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The scene is quite memorable for avid Chronicles of Narnia fans. It is in the dead of night. Aslan is walking down the aisle towards the witch. The witch requires a payment for the Son of Adam; Edmond. The question posed is, “What theory of Atonement did C.S. Lewis hold to?” In this article, I will go over four views of atonement for the reader to read and answer. There are four different views of Atonement–how one is reconciled to God that will be explained: The Moral Influence theory, the Ransom/Christus Victor theory, the Satisfaction Theory, and the Penal Substitution theory.

“There are only three things that God could theoretically sacrifice for the atonement of sin; His Law, His People or His Perfect Son.”

The first theory that will be examined is the Moral Influence Theory. This theory, in a nutshell, says that the sole reason Jesus came to earth was to lead and teach people to be more moral. His death on the cross was the ultimate example of love and self-sacrifice. Some say that this is what led so many people to martyrdom. This theory necessitates works based salvation due to the fact that how we are reconciled with God is our being more moral. This is what many liberal Christians and non-Christians say is the crux of Christianity. So, thinking back to the Chronicles of Narnia, is Aslan depicted as a superior moral being who simply encouraged his followers to be more moral?

The second theory is called the Ransom/Christus Victor Theory. These two will be place together because the Ransom theory is technically placed under the umbrella of the Christus Victor theory. The Christus Victor theory states that Christ had victory over death, sin, and Satan. When this happened, a ransom was paid. The Ransom theory states that Satan “owned” us in a sense and Christ’s death paid the ransom that was owed for his people. Does this theory seem to be more in line with C.S. Lewis? Let’s go to the next theories.

The third and fourth theories will be quickly explain and put side by side for further clarity. These two theories are the Satisfaction Theory and the Penal Substitution Theory. The Satisfaction theory was originally penned by Anselm after Anselm rejected Irenaeus’ Cristus Victor Theory. The Satisfaction theory basically said that we owe a debt for sin to God (not Satan). Jesus, therefore, gave Himself as a ransom for many. And He was the only perfect sacrifice that would satisfy the debt owed to God. The Penal Substitution theory is different from the Satisfaction theory in that sin is against God’s holy Law. Sinful man is subject to God’s wrath and Jesus takes the punishment in our place so He can have a people to Himself. To re-hash again, sin, in the Satisfaction Theory was against God’s Honour and in the Penal Theory, sin was against God’s Law.

Some people would think that God’s honor is above God’s Law, but it is not the case. Because of sin, there are only three things that God could theoretically sacrifice for the atonement of sin: 1. His Law 2. His People or 3. His Perfect Son-The God-Man Jesus Christ. God cannot sacrifice His law (otherwise He wouldn’t be God!). God could sacrifice His people, but then He wouldn’t have a people. The only other option was to sacrifice His most Holy and perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Praise be to God for His Mercy and Justice!

After reading these different views of Atonement, which was C.S. Lewis’ view of atonement that was depicted in the Chronicles of Narnia?

Was it:

  1. Moral Influence Theory
  2. Ransom/Christus Victor Theory
  3. Satisfaction Theory
  4. Penal Substitution Theory

The correct answer is “B.” C.S. Lewis believed that Christ needed to pay the devil for His people. This theory, though, places too much emphasis on the devil. The devil is not in control. The devil did not have a law to defend. The Penal Substitution theory places the appropriate emphasis of sin as an affront to God’s Law and therefore His character. Sinful man is subject to God’s wrath, and Jesus Christ was murdered and drank the cup of God’s wrath for His people. Jesus took our place. Thank you, Lord!

For Further Discussion:


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