Seven Views of the Atonement

Podcast Episodes

A few months ago a post circulated Instagram in which Jesus was described as a “victim” of the cross. The idea was that Jesus never intended to be a sacrifice – He was victimized by the violence of society and set an example of love through His death. What many people don’t know is that this Instagram post wasn’t a one-off postulation by an influencer. It’s actually an entire theory on the atonement!

In this episode of Verity Podcast, we delve into seven theories on the atonement of Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross. Like most of the theological topics we discuss here at Every Woman a Theologian, we have to stop and critically think about the views we’ve always held! The theories we cover are:

  • Ransom Theory
  • Christus Victor
  • Satisfaction Theory
  • Government Theory
  • Penal Substitutionary Atonement/Vicarious Atonement
  • Scapegoat Theory
  • Moral Influence Theory

Sources

Ransom Theory

Christus Victor:

Penal Substitution:

Satisfaction Theory:

Government Theory:

Scapegoat Theory:

Listen Now!

Transcription

Phylicia: Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian. 

Well, let me tell you guys, it is no small task to do the research for an episode on atonement theories. Apparently, I seriously underestimated how much time it was going to take for me to research this episode, and because of that, we have a little gap in our theology series. I ended up taking a four week break partially to research the atonement episode and partially because we just needed that time as a family during my social media break here in the middle of 2021, when this episode is being recorded. I’m finally back with this episode, doing an overview of the major atonement theories, answering the question of how did Jesus accomplish atonement on the cross. That might seem like a pretty simple question, but in reality, over the course of church history, there have been a variety of different answers to that question, and even today, there is debate among scholars on which theory is the best, which theory best explains what Jesus was doing when He allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross. 

We’re going to look at some of those major theories in this episode. 

So, let’s start with looking at atonement theories as a whole. I kind of set you up for what they are. They’re theories about the atonement. They’re theories about how Jesus actually accomplished salvation for fallen humanity. When I was writing this episode, I kept thinking, I need to move this theory to the top. This one should come first, because when we discussed that one, then we’ll be able to talk about all of the other ones because they all connect to each other. In the end, what I realized was, there was no best theory to put first, because they all cross reference each other. You’re actually going to notice that some of these sound very, very similar, they’re only slightly different, and some of these can be held simultaneously where you hold to one theory primarily, but you also think that another theory is fairly valid, or maybe it’s another view that can be held in conjunction with the first one, and then, you’ve got those that really start to push the boundaries of orthodoxy, and start to walk away from what’s been historically taught by the church.

In the end, I just left the first theory we’re going to talk about as the original one, and that is ransom theory. There are six or seven atonement theories. We’re going to be looking at six. We’re going to be looking at ransom theory, Christus Victor, satisfaction theory, vicarious atonement, government theory, and scapegoat theory. There is one more called moral influence theory. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that one. I’m not going to flesh that one out as much as I am with these other six. But in the show notes on the blog, you will have access to a series of articles that I have sourced for you on each atonement theory. I found two articles per atonement theory, so that you can check those out if you want to read more.

So, let’s start with ransom theory. What is it? How does it work? This is the classical view of the atonement. It is the earliest view of the atonement, the one that most of the early church fathers held to. And remember, early, while important, so early documents, early theology, it’s very important, but it’s not inerrant. It’s not held at the same level as Scripture itself. These were humans interpreting Scripture, and they also had a cultural context that impacted how they were looking at Scripture. And that goes for all of these issues that we see in theology, so many of them like end times theology, if you’ve listened to that episode. So many of these theological issues require taking the historical context into consideration as we interpret them, as we read the scholars, as we discern through what they were teaching. With ransom theory, being the first or earliest view, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the only view to be held or the best view, it just means that this was the understanding very early on. 

The idea of this is that Jesus with His death paid off The Enemy. He paid off The Enemy. Those who hold the ransom theory, look at a couple different passages such as Matthew 20:28, which says, “Even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Titus 2:5-6, which says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” We see a little bit in Scripture with this ransom terminology indicating the idea of something someone being paid for. Someone being bought back. There’s a dominion or capturing, and then there’s a buying back imagery used in the Bible. With ransom theory, the idea is that the thing that’s being bought is humanity because of sin, and the thing that has them captured is Satan. God is essentially buying the children of God, buying humanity back from Satan’s dominion. 

