many of the Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Athanasius and Augustine incorporate a theory of substitutionary atonement into their writings. However, the specific interpretation as to what this suffering for sinners meant differed to some extent. It is widely held that the early Church Fathers, including Athanasius and Augustine, taught that through Christ's vicarious suffering in humanity's place, he overcame and liberated humanity from sin, death, and the devil.[27] Thus, while the idea of substitutionary atonement is present in nearly all atonement theories, the specific idea of satisfaction and penal substitution are later developments in the Roman Catholic church and in Calvinism.[28]

Key Bible texts

Christian doctrine holds that Christ's coming and sacrifice was portended by, among others, the Prophet Isaiah approximately 700 years before Jesus was born. These prophesies can be found in Isaiah 52:7-53:12. Luke 4:16-22 reports Jesus saying that the prophesies in Isaiah were about him. The New Testament explicitly quotes from Isaiah 53 in Matthew 8:16-18 to indicate that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophesies. Although various Christians read them in different ways (some in non-substitutionary ways),[1][2] the following Biblical passages are sometimes put forwards as key texts by proponents of substitutionary atonement theories:

See also

References

  1. ^ a b J. Carter, The Letter to the Hebrews (Birmingham: CMPA), p. 83: after quoting 1 Peter 2:24, 'He was there as our representative, partaking of the nature that was common to us all – a nature under sentence of death because of sin.'
  2. ^ a b Mark M. Mattison, The Meaning of the Atonement: in a section entitled Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2:24, '...it is possible that Jesus "bore" or "carried away" our sins from us not by becoming our substitute, but by becoming our sin offering.'
  3. ^ Vincent Taylor, The Cross of Christ (London: Macmillan & Co, 1956), p. 31. Compare J. I. Packer: 'It would ... clarify discussion if all who hold that Jesus by dying did something for us which we needed to do but could not, would agree that they are regarding Christ’s death as substitutionary, and differing only on the nature of the action which Jesus performed in our place and also, perhaps, on the way we enter into the benefit that flows from it.' ('What did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution' [1973])
  4. ^ Mark David Baker, Proclaiming the scandal of the cross (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006): '...many assume that "substitutionary atonement" is merely a shorthand way to refer to "penal substitutionary atonement." [...] Substitution is a broard term that one can use with reference to a variety of metaphors.'
  5. ^ D. Flood, 'Substitutionary atonement and the Church Fathers' in Evangelical Quarterly 82.2 (2010), p. 143: 'It is not enough to simply identify substitutionary or even penal themes in the writings of the church fathers, and assume that this is an endorsement of the Reformed understanding of penal substitution. Instead, one must look at how a patristic author is using these concepts within their own understanding of the atonement and ask: what salvic purpose does Christ bearing our suffering, sin, and death have for this author? Rather than simply ‘proof-texting’ we need to seek to understand how these statements fit into the larger thought-world of an author. In short, it is a matter of context.'
  6. ^ J. K. Mozley, The doctrine of the atonement (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916), p. 94-5: 'The same or similar words may point to the same or similar ideas; but not necessarily so, since a word which has been at one time the expression of one idea, may, to a less or greater extent, alter its meaning under the influence of another idea. Hence it follows that the preservation of a word does not, as a matter of course, involve the preservation of the idea which the word was originally intended to convey. In such respects no doctrine demands more careful treatment than that of the Atonement.'
  7. ^ Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor (1931) (London: SPCK), p.143: 'The history of the doctrine of the Atonement is a history of three types of view, which emerge in turn. The classic idea emerges with Christianity itself, and remains the dominant type for of teaching for a thousand years.
  8. ^ Vincent Taylor, The Cross of Christ (London: Macmillan & Co, 1956), p. 71-2: '...the four main types, which have persisted throughout the centuries. The oldest theory is the Ransom Theory...It held sway for a thousand years.
  9. ^ "Atonement." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008
