The Doctrine of Christ (part 11)

May 26, 2008     Time: 00:52:53


Craig continues on the Doctrine of Christ (Christology). How is it that Jesus death on the cross can be a substitutionary work for us and take away our sin? Theories of atonement.

It is great to be back. It seems like we are away more than we are here. Jan and I are just delighted to be back in Sunday School class again. We just spent two weeks in Colorado at Fort Collins at Colorado State University for the U. S. Staff Conference with Campus Crusade for Christ. About 6,000 Crusade staff from all over the country come together for about 11 days or so of training and encouragement and fellowship. We really came back renewed and refreshed from that time together. It was just a wonderful time to meet old acquaintances and to share vision with what God’s doing in different people’s lives.

One of the seminars that I heard while I was there was very interesting. I attended a seminar put on by a representative from Zondervan Publishing Corporation, which is a Christian publisher of books and music and so forth. This seminar was very interesting because he began to talk about how things have changed in the market out there and how Christian publishing is changing to try to adapt to that market. Basically what he explained is that the market is driven today by 18 year old to 34 year old folks, and that this is the market where Christian publishers are trying to target their products so as to make the most money. This group, he said, is significantly different from the generation that went before. One of the things that he cited were some very troubling statistics from George Barna which indicated that of the teenagers that currently are attending church today (think of the youth here at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church) 40% of those kids, once they graduate, will cease attending church and not come back. Think of what that means in terms of the church for the future. 40% of the teenagers that are attending church now will basically drop out when they graduate.

What really disturbed me, though, about this seminar was the interpretation that Zondervan put on these statistics. Their interpretation is that we need to therefore change and adapt to meet this younger generation. What that meant to them is we have to become more postmodern, as he put it. We have to buy into the sort of postmodernist mentality that is exhibited by a so-called Emerging Church movement. For those of you who haven’t heard of this term, be on the lookout for it. Keep your antenna out because this is, I think, a very dangerous movement within the church today. It is called the Emergent Church. Some of its spokesmen are people like Brian McLaren, who says we need a new kind of Christianity which basically downplays the objective propositional truth of the Christian faith in favor or more relationality with other people. It depreciates the importance of things like doctrine, apologetics, logic, evidence, things of this sort. I think it is basically anti-intellectual myself. It is geared more toward emotional and relational aspects of the faith. I think that this is suicidal for Christianity because once you give up the objective truth of the Gospel and just start emphasizing relational types of character, in the next generation the church will simply wander from the truth. They will preserve the relationality but the truth of the Gospel will be compromised. So I think this is very worrisome.

I noticed a very interesting article in this connection that occurred in this month’s issue of Biola University Magazine: “Corporate America Has Found Jesus, and He’s Worth A Lot of Money.” Basically what they talk about in here is how Christian publishers and even secular manufacturers have found that there is big money to be made in the evangelical subculture. So they are targeting the Christian subculture to try to make money. What occurred to me as I listened to this Zondervan representative is that the fundamental difference is this.[1] A publishing company is market-driven, but the church of Jesus Christ is not market-driven. The church of Jesus Christ doesn’t tailor its message to suit the whims and the preferences of its hearers or its audience. Very often the church needs to have a prophetic stand where the message will be unpopular, and the message of the church will often be a message that will be calling people to, say, repentance, to turning away from the direction that they are going in. A market-driven church cannot do that because it can’t risk alienating its target audience.

One of the very basic differences, I think, between a corporate Christianity and the true church of Jesus Christ is that while the church wants to reach its audience and will adapt its methodologies to try to reach its audience, it isn’t going to be market-driven. It is not going to be driven by what the audience demands and wants. So we have to be very cautious about movements that are afoot within Christianity today. I am very worried about the kind of superficial Christianity that passes muster in a lot of our churches today. One of the emphases in Defenders class is that real discipleship – true discipleship – to Jesus Christ involves growing in an understanding of Christian doctrine. To go on to doctrinal maturity as part of the growth to maturity in Christ.

