N.T. Wright on Christus Victor and Penal Substitution theories

If’ you’ve read my posts about the atonement you know that I ‘ve been rather hard on the popular Penal Substitution theory of atonement. While I believe large parts of it are harmful to our understanding of God as a Father and it misses the main point of God’s eternal purpose, that doesn’t mean I see no value in it, especially in the substitution aspects of the theory.

In that regard, here’s another short video clip with New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, where he talks about the Christus Victor  and Penal Substitution theories.

This is part of a series of clips interviewing Wright about his book, The Day The Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion.

Wright makes a good point that the idea of substitution can be subsumed within the greater context of Christ’s victory over the Powers (Christus Victor). This victory over the Powers was the point of my last series. Another important point Wright makes is that understanding the Cross must include the Gospel stories of Jesus’ life.

The clip is short and worth the watch.



About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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4 Responses to N.T. Wright on Christus Victor and Penal Substitution theories

  1. Thanks, I enjoyed that. Something I think we often do is fail to perceive the gospel as if it were layered, so two things can be true at the same time and multiple things can be occurring all at once. In the modern world our brains tend to be very linear, so we want our info black and white, one extreme or the other. No paradoxes, everything cut and dry. Whatever you do,don’t make us think too hard….

    That’s why we have these great debates about “grace versus the law,” and we insist it must be one or the other, because it could not possibly be both at the same time. So when I speak of the love of God, without fail someone else will come along and insist on the wrath of God, as if God could not possibly be both loving and powerful at the same time.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Very true, IB. As I told a skeptic one time, if you can’t embrace paradox you won’t understand much about the Bible! It’s a lot of “both and.” There is such multi-faceted depth that emphasizing one aspect runs the risk of minimizing another equally important aspect.

      Some of it’s because of what is not being said when a point is made. For instance, the pushback on a grace message is the fear that one is teaching license to sin, when true grace empowers us not to sin, etc.
      Thanks for your comments. Blessings.

  2. I really love and respect NT Wright – he and Dallas Willard top the charts for me. I have tons of his Veritas lectures bookmarked. Thanks for this one, Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      You’re very welcome, Susan.
      They are both tops for me, too. I remember Willard’s book, “Divine Conspiracy” had a great influence on me several years ago. Wright’s new book, “The Day the Revolution Began” is very good, too.

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