Guest / Limited Access /

Universalism is not the only topic in Rob Bell's Love Wins that deserves comment, though given the buzz, you'd think that's all he discusses. Among other things, the book also attacks "toxic" forms of substitutionary atonement, and advocates the use of a plurality of atonement theories. In this, Mr. Bell is repeating decades-old arguments in our movement, arguments that seem to be winning the day. One atonement theory in particular has exploded in popularity, in fact. Hardly an atonement discussion goes by that I don't hear an evangelical say they doubt the usefulness of substitutionary atonement and now favor Christus Victor. 

The Christus Victor model has much to commend it. The idea is this: Christ is victor. Christ in his death and resurrection overcame over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection, those powers variously understood as the devil, sin, the law, and death. While the model assumes humanity's guilt for getting ourselves into this predicament—beginning with the original sin of Adam and Eve—the theory's anthropology (view of humanity) emphasizes not our guilt but our victimhood, at least the way it is often discussed today. The main human problem is that we are trapped and we need to be rescued: "Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery" (Heb. 2:14-15) .

Indeed, we are enslaved to powers beyond our control, both personally and corporately. This model also highlights big picture atonement: Christ's death isn't merely about me and my salvation. It's about ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
Previous SoulWork Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueHow Realizing My Addiction Had Chosen Me Began My Road to Recovery
Subscriber Access Only How Realizing My Addiction Had Chosen Me Began My Road to Recovery
Framing addiction as a chronic disease gives a broader framework for understanding.
RecommendedGlennon Doyle Melton's Gospel of Self-Fulfillment
Glennon Doyle Melton's Gospel of Self-Fulfillment
Why living your truth bravely isn't enough.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickThe Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
The Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
How the New Testament offers a better, higher calling than the Declaration of Independence.
Christianity Today
The Problem with Christus Victor
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

April 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.