Atonement: Dancing With Theories

A number of theories emerge in course of Church history to account for the implications of Christ’s atoning work. An adequate theory, I believe, is the one, which aligns with what is evidently communicated in the Word of God, namely Christ Jesus is the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

A spot-on theory ought to capture Christ Jesus as the one whom God put forth as propitiation by his blood (Rom. 3:22-24) to demonstrate God’s own love, righteousness and holiness for He was just in passing over unpunished sin in the old covenant and a justifier in counting those whom He draws to His Son as righteous and holy.

At the cross, God himself presented His Passover Lamb to suffer “once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”(1 Pet. 3:18), in a new and everlasting covenant in Christ Jesus. As an ever last high priest, Christ offered for all time, a single sacrifice, that took away sins (Heb. 10:11-12) of those he represented, those whom the Father drew to Him,  both in the past, present and future.

Although the “meaning and impact of the atonement are rich and complex”(Erickson 1998: 800), any theory that misses the objective intend of the atoning work of Christ to propitiate and reconcile sinners to a just, holy and loving God would definitely fail to faithful account for what Isaiah 53:6, 12; John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13: Hebrews 9:28; and 1 Peter 2:24 explicitly reveals.

In the next articles, we will examine penal substitution theory: viewing Christ Jesus as boring the great penalty of sin in place of His sheep, ransom to Satan theory: viewing Christ atoning work as a ransom payment to Satan to free Christ’s sheep from Satan’s bondage, satisfaction theory: the cross satisfying the demands of God’s law and God’s wrath, moral-influence theory: Christ death is an example of how we should trust and obey God perfectly as it moves our imagination and will to repentance and holincess, and last Christus Victor, views Christ death and resurrection as a victory over all Christ’s and his sheep’s enemies.

Question: Which theory of atonement do you believe explain best the work of Christ Jesus? Give reasons

Next: Atonement as Penal Substitution

Previous: Atonement: Establishing Borders



Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology (2nd ed.) Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.


2 thoughts on “Atonement: Dancing With Theories

  1. I’m very new to the concept of theories of atonement. I first encountered them when I read my first books on Reformed theology a few months ago. But I immediately tend to think that the atonement doesn’t have to fit only one exclusive theory. Why can’t it be everything and do everything that Scripture tells us? Why do we have to fit it into a box? Certainly Christ died to save us from our sins, to take the punishment that we deserved (penal substitution). Certainly he conquered death, hell, and the grave so we would not be bound to it anymore (Christus Victor). Ultimately these theories are only our understanding of it: the truth no doubt far transcends anything we can conceive.

    • You very right Paul.

      I believe that in the life, death and resurrection we have penal substitution, Christus Victor, satisfaction,suffering example and a kind of ransom but not to the devil.

      Thank you Paul for wonderful critic.


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