I said to this Zondervan representative that I was very disturbed with the fact that Zondervan seemed to be adopting this Emergent Church movement mentality because I said, “You also are the publishers of Lee Strobel’s books – The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for Creator – which have been enormously successful and huge best-sellers and which emphasize evidence, truth, logic, the objective rationality of the Christian faith. Why don’t you go with Lee Strobel and that movement rather than with this Emerging Church movement?” In fact, I would say that the best antidote to this exodus of teenagers from the church is a good dose of Christian apologetics. If we can convince our teenagers that Christianity is the truth, then they will be less reluctant to leave it. What they will leave is something that is just meeting their relational needs for a while – the fellowship group in the youth group while they are teenagers. Then they graduate out of that then they don’t need that relational group any more to relate to. But if they are really convinced in their heart of hearts and in their minds that this is the truth (whether you like it or not, whether it meets your needs or not, whether it makes you have warm fuzzies or not, it is the truth), they will be, I think, less likely to depart from it. I am absolutely convinced that what we really need to be doing is not giving up on Christian doctrine and apologetics but emphasizing them all the more as our twenty-something generation is being seduced by the sirens of the Emergent Church movement and other anti-rational movements that are afoot in our culture today.

Those are just some reflections on what I heard and experienced at our conference there. But there has been a lot of things happening in the news as well that I think need to comment on. I think it is fantastic that the Discovery shuttle is back in the air again, back at the Space Station. That is certainly good news. I heard, perhaps some of you know more about this, that they actually discovered a tenth planet in our solar system, which I think is just astonishing and extremely exciting – to think that now there is another planet orbiting the sun that we didn’t know about before.

There have also been some things that are, I think, very important for us as Christians. One was the nomination of John Roberts by George Bush to be the new Supreme Court justice. Remember we were praying that President Bush would have the courage of his convictions to nominate a strict constructionist judge rather than bow to the tremendous pressures that he was under to name a more moderate replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor.[2] I am just so proud of our President that just over and over again George Bush shows that he has the backbone to stand up for his convictions, to stand for a culture of life, and to resist the tremendous pressures that would prompt him to compromise. I am very excited about the nominee, and I think it is certainly an answer to prayer that President Bush had the courage to nominate somebody like Roberts.

In contrast to this, I heard this week that the Senate Majority leader, Bill Frist, who is, of course, the leader of the President’s own party in the Senate has now said that he is going to vote against the President’s position with regard to stem cell research and is going to vote that stem cell research should be authorized. In case you don’t understand what is going on in this embryonic stem cell research, this is exactly the same issue as abortion. These embryos that are destroyed in this stem cell research are fertilized human eggs. These are human embryos. They are human beings in the earliest stages of their development. You were once an embryo. It is not that this embryo became you – you were that embryo. These embryos, if allowed to grow in a mother’s uterus, will grow into a normal human being just like you and me. Don’t get the idea that these are not human beings that are being destroyed in the stem cell research. These are human beings just like abortion kills a human being. It is very disappointing to see somebody like Senator Frist go back on what were his pro-life convictions and now say, yes, I think we should authorize this funding. When I hear this I think either this shows that this man is just kowtowing to these political pressures – the political winds that blow – or if he is voting out of his moral convictions then his moral convictions are extremely superficial and ill-thought through if he really doesn’t understand what is involved here so that he can flip-flop so easily on an issue that is literally an issue of life and death. President Bush has stood strong against this kind of destruction of human embryos; he says he will veto the bill. I think we need to continue to pray for our President and our leaders in a day and age in which these moral issues that are important to us as Christians take front and center stage.

Then, of course, there was the terrorist bombings in London that were so horrifying. I think people are finally waking up to the fact that this terrorism springs out of a theology of Islam. For a long time there was the politically correct desire to characterize these people as just murderers or persons who are economically deprived, but there was no inherent connection with the theology of the religion of Islam. I think that is really beginning to change. There was a scathing editorial in this week’s U. S. News and World Report by Mort Zuckerman entitled “Confronting the Threat.” I just want to read to you a little bit of this editorial because I thought it was so well spoken. He writes:

Shehzad Tanweer was the bright, Muslim son of a first-generation Pakistani immigrant into Britain. His father owned a fish-and-chips shop, and Shehzad, at 22, was a university student headed for a profession--the kind of story of immigrant assimilation that is so familiar in America. Instead, Tanweer became a murderer, killing himself and other fellow travelers in the morning rush hour on London's Underground.

Muhammad Bouyeri, born in the Netherlands, shot Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker and a descendant of the painter, six times while Van Gogh was bicycling in Amsterdam. Then he cut Van Gogh's throat and, with his knife, carved an Islamic manifesto on his victim's chest. Van Gogh's offense? He made a film about the oppression of Muslim women. In his trial, Bouyeri turned to Van Gogh's grieving mother to say, "I don't feel your pain. I have to admit that I don't feel sympathy for you. I can't feel for you because you're a nonbeliever." . . .[3]

The outrages committed in the name of Islam are doubly painful in Britain and the Netherlands because besides the grief and suffering these young Muslim men have caused, there is the viciousness of their betrayal of trust in these notably tolerant European countries. These are the same nations that gave many Muslim immigrants a new start, nurtured their children as Britons and Netherlanders, and listened courteously to the venom of militant Muslim leaders who, like Tanweer and Bouyeri had assumed the mantle of citizenship. Now the British and the Dutch and other European countries must confront the reality of homegrown terrorists in their midsts. A more daunting challenge than dealing with infiltrators from abroad.

