Different Cultures, Different Atonement Model? Penal Substitutionary Atonement and Fear-Power Cultures
In Western culture prior to the turn of the twentieth century, the Judeo-Christian tradition played a foundational role in establishing the moral boundaries of society. Within that tradition, the emotion of fear often conveyed positive moral connotations such as reverence and respect, especially in relation to God. The rise of science and secularization in the West, however, has redefined how we interpret fear. Our threats and dangers are no longer evaluated in relation to God and evil, but only in relation to our psychological well-being. Fear has taken on a therapeutic dynamic, rather than a moral one. Paul Tillich made a similar argument when he said that sixteenth-century angst was born out of a fear of damnation and guilt, but twentieth-century angst springs from the fear of meaninglessness. Psychiatrists are the new arbitrators in a postmodern culture untethered from a system of meaning.
But traditional religious authorities, such as shamans, still play a pivotal role in cultures outside the West, and as we shall see, an increasing role in the West as well. Animistic cultures have not yet jettisoned their religious paradigms that provide clarity for how to address one’s fears and give guidance for how one should live within a particular people. People in such cultures consciously employ fear and power dynamics in order to navigate their daily lives. The psychiatrist and the shaman thus hold at least one thing in common—both claim to remove anxiety and fear from a person’s life in order to gain a sense of control and safety.
How can the Christian pastor or missionary effectively preach the cross of Christ in cultures such as these? Does the atonement of Jesus Christ address issues of fear as perceived by these different cultures, and if so, which model of the atonement speaks to their fears most directly? In recent years, some theologians and missiologists have questioned whether or not the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is viable within certain cultures because these cultures lack the categories necessary for understanding it. Scholars and practitioners who take such a stance, argue that the West is still primarily dominated by a culture that is based on legal and individualistic categories and people therefore still operate on the basis of guilt rather than fear.
In addition, some theologians have argued that penal substitutionary atonement is a culturally-conditioned model of the atonement that is dependent on Western legal categories, and is therefore, not only unnecessary for preaching the cross today, but is unviable in certain contexts. For instance, in Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, Mark Baker and Joel Green argue that “the popularity of the penal-satisfaction model of the atonement has less to do with exegesis and historical theology and more to do with the cultural narrative in the West, with its emphases on individualism and mechanism.” Furthermore, Green and Baker recount how one missionary in Japan found the doctrine of penal substitution ineffective in a shame-based culture and conclude that penal substitutionary atonement should thus be discarded in favor of other theories.
At the same time, some missiologists argue that while penal substitutionary atonement is biblical, it is only one metaphor among many for how to understand the atonement and should not be elevated above others. In the name of contextualization, they argue that different atonement motifs should be utilized when preaching the gospel to people in non-western, fear-power cultures. For instance, Jayson Georges identifies three different types of cultures: guilt-innocence, shame-honor, and fear-power, and argues that different atonement motifs speak more directly to each of these cultures and should be utilized over and against others when sharing the gospel. Jackson Wu makes a similar case when he argues that the gospel should be contextualized in Chinese cultures of honor and shame. There are a number of valuable contributions these authors make, a few of which will be mentioned below, but they seem to indicate that penal substitutionary atonement is not viable in certain cultures, including animistic fear-power cultures. At the very least, they argue that this atonement theme should be deemphasized in fear-power cultures.
Contrary to those who question its effectiveness in certain contexts, this article argues that penal substitutionary atonement is not only viable, but also vital for presenting a biblically faithful doctrine of the atonement in an animistic fear-power culture or any culture. Furthermore, we will see that penal substitutionary atonement actually addresses issues of fear and power in any culture, but these must be understood in light of the Bible’s own categories if they are going to address the true spiritual need of people dealing with fear-power dynamics. In the name of contextualization, various attempts have been made to present Christ by starting with extra-biblical categories of indigenous cultures and worldviews rather than starting with Scripture. Ultimately, these methods can lead to a deficient and superficial faith among converts. In order to faithfully contextualize the gospel in other cultures, one must first formulate a doctrine of atonement from within a Biblical framework and only then seek to contextualize the message to a particular culture.
