Q&A: The Debate over <i>Christus Victor</i> Theology

The Debate over Christus Victor Theology

Can the doctrine of substitutionary atonement be held alongside Christus Victor theology?

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Answer

There's a huge debate about the nature of Christ's death on the cross and the atonement. What did Christ accomplish on the cross? And two of the main views are substitutionary atonement, that Christ's death paid the penalty for our sins, he was a sacrifice of atonement. Others argue, however, that Christ's death was really a victory over spiritual forces, over Satan, over sin, over the demons Christus Victor that he gains the victory over death. Sometimes that's introduced instead of substitutionary atonement. But I think we have to recognize that Christ's death on the cross accomplished a multitude of things. It was victory over sin over Satan, over death. It paid the penalty for our sins. So, it's not really an either/or. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and when it comes to substitutionary atonement. Yes, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Christus Victor, absolutely yes. Jesus' triumphed over sin, Satan and death at the cross.

Answer by Dr. Mark L. Strauss

Dr. Mark Strauss Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, CA