Economic deprivation does not explain this phenomenon.

That is absolutely true. These are university educated people, and in one case university professor.

These killers are relatively well-off educated people, not the indignant and the uneducated. Europe has given sanctuary to second and third generation Muslim immigrants who may be even more radicalized than the first. A lost generation vulnerable to anyone who offers them an identity within the wholly imaginary community of their own Islamo-Fascist creeds. This malignancy predates Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, and the Bush administration. Militant British Muslims have blamed everything and everybody except themselves, conveniently overlooking the obscenity that it is fanatical Muslims inspired by them who are doing the killing. . . .

The aspiration of these radical Muslims is to make Islam the world’s dominant religion. This kind of messianism and totalitarianism is almost incomprehensible in the West, with its long tradition of cherishing the life and liberty of every man, woman, and child. With 20 million Muslims in Europe, a population likely to double over the next 20 years, national borders are no defense against the insidious ideology of radical Islam.

What so many people don’t understand about Islam is that this is a religion which enjoins violence in the propagation of its beliefs and which historically has been spread by violence, by conquering neighboring countries with the sword. In Islam, the world is divided into two basic houses or components: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-harb. The Dar al-Islam is the house of submission. That is what Islam means. Islam doesn’t mean peace as you often hear it said in the media. Islam means submission. The Dar al-Islam (the house of submission) are those countries of the world which have been brought into submission to Islam and practice Sharia – the Islamic law. These are the house of submission, the house if Islam, those nations subjugated to Islam. The nations which have not yet been brought into subjection to Islam are called the Dar al-harb – that means the house of war. That is where the battle is to be conducted to bring these nations into submission to Allah and to Sharia or Islamic law. The very character of the theology of this religion is one that promotes violence and spreads itself by violence.

Of course, the vast, vast majority of the world’s Muslims are not terrorists and are not violent. I want to say that clearly. But that is because they tend to be culturally Islamic. They are sort of like what we might call conventional Christians here in the United States. They say, yeah, I am a Christian because I am born in America. They are just culturally Christian. Similarly, many are just culturally Muslim. If you were to ask them to explain to you Muslim theology, they probably would know as little about it as the average non-church going Episcopalian or Presbyterian knows about Christian theology. It is true that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are not terrorists or violent at all and wouldn’t endorse this. But there is a small radical segment, about 15%, of Islam that I think does understand Islamic theology and is committed to bringing the house of war into the house of submission and making Islam the dominant religion of the world.[4] They are bent on doing it. It is those people who are inspiring this war on terrorism against which democratic nations need to fight.

So anyone who thinks that theology doesn’t matter or that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere just really needs to think again. In a sense, we come full circle, because this ties back in again very nicely with what I began with: the importance of propositional truth, the importance of what kind of God exists, who is God, what is he liked, has he revealed himself to us so that we can know him truly. It is not enough just to have good feelings and religious practices. It does matter what you believe. Propositional truths make a huge difference. I think this is no where better exhibited than in Islamic terrorism and what has been going on this past couple weeks in London.

Those are just some thoughts on what I noticed in the news, and I thought needed to be commented on.

[Opening prayer]

We’ve been looking at the doctrine of the work of Christ. The last time we met we had a long discussion somewhat extemporaneous because I had forgotten my notes on the scriptural data concerning Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross.[5]

You will remember when we looked at what the Bible teaches – what the New Testament teaches – about the death of Christ on the cross, we saw that this was a sacrificial death on our behalf. Christ in some way stood in our place. It was substitutionary and redemptive. It removed from us the curse and the punishment of sin. It brought forgiveness and new life and was the ultimate and final and complete and efficacious sacrifice for sin. It had been anticipated by the animal sacrifices that had been offered in the Jewish temple up until the time of Christ.

As I closed, I said this doesn’t really explain to us exactly how the cross works. How is it that Jesus’ death on the cross can be a substitutionary sacrifice for us? How does this work? How is it that his death can take away our sins? Down through church history various church fathers have proposed various theories of the atonement. That is what we want to begin to look at today.

