Gustaf Aulén (1879-1978) was the Bishop of Strängnäs in the Church of Sweden and the author of
Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement in 1931. This classic work analyzes the doctrine of the
atonement of Jesus, suggesting that the three main interpretations in Christian history are the Christus Victor theory, the
Satisfaction theory, and the
Moral Influence theory. Aulén is also known in the Swedish Lutheran Church as a composer of widely used church music.
Aulén claims to be reintroducing the "classic idea of the atonement," the
Christus Victor theory. He says it is the "classic" view of the
atonement reflecting the Early
Church Fathers as well as Scripture and distinguishes it from the later developed Satisfaction theories of the middle ages which he calls the "Latin" view. Aulén states that Satisfaction theory was only fully
Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century, and the
Moral Exemplar Influence finds its genesis in
Peter Abelard and has been popularized by 19th and 20th century
liberal theologians. Aulén criticizes both the medieval Latin view as well as the liberal view as lacking. The Christus Victor theory is described as a battle. Its central theme is the idea of the Atonement as a Divine
conflict and victory; Christ -- Christus Victor -- fights against and triumphs over the evil powers of the world, the 'tyrants' under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in Him God reconciles the world to Himself. One could also
describe Christus Victor as a motif of divine rescue and liberation from the bondage of
sin, death, and the devil. Central to its understanding are the ideas of the
Incarnation and the Lordship of Christ. In this sense of liberation and rescue it is parallel to the Ransom Theory however it also stresses Christ's victory over sin and is thus centered
in the idea of the
Aulen also authored The Faith of the Christian Church and
Reformation And Catholicity.
- Gustav Aulén (transl. by A. G. Herber),
Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, Wipf & Stock Publishers (2003).
- Gustaf Aulén (transl. by Eric H. Wahlstrom),
The Faith of the Christian Church, Wipf & Stock Publishers (2002).