1) Ransom Theory: This early atonement theory asserts that due to the Fall, humans are captives of Satan (or a similar symbol of evil). God tricked or trapped Satan by baiting him with the ransom of Jesus’ blood/soul/humanity. In the end, Jesus’ divinity/resurrection destroyed Satan. This is the atonement model used by CS Lewis in his Narnia books.
- Strengths: Some biblical support; is realistic about the reality of evil; holds cross & resurrection together.
- Weaknesses: Takes scripture too literally, making God a trickster – it’s metaphor only; humans sinned against God, not Satan – no reason for the latter to hold humanity to ransom; if Jesus purchased us back, then all should be free today – but this is not the case.
- Strengths: Some biblical support; integrates death & resurrection; acknowledges human struggles beyond just other individuals (‘powers & principalities’); is realistic about the reality of evil.
- Weaknesses: despite Satan’s defeat in the past, evil still continues & sinners remain in bondage today; too celestial, not terrestrial enough – humans do not participate in history of salvation, just as passive observers; puts all the blame for evil in the world on Satan when humans are largely responsible; does not differentiate between sinners/sinned-against.
- Strength: moves away from transaction between God & Satan, thus involving humanity rather than Satan…but even here the theory fails.
- Weaknesses: God’s justice is understood as retributive rather than restorative or gracious; humans not involved but are passive – only between God & Jesus; ignores the power of Satan in the world; unclear about whether it is for all human death & sin (past, present, & future) – if so all humans are already saved, if not we need another God-Man; does not integrate resurrection with cross; Jesus’ humanity not separable from his divinity, so offering his humanity to his divinity is “absurd.”
- Strengths: stresses God’s love; involves human participation through repentance – cross doesn’t appease God but transforms human hearts; emphasizes Jesus’ whole life (not just death) & encourages us to follow not just worship him.
- Weaknesses: holds that Jesus came to die to show us God’s love, but Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom & establish God’s reign – death was not the primary goal; overlooks the power of Satan or reality of evil in our daily life; does not integrate the resurrection with the cross; does not address how the cross liberates the sinned-against, but only the sinners.