Christus Victor (Christ the Victor) is a view of the atonement taken from the title of Gustaf Aulén's groundbreaking book, first published in 1931, where he drew attention back to the early church's Ransom theory. In Christus Victor, the atonement is viewed as divine conflict and victory over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection. Aulén argues that the classic Ransom theory is not so much a rational systematic theory as it is a drama, a passion story of God triumphing over the powers and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin. As Gustav Aulén writes, "the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil."^^
The Ransom Theory was predominant in the early church and for the first thousand years of church history and supported by all Greek Church Fathers from Irenaeus to John of Damascus. To mention only the most important names Origen, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom. The Christus Victor view was also dominant among the Latin Fathers of the Patristic period including Ambrose, Augustine, Leo the Great, and Gregory the Great.
A major shift occurred when Anselm of Canterbury published his Cur Deos Homo around 1097 AD which marks the point where the predominate understanding of the atonement shifted from the ransom theory to the Satisfaction Doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church and subsequently the Protestant Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church still holds to the Ransom or Christus Victor view. This is built upon the understanding of the atonement put forward by Irenaeus, called "recapitulation".^^
As the term Christus Victor indicates, the idea of ransom should not be seen in terms (as Anselm did) of a business transaction, but more of a rescue or liberation of humanity from the slavery of sin. Unlike the Satisfaction or Penal-substitution views of the atonement rooted in the idea of Christ paying the penalty of sin to satisfy the demands of justice, the Christus Victor view is rooted in the incarnation and how Christ entered into human misery and wickedness and thus redeemed it. Irenaeus called this "Recapitulation" (re-creation). As it is often expressed: "Jesus became what we are so that we could become what he is".
- Gustav Aulen, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, trans. by A. G. Herber. Wipf & Stock, 2003. ISBN 1592443303
- James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, eds. The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. IVP Academic, 2006. ISBN 0830825703