  10. ^ a b Schreiner, Thomas R. in James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (eds.), The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. InterVarsity Academic, 2006. ISBN 0-8308-2570-3
  11. ^ For: Allen C Guelzo, Edwards on the Will (Wesleyan University Press, 1989), pp. 135: '...it is plain that Edwards had no hesitation about putting his imprimatur upon the New Divinity doctrine of the atonement [i.e. the governmental theory]; to the contrary, he pledged his own reputation on its appearance'. Against: Mark A Noll, 'New England Theology' in Walter A. Elwell (ed.) Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker Academic, 2001): 'Edwards, by contrast, had maintained the traditional view that the death of Christ was necessary to take away God's anger at sin.' Middle view: The American Presbyterian Church, 'The Governmental Theory of the Atonement': 'Generally, Edwards is acknowledged as the father of this [the governmental] theory, as developed and held in New England, without having held it personally. That is, it is recognized that this theory constitutes a logical development of his theological speculations, but that Edwards was too orthodox to pursue them to such heretical conclusions, although his disciples, being more consistent, generally did so.'; Edwards A. Park, The Atonement (Boston: Gongregational Board of Publication, 1859), p. ix: 'the Governmental theory ... is called " Edwardean," partly from the fact that certain germs of it are found in the writings of the elder Edwards...'
  12. ^ a b Charles G. Finney, 'On the Atonement'.
  13. ^ Dean Harvey, 'The Atonement': '[God] needed to do something that would demonstrate His justice, that He hated sin as much as when He had pronounced the penalty, and loved obedience because it was the way of duplicating His character in this world.'
  14. ^ Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1940), p. 573-5
  15. ^ Dean Harvey, 'The Atonement'
  16. ^ Dr J. Kenneth Grider, 'The Governmental Theory: An Expansion' (1994), p. 1: 'Whereas Calvinists boldly teach that Christ paid the penalty for us--that He took our punishment--and believe their view to be Biblical, it is altogether opposed to the teaching of Scripture.'
  17. ^ Dr J. Kenneth Grider, 'The Governmental Theory: An Expansion' (1994): 'The governmental theory is also substitutionary. According to this theory, what Christ did became a substitute for something else that would otherwise occur. ... But there is substitution also in the governmental theory--substitution of a different sort. Here there is a double-dimension substitution. There is substitution in the sense that something Christ did substituted for something that would have been required of the finally impenitent. But then, there is a substitution of the guiltless Christ's suffering for the punishment that those who repent and believe would have received in eternal hell'.
  18. ^ Vincent Taylor, The Cross of Christ (London: Macmillan & Co, 1956), p. 73-4
  19. ^ Vincent Taylor, The Cross of Christ (London: Macmillan & Co, 1956), p. 75
  20. ^ J. I. Packer, 'What did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution' (1973)
  21. ^ "Yom Kippur - The Atonement Today." Web: 13 Feb 2009. Yom Kippur - The Atonement Today
  22. ^ Edwards, Jonathan Jr. "The Necessity of the Atonement." Web: 14 Feb 2010 The Necessity of the Atonement
  23. ^ Barnes, Albert. Barnes New Testament Notes. "Commentary on Galatians 3:13," c.1865. Web: Christian Classics Ethereal Classics. Albert Barnes "Commentary on Galatians 3:13"
  24. ^ Olson, Gordon C. The Truth Shall Make You Free. Bible Research Fellowship, Inc. (1980) ASIN: B000JFUAOW p.95
  25. ^ Conn, Harry. Four Trojan Horses. Mott Media (MI) (June 1, 1982) ISBN 978-0-88062-009-3 pp.80-81
  26. ^ Finney, Charles C. The Oberlin Evangelist; July 30, 1856; "On the Atonement," p. 2
  27. ^ a b "Doctrine of the Atonement." Catholic Encyclopedia." http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02055a.htm
  28. ^ Johnson Alan F., and Robert E. Webber. What Christians Believe: A Biblical and Historical Summary. Zondervan, 1993, pp. 261-263.

External links

  • Substitution in Suffering by John Miley (Arminian/Methodist)
  • Penal Substitution by Greg Bahnsen (Calvinist/Reformed)
  • Nonviolent Atonement and the Victory of Christ Nonviolent Atonement by Brad Jersak (Orthodox/Anabaptist)
  • The Concept of Atonement in 1 John
  • The Concept of Atonement in Hellenistic Thought and 1 John
  • The Concept of Atonement in Early Rabbinic Thought and the New Testament Writings
  • Targum Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Concept of Atonement
  • The Concept of Atonement in the Gospel of John
  • Jesus' Death for Us: A Sacrifice
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.