This weekend, millions of Christians will express gratitude to Jesus Christ for saving them through his sacrifice. Few of them will be asking the obvious follow-up question: “How does that work, exactly?”
Here’s Christianity’s dirty secret: No one has a good explanation of how atonement works. There is no consensus among Christians, and none of the theories offered actually make sense.
I’ll describe the most widely accepted theories here in the OP. We can dissect them in the comments.
1. The Ransom Theory
Humanity sold itself to Satan via the Fall, and Jesus buys us back through his sacrifice. Another version of the theory has the ransom being paid to God the Father.
2. The Satisfaction Theory
God was dishonored by humanity’s rebellion, and only the obedience of Christ in sacrificing himself could restore God’s honor.
3. The Penal Substitution Theory
Jesus is punished in our place.
4. The Christus Victor Theory
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus defeats the powers of death, sin and evil that hold humanity in thrall.
Christians, let us know which theory of atonement you subscribe to. If none of the above, please summarize your own view in your comment.