A few early proponents of this idea where church fathers’ origin in Gregory. Irenaeus is another one who talked about this theory. With the early church fathers, what can be tough is, they weren’t just stating, “I hold to the ransom theory of the atonement.” No, these things are in development. There was no label for them. It’s sifting through their writings and coming away with the themes and the ideas that they’re presenting were able to say, “Okay. It seems like Gregory of Nyssa was holding to this idea of a ransom theory.” I wanted to read a couple quotes. I believe these are from Irenaeus, where he’s talking about the atonement and what was supposed to happen. He says, “The word of God, powerful in all things and not defective with regards to his own justice, did righteously turn against apostasy and redeem from it his own property, not by violent means, as the apostasy had obtained dominion over us at the beginning when it’s insatiably snatched away what was not its own, but by means of persuasion, as it became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means obtain what he desires, so that neither should justice be infringed upon, or the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction.”

What he’s saying here is that humanity was snatched away from God, and had an evil Dominion placed over us, and it was snatched away by persuasion, by deceit. It was taken in by the enemy. This is describing what happened in Genesis 3. God redeems these people back to himself through the gospel. Gregory, when he wrote about this, he said that Satan obtained legal rights over man due to the fall. So, any salvation, in order for salvation to happen, it must be first free man from Satan’s dominion, and I’ll have sources for this in the show notes. Must first free man from Satan’s dominion. Gregory was the one who first established this analogy of Satan being tricked by God to take this ransom. Satan didn’t want to give up the children of God. He didn’t want to give up humanity. But God basically tricked him with Christ. He had this God man, Jesus, and the humanity of Christ was the bait that tricked Satan into accepting Christ as a ransom. This analogy is still perpetuated to today, where God is basically saying to Satan, “Oh, look, you can kill Jesus, you can actually get rid of Him by crucifying Him. And then, Jesus conquers Satan through the resurrection and ransoms humanity back to the Lord.”

The main problem that ransom theory sees is our captivity to Satan. The atonement is a victory over Satan. Ultimately, that is what the goal was. The problem comes when God is depicted as in this bargaining relationship with The Enemy or deceiving The Enemy. There’s also this idea that the devil has this right or authority that God could not transcend, that God almost didn’t have power over Satan. Because ransom theory does operate a lot within this legal framework, it could be that the idea is that God has set up a rule of law essentially, just order, where because of what Satan did, He is bound to abide by that law, and therefore, He uses a ransom to buyback humanity, and He tricks Satan into doing it. There is biblical basis for seeing the crosses of victory over Satan. We see Colossians 2, Hebrews 2. and Revelations 12, but do you have to hold to ransom theory? Not necessarily. However, it was the earliest atonement theory that existed. 

The second theory we’re going to look at is Christus Victor. Christus Victor was the dominant theory for most of church history as we’ll see, when we talk about a few of the other theories. At least the middling section from the early church, all the way to close to the reformation, or a little bit before 300 years or so. Christus Victor really takes this big picture view of what the atonement was to accomplish. It’s an idea of conflict, a divine conflict. There’s evil, there’s a demonic power, there’s people who are partnered with that demonic power, and then, there are people who are in bondage to that power. God through Jesus is overcoming the evil of the world. Christ’s victory over evil is that turnkey, pivotal point in history that reconciles the world to Himself. Some people have attributed ransom theory to Irenaeus, but they also attribute Christus Victor to him. When I said that there are different theories about what these church fathers were saying, well, here’s a perfect example. 

He wrote extensively about God reclaiming humanity as His taking them from the enemy’s jurisdiction. What He said about the devil was that he cannot be allowed to have any rights over men. He is a robber, a rebel, a tyrant, a usurper, unjustly laying hands on that which does not belong to Him. This idea of Christ as a conqueror, as the overcoming King would connect well to the imagery that we see, such as in 2 Corinthians 2, where the apostle’s writing about the victory that we experience in daily life in the Lord using the imagery of a Roman emperor leading conquered leaders of hostile forces. This is according to the gospel coalition. Leading conquered leaders of hostile forces through the streets and victory parade. Paul is saying, the victory that you see there, the way that this is acted out visually in front of you on a daily basis, living under Roman rule, that’s the kind of victory you have in Christ because of what Christ did to evil, what He did to the enemy. We also see John talking about believers overcoming the devil, overcoming The Enemy because of the Word of God dwelling in them in 1 John 2.

