Atonement Models: Christus Victor, et al

We may have to start up a Christus Victor thread. I would find that quite edifying! I do not think there is only one true redemption motif in the Bible, but surely Christus Victor deserves at minimum a place alongside the other motifs.


Christus Victor is ok, but I think it’s theologically lacking. I think the participatory model is superior.

Can you expand a little on that (participatory model)? Because Orthodox view of atonement may be similar to Christus Victor, but it’s not exactly the same.

Sure. Here you go.

This was founded on the concept that the purpose of the atonement was to reconcile humanity to God by changing the moral attitude of the sinner towards God, not the attitude of God towards the sinner. No penalty was inflicted, no substitution made. However, contrary to what has been claimed, Abelard’s model was not entirely ‘subjective’, as he believed a truly objective event took place as a result of the crucifixion. This model was adopted widely among the Socinians, Polish Brethren, Anabaptists, and other Radical Reformers. It became particularly popular among Unitarians. The eighteenth century Unitarian and scientist Joseph Priestley argued that this was the original Biblical teaching, and claimed it was present in the writings of some of the early Christian expositors.


I split this out. I think this would be a good thread to continue.

I grew up only knowing Penal Substitution, anybody want to give a quick run-down of others and maybe some strengths and weaknesses of each?

[Edit] Actually @Jonathan_Burke’s link is probably good enough to get started. I read through that and ask questions here.


Christus Victor is one I have a hard time understanding, maybe you can expand on why you think it’s helpful?

Maybe it’s the ingrained PSA in my Protestant brain but I look at Christus Victor and think “ok, but doesn’t that make Satan and powers of evil stronger than God?” It makes it seem like they are worth bargaining with rather than defeating. Satan is paid off rather than eliminated.

@Jonathan_Burke, so would you say it’s something like: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ “allows” us to participate in a union with Christ that produces a reconciliation with God and sanctification of the “new man”? Maybe the atonement helps us become more compatible with God rather than convincing God we’re “ok to let in”?

I like Christos Victor. I think Robin Collins probably has a view of the atonement closest to my own, and he recommends the participatory model as well.


  1. It is an ontological law that if you sin, you die. This is a punishment NOT in the sense of God inflicting something external on us, but the natural consequence of sin.

  2. Whatever is not assumed is not healed.

  3. Chris assumes human nature and unites it with God. He heals human nature. He also assumed death and conquers it!

  4. By participating in Christ, we participate in the divine life that he gave us through his incarnation unto death.

  5. If we participate in his life, we will be raised with Him into eternal life that is ours through his conquering of death.

  6. We participate in Christ through baptism first of all, then prayer, scripture reading, reading the fathers, attending church, receiving communion, caring for the infirm, the poor, etc.

You can see here that there is no 1-to-1 Correspondence between Christ’s death and belief. No "Christ was punished for you, believe, and all his righteousness will be immediately imputed to you. Salvation is a process- in short, theosis.


More theology threads please!


Yes, pretty much.

I keep being told PS doesn’t do theology.


We do welcome theology.


@Mark, so how do you interpret:

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:3‬ ‭NRSV‬‬

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There’s been a fair amount of theology on PS (even a tag for it :grinning:) but I think there is a point to trying to keep science, science and theology, theology.

Here’s, I believe, a better translation:

For, among the very first things, I delivered to you what I had also received: that the Anointed died because of our sins, in accord with the scriptures,

‘Because’, not ‘for’. The distinction is important. @Mark is a lot better when it comes to theology though. So, I’ll let him take the reins.


If the wages of sin is death, an ontological law, then Christ took on the consequence of our sin- death. In this sense, he absolutely died FOR us. If he hadn’t, we’d still need saving. This does not mean God PUNISHED Christ FOR US.

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Thanks @Mark and @Djordje. I’m am not a theologian, clearly, but I guess I assumed that the “death” considered here is a spiritual death (since we still die physically) that seems a lot like punishment (death as a consequence of sin). Can you help me out here?

In that sense, it is! But not in the sense of Christ took on Emperor Palpetine’s rays of wrath instead of Luke Skywalker. No wrath here. You throw a ball, to the ground, it bounces back. You, sin, you die. Same idea. Spiritual death leads to physical. I love Richard Middleton’s suggestion that if the first humans had not sinned, God would have bestowed on them eternal life even though their normal nature was to die.

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Hopefully, I’ll get back to this soon. Leaving for vacation. @Djordje, bright week is the best time for that! :slight_smile:

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Have fun!

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Out of the top of my mind, there is recapitulation theory,
There is the Governmental model,
There is the picture of the kinsman redeemer.
And the picture of the federal headship.

Not sure if I am using the standard terminology here.

A good place to start would be recapitulation theory of you want an approach that is very different from penal substitution. It will atleast make you think about the incarnation, atonement and ressurection in a border way(it did for me).