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Does Christ save us Vicariously?

Does Christ save us Vicariously?

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Published by Kym Jones
Contrasts the doctrine of `vicarious substitution' with the `Solidarity View' of the atonement.
Contrasts the doctrine of `vicarious substitution' with the `Solidarity View' of the atonement.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Kym Jones on Jan 26, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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By the beginning of the fourth century the early Church felt the need to state in doctrinalform the plan of salvation and how that was expressed in the inter-relationship of theFather and the Son, so that she might be unified in her approach to combating the heresieswhich were flooding the Church at this time. The First Ecumenical council, which firstformulated the doctrine of the Trinity and is more commonly known as the First Council of Nicea, stated in doctrinal form the relationship of the Son to the Father. It wascommissioned by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D; and was finalised at theCouncil of Consantinople in 381 A.D, at which the relationship of the Holy Spirit to theFather and Son came to be stated in doctrinal form. It was not until over one hundred yearslater, in 451 A.D. that the Chalcedonian Creed was ratified; which states the orthodox viewof the manner in which the incarnate Christ was made manifest to humanity. This creed wasbased upon the confessions of Athanasius, who also formulated the Nicene Creed. He wasrecognized as a `Doctor of the Church' in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V; which is a title given bythe Catholic Church to individuals whom they regard as having contributed to the dogma of the Catholic Church. It is from the writings of Athanasius and in particular `On theIncarnation' that the doctrine known as
vicarious substitution
is derived. This doctrineteaches that Christ became our substitute for the punishment which is metered out to us forour sins, by
vicariously suffering
on the cross for us and is regarded as orthodox by Catholicsand the majority of the Protestant Churches. The three most commonly held positions of this doctrine are known as the
ransom theory 
of the atonement, the
view of theatonement, and
 penal substitution,
which is a variation of the satisfaction view of theatonement.
The Ransom Theory of the Atonement
The ransom theory of the atonement is believed to be the first major theory of theatonement and was held by the majority of the early Church Fathers until about the twelfth
century. For this reason it is also known as `The Patristic Theory’. It can be principally found
in the works of Origen (c 185
254); one of the early Church fathers and is primarily basedupon two sets of Scripture, 1 Timothy 2: 5-6, "For there is one God and one mediatorbetween God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men
the testimony given in its proper time", and Mark 10:45, which reads "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many".Origen believed that as a result of sin, Christ gave His soul to the Devil as a ransom whichwas paid to him, in lieu of the human soul being claimed by him."But to whom did He [Jesus] give His soul as a ransom for many? Surely not to God. Could it,then, be to the Evil One? For he had us in his power, until the ransom for us should be givento him, even the life (or soul) of Jesus, since he (the Evil One) had been deceived, and led tosuppose that he was capable of mastering that soul, and he did not see that to hold Himinvolved a trial of strength greater than he was equal to. Therefore also death, though hethought he had prevailed against Him, no longer lords over Him, He (Christ) having becomefree among the dead and stronger than the power of death, and so much stronger thandeath that all who will amongst those who are mastered by death may also follow Him
death no longer prevailing against them. For every one who is with Jesus is unassailable bydeath." (`Commentary on Matthew
XVI, 8’; Aulen,
op. cit.
, p. 49. In footnote 13, Aulensays, "Translation from Rashdall, p. 259. where the Greek is printed in full.")According to this theory, although Satan was deceived by Christ, justice was still satisfiedand we were freed from the clutches of the Devil. Although the ransom theory of theatonement still remains the official position of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it receives littlesupport from Christian Churches in general.
St. Anselm and the Satisfaction view of the Atonement
Not all Church Fathers supported the Ransom Theory of the atonement. One of the mostnotable exceptions was Athanasius, who was largely responsible for formulating the Niceneand
Chalcedonian Creeds. Although it is primarily from Athanasius’ recorded writings on the
incarnation of Christ that the Church eventually formulated the doctrine of `vicarious
substitution’, the Ransom Theory of the Atonement was generally regarded as the o
rthodoxview until the eleventh century, when St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033
1109)asked:`And as to what you say of His coming to fight the devil, with what sense dare you bring this
forward? Does not God’s omnipotence reign everywhere? Ho
w then, for the conquest of 
the devil, must God needs come down from heaven?’ (`Cur Deus Homos’; or “Why God wasmade man”’, St. Anselm, this translation printed by John Henry and James Parker, London,
1865; p. 10.)Anselm figured that as the Devil caused the fall in the first place by tempting Adam and Eveto sin, then why should a ransom be paid to the Devil at all, particularly when the Devilwould not seek justice, but would instead to seek to torment the sinner?`But the devil never merited any right to punish him [Adam], nay, he would do this with thegreater degree of injustice in that he was not drawn to it by any love of justice, but wasimpelled by the spirit of malice. . . . In fact, as in a good angel there is no unrighteousnesswhatsoever, so in an evil angel there is no righteousness at all. There was therefore in thedevil no righteous cause why God should not for the deliverance of man put forth His
strength against him.’ (Anselm, pp. 12, 14.)
Anselm instead developed the idea that we are in debt to God because in sinning againstGod we have robbed Him of honour which is due to Him and He should therefore berecompensed:`Nothing is less tolerable in the order of things, than that a creature should rob the Creatorof the honour which is due
to Him and not repay Him that which is due to Him.’ (`Anselm’, p.
He believed that if the honour were not `repaid’, then punishment should follow:
`It is necessary, then, either that the honour taken from Him should be repaid, or thatpunishment should follow; otherwise God would either not be just to Himself, or else would
be impotent to exact either demand; which is too horrible to imagine.’ (Anselm, p. 33.)
But as we are unable to satisfy this debt, satisfaction was made by Christ in our stead. Insubstituting His death for our own, He repays the debt we have incurred with merit `which
excels all the sins of men’.
 `If, then, to give life is to accept death;
as the giving of this life excels all the sins of men, soalso does the accepting death
*of Christ+.’ (Anselm, p. 86.)He also believed that although Christ’s death is more than sufficient to provide merit for all
the sins of men; this does not fully recompense the offended honour of God, as it is we, notChrist, who have sinned. Therefore it is our duty to provide
to Him, by themeans of making restitution to Him, by restoring to Him more than that of which we haverobbed Him:`Moreover, as long as he [the sinner]does not pay that of which he robbed Him, hecontinues in his fault; and it is not enough to only restore to God only what he has takenaway, but he ought also, to make amends for the insult done to God, to restore more than
he took away. . . . . .So, therefore is everyone who sins bound to pay back the honour of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner is bound to make to
God.’ (Anselm, pp. 27, 28.)
 Thus, when theologians speak of making
to God, they do not imply that
death on the cross in some way pleases or gratifies the Father; but instead declare that justice can only be provided by the process of making restitution for that which has beenoffended, or broken. So it is in this framework that Anselm believed that it is fitting that theDevil should be allowed to punish man for his sins if satisfaction is not made to God:`Man, indeed, deserved to be punished, and by none more fitly than by him at whosepersuasion he had consented to sin . . . . . For man either of his own free will exhibits thatsubjection to God which is due to Him, whether by not sinning, or making amends for hissin; or else God subjects him to himself by tormenting him against his will, and by thismeans shows Himself to be his Lord, which the same man refuses of his own will to
acknowledge.’ (Anselm, pp. 12, 33, 34.)
Anselm believed that in order for honour be restored to God when we sin, `it is necessary
that every sin must be followed either by satisfaction or punishment.’ (Anselm, p.
36.) Butfor those who did not willingly make sufficient restitution for the insult done to the honourof God, then this punishment would be an

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