Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
RAR 2:2 (Spring 1993) p. 125
Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement, Gustaf Aulen (Translated by A.G. Hebert). MacMillan: New York (1931). 163 pages, paperback, $10.95.
Aulen’s book was first published in Swedish in 1930 while he was professor of systematic theology in the University of Lund. It was soon hailed as a “modern classic,” and was translated into several languages, including the English edition we presently have in paperback. The English translator, A. G. Hebert, regarded Aulen as “perhaps the foremost theologian of the Swedish Church.”
Christus Victor is without doubt one of the most important books on the atonement in our century. Beginning with a discussion of the “problem” of the atonement Aulen traces the historical development of theories of the meaning of the cross, beginning with the church fathers and continuing until the present era. In the last chapter Aulen gives three atonement models which he characterizes as the Classic view, the Anselmic or Latin view, and the Subjective view. The Classic view is that the cross of Christ is the climax of a grand struggle between the forces of good and evil. Christ bought, or “ransomed,” the church from Satan by “paying him off,” as it were. The Latin view is that God is the primary object of the atonement, and Christ satisfied His justice by receiving in Himself the penalty of the law. The Subjective view sees man as the primary object of the atonement. It affirms that the sufferings of Christ change men by a passionate and powerful example of sacrifice.
It is well known that many of the early church fathers believed that Jesus paid a price to Satan to rescue the elect from his dominion. The theological world was shocked that a respected modern teacher would revive this concept as
RAR 2:2 (Spring 1993) p. 126
the one which most closely suits the New Testament model. Anselm’s view had for many centuries held the field in all branches of the Christian church. The curious thing about this is that one can hold that the cross of Christ has both primary and secondary goals in God’s sovereign plan. There is no doubt that through His death and resurrection Jesus Christ did indeed achieve a great triumph over the devil. Also, the cross is a powerful motivating factor in eliciting from men both love and praise. But the Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Hebrews as well, not to mention the teachings of Jesus and other New Testament writers, plainly reveal that the death of Christ was a “propitiation” which turned aside the righteous judgment of God against the sinner who believes. Even Jaroslav Pelikan, who writes the foreword to this volume, acknowledges that ...
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