The first theory that is listed on the outline is the so-called Christus Victor model, or Christ As The Victor. This is the theory of the atonement that tended to predominate among the earliest of the church fathers. For example, you will find the Christus Victor theory in people like the great theologian Irenaeus, who died around AD 200. Or the North African church father Origen who wrote in the early part of the 300s. Or the great St. Augustine, the North African bishop of Hippo who wrote near the end of the 300s.

In these early church fathers you have a theory of the atonement which emphasizes Christ’s victory in the cross. In dying on the cross, Christ, far from being a mere victim, is actually the victor because it is through the cross that the power of death, sin, and Satan are broken. How does this work? On this model, because of mankind’s fall into sin, Satan had rights over human beings. The human race lay within the power of Satan by right because through sin we have fallen away from God, we were now morally guilty before God, and therefore Satan had rightful claim over us. The cross is thought to be sort of God’s special operations mission on which Christ is sent in order to reclaim mankind back to God again and to remove them from under the power and dominion of Satan.

Often this was conceived of in terms of a ransom being paid. So sometimes the Christus Victor model is called the Ransom Theory of the atonement. The passage of the Scriptures that was appealed to here was Mark 10:45 where Jesus says that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The idea is that Satan had taken over mankind, had rightfully claimed them as his own, and that Christ’s death was a sort of ransom to buy back mankind to God. In some of these thinkers, for example Origen had this thought, the ransom was paid to Satan. It was as if, for example, some terrorist or kidnapper had stolen your daughter and in order to get her back you paid this malefactor a certain ransom and as a result the daughter was returned.[6] So Origen thought that Christ’s death was in a sense the price that God was willing to pay to ransom human beings back from Satan. But in so doing God tricked Satan because Christ, being sinless, could not be held by Satan. Satan had no right over Jesus Christ. So in offering Jesus Christ in exchange for us, Satan gives up his right over humanity, tries to take Jesus Christ as his own, but can’t hold him because he has no right over Jesus Christ because Jesus is sinless. Christ then breaks free of Satan’s power thus rising from the dead conquering sin, death, and hell and triumphing over Satan.

Sometimes the early church fathers would say that God caught Satan like a fish hook. The second person of the Trinity was veiled in flesh like a fish hook. He is hidden in a piece of bait. Satan took the bait thinking he had Christ – this weak human being, didn’t look like he was the divine Son of God, looked like an ordinary human man – and God caught him just like an angler catches a fish with a hook concealed in a piece of bait.

One of the interesting thing to note as we think about this Christus Victor model is that the object of the atonement here is not God. The death of Christ is not something that is offered to God as an atonement for sin. It is offered in a sense to Satan, at least in Origen. The object of the Ransom Theory is Satan rather than God. So that is a rather peculiar feature of this model which is rather, I think, unique to it as we will look at some of the other theories that come later.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: There is nothing new under the sun, is there? That is one of the things that is neat about church history.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: It did sort of die out, yeah. As we will see in the Roman Catholic church, it was eclipsed by Anselm’s theory. Then the Reformation, though appreciative of the church fathers, had a quite different view, too. So it did tend to die out as a theory but it was prominent in many of these early church fathers. Again, it is kind of like the Trinity in a sense that this doctrine is the result of human reflection upon the data of Scripture. So there may be false faiths here and there as you move your way and grapple with the data and find the best model. We saw, for example, some of the early Christian apologists had a Logos doctrine that was really rather different from the Trinity in that they thought of the Logos as innate in the mind of God and then proceeding out of God. They wanted to affirm the deity of Christ but their conception of it was somewhat different than what eventually became enshrined in the Nicene Creed. Similarly here, as church fathers grappled with this subject of Christ’s sacrificial death, different theories arise and some of them (especially these earlier ones) may be more primitive than others.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: There is a very interesting verse in Paul’s 1 Corinthians 2:8 where with respect to the death of Christ he says, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” That is fascinating because Paul usually speaks of the rulers of this age not being people like Pontius Pilate and Herod. As in Ephesians 6, he says we are not struggling against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against the powers of darkness, against the world rulers of this present age. He may well be talking about (I think probably is talking about) these demonic powers.[7] He says they didn’t understand what God was doing because if they had they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus Christ. It may well be that Satan didn’t understand what God was about in the death of Christ on the cross. It probably looked like victory to Satan at that point.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: The writings that would be left by the apostles would be the books in the New Testament. It would be things like the book of Hebrews and the book of Romans.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: You’ve got to understand (and I know you do appreciate this) how really little literature is left from the first century. If these documents had not been meticulously copied and re-copied they would have all been lost. When you look at records of ancient Greek and Roman history or literature, the vast majority of this stuff has been lost. The New Testament is astonishing in that it has been so carefully preserved. You do have early authors like, say, Polycarp who apparently knew John. But we don’t have really any writings left of Polycarp. We have references to him in later authors like Eusebius, the early church historian. There is kind of a gap there. We have the letters of Ignatius which are very early, but, again, they are not like systematic theology, if you know what I mean. These letters reflect on early Christian doctrine and teaching but they are not systematic theology. One of my professors once put it this way. He said there is no doubt that when you look at the canon of the New Testament – the writings of the apostle Paul, and John, and the other writers of the New Testament – and then you look at the immediate sub-apostolic fathers that followed them, there is just no doubt that there is a step down. These guys who followed just weren’t of the same caliber as someone like the apostle Paul who is just a giant intellectually, spiritually, and theologically. You do have a kind of step down, I think. Then they struggled to interpret the writings of people like Paul and so forth. The great thing is that we have the same writings that they did. We can read the apostle Paul and his letters just as he wrote them. So we are not at any disadvantage in that sense. Then we have the benefit of looking at what they had to say, too, and reflecting on their views and assessing whether or not they really understood Paul and whether or not they really had the best theory.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is very interesting. I hadn’t heard that before. I think we will see that these other theories as we get into them are definitely emphasizing that we were helpless to redeem ourselves. Anybody who thinks that it is through our own works-righteousness – this popular idea that if my good works outbalance my bad works, then you will make it – is just completely non-Christian and sub-biblical. No church father or great thinker has held something like that.


