Penal Substitution in the Early Church

"The first error, which is the most common among scholars, is to suggest that the early church never spoke of penal substitution, which I hope to dispel. The second error, more common among evangelicals, is to overstate the case and read penal substitution into texts." - TGC

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josh p's picture

Looks like I need to brush up. I'm familiar with this debate and appreciate what he has contributed. However, this surprised me. I have not understood Christus Victor to be the same as the Ransom Theory. 
 

"And in our search for penal substitution, we run the risk of missing out on many of the other beautiful ways the early church spoke of the atonement, from Christus Victor (the Ransom Theory) to Christus Medicus (Christ as our Healer)."

Nord Zootman's picture

josh p wrote:

Looks like I need to brush up. I'm familiar with this debate and appreciate what he has contributed. However, this surprised me. I have not understood Christus Victor to be the same as the Ransom Theory. 

I have also understood those two to be very different.

josh p's picture

I think I going to have to read more before I comment much but I’m not seeing it so far. I looked in my theologies and only Erikson seemed to equate them. Many saw them both in a “victory over the devil” category but set them out as different.

Edit: Sproul has a little book called the truth of the cross and in it he considers Christus Victor an expression of the ransom theory. He does reject the payment to Satan idea however. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

They're the same. The ransom achieves the victory.

Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, John of Damascus, Gregory of Nazianzus all believed and taught various facets of it, with their own twists. Gustaf Aulen's book on it (ca. 1930) is outstanding. They're the same. Most systematic theologies from the 20th century do a pathetic job of describing it, and basically dismiss it out of hand. Erickson does a decent job. If you have Demarest and Lewis' Integrative Theology, they discuss it in their vol. 2 and do a great job. Basically, don't count on a modern-ish systematic theology (especially a Reformed one) to represent the situation accurately. My favorite example is when Reymond plagarizes Buswell and never cites him, even to the point of stealing the exact same Anselm quote with the same ellipses Buswell used. It's also very clear to me most systematic theologians have not actually read Aulen, with the possible exception of Erickson.

Forget mediated summaries. If you have the ANF/NPNF set, just go to NPNF 2:7 and read Gregory's discussion of it in his Great Catechism, ch. 22-26. 

Or, read the text of my sermon at the link in my previous post, and follow the footnotes.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

Ok thanks. I don't have that set but of the 42 hits I got on Logos, no one took the position they were the same. I read the sermon but will look closer at the footnotes. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

All I can say is that the Logos resources are wrong. I quite literally read the patristic sources, and Aulen. There's disagreement over to whom Christ paid the ransom, but all agree the ransom secured the victory. They're the same. Christus Victor is the official term. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?