One of the people who really pushed this theory to the forefront was the Swedish theologian, Aulén. He developed this view of the atonement that kept this big picture, Christ’s victory over evil as the central motif. Atonement is what God is doing through Christ, in which, this is according to him, the powers of sin, death, and the devil are overcome, and the world is reconciled to God. When you hear the words, sin, death, and the devil together, that’s usually an indicator of the Christus Victor theory. A characteristic of this theory is that it’s double sided. God is both the subject, the reconciler, and also the object, the reconciled. He is bringing all things to peace within Himself. This theory actually works well with other atonement theories, because you can hold the Christus Victor, while also seeing some of the specifics in other atonement theories as able to align with it. For instance, you can say that God overcame sin, death, and the devil through Christ, that the main center of this is Christ overcoming these things and therefore accomplishing salvation for humanity, while also holding on to things like satisfaction theory or even vicarious atonement. It’s kind of a both, and that’s possible with Christus Victor. 

The third theory is satisfaction theory. This is the idea that the atonement of Jesus is satisfaction or compensation for the Father. This is almost like ransom theory, but the person who’s being paid back is God and not The Enemy. The church father, who is responsible for this theory, is Anselm, who developed it in the early Middle Ages. I believe it was around the 1200s, when he started to develop this idea. Satisfaction theory took over from Christus Victor. It quickly became more popular. This idea has a lot to do with God’s honor and giving Him the honor that is due Him. It’s different from penal substitutionary atonement or vicarious atonement, we’ll talk about that in a second, because it has to do with God’s honor versus having to do with God’s law. It’s more about who God was and the honor due Him. From my notes and my research, what some of the scholars I was reading said is that Anselm believed that humans could not render God more than what was due Him. The satisfaction that was due to God for their sin was greater than anything created beings could give back to him. God had to make the satisfaction for Himself. Only a being that was both God and man could satisfy God’s honor and give Him the honor that was due, because the satisfaction had to pay for humanity, the person paying that satisfaction had to be human. But as we know, humans could not pay the price, and therefore, Jesus had to pay the price in a human body. That’s the argument for satisfaction theory. 

Anselm, when he was creating this theory that the crux of it is that Christ obeyed where humans should have obeyed. Humans should have obeyed but they didn’t, and therefore, Christ is the second Adam who is making all things new. Calvin, who held to more of the vicarious atonement idea, he held that instead of Christ obeying where we should have obeyed, Christ was punished or we should have been punished. There’s a slight difference in the focus, even though the models are actually quite similar.

One thing again to notice is the cultural context of Anselm. He was very well acquainted with the feudal system, in which you had slaves who worked on an estate for an overlord, and so that overlord usually at night protected the estate, but the knight also had to honor the king. The slaves or serfs owed the knight a debt of honor for protecting them, and they served him in order to be protected. That knight then answered to the king. If in feudal society, someone offended another person, they were required to make satisfaction to the one they offended. I’m going to have sources for this in the notes, a crime against a king would require more satisfaction, more of a debt, I guess, that a crime against a knight or a slave. If you think about it in the way, Anselm was thinking about it, the slaves could never pay back the king. They could never pay back the king. The king had to send someone in the form of a slave to pay back himself, the king. We’re not saying the Anselm completely borrowed the idea directly from the system in front of him, but we do have to keep in mind that since this working out of the atonement is a secondary issue for the most part. It’s a how question. Go back and listen to the discerning core doctrine episode if you want more on that, but it’s a question of how does the atonement work, not is the atonement true, which would be a core doctrine. With a question like this, there are multiple answers that can be held within orthodoxy. Knowing that, we can give a little grace for the fact that these theories were adopted and adapted within a cultural context. So, in Anselm’s case, it would have been feudal society, and in the case of the early church fathers, you had ransom theory, Christus Victor being well acquainted with the model of conquering kings. All of these reflect a standpoint within history, a view of history. I think the same goes for penal substitutionary atonement or vicarious atonement, which is the most popular view today. 

In this view, Christ bore the penalty for the sins of man. If that sounds familiar, that’s no surprise because that is exactly what most churches teach today. This idea can usually be held alongside some other atonement ideas. Like the ransom theory and the idea that Jesus paid God a ransom to free us from bondage, to free us from Satan. Mark 10:45 and Colossians 2 talk about this. We also see that Jesus describes His death as an illustration of love, which could even fall under the moral influence theory, though that one would not be considered orthodox. But in John 15, He does say this is an illustration of love.

