Best Newish Book about the Atonement: William Lane Craig's Atonement and the Death of Christ: An Exegetical, Historical, and Philosophical Exploration

"he demonstrates conclusively that the ancient church fathers—from Irenaeus to Augustine (and he could have gone further) believed in and taught substitutionary atonement. It is simply a myth that they taught the Christus Victor or ransom theories instead." - Roger Olson

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Jesus Didn’t Die on the Cross for Our Sins?

According to one writer at Beliefnet, Jesus didn’t die on the Cross for our Sins. She further added under the title of her articles that, “The idea Jesus ‘paid the price’ isn’t found in the Bible.”

The Beliefnet piece came across my path on a twitter feed. But it isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sentiment expressed in this way. The idea has been espoused by a number of Christians who often are self-proclaimed progressives. The author takes issue with the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. She claims that,

This theology was not part of Christian doctrine for the first 1,600 years after Jesus was crucified. The idea was originated and developed by human beings who were having trouble understanding what the Bible teaches about how Jesus Christ saved humanity. They worked with what they could to better understand Jesus’ teachings, but missed the mark. This lead [sic] to a creation of a belief that wasn’t really based on the Bible.

She says that Christians typically – when asked – will say that Christ died on the cross to “pay for our sins.” The quotation marks reflect her disagreement with this. Her assertion is that the teaching has become widely taught and deep-rooted; stated as fact, but not found in the Bible.

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“the categories that form the basis for penal substitutionary atonement do not arise from an ‘Enlightenment worldview’ or from the interpretive biases of a Western judicial framework”

"It seems that Wu misunderstands what we mean, however, when we say that biblical categories must take precedence over cultural ones (and when we imply that honor / shame proponents elevate cultural categories over biblical ones)." - 9 Marks

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Theology Thursday – Anselm on the Atonement

Anselm was a brilliant guy. A genius. He published his book Why God Became Man in 1097, so you could say it’s a bit of an antique. Anselm’s book is really about why Christ had to take on a human nature and be conceived of and born to a virgin. But, along the way, he tackled the reason for Christ’s death and thus popularized the “satisfaction theory” of atonement, which envisioned God as an overlord of sorts who was owed “satisfaction” or payment by his subjects for crimes committed, in order to set things right.

This theory is very intriguing, and it’s not too far from the penal substitution theory most conservative Christians are taught. Here is the excerpt:

What it is to sin and to give recompense for sin

Anselm: What we have to investigate, therefore, is the question: ‘By what rationale does God forgive the sins of men?’ And, so that we may do this more clearly, let us first see what it is to sin and what it is to give satisfaction for sin.

Boso: It is for you to demonstrate and for me to pay attention.

Anselm: If an angel or a man were always to render to God what he owes, he would never sin.

Boso: I cannot contradict this.

Anselm: Then, to sin is nothing other than not to give God what is owed to him.

Boso: What is the debt which we owe to God?

Anselm: All the will of a rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God.

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At-One-Ment by Propitiation

(About this series)



The importance of the subject is obvious. The Atonement is Christianity in epitome. It is the heart of Christianity as a system; it is the distinguishing mark of the Christian religion. For Christianity is more than a revelation; it is more than an ethic. Christianity is uniquely a religion of redemption. At the outset we take the ground that no one can clearly apprehend this great theme who is not prepared to take Scripture as it stands, and to treat it as the final and authoritative source of Christian knowledge, and the test of every theological theory. Any statement of the atonement, to satisfy completely the truly intelligent Christian, must not antagonize any of the Biblical viewpoints. And further; to approach fairly the subject, one must receive with a certain degree of reservation the somewhat exaggerated representations of what some modern writers conceive to be the views of orthodoxy. We cannot deduce Scriptural views of the atonement from non-Biblical conceptions of the Person of Christ; and the ideas that Christ died because God was insulted and must punish somebody, or that the atonement was the propitiation of an angry Monarch-God who let off the rogue while He tortured the innocent, and such like travesties of the truth, are simply the misrepresentations of that revamped Socinianism, which is so widely leavening the theology of many of the outstanding thought-leaders of today in German, British, and American theology.

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