The next theory that we want to look at is the Satisfaction Theory which was developed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Anselm, who lived during the 11th century after Christ, during the 1000s, in England.

Anselm’s theory is predicated upon the idea that sin is basically dishonoring God by denying him what is his rightful due. God, as the creator and source of all moral goodness, is due our worship and adoration and complete obedience.[8] Sin dishonors God. When we go our own way and do not render to him full obedience and the worship that he is due, God’s majesty is maligned. His majesty is insulted and dishonored by our behavior. So by our sin we have offended the majesty and the honor of God.

We are incapable of restoring to God the honor that is due to him because, as his creatures, we already were obligated to give him complete obedience and worship. So even if from the rest of our lives on (from this point on) we were completely obedient and sinless and worshiped and adored God, that is only what is due to him. So it doesn’t do anything to make up for what we did before. You can see because of the obligation that we are under we are completely helpless to discharge our obligation to God and to restore his offended honor. There is nothing we can do to bring satisfaction to God. Therefore, God, confronted with this, has the choice of either annihilating mankind or providing some sort of a satisfaction for them himself. He can either annihilate us, which is what we deserve because we have sinned against him and offended him, or he can himself provide a satisfaction that will restore what we owe him.

This term satisfaction (satisfactio) was introduced into early church theology by the church father Tertullian who wrote during the 200s after Christ. The idea of satisfaction is connected both with Roman law and also with Medieval Catholic piety. In Roman private law, satisfaction refers to the amends that you make for failing to discharge an obligation. If you have failed to discharge an obligation then Roman law required you to make amends in some way. You had to do something to make amends for having failed to discharge your obligation.

In Roman public law, the term could also mean a form of punishment. The satisfaction that the law gets might not be the deeds or amends you do but you might be punished so as to make satisfaction.

This concept of satisfaction became adopted in the church to deal with sins that were committed after baptism. In Roman Catholic theology, when you are baptized, all of your sins are washed away including your original sin and any sins committed up to that point. That is why Emperor Constantine waited until his death bed to be baptized, because that way everything was washed away. Most of us don’t want to play it that close to the vest, but that is what Constantine did. The idea was: what happens with your sins that you commit after baptism that aren’t washed away in baptism? The Roman Catholic doctrine was that you had to do penance for these sins. Penance is one of the sacraments. In addition to things like the Lord’s Supper and baptism, Roman Catholic theology has a number of other sacraments, one of which is penance. When you commit sins after baptism, you have to do penance for those sins. This includes two aspects. One is confession, where you have to confess your sins to God. If the sin is serious, you have to render satisfaction for that sin. So the priest will lay upon you some sort of deed or task that you must undertake in order to render satisfaction for your sins. It might be visiting a holy shrine, or going on a pilgrimage, or saying a certain number of Hail Mary’s on your rosary or something of that sort.[9] Confession with satisfaction gives you penance and shows that your sins can be remitted and forgiven. The satisfaction serves to show the sincerity of your confession.

