Baking the atonement
As I've read through many debates over the atonement on the internet recently, I've been intrigued by how different people combine the various ingredients.
There are four main atonement theories that people seem to hold to:
- Penal Substitution
- Christus Victor
- Moral Exemplar
The other thing that adds to the confusion is that there seems to be a continuum between Penal Substitution and Satisfaction. At one end of the spectrum is a very "hard" / "strong" version of Penal Substitution which holds to double-imputation etc. The continuum passes through many varients of "weaker" Penal Substitution right through to versions of Satisfaction, where Christ still appeases God and turns away wrath, but does so without being punished. Thus, there needs to be as well a measure of how far along the Penal Substitution <---> Satisfaction continuum any given person is, measuring the "strength" of their Penal Substitution (high being a strong version of PS, low being some form of Satisfaction).
Hence people like NT Wright and Steve Chalke are probably using a recipe which looks something like:
40% Christus Victor
30% Penal Substitution / Satisfaction at 40% strength
30% Moral Exemplar
They have commented that a model of (what I would describe as) 90% Penal Substitution at 90% strength looks "sub-biblical" and like "divine child abuse".
Traditional defenders of Penal Substitution seem to have had a range of recipes. Some of them held the strongest version of penal substitution all the way. Whereas John Stott for example uses a recipe that looks something like this:
70% Penal Substitution / Satisfaction at 80% strength
15% Christus Victor
15% Moral Exemplar
What I find interesting about this is the question of where do you draw the line? The UCCF and Evangelical Alliance have gotten quite upset at Chalke for his words strongly attacking views which I would characterize as 90% Penal Substitution at 90% strength. They have insisted that their statement of beliefs teaches Penal Substitution. That assertion I found curious, since this recipe
50% Christus Victor
25% Penal Substitution / Satisfaction at 0% strength (ie totally Satisfaction)
25% Moral Exemplar
would be in clear and entire agreement with their statement of beliefs.
A lot of people on the internet seem confused as to how Chalke can say he adheres to their statement of beliefs. Well the above example demonstrates how. The statement of beliefs makes no distinction between Penal Substitution and Satisfaction - allowing someone who totally rejects Penal Substitution but does hold to Satisfaction to adhere. It also implies that the person should hold at least partially to the Moral Exemplar and Christus Victor models, yet sets no upper limits for the proportion of those used in the recipe. Thus someone who holds strongly to those models and yet partially to the Satisfaction model could easily sign that declaration of beliefs in good faith.
But anyway, I want to observe here that the complexity of the recipes makes drawing a clear line in the sand virtually impossible. A pretty complex formula would be required to state clearly which levels of and combinations of ingredient are and aren't acceptable. Evangelicals span a large range of different recipes.