Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor

Understanding the Cross from the perspective of grace rather than legalism
intro | part one | part two |part three ]

Notes and Bibliography

(click on the number before each note to return to the text)

Part 1: Satisfaction-Doctrine

1) Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor: an historical study of the three main types of the idea of the atonement
(MacMillan Publishing Company, 1969).
Now out of print, this is the classic book that defined the term “Christus Victor”. If you can find a copy, buy it

2) Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers : Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (The Powers, Vol 3)
(Fortress Pr, 1992).
I cannot recommend Wink’s book highly enough. It is absolutely brilliant. He really opens up the depths of the New Testament writer's insights and worldview into the nature of evil and the hope of the Gospel. A good part of part 3 of this paper I owe to Wink's insights on the Powers.

Part 2: Legalism vs. Relationship

3) Chick Tracks
Want to be told you are going to hell by a comic book? Then this is just the thing for you. You can see all of the infamous "chick tracks" here.
Don't say I didn't warn you though. :P

4) Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles : What the Bible Says About a Woman's Place in Church and Family
(Baker Book House, 1985).
Bilezikian bases his argument for biblical gender equality on a very sound contextual approach to interpreting Scripture, rather than the "plain meaning" approach common among many Christians, which inevitably results in the reader unconsciously projecting their our own worldview and understanding onto the text. For those who hold a high view of Scripture, but wish to avoid the pitfalls of literalism it is a great resource to understanding the Bible as a whole.

5) "Phariseeism"
It is easy to scapegoat the Pharisees as the "hypocritical bad guys" of the Gospels. But the Pharisees have much in common with Orthodox Evangelical Christianity: They believed in the resurrection of the good, the immortality of the soul, and eternal punishment. They focused on an internal reform within Judaism based on the Bible and oral traditions, very much like our focus on the Bible and orthodoxy. They emphasized a pure moral lifestyle, very much like our focus on personal morality and piety. Jesus never criticized their beliefs, just their practice (Mt 23:1-4), because in their effort to live a righteous and biblical faith - just as with us - there was a tendency to become legalistic, self-righteous, and judgmental which kept people away from grace. When Jesus said "your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees" (Mt 5:20) he meant that we should never focus so much on being orthodox and moral that we loose sight of the heart of the matter - love, compassion, caring for people, justice (Mt 23:22-23). We should obey the letter and the spirit of the law.

Just as it is unfair and inaccurate to portray all Christians as "hypocritical and legalistic" as Hollywood often has, it is equally wrong to portray all Pharisees in this way. Rather we should hold the mirror up to our own lives and be aware of the dangers of legalism there. It is easy to find someone to point a finger at - blame the Pharisees, blame the Fundamentalists, blame it on the catholic church, but we need to instead look at how these patterns of judmentalism and lovelessness, how this "yeast", is operating in our own lives and break out of that game.

6) Eugene Peterson, The Message: The New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs
(Navpress, 1998).
This is a modern paraphrase on the New Testament that captures the "feel" of the original language. If you have a hard time understanding Paul's epistles then this is the ultimate book. He makes the whole thing come alive taking away the baggage of religious jargon and getting to the core message. What's more, since it is so easy to read, rather that struggling through a few chapters, it is easy to read an entire book of the Bible without even noticing, thus helping to see the entire context.

7) Nachum Braverman, “Animal offerings - Slaughter of the Beast” from the Jewish website
For a deeper study into the meaning of the sacrifices from a Hebrew perspective I would highly recommend the article by Rabbi Ari Kahn
The Mystery of the Sacrifices also on

Part 3: Christus Victor

8) Gustaf Aulen, ibid.

9) New Birth This concept of the New Birth - learning to enter into and open our lives to trusting God in an intimate relationship - is a huge topic that goes beyond the scope of the paper.
One possible additional resource is an article on this website Intimacy with God.
You are also welcome to send me an email by clicking on the contact button at the bottom of each page.

10) Richard Rohr, Der nackte Gott. Plädoyers für ein Christentum aus Fleisch und Blut
(Claudius, 1998).

11) Mastix Compare Mk3:10; 5:29, 34; Lk7:21 where it is translated as "sickness" and "suffering" in the NIV with Acts 22:24; Heb 11:36; Mt 10:17; 20:19; 23:34 where the same word is translated as "flogging". I owe this insight to Gregory A. Boyd from his book God at War : The Bible & Spiritual Conflict

12) Peter J. Gomes, from the introduction of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be (Yale Univ Press, 2000)

Part 4: The Paradgim of Liberation

1) E. Stanley Jones, Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation
(Abingdon-Cocksbury, 1958).
This incredible book is what Martin Luther King Jr. read before starting his nonviolent civil rights movement. E Stanley Jones was an amazing missionary and friend of Gandhi's. The humility and depth of this book is incredible. A must read.

2) Irenæus, as quoted in Christus Victor. Op Cit.

3) Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ As the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology
(Fortress Press, 1993).


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