“His Flesh For Our Flesh”: The Doctrine Of Atonement In the Second Century -- By: John Aloisi

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 14:0 (NA 2009)
Article: “His Flesh For Our Flesh”: The Doctrine Of Atonement In the Second Century
Author: John Aloisi


“His Flesh For Our Flesh”: The Doctrine Of Atonement In the Second Century

John Aloisi1

In March and April of 1930, Swedish theologian Gustaf Aulén (1879-1977) delivered a series of eight lectures on the doctrine of the atonement at the University of Uppsala.2 In these lectures he distinguished between three main views of the atonement: the Christus Victor model which he regarded as the “classic” idea, the Latin interpretation, and the moral influence view. Aulén said relatively little about the moral influence view choosing rather to focus his attention on the first two ideas. By the “Latin” view Aulén meant an understanding of the atonement that interprets the death of Christ as providing satisfaction for sin or effecting a change in God’s disposition toward sinners. Aulén’s explanation of the Latin view encompassed both Anselm’s satisfaction view and the doctrine of penal substitution. Aulén described the central theme of the classic view as “the idea of the Atonement as a Divine conflict and victory; Christ—Christus Victor—fights against and triumphs over the evil powers of the world, the ‘tyrants’ under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in

Him God reconciles the world to Himself.”3 Aulén argued that this view was the prevailing understanding of the atonement among the church fathers.4 He asserted that Christus Victor has “held a place in the history of Christian doctrine whose importance it would not be easy to exaggerate,” for he explained, “it is the dominant idea of the Atonement throughout the early church period.”5 Aulén did not see the Christus Victor interpretation as limited to a certain region. Rather he claimed that it was “the dominant view of the Western as of the Eastern Fathers.”6 This dominance, Aulén believed, extended beyond the first few centuries. In fact, he claimed that Christus Victor was “the ruling idea of the Atonement for the first thousand years of Christian history.”7

Although Aulén argued that Christus Victor was the view held by nearly all the church fathers, he admitted that the Latin view did not originate ex novo with Anselm in the eleventh century. He stated that during the final years of the second century, Tertullian began “to quarry the stones for the future edifice of the Latin theory.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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