Several scholars have responded critically to the claims made by Green, Baker, and Georges as they relate to shame-honor cultures, but there has been little discussion regarding the relationship between the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement and fear-power cultures. This article will draw on the insights of those who have addressed penal substitutionary atonement in relation to shame-honor cultures, but will also explore several elements unique to fear-power cultures. In order to demonstrate that penal substitutionary atonement is not only viable, but also vital when sharing the gospel in animistic fear-power cultures, we will first examine the basis of fear-power culture the way anthropologists and missiologists define it. We will also consider how certain missiologists today are employing the category of fear-power in their models for proclaiming the atonement. We will see that while there are some benefits to categorizing cultures in this way, there are also several problems that emerge from the 3D gospel model proposed by Georges. Then, we will consider Scripture’s own categories and framework for how to understand fear and power dynamics. The Bible speaks often about fear and power and the atonement addresses these issues, but we must understand them in relationship to penal substitutionary atonement because it is the means by which God delivers us from bondage to the fear and the power of Satan.
2. Animistic Fear-Power Culture
The concept of dividing cultures into “guilt” or “shame” cultural categories was based upon the book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946) by Ruth Benedict. In her book, Benedict sought to apply sociological patterns she had previously developed to social aspects of Japanese culture. A few years later, anthropologist Eugene Nida added fear as a third response to transgressions committed against religiously sanctioned codes in his book Customs and Cultures (1954). It is clear from Nida’s writing that he never intended for it to be a framework for categorizing cultures at large, but rather was simply highlighting different types of reactions people have when they violate religious expectations.
Many missiologists since Nida have postulated that there are certain dynamics of fear and power in animistic cultures that do not appear as clearly in Western society. Perhaps most notable is Paul G. Hiebert’s article “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” which first appeared in 1982. Hiebert argues that secularization in the West has resulted in a two-tiered worldview instead of a three-tiered worldview. On the highest tier, Westerners think of God in cosmic history and his role in the creation and destiny of all things. On the lowest tier, they think of the natural world in terms of autonomous scientific laws. The middle tier, which is often excluded in Western thinking, is where beings and forces that cannot be directly perceived exist. In animistic cultures, these include spirits, ghosts, ancestors, and demons that have distinct influence over certain spheres of nature such as trees, water, animals or over locations such as mountains and forests, or over human beings. These spirits exercise their power by causing sickness or evil behavior among those they influence.
As missionaries such as Hiebert engaged people in animistic cultures, they noticed that their own two-tiered worldview created a blind spot that kept them from being able to address the daily issues faced by people in such cultures. According to anthropologist Charles H. Kraft, gospel messages about faith, love, and forgiveness of sins are not likely to impact a people in a power-oriented culture. Kraft argues that gospel presentations in such cultures should include a “power encounter,” modeled after the pattern of Jesus’ healing and miracle working ministry. Power encounters generally include a visible demonstration, such as physical healing or exorcism, to show that the power of God is greater than that of the local pagan god.
3. Fear-Power Missionary Strategies Today
More recently, missiologists like Georges, have embraced the tripartite division of guilt, shame, and fear cultures and utilized it as a foundational framework for understanding cultures. Georges acknowledges that this paradigm is overly simplistic when writes, “Each cultural worldview is a unique blend of guilt, shame, and fear… Like all cultural paradigms, the guilt-shame-fear trichotomy simplifies complexities into categories for the sake of clarity.” Despite this qualification, however, he goes on to argue that each culture has a dominant cultural bent, which means that people in particular cultures can understand certain metaphors of the atonement better than others and we should present the theory that is most culturally plausible.
Georges highlights three theories of the atonement—ransom, satisfaction, and penal substitution and argues that these speak most effectively to the three types of cultures—ransom (fear-power), satisfaction (shame-honor), and penal substitution (guilt-innocence). While he maintains that all “three strands of the gospel never function in isolation,” he nevertheless concludes that presenting the gospel in a particular culture “may warrant an emphasis on one approach above others.” Thus, for those in a fear-power culture, Georges argues that we should present the ransom or Christus Victor model of the atonement rather than the penal substitution view because what is needed in that context is a power encounter. In a modified version of the Four Spiritual Laws, he proposes the following gospel presentation for a fear-power culture:
1. God is sovereign and offers you spiritual authority. God created us to rule his entire creation (seen and unseen) and experience his spiritual blessings. 2. People fearfully live under the authority of Satan. Our idolatry separates us from divine power. The powers of darkness rule over all people, causing sin, death, and harm. 3. Jesus is the warrior who restores our power. Jesus conquered evil powers and death to bring God’s power and blessings. His death disarmed powers and provides spiritual authority to us. 4. You must know Jesus to access divine power. Relationally trust Jesus Christ alone for protection and power. Turn from magical rituals and occultism for authority and blessings.