We do want to keep in mind that the vicarious atonement theory that Jesus is standing in for us that he’s taking a penalty we deserved can possibly be held alongside other theories. It might not be the one and done theory. This one was mostly developed by Calvin and the reformers. Like we just talked about with satisfaction theory, when Anselm was saying Christ obeyed where we should have obeyed. Calvin was saying Christ was punished where we should have been punished. So, the focus of penal substitution really is on that punishment. The word ‘penal’ means penalty, and so that’s the focus of this theory. 

One of the things that this theory, substitutionary atonement, takes into account is the Old Testament sacrificial system. Since this theory is so closely linked and integral to covenant theology, you’re going to see the continuity between Old and New Testaments. You’re going to see a connection and an explanation for that in which we see that those types and shadows of the animal sacrifices pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus. His act of substitution, Him offering Himself as a sacrifice allows us to be atoned for. We see this in Isaiah 53, the image of the suffering servant. The idea that Jesus took our transgression, He endured our penalty, so that we could be free, that we no longer owe a debt to the Lord.

Martin Luther was also one of the primary formulators of this theory. In his Galatians commentary of 1535, he evidences his departure Anselm’s satisfaction theory. In penal substitution, in this theory, the son is freely going to sacrifice. He’s freely giving himself up to pay the penalty, and God judges his son with a judgment we deserved. In satisfaction theory, the judgment that we were supposed to receive is directed away from us because the wrath of God is satisfied. But in penal substitution, the judgment is absorbed. I believe this is from a quote from Ligonier Ministries that said, “The judgment is averted versus the judgment being absorbed.” When Jesus took our penalty, He absorbed all the judgment that we deserved with satisfaction theory, that judgment is redirected or it’s directed away from us, because God’s wrath is satisfied. 

There are quite a few church fathers who are said to hold to this Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, and Ambrose are all said to hold to this theory. Again, they would not have been using the exact terminology, and the terminology of Jesus paying the penalty for sin is just as prevalent as terminology for ransom and for satisfaction. It’s all intertwined. This is one of those theories that can come alongside Christus Victor explicitly, though it differs fundamentally from ransom and satisfaction theory on several levels. 

I think all of us have been at a women’s conference where we were told you are a beautiful daughter of the Most High King, and it’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. The beauty of being God’s daughter has some backstory, and it’s left out in a lot of messages preached to women. If you’re tired of hearing the watered-down Christian teaching and you’re hungry for a deeper spiritual life, I have something for you. It’s my brand-new book, Stop Calling Me Beautiful: Finding Soul-Deep Strength in a Skin-Deep World. Stop Calling Me Beautiful is a book about going deeper with God. I’m going to talk about pursuing the truth of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him, how to study Scripture, how legalism, shallow theology, and false teaching keep us from living boldly as a woman of the word. I’m so excited to put this book in your hands. You can grab your copy on Amazon, or for more information, head to my website, phyliciamasonheimer.com, and click the Book tab. 

The next theory is government theory. In this atonement theory, Christ was not punished on behalf of anyone. Now, before you get wiggly inside, let’s follow this out. What is happening in this atonement theory if Jesus is not being specifically punished? Remember, that was a more Calvinistic and Lutheran interpretation, even different from Anselm’s interpretation. When Jesus died, God was demonstrating His anger with sin. He was demonstrating that sin has a cost. So, there is an element of substitution in government theory, but instead of being for specific individuals, it’s more of a corporate idea.

Jesus wasn’t dying to specifically pay a penalty for Phylicia. What His death was doing is showing that sin deserves to be punished by the just governor of the universe, the King of the universe. When this sacrifice happened, the justice of God was satisfied. Then, God could forgive men on other grounds. The faith repentance, etc., in Christ is possible because Christ fulfilled this governmental need for showing that the law mattered, and that sin grieves God. This particular view was developed by Hugo Grotius. It was combating a view of the atonement that arose in the 1500s. It was just a repackaged version of Arianism, which is an anti-Trinitarian heresy. This view that Hugh Grotius saw, he said, that wrong, that’s heretical. We need to do something about this, and so he developed this atonement theory, this government theory saying, “No, God is just, He’s Trinity, He’s whole, He is righteous, and you can’t have a just God in a world where sin is not judged.” So, while Jesus was not dying specifically for individuals, He was dying corporately to represent God’s just government of the world in His judgment on sin as a whole. Because that justice was done corporately and on a cosmic scale, then individuals could have access to God through Jesus.

