is still a vital teaching of the Bible, in my not so humble opinion. I know many are dropping it like a hot potato, but I think they are wrong. Yes, perhaps here are elements of all theories in the atonement, but if you ask me, I think Substitutionary Atonement is still front and center of the gospel message.
Michael Kruger writes about how it goes back to the early church (most say it can’t be found before Anslem, but Kruger differs. How so? Read his post. Here is part:
The Epistle to Diognetus shows that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness are not wholesale inventions of later Christians, but were present, at least in seed form, early in the history of Christianity. Did some Christian groups hold other views of such matters? Sure. But the continuity between the teachings of this epistle and the writings of Paul himself (see especially Romans 5) make it evident that the substitutionary atonement/imputation view goes back very early indeed.
It seems to me that for the longest time, and I mean hundreds of years, the primary theory of the atonement has been penal substitutionary theory (PSA) of the atonement. Then, in the last decade or so some theologians have been leading the charge to in claiming that PSA is un-Christian and “cosmic child abuse.” They’ve done the ‘ol switcheroo. The benched PSA and put Christus Victor (CV) out as the main theory that is most biblical. I disagree, and I know I stand alone in this. For me the primary model of the atonement is PSA and then all others are subordinate to it. I know its bad to build a theology on one verse and I really don’t want to do that here but I really like the book of Galatians (Paul’s first letter) and it kind of gets right to the heart of the issue right off the bat there… In Galatians 1:3-4 Paul writes:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Well, there you have it – straight from Paul. Jesus gave himself over… he substituted himself on our behalf. Why? To deliever us from the present evil age. K. For me, that kind of settles it. Yeah, its a bit strange I know. But I see substitutionary atonement coming first in way that results in our deliverance from the effects of the present evil age.
This is the message of the cross… Jesus gave himself over voluntarily for our sins that we might be delivered and set free from the present evil age.
Now, if you ask me, that’s powerful stuff.