When sharing the story of salvation with those in a fear-power culture, Georges contends that we should use language that denotes combat, rather than language that reflects a courtroom (penal substitution) or community (shame-honor) because this is the language that shapes their worldview. Before we look at Georges’ 3D model more closely and examine some of its weaknesses, it is worth highlighting some of its strengths.
First of all, Georges is right to draw attention to the fact that the atonement is multi-faceted and that these various facets help us better understand the scope and beauty of our salvation in Christ. He writes, “a one-dimensional gospel threatens the veracity and integrity of the Bible. We misread Scripture and construct a sub-biblical view of God. If God does not save us from shame and fear… we severely minimize his glory as God.” Scripture does, in fact, speak at length to how the cross of Christ addresses both our shame and fear and Georges is right to draw attention to these important biblical categories. Another strength is that Georges takes Hiebert’s law of the excluded middle seriously and thus avoids an unbiblical two-tiered worldview. As Christians consider how to communicate the gospel in any culture, they must be cognizant of the spiritual forces at work and how the gospel addresses these real powers. Scripture is clear that there are evil spirits at work behind idolatrous forms of worship and they have the ability to blind and lead unbelievers astray from true worship of God (Deut. 32:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:20). When the gospel is communicated in an animistic context, it is vital to reframe a person’s perspective so that it is in accordance with a Biblical understanding of spiritual powers. A gospel that does not address these issues is truncated and can result in a syncretistic understanding of the gospel, where a person maintains allegiance to spiritual rituals and practices in the “excluded middle” despite his claim to follow Christ. The atonement motif of Christus Victor, that is, Christ’s victory over Satan and the powers, has not had as prominent of a place in Western theology as it should, and those who are ministering among people in an animistic culture would do well to give proper biblical emphasis to this doctrine. Notwithstanding these strengths, there are at least two serious weaknesses in what Georges proposes—his parsing of culture and his theological method.
4. The Complexity of Culture
Although Georges acknowledges that his trifurcation of cultures into fear-shame-guilt categories is overly simplistic, he does not perhaps recognize how such a simplification can distort our understanding of a person’s culture and result in a distorted gospel presentation. The main distortion in his model as it relates to culture is that penal substitution makes sense in the West because its cultural heritage is one of guilt. According to Georges, the penal substitution view makes most sense in a guilt-oriented culture because the West is shaped by the language and values of Western law. In other words, Georges believes that penal substitution is understandable and accepted in the West because the West has a cultural heritage where the legal metaphor for salvation makes the most sense. Christianity has thus taken root in the West because the legal metaphor has been the predominant gospel presentation and Westerners have a category for guilt. If those in Majority World cultures are to hear and understand the gospel, so Georges and others argue, then we need to utilize a different gospel presentation that appeals to their dominant cultural orientation.
But Georges puts the cart before the horse when he starts with Western culture and tries to explain theological motifs. In his article reviewing the empirical data for whether or not there is a basis for the guilt-shame-fear trichotomy, Simon Cozens points to a comprehensive study, which indicates that Christianity itself has actually produced a guilt-oriented culture in the West. In other words, the reason penal substitution and the categories of guilt, law, retributive justice, are so prominent in the West is because Christianity and the Bible have been so influential over the centuries. The Christian faith has influenced the West to develop and reflect biblical categories in ways that the Majority World has not because Christianity has not been prominent there. Therefore, rather than minimizing these biblical categories and starting with the dominant cultural categories of other cultures, Christians have a responsibility to find ways to communicate these biblical truths to people in other cultures.
