- In Christian theology, the sacrificial death of Christ as some kind of payment for the sins of mankind. Various theories attempt to make sense of a perfect deity directing a sacrifice of this kind. They include: (a) the idea that the event is the payment of some kind of a ransom to the forces of evil. But since the Son is rejoined with his Father, the forces of evil appear to have been cheated, and this seems incompatible with justice. (b) The Satisfaction theory ( Anselm ). The sacrifice restores God's honour, insulted by sin. But the way this restoration works remains obscure, especially as the insult goes on. (c) The Acceptance theory ( Duns Scotus ). God freely decides to accept this event as a repayment of our dues to him. But then why not freely decide to accept something less traumatic, such as the sacrifice of a sheep? (d) Jesus suffers as a substitute for us. But the morality of using substitutes or scapegoats is particularly unedifying. (e) The Ethical Message or Example ( Abelard ). Jesus is sent to exemplify for us the perfect life. It seems strange, however, to deliver the message in one particular place and time, and especially one with such fragile means of recording the event. The matter is not rendered easier by the doctrine of the identity of the Son and the Father (see homoousion , homoiousion ), and theology continues to address the issue.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.