I have enjoyed many of those who have shared their views on this and thank you for starting this discussion. Here are some of my thoughts as I see it:
Atonement as Moral Influence
The Ransom Theory
The Penal Substitution Theory
Is the atonement as seen through the lens of how it affects us… how or why we are connected with the God’s work of atonement
The Satisfaction Theory
Sean O Mentioned - Christus Victor
I would add - The Correcting the broken Structure of Authority Theory
These three have more to do with how the atonement affects God, the Devil and creation Powers and principalities of good and evil etc…
I think when we ask this question regarding the atonement… we need to realize that it encompasses the motives behind why it happened, the process by which it happened and the consequences and divine effects and outcomes of it happening. Depending on which aspect you are focused upon often determines which lens you are viewing the work of atonement.
For me, I guess I would say the lens of choice would be:
The Reconciliation Theory which can be summed up in understanding two passages:
Col 1:15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
1 Cor 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
The work of atonement was the motive and process which God would use to destroyed all dominion, authority and power and remove all enemies from His kingdom (creation) and that through Christ He would reconcile to Himself all things, (especially mankind) - where by after the final enemy (death) is destroyed (Rev 20:14) Christ in Rev 20:1-7 makes everything new and gives back to the Father a united, reconciled Kingdom, so that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).
I believe the Reconciliation Theory is all inclusive of the other theories. That the other theories are describing more the details of how the atonement reconciles that part or aspect of God’s creation. Each one taken by itself is incomplete, but taken together, at least for me makes the most sense.
By Him and for Him and to Him,