This practice was already widespread in the Medieval church by the time Anselm wrote. Anselm’s satisfaction theory is really a sort of extrapolation of this Catholic sacrament of penance to explain the atonement. What Anselm says is that mankind owed God an infinite compensation for his sin – an infinite satisfaction – because God is infinite. He has infinite majesty and infinite worth. By sinning against him we have committed a sin of enormous proportion in dishonoring God and now owe him an infinite compensation or infinite satisfaction which we cannot render, as I’ve said.

Therefore, what God did was God, in the incarnation, became a man. Christ lived a sinless life, then he gave his life as a satisfaction to God on our behalf. Since Christ was sinless, he had no obligation to die. He had no sin to die for himself. Therefore Christ’s sacrificial death was extra-meritorious. He earned extra merit with God because of his self-giving death. So the extra merit that is earned by Christ’s death is applied to us, and it constitutes the satisfaction that we owe to God because of the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrificial death.

On this model, basically Christ’s death is something that accrues merit for us and can serve to pay this debt of satisfaction that we owe to God for having dishonored him by sin. That is how the atonement works.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Yes. You are absolutely right in saying that in even later Medieval theology – and the reason I didn’t emphasize it is because these abuses hadn’t taken place by the time of Anselm – in subsequent centuries, as you get into the 1400s and 1500s, what it was thought was that Christ’s merit that he had accrued was so great that there was this “treasury of merit” that had been accrued by Christ’s death, and the great saints who had done supererogatory acts (that is to say, acts that go beyond what was their responsibility to do) had also accrued this extra merit. All of this extra merit was so to speak lodged in this bank account if you will that was at the church’s disposal. The church, as God’s sacrament (the church is a means of grace), can dispense this merit to those whom it pleases. For the rich and the wealthy who didn’t want to have to do these deeds to render satisfaction, they could instead of having to do penance, their penance could be to pay money to buy an indulgence and the church would, in exchange for, say, helping to build a chapel or helping to finance a cathedral, would apply to them some of this merit from the treasury of merit so their sins would be satisfied and they would go to heaven and be forgiven.

You can imagine the abuses that this would lead to when penance takes the form of buying your way into forgiveness because you begin to buy these indulgences and thereby get satisfaction. So you are absolutely right in seeing that these are the kinds of abuses that this led to that helped to spark the Protestant Reformation when Luther was incensed at this idea that you could buy God’s grace. In Luther’s day you may recall there was a fellow going to Germany named Tetzel who was selling these indulgences to help to build St. Peter’s and he had a little slogan.[10] He said, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” You could buy your deceased grandfather or your aunt out of purgatory by paying these indulgences and thereby getting satisfaction for their sins.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: No, purgatory isn’t mentioned any place in the Bible. It is something that evolved in Catholic tradition. I wouldn’t want to say that the motive for it was what you said. I would prefer to say that these would be abuses that would come about in the way that this doctrine could be manipulated. But people who hadn’t rendered satisfaction in this lifetime and died would be required to render satisfaction in the afterlife because they died – they were regenerate Christians and still saved – but they hadn’t rendered satisfaction in this life. So they have to go through this purgatory in which they are purged of their sin that was still residual until they are fit to go to heaven. You can see how all of this is kind of interconnected – can’t you? - with this doctrine.


That sort of sheds light on the satisfaction theory of St. Anselm which, just to recap, is the idea that we owed an obligation to God for having dishonored him through sin, an obligation that we were helpless to pay, so God out of his love for us takes on a human form, becomes a man, lives a sinless life, and then gives himself as a sacrifice for sin on our behalf so that his meritorious death can make satisfaction for the debt we owe to God.

I think, as you think about that, you’d probably want to say there is a lot of good things in this theory. I think with Christus Victor there are a lot of good things in that. In fact, there are elements of truth, I think we’ll find, in all of these various theories or they wouldn’t have been proposed. But the question will be as we explore different competing theories what will be the best model that we want to adopt for the New Testament doctrine of the substitutionary atonement.

Next week we will continue on by looking at Luther’s penal theory as well as the moral influence theory.[11]

[1] 5:04

[2] 10:09

[3] 15:02

[4] 20:13

[5] 25:00

[6] 30:06

[7] 35:07

[8] 40:00

[9] 45:01

[10] 50:07

[11] Total Running Time: 52:53 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)