The Theories of the Atonement

A short course on the history, the development, and the theologies of how we've come to understand the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us—prepared and presented by Fr. Rick Morley

An introduction to Christian Atonement and the Ransom Theory.

There are many historic and contemporary theories of the atonement—how we are unified with God. Each of these theories has a problem to solve, an answer to give, and something to say about God and Us. The Ransom Theory is one of the oldest theories which says that God pays a ransom to free us from Satan’s grip.

Christus Victor and Moral Influence Theories

Two other theories from the first millennium of Christianity are Christus Victor—which says that in Jesus death and sin are conquered—and Moral Influence—which says that Jesus came to show us how to be.

Satisfaction and Penal Substitution Theories

At the dawn of the 2nd millennium of Christianity St. Anselm came up with the Satisfaction Theory to challenge Ransom Theory. And then a few centuries later the Protestant Reformers took the Satisfaction Theory and amped it up a bit to become Penal Substitution.

The Orthodox Theory and Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory

Eastern Orthodoxy does not have a notion of Original Sin, which makes its understanding of the Atonement quite different from the rest. In the late 20th century anthropologist Rene Girard took a stab at atonement with his Mimetic Theory.

Tony Jones and Peter Rollins on the atonement

In this century contemporary theologians Tony Jones and Peter Rollins take a quite fresh approach to the saving act of the cross.