This is an old topic….but they are all old topics, and I still find this one intriguing...exploring the depth of the Atonement and these issues are hopefully something that will never grow old. Anyway, I've had a few VA appointments lately and carried with me (digitally) several journal articles to pass the time. A few expressed a move towards or to Anabaptist atonement theology. In one article the author (Stoltzfus) notes that Penal Substitution Theory is a model whereas Christus Victor is a motif. The reason being Penal Substitution is a rational theory while Christus Victor is more of a collection of general themes ( a point made by Gustaf Aulen decades ago). Here I agree ( Christus Victor is overarching as evidenced by the diversity expressed through the writings of the Early Church Fathers. I do not believe that this diversity exists to the same degree within Penal Substitution Theory as it is a much more refined and narrow). While I disagree with the premise of the article (the validity of a theory or doctrine based on or contrasted with its implications within a specific field of practice), the author makes some good points. Stoltzfus identifies concerns that led him to the Mennonite church and to Anabaptist theology. I share some of his concerns, but by no means all (please don't assume his argument to be my own). How would you address the following issues (keep in mind that he is writing from an Anabaptist and not a Baptist perspective)? 1. “The Penal Substitutionary telling of the story emphasized Jesus’ death as the key moment when sins were forgiven and the possibility of a relationship with God was restored. In light of this, Easter seemed like a bit of an afterthought.” How does the Resurrection fit into Penal Substitution Atonement? 2. “The Penal Substitutionary understanding of the story seemed to emphasize a God whose defining characteristic was wrath and judgment. Although the Penal substitution model does emphasize that God’s love, grace, and mercy led him to search out a way for humans to avoid the punishment they deserve for their sin, the Penal Substitution story suggests that because God will not (or cannot) forgive sins without punishment taking place, he punishes Jesus Christ in the place of humanity. Thus, in the final accounting, it seemed that God was primarily concerned that someone be punished.” Does divine justice trump divine love and forgiveness? If God has to collect a debt in full before forgiving that debt, then how does this translate to the believer forgiving the debts of others as they have been forgiven? Is this a true definition of forgiveness? 3.“The Penal Substitution claim that Christ’s death is necessary for the forgiveness of sins also leads to a second problem, as Christ clearly claimed to have the authority to forgive sins prior to his death…Christ’s claim to have the authority to forgive sins prior to his death calls into question the Penal Substitution claim that sins cannot be forgiven without the prior occurrence of punishment.” (Here, I am not confident of the author’s claim that PST actually claims sins cannot be forgiven without the prior occurrence of punishment). On what basis did Christ forgive sins? 4. “It seems to me that Penal Substitution may decontextualize sin, making all such behavior the responsibility of the individual.” How does Penal Substitution Theory address sin in terms of humanity and reconciliation apart from it's focus on the individual? Or does the Fall even have an impact beyond individual sins (i.e., does it have a sociological impact)? (Kenneth Stoltzfus, Ph.D., is Chair, Department of Social Science, LLC International University. The article I referenced is “Penal Substitution, Christus Victor, and the Implications of Atonement Theology for Integration of Christian Faith and Social Work Practice”, Social Work & Christianity, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2012).