Atonement: Four Views

I’m taking a Ph.D. seminar with Dr. Graham Cole at TEDS this semester: “Historical Theology: The Atonement.” (BTW, Dr. Cole is currently working on a book on the atonement that will be part of D. A. Carson‘s New Studies in Biblical Theology series; it probably won’t be finished until around 2010.) Consequently, I’m doing a fair bit of reading on the atonement. Last Thursday I enjoyed reading one of the latest contributions on the subject:

Beilby, James and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006.

The four views defended are:

  1. Christus victor: Greg Boyd
  2. Penal substitution: Tom Schreiner
  3. Healing: Bruce Reichenbach
  4. Kaleidoscopic: Joel Green

The thesis of the first three essays is that their view is the primary facet of the atonement–not that it is the only facet. Green argues that no facet should be primary.

Bottom line: Schreiner cleans house. First class. Well done. Highly recommended.

Point of interest: Boyd’s response to Schreiner involves a five-page comparison and contrast of his view with Schreiner’s as it lines up with C. S. Lewis‘ depiction of Aslan’s death in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (pp. 100-105). Boyd lists two “profound” differences between Schreiner’s view and his/Lewis’ view.

  1. “First and most fundamentally, Lewis believes that self-sacrificial love is a ‘deeper magic’ than the law, while Schreiner, so far as I can see, does not” (p. 102).
  2. “Because of their differing views on ‘deep magic,’ Lewis and Schreiner provide very different answers to the question, Who demanded that the deep magic of the law be satisfied with ‘a kill’? For Schreiner, it is God. For Lewis (and most advocates of the Christus Victor view) it is the devil. Here is where the rubber meets the road in terms of the difference between these two views . . .” (p. 103).

For years I have been baffled by the number of people who have no problem with using Aslan’s death as an illustration (without qualification) of Christ’s atonement. Although it is wonderfully illustrative for some aspects of Christ’s atonement, it is fundamentally flawed by placing too much authority and initiative in the hands of Satan (i.e., the white witch).

For more on problems with the Christus Victor view (which often includes some form of the ransom-to-Satan theory), see explanations and refutations in standards systematic theologies. Wayne Grudem‘s Systematic Theology is a good place to start (p. 581 et al.).


  1. See this Reformation 21 review.
  2. Master Scripture Index for New Studies in Biblical Theology