This view became dominant in the Wesleyan and Armenian Methodist tradition (even though, John Wesley himself did not hold to it) and also in some charismatic circles and among some open theists. Government theory has been the most confusing for me to study,  so I’m trying to reiterate a few of the principles here so that I can try and express exactly what is being said. Especially if you come from a background where it’s just “Jesus died to take our penalty”, it can be a little bit hard to understand. Here’s a quote from one of the articles I’ve sourced for you. It says,

“It was in the best interest of humankind for Christ to die. Forgiveness of their sins, if too freely given, would have resulted in undermining the laws authority and effectiveness. It was necessary, therefore, to have an atonement that would provide grounds for forgiveness, and simultaneously retain the structure of moral government.”

So, Christ’s death was a substitute for a penalty. So, like satisfaction theory, you are actually averting the idea of an individual penalty being taken.

What’s demonstrated on the cross here is that the suffering of Christ for sin, in general, should be enough to deter us from sin. Just seeing the suffering, seeing the pain, that should be enough to deter us from sin. Another element is that it’s not that God was having something offered to Him, but that God was making the offering. God was making the atonement. You could argue that with every single one of these theories though. That’s from P.T. Forsyth who said, “It’s not that something was offered to God, but God made the offering, God made the atonement.” 

Kenneth Grider says that, Christ suffered for us. “What He did could not have been to pay the penalty, since if He paid the penalty, then no one would ever go into eternal perdition.” Okay, this is an important point he’s making from his theological perspective. J. Kenneth Grider believes that if Jesus paid the penalty for the whole world, because that’s what Scripture says, that Christ died for the sins of the world. If he died for the sins of the world to pay their penalty, then it would result in universalism. That’s what he’s saying here. Instead, he’s saying, Christ suffered for everyone so the father could forgive the ones who repent and believe. His death is such that all will see forgiveness is costly and will strive to cease from anarchy in a world God governs. It’s demonstrating God’s justice, it’s communicating God’s hatred for sin, it’s motivating holiness and it satisfies the demands of justice.

This theory, I would say, is one that often gets picked apart, today. It’s particularly distasteful to those who hold strictly to the penal substitutionary atonement view, because it skates around an individual atonement, and because PST is very popular right now, government theory is definitely in disfavor. But the people who held to government theory were almost universally orthodox, at least until recently. Their way of explaining it though often had to do with a fear of universalism, because the people who held to this theory were not Calvinistic. They did not believe God was choosing who would be saved. They believed all may come to a saving knowledge of God if they believe in repent. So, because they believe anyone can come to the Lord after the Lord has called them, they could not hold to this idea of everyone’s penalty being paid, because if the penalty is paid, as J. Kenneth Grider was saying, then logical conclusion is universalism. Anybody can be saved regardless of what they do. To avoid that, well, also honoring the atonement, you have government theory. 

Our last theory today is scapegoat theory. We’re going to touch on moral influence, but very briefly at the end. Scapegoat theory. I have a couple of interesting articles for you on this. As a general rule, scapegoat theory does not fall within orthodoxy. Most of the people who hold to scapegoat theory are theologically progressive to the point that what they’re teaching does not align with church history or with Scripture. However, I still think reading about it is interesting and helpful, because the theory is growing in popularity. Also, I think there are elements of the theory that are absolutely true. It’s just how far you take it, like with most things.

The goal with this theory is to find a theory that upholds the biblical truths but is also nonviolent in its view of God. The people who established this theory, specifically René Girard, a French scholar, were looking for a theory that could explain the love of Christ and His violent death. How do we understand the love of God when we look at the Old Testament, when we look at the cross and how bloody and violent it was? How do we understand it? 

Girard’s theory actually starts with something other than the atonement. It goes even further back than the atonement. It starts with understanding humanity as a whole and their propensity for conflict intention. Conflict, in his view, comes from mimicking other’s desires and behavior. We’re learning what things we should want from the people we’re around. As we mimic what others do and what they desire, we envy and quarrel. This tension in the community is resolved by finding a scapegoat. Someone to blame for the conflict. Someone who might even be an innocent bystander. We “burn them” at the stake, and when that person is roasted, when that person is removed from the community, we then say, “Look, we can have peace.” This actually, in studying this theory, I thought, “Oh, my goodness, how many times did we see this happen in 2020 online.” You direct all of this anger, all this tension towards the group that’s considered the bad guy, the scapegoat, and when that person is rejected by the whole community, they have peace. But maybe that group actually wasn’t wrong in the first place. That’s the whole concept that René Girard was working with. 

