Debating the Atonement — Twitter Style

What would happen if Gustaf Aulen’s classic book, Christus Victor was published in the age of social media? It would look like a Twitter debate! So here it is, a debate on the nature of the atonement between @CVictor (representing the Christus Victor position), and @Satisfaction (representing the Latin or Anselmite position). Note: These characters are completely fictional. Any resemblance to real twitter accounts is completely accidental.


@CVictor: Hey @Satisfaction, can we talk?

@Satisfaction: Sure, what’s up?

@CVictor: I don’t understand how X’s life fits in your atonement theory.

X’s life?

@CVictor: Ya. Did X really need to live & teach & heal & exorcize demons? Seems like your atonement theory is only about X’s death.

@CVictor: So my question, what was the point of the Incarnation?

@Satisfaction: That X became fully human. Only a human can pay the debt owed to God.

@CVictor: What debt?

@Satisfaction: The debt to his honour. It needs to be satisfied. (& yes you can start singing the Rolling Stones song now).

@CVictor: His honour? Dude, what are we lords and ladies?

@Satisfaction: That’s how Anselm framed it. Would you like the Reformed slant via Calvin instead – God’s wrath needs to be satisfied.

@CVictor: Let’s just stick with Anselm for the sake of argument.

@Satisfaction: Ok, so only a human can pay the debt because humans have mocked God’s honour but because humans are sinful we can’t actually repay the debt.

@CVictor: So X came.

@Satisfaction: Right. Jesus is the perfect human. Only he can pay the debt because he is without sin.

@CVictor: It seems like you’re being awfully Antiochean, too much emphasis on his humanity. Where’s his divinity?

@Satisfaction: Hey it’s better than your Christus Victor approach. Y’all place too much emphasis on the devil.

@CVictor: Way to avoid my question. But I’ll bite. There’s not too much emphasis on the devil.

@Satisfaction: O rly?

@CVictor: The Christus Victor theory is about victory over sin and death…

@Satisfaction: AND the devil.

@CVictor: Yes, & the devil. But not JUST the devil.

@Satisfaction: Exhibit A – Origen. He said the devil had ‘rights’ over humanity.

@CVictor: So? Gregory of Nazianzus disagreed with him. Said that the devil had no rights.

@CVictor: Just because 1 Church Father emphasized the devil doesn’t mean that’s rep. of C.V.

@Satisfaction: Exhibit B – Gregory of Nyssa.

@CVictor: Okay, 2 Church Fathers. My point is that X broke the power of evil, sin, death and the devil. That’s the victory part of Christus Victor.

@Satisfaction: At least in the satisfaction model Satan doesn’t have authority over us.

@Satisfaction: Satan is the lead rabble rouser calling us to join in his rebellion against God. #NowThatsBiblical

@CVictor: Where’s the victory in your theory? The debt of sin is paid, but is sin gone?

@Satisfaction: So what you’re saying is we have to become followers of Neil Anderson’s Bondage Breaker books?

@CVictor: No. I’m not saying that. I’m saying, what happens to sin? The debt of sin is paid, but what about the sin itself?

@Satisfaction: Well we are just sinners saved by grace.

@CVictor: Oh how I hate that song. It’s insipid.

@Satisfaction: Let’s get back to the devil. Show me in Scripture where a ransom is owed to Satan.

@Satisfaction: Or how about the idea that Jesus deceived Satan. That he hid his divinity & tricked him.

@Satisfaction: Doesn’t the Gospel of Mark sort of disprove your theory?

@Satisfaction: In Mark the demons know exactly who Jesus is, it’s the disciples who don’t know who he really is.

@CVictor: Agreed. The idea of tricking Satan isn’t biblical. That doesn’t invalidate C.V. though.

Of course it does, because look at all the people who said Satan was tricked…

@Satisfaction: …Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa. Even Augustine!

@CVictor: You’re missing the point.

@CVictor: The point, even if they got it wrong, what they got right was evil overreached itself, it thought it could win, and it couldn’t.

@CVictor: Just at the moment that Satan thinks he’s victorious because X died, Satan has actually lost.

@Satisfaction: So it is about Satan! #ToldYaSo.

@CVictor: No. Let’s use the phrase ‘power of death’. Death wins. That’s the power of sin.

@CVictor: X died. X defeated death by giving himself up to it, & then being resurrected.

@CVictor: If X hadn’t died, death wouldn’t have been defeated.

@Satisfaction: And for me, if X hadn’t died debt of sin wouldn’t have been paid.

@CVictor: So we both agree that the death of X is important.

@Satisfaction: Yes.

@CVictor: But you still haven’t told me how X’s life fits in all this.

@Satisfaction: yes I have!

@CVictor: Okay, how about this – what do you do with the fact that C.V. was THE atonement theory for over 1,000 years?

@Satisfaction: Meh. It was just a temporary thing. A blip!

@Satisfaction: BTW, we can see satisfaction theory in the Patristics. Look at Tertullian & Cyprian.

@CVictor: But if Aulen is right, and Luther reintroduced C.V., then C.V. isn’t the blip, satisfaction is!

@Satisfaction: But did Luther actually revive C.V.? You need to read some critiques of Aulen. #HeGetsItSoWrong.

@Satisfaction: The problem with C.V. is that it is the product of a patristic culture that was too influenced by platonic thought.

@CVictor: As opposed to the Satisfaction theory that is based on the feudal system of Western Europe. #IJS

@CVictor: Besides the idea that it was too platonic isn’t accurate, that’s just von Harnack’s 19th century subjective analysis of the Church Fathers.

@Satisfaction: Meh, whatever. You know what the problem with C.V. is? It downplays sin.

@CVictor: How do you figure? #confused

@Satisfaction: It’s all about death. Sin doesn’t seem to be an issue.

@CVictor: Of course sin is an issue. Sin is death. Death is sin. #SoSaysIrenaeus

@CVictor: The tight relationship between sin & death is a benefit of the C.V. model because it avoids a moralistic understanding of salvation.

@Satisfaction: “moralistic understanding of salvation”?! What does that even mean?

@CVictor: If you need me to explain that? #NoExplanationNecessary

@Satisfaction: Way to avoid the topic.

@CVictor: Okay, well here’s what I want to know. Does Satisfaction model work in the modern culture?

@CVictor: We are now a culture that has no concept of penance. Penance is at the heart of
Satisfaction model.

@Satisfaction: Well, Emil Brunner would be an example of an Anselmite.

@Satisfaction: Can we at least both agree that the moral example theory is bogus?

@CVictor: Agree!

@Abelardsminion: HEY!

With this, @Abelardsminion reports both @Satisfaction and @CVictor to the Twitter moderators who throw them both into Twitter jail for two hours to cool off.

  • RtRDH

    The moral example theory has its merits, im CV all the way, but MET can be used for approaches to communities, and social action

    • CWtheology

      True! I adopted Aulen’s disdain for MET just for the sake of the exercise. I also adopted some of his misreps of Anselm.