Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Victory of Christ

When we properly understand the victory of Christ over Satan, death, sin and all evil powers, we recognize that the criticism of Gustaf Aulén’s Christus Victor (1931) is unfounded. Aulén is criticized for not fully explaining the victory and for not providing an explanation of the benefits that the victory provided the average twentieth century man on the street.

Albert Schweitzer, with his detailed discussion of the belief of Judaism in a period of tribulation before the final age, explained the victory as eliminating the need for believers to experience the tribulation prior to entering the kingdom of God. In Aulén’s words, “The work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.” Thus for Aulén, victory over all powers includes, inter alia, the victory described by Schweitzer and Luther over the tribulation.

The second criticism ignores these words written by Aulén in his discussion of Athanasius: “The work of Christ is the overcoming of death and sin; strictly, it is a victory over death because it is a victory over sin. And, further, the note of triumph which rings through this Greek theology depends not only on the victory of Christ over death accomplished once for all, but also on the fact that His victory is the starting-point for His present work in the world of men, where He, through His Spirit, ever triumphantly continues to break down sin’s power and ‘deifies’ men.”

Schweitzer recognized that the need for repentance and its related requirements are very important to Jesus. In fact, the Lord’s Prayer in the Petition that says “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” seems to place emphasis on this so much that Schweitzer said “Even if the Servant passages suggest it, Jesus cannot regard his death as a sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of sins. His view of the unconditional forgiveness that comes from God’s compassion precludes it.”

This petition of the Lord's Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God's forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God's forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. Forgiving others is not always easy to do. We need God's help to do it. But it must be done or we ourselves cannot receive God's mercy. There is no indication according to Schweitzer that Jesus changed this.

Thus it is clear that Aulén, as does Schweitzer, recognizes “that His victory is the starting point for His present work” which is on-going. The victory for Aulén is only a motif; it is not a theory or doctrine of atonement. It is the arrival of the ministry of Jesus, which is continued by the apostles, which brings salvation. Neglecting the continuing need “to break down sin’s power” trivializes the significance of the victory, the on-going ministry and the contribution of Gustaf Aulén.

The existence of evil spiritual beings and the defeat of Satan are presented to all people with blemishes as integral parts of the gospel message of the victory of Christ in death and resurrection over all enemies.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2009


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