A scapegoat is only necessary if the community is struggling intention, having conflict. There has to be a lot of tension, a lot of consistent conflict going on for there to be necessary to bring in a scapegoat. What René Girard and other scholars believe is that the gospels, and actually the whole Bible, present this tension. You see this tension in the gospels between the Jews and Rome, between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. You see it between the zealots, the Jewish leaders in Rome. You see it on a lot of different levels. The scapegoat who’s found, in the case of the gospels, is someone who’s hated equally by the Roman authorities and by the Jewish leaders. The rest of society simply has to be convinced that Jesus is the problem. He is the root. If they get rid of Him, then the tensions will resolve. So, everybody turns on Jesus. They kill Him. The Romans charge Him with sedition. The highest political crime. The Jewish authorities charged Him with blasphemy, the worst religious crime, and I’ll have a source for that. That’s from one of the articles I gave you in the show notes. He’s charged with the two greatest crimes which He did not commit, and He’s killed for them. Mark Heim says, “The cross decisively demonstrates God’s opposition to this way of solving human division. God does not want to legitimate the act of scapegoating.”

The scapegoat theory, what it’s saying is that man’s sinful way of solving conflict is to scapegoat. It’s to blame, it’s to cast out, it’s to burn people at the literal or figurative stake. In the Old Testament, the sacrificial system was developed to direct people’s energy away from that revelry, and sin against other people, and to utilize this sacrifice of animals as a reminder of what they wanted to do to other people, what they wanted to do to other humans. Instead, they’re directing that violence to these animals, and then in Jesus, we see the ultimate overcoming of the scapegoat model. The heart of this theory is that violence is not salvific, this is according to Mark Heim again. Death is a punishment for sin, not the payment for salvation. Very much opposed to the idea of death being a punishment or being a payment for sin.

This whole theory revolves around the idea that sacrifice is a negative thing. It’s not God’s original intent. It’s a human way to deal with sin and shame, but it was necessary for a time so that humans would not completely collapse in on themselves. The resurrection proved that Jesus was God’s way, that God would not allow violence to be what won the day. In a sense, Jesus was scapegoated, but His resurrection proved His innocence and gave an example of love for society. So essentially, Jesus participated in being a scapegoat, but to show a better way in that scapegoat theory. While there are some really neat elements of scapegoat theory that I think are worth considering, as a general rule, this is a theory that is perpetuated within progressive theology, and in doing so, also will undermine other key doctrines regarding the deity of Christ or the Trinity or theology of sin, things like that. You have to be a little bit more cautious with this theory, even if you’re like, “Oh, I really liked that. That sounds really interesting.” This theory is usually not in an orthodox context. 

The last theory is moral influence theory. This one was founded by Peter Abelard in reaction to Anselm. Basically, what this one is, it’s just that the cross changes our ethical behavior, because Christ is an example of love to us. This became more popular with the rise of Protestant liberalism in the 1800s through Horace Bushnell. Jesus accepted His fate in dying, the kind of in the laying His life down for his friend’s model. So, his example of love is one that we should be emulating. That’s essentially the moral influence theory. Really, what it does is, it removes the need for themes of atonement in general. It almost can’t even be called an atonement theory, because it actually doesn’t really like the idea of atonement at all. 

Okay, you guys, that was a lot. I’ve realized that’s a high-level view, speeding through these atonement theories. I will have all the articles that I use for my research on these listed in the show notes on phyliciamasonheimer.com, and you’ll be able to read the quotes that I gave you in their actual context If you’re interested in learning more about any of these atonement theories. I also believe that Amy Gannett has a video on atonement theories saved on her IGTV if you’re interested in following her. I believe she did keep the recording but if not, if you ask her about it, she might have some resources for you as well, and her handle on Instagram is @amycategannett, C-A-T-E, Gannet, G-A-N-N-E-T.

Thanks for joining me, you guys. I hope you are as excited to learn more about atonement theories now as you were when you came in, [laughs] and I hope mostly that this helps you in your conversations and in discerning what you see online. Look for these keywords, look for these themes, and maybe start to pick out in your worship songs, or in the passages you’re reading, or when you’re reading a certain scholar online, see if you can pick out and guess what atonement theory they hold. It could be a fun new theological game for you.