Friday, August 31, 2012

Christus Victor or Buddy Christ?

While reading Robert Webber's book Ancient-Future Faith, I was struck by a topic that he raised, something I feel that we in the Church really need to hear on a regular basis--Christus Victor. Christ the Victor. According to Webber, this understanding of the work of Christ dominated the writings of early Fathers for the first thousand years or so. Jesus did not merely come to bring me my own prepackaged and personalized single-serving salvation, he came to redeem the cosmos. This high Christology is what we find in Colossians 1:15-23.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by
him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were
created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold
together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and
the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the
supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and
through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or
things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your
minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's
physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish
and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm,
not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you
heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which
I, Paul, have become a servant (emphasis mine).

While I realize that there are several atonement theories out there (Ransom/Christus Victor, Satisfaction, and Subjective/moral influence theories seem to be the main three), I am not trying to get hung up on one over the other at this point since I am still trying to understand this and study it myself. I do, however, believe that we would definitely do well to understand the universal implications of Christ's victory in His death, burial and resurrection. Here in the ego-centric US of A we have a tendency to think only in personal terms. It is easy for us to loose the epic view of Jesus Christ's work. This world does not belong to satan. After His resurrection Jesus told his disciples:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

Notice the inclusive scope--ALL authority in Heaven and on EARTH. This is the launch point for the commission.

Where is the fire in our souls when we hear the resurrection story on Easter or any other time? We are often guilty of turning Jesus into our buddy. We take the call to a close relationship with God as a license to make him safe and cool and ok with our sin. This weak, anemic Jesus is left ineffectual to conquer and heal the evil of this world. Jesus calls us friend (incidentally, the somewhat popular song "I Am a Friend of God" would work best in the context of Jesus' original dependent clause "if you obey my commandments") , but this does not demote Him from His being "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation..."

I just wonder what would happen to our understanding of the Kingdom and our daily walks if we heard more sermons about Christ's work instead of self-help or self-affirmation. Listen to these concluding words from an Easter sermon by Melito of Sardis (A.D. 195):

But He rose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven.
When the Lord had clothed Himself with humanity, and had suffered for the
sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had
been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one
who was buried, He rose up from the dead, and cried with a loud voice:
Who is he that contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set
the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had
been entombed. Who is my opponent? I, He says, am the Christ. I am the one who
destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades underfoot, and
bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven. I, He says,
am the Christ.

Christ has triumphed. Death is dead. Christ has conquered sin and all the powers of darkness in the spiritual realms. Christ is the Victor! And He is the Head of His Church.

"This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, [Nick], have become a servant."

(Updated from previous post @

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