Christus Victor

Incarnation, Deification, and Salvation

An Online Lecture with Fr. Vincent


Christianity did not invent the cross, it was confronted by the enigma of the cross and left to grapple over its meaning in light of the resurrection. As a result, throughout Christian history many theories of “atonement” or “salvation” have emerged with no universal agreement on any one of them. Exactly how does the cross save us? And from what? How might we understand Paul’s assessment that on the cross Jesus was “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5:17-21; cf. Gal. 3:13)? Or again how might we interpret the scriptural testimony of Jesus’ life as a “ransom for the many” (cf. Mark 10:45 and 1 Tim. 2:5-6). What does it mean to profess “Jesus died for our sins”? Moreover, what is the difference between “atonement” (at-one-ment) and “salvation” – and how does Christ accomplish both on behalf of humanity?


Among the earliest of theologies of the cross, and dominant for the first thousand years of the church, is the “Ransom Theory” which was summarized and adapted by the Lutheran scholar, Gustaf Aulén in his seminal 1930 classic, Christus Victor. Fr. Vincent will spend an afternoon exploring Aulén’s summation of the “Ransom Theory,” offering his own modifications in light of the doctrine of deification. His discussion will compare the merits of Christus Victor with other prominent theories, even as he offers his own nuanced approach to a theology of the cross grounded in the trinitarian love of God for all creation.