Not only does Georges misdiagnose the causation for the popularity of penal substitution in the West, but he also underestimates the prevalence of fear-power dynamics in the West. As the West continues to move away from its Christian heritage and embraces postmodernity, more Westerners find themselves operating on the plane of the “excluded middle.” If there is no transcendent God who can be known via revelation (top tier) and the natural world has been emptied of all spiritual meaning by an evolutionary and naturalist worldview (bottom tier), then the fear of meaninglessness, as Tillich put it, drives a person to fill the void with some kind of spiritual meaning and control (middle tier). In order to discover meaning and cope with daily life in the West today, one does not usually seek after religious doctrine to get rid of guilt, but rather looks for a source of spiritual power and new techniques, which include things like horoscopes, crystals, and tarot cards. Thus, animism and fear-power dynamics are not limited to Africa and Latin America in remote tribal settings but are very much prominent in so called guilt and shame-oriented cultures. Georges hints at this when he says that the dynamics of fear and power “also influence a Brazilian businessman praying to a saint or a Washington politician consulting an astrologer.”
In spite of this brief qualification, Georges underestimates the rise of neo-paganism in the West and the pervasiveness of animism throughout all religions. For instance, Georges labels Muslim, Indian, Buddhist, and Japanese civilizations as shame-honor cultures, but fails to acknowledge that each of these cultures, with their respective religions, have their own forms of folk religion (animism) operating below the surface of their high religion. In fact, Van Rheenen estimates that at least 40 percent of the world’s population is animistic. This is not surprising when one realizes that idolatry is at the heart of animism—people worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:18-32).
While Georges’ tripartite model for culture has broad explanatory value for thinking about the dynamics of fear/power, guilt/innocence, and shame/honor at play within various cultures, it lends itself to be used in an overly simplistic manner in which the interrelated dynamics of guilt, fear, and shame that operate in every culture are isolated from each other in an exaggerated manner. Beech has demonstrated that dividing whole countries or regions into one of the three categories is methodologically erroneous. In an empirical study among Hispanic Bolivians and mestizo Quechua communities, he determined that Hispanic Bolivians, whether urban or rural were more concerned with shame-honor dynamics whereas the Quechua in rural areas were more fear-power oriented. Thus, even people groups in neighboring communities exhibit various dynamics, so research and categorizing of cultures needs to be done in close relational proximity. In an increasingly globalized and urbanized world, we need to resist simplistic explanations of culture that collapse complex realities into inaccurate stereotypes.
In conclusion, practitioners who utilize this model need to be cognizant that the distinction between shame and guilt, for instance, is considerably less clear-cut and more complex than the tripartite model indicates. Furthermore, as we will see, there is a causal relationship between guilt before God and the resulting experience of fear and shame. Our gospel presentations, therefore, must address all three elements in an integrated manner and not separate atonement motifs from one another depending on the culture. Even though Georges may agree with this in principle, his model functionally isolates these dynamics of culture from one another as well the corresponding atonement metaphors.
5. Theological Method
More troubling than an undue division of cultural dynamics is Georges’ theological method of the atonement. As mentioned earlier, Green and Baker contend that penal substitution is not necessarily the fruit of biblical exegesis, but rather the result of a cultural narrative in the West. Elsewhere, drawing on Herman-Emiel Martens, Green argues that interpretations of Jesus’ death are tied to particular cultures and times so that no interpretation can be regarded as the only authentic or definitive one. To establish his point, Green points to Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo and argues that his satisfaction theory of the atonement is not the result of biblical exegesis, but rather a result of doing theology in a feudal world where honoring one’s liege was critical. Green does not believe, however, that Anselm’s theory is wrong, because even Paul was necessarily speaking about the atonement in terms relative to his cultural context.
For Green, therefore, atonement theories, whether found in Scripture or historical theology, are valid interpretations of what Jesus’ accomplished on the cross relative to a particular society at a particular time. In his estimation, no one atonement metaphor should be elevated above the others, but we should view them each as various colors of a kaleidoscope. The potential danger of such a view, as Greg Boyd indicates in his response to Green, is that it is relativistic and reduces atonement themes to the product of human contexts. Of course, Green is right to indicate that we should understand Jesus’ death and Paul’s interpretation of that death in light of the historical context in which Scripture was written. But Schreiner rightly reminds us that that Scripture is not merely a human perspective on our dilemma confined to a cultural setting; it is God’s transcendent Word to all people in all cultures and times and reveals the genuine predicament of humans before God.
