Theories of the Atonement


Chytraeus On Sacrifice presenting different theories of the atonementAmong theological nerds, different theories of the atonement are hot topics lately on the Internet and Facebook. It seems that an old discussion is peaking the interest of new theologians, as is often the case. I don’t pretend to have anything new to add to the discussion. I have received a good portion of my graduate training from Jim Nestingen, a student of Gerhard Forde, and thereby have a good familiarity with the benefits of the Christus Victor (Christ, the Victor) or “Classic,” model as Gustaf Aulèn calls it. Also, I am a Melanchthon scholar at heart and by training and thus my mind is thoroughly replete with Anselmian pictures of atonement any time I consider what Christ’s death has accomplished for me.

The issue seems to be that when this debate rears its mostly ugly head, proponents on each side seem to need a villain.

As a possible antidote to this need for a villain, my suggestion here at 1517 The Legacy Project is to post Dr. Montgomery’s synopsis and analysis of the three models of atonement usually discussed (which often appear under various names not all of which are listed here): Classic, Latin, and Subjective. This is a valuable resource because Montgomery analyzes the particular views without villainizing any of the proponents. Here is the chart from that article:

Three Different Theories of the atonement

While Montgomery remains critical of the “Classic” view and the “Subjective” view, he admits to their presence in Scripture. My only real addition to the discussion is to parrot my mentor, Dr. Rosenbladt, who once said to me: “It is apparent that all three models are present in Holy Writ, yet it seems to me that substitutionary atonement is the dominant theme.”

Well said, Rod. I think this will be a short and valuable addition to your bank of knowledge. If this subject is of interest to you, I recommend you read this small critical analysis of the three most common theories of the atonement. If you have the time, the entire translation of Chytraeus on Sacrifice, which Dr. Montgomery translated, is valuable as well.

Download: Chytraeus On Sacrifice - A Short Critique Of Christus Victor.pdf