Tag Archives: Christus Victor

Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ



The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was the very last day that Netflix would make available (according to my sources, could be wrong)Mel Gibson‘s The Passion Of The Christ. I have heard the worst and best that this movie had to offer. Was it going to be anti-semitic kinda like Gibson’s tendencies? Was it going to be heartwrenching and moving, taking me closer to the Almighty? The point of the violence, well the point of all movies, television, and visual media like them (YouTube videos,etc.) is to move us emotionally from one place to where the director wants us. When The Passion first came out, it was all about EMOTION EMOTION EMOTION. Isn’t it sad how Jesus was beaten, and bruised, and crucified for our sins?

Well, I would have been saddened if I had not been familiar with the story of the crucifixion. The problem is not the movie The Passion of The Christ itself, but the bad theology of the Cross that American civil religion has. American civil religion wants us to only talk about the Crucifixion during Eastertide, and really, some churches can’t even do that much during Holy Week. So I finally overcame my fear and watched this movie all the way through, and this is what I have to say. This is movie is not anti-Semitic, in fact, it went out of its way to have Jewish leaders have a vibrant debate about Jesus’ claims. The Roman Empire for the first 15 minutes were invisible, but after that, they were pretty prominent, and though a little to cheery of interpretation for my tastes (no mention of Roman polytheism with little mention of oppression, etc), I felt the depiction was okay.

The theology of the movie was left to be desired. The demonic baby held by satan was unnecessary, and while the Evil one definitely plays a role in Christian atonement theories, because this film was biased toward Substitutionary Atonement, the devil’s role was somewhat diminished from the classical/Christus Victor view. I was not moved by the violence or gory white body of Gibson’s Jesus; I was much more touched by Jesus’ teachings, to love our enemies, and forgive those who persecute us, the idea that eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth was not to be given over for the ethic of enemy love.

Anti-violence can be found in the Christus Victor atonement theory, the idea that the Son of God overcomes sin, disobedience, Satan, and death in one deed paints a beautiful picture of just how much God loves us. I really believe that a film like “The Victory Of Jesus of Nazareth” would work. For more on this view, I recommend a recent video series by evangelical preacher Greg Boyd: Penal Substitution Vs Christus Victor.

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Tertullian, Free Will, And Christus Victor

As I was reading through Tertullian today, I came across a common stream with contemporary free will theologies and Christus Victor atonement theologies.




Christus Victor is viewing Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection as a victory over Satan & the ruling principalities, death, and sin. In Tertullian’s allegorical interpretation of Ezekiel 28, a story of a King of Tyre (is it Adam? is it Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon? or Lucifer?), it could NOT have been any human being who resided in the Holy Mountain of God, only YHWH and his angels. The cherub Lucifer, Tertullian tells us, is by his nature created good, and by his free will choices, evil. Lucifer rejected being “irreproachable” with YHWH and the rest of God’s hosts and chose instead wickedness.

To answer the question, why does God allow evil to happen and give humanity free will, Tertullian answers, “For He [God] afforded room for a conflict, wherein man [sic] might crush his [sic] enemy with the same freedom of his will as had made him succumb to him […] and so worthily recover his salvation by a victory [.]” (Against Marcion, Chapter 10).

Tertullian goes on to contend that it is God who patiently waits for humanity to “return from” the present life into a “more glorious paradise, with a right to pluck of the tree of life.” In other words, it is God’s goodness and forebearance that is the source of our free will, so that humanity can cooperate with God’s plan for salvation in, no longer remaining victims are we conquer Satan and its forces.

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Peter, Apologies for the Misunderstanding

There does need to be some clarification though. I was taken aback by your comments which I did earnestly believe were aimed at Joel and I at Unsettled Christianity.

I really have tried to be civil in this debate, but I guess this was an error in communication.

I think it was your quote on a comment on Unsettled that really sealed the heart of the debate:

“OK, you and your friends are not wanting the world to fall back into chaos. But I don’t think you should presume on God to prevent that if you refuse to play your part in preventing it.”

This is exactly the approach I have been arguing against all along. And this “Christus Victor fundamentalist” deals with Peter’s/”dominionists’ approach quite effectively, in my view. But even if I was pushing Penal Substitution, I could argue against Dominionism–especially with the Reformation doctrines of Soli Christi, and Sola Gratia, that we are saved by God alone, and I could just as effectively argue from a political version of monergism. I am that versatile.