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Tuesday
Jun282011

Theological Term of the Week

ransom to Satan theory of the atonement
The view of the atonement that maintained that “the death of Christ constituted a ransom paid to Satan, in order to cancel the just claims which the latter had on man”1; also called the classical theory of the atonement. 

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem: 

    This view was held by Origen (c. A.D. 185—c. 254). a theologian from Alexandria and later Caesarea, and after him by some others in the early history of the church. According to this view, the ransom Christ paid to redeem us was paid to Satan, in whose kingdom all people were by virtue of sin. 

    This theory finds no direct confirmation in Scripture and has few supporters in the history of the church. It falsely thinks of Satan rather than God as the one who required that a payment be made for sin and thus completely neglects the demands of God’s justice with respect to sin. It views Satan as having much more power than he actually does, namely, power to demand whatever he wants from God, rather than as one who has been cast down from heaven and has no right to demand anything of God. Nowhere does Scripture way that we as sinners owe anything to Satan, but it repeatedly says that God requires of us a payment for our sins. This view also fails to deal with the texts that speak of Christ’s death as a propitiation offered to God the Father for our sins, or with the fact that God the Father represented the Trinity in accepting the payment for sins from Christ….

  • From The Christian Faith by Michael Horton:  

    Assuming that the devil was the rightful owner of sinners, Origen taught that Christ was a trap: his humanity ws the necessary bait for luring Satan into thinking that he had at last won out over Yahweh, and then he conquered the devil by his deity.

Learn more:

  1. Got Questions.org: What are the various theories on the atonement?
  2. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Ransom Theory of the Atonement
  3. William SasserErroneous Theories of the Atonement (pdf)
  4. Jeffrey Waddington: Surveying the Wondrous Cross: The Atonement in Church History

Related terms:

1From Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

Filed under Defective Theology.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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