Green’s kaleidoscopic view of the atonement means that one can, and in fact must, begin with one’s own cultural categories as the lens by which to interpret and understand the death of Jesus. For Anslem, this lens was colored by an honor-shame dynamic. For Augustine and Luther, their interpretive lens was colored by a guilt-innocence dynamic. For those in African and tribal settings, their lens is primarily colored by fear-power dynamics. Since this is inevitably the case, it makes sense to present the metaphor or theory of atonement that most clearly resonates with a person’s cultural orientation. Georges seems to be following a similar line of thinking to Green and Baker when he writes:
The penal substitution theory emerged from Reformed legal scholars in the mid-1600s. Since 1800 it has become the dominant atonement theory in Western Christianity, perhaps since it uses the language and values of Western law (esp. retributive justice) to explain how guilty individuals can be legally exonerated in heaven.
As explored already, however, it was not the cultural setting that caused an emphasis on penal substitution and removal of guilt among the Protestant reformers, rather it was the influence of the Scriptures upon the reformers, and subsequently on Western culture, as they rediscovered the heart of the gospel after it had been obscured by the Roman church. But the point to be made here is that Georges views penal substitution as a Western, contextualized theology that causes problems when it is elevated to the level of biblical truth and exported to those in shame-honor or fear-power contexts.
On the one hand, Green and Baker argue that penal substitution is not only an unnecessary hindrance for people of other cultures to come to faith but is also a misrepresentation of biblical data. On the other hand, Georges maintains that penal substitution is a valid theory of the atonement, but one that is contextually derived from Western categories, and therefore, ineffective in Majority World cultures. Furthermore, Georges claims that Western missionaries tend to present a truncated form of the gospel by focusing only on penal substitution in their gospel presentations. Georges proposes his 3D model as a solution to this perceived deficiency and argues that we should begin with the cultural context of those with whom we are sharing the gospel, then communicate the metaphor of the atonement that best connects with the culture.
Despite Georges claim that all three strands of the gospel should not function in isolation, his 3D model ultimately proposes this very thing. For instance, his fear-power gospel presentation (Christus Victor) given above includes nothing about penal substitution or satisfaction. While Georges argues that Western missionaries present a truncated version of the gospel when communicating penal substitution to non-Western listeners, his model advocates for the presentation of a different, yet still truncated strand of the gospel in other cultures—a honor-shame gospel for Asians and Middle Easterners and a fear-power gospel for Africans. The biblical authors, however, move from one view of the atonement to another effortlessly, as Georges even highlights from the letter to the Ephesians. In order to show that the atonement bears on all three facets of guilt, shame, and power, Georges points the following verses from Ephesians:
Guilt-Innocence—“In him we have redemption through the blood, the forgiveness of sins” (1:7a). God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (2:5). Shame-Honor—“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (1:5). “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (2:19, cf. 2:12-13). Fear-Power—“That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at this right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (1:19-21). “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (6:10-11).
Georges is right to point out that Christ’s work has ramification for our issues of guilt, fear, and shame, but the model he proposes fails to follow the lead of the biblical authors in presenting the multifaceted work that Christ accomplished. Georges argues that the cultures of the biblical world were primarily shame and fear based but fails to see how this fact, when coupled with Paul’s presentation of the gospel in Ephesians, contradicts his claim that “the driving forces of a particular culture may warrant an emphasis on one approach above others.” If we grant that Paul was writing to a shame and fear based culture, why then does he have no trouble presenting the gospel in such a way that it connects with all three elements? Did Paul not realize that these Ephesians would not grasp why they needed to have their sins forgiven and guilt removed? Would not their cultural background prevent them from accepting and receiving the gospel as Paul was presenting it? If we develop a theology of the atonement by starting with the lens of culture rather than with Scripture, numerous problems such as this arise. In short, we end up constructing and communicating a deficient, unbiblical gospel. The potential danger of such a model is nothing short of syncretism.
In fact, if we examine Georges fear-power gospel presentation above more closely, it is not hard to imagine how such a presentation of the gospel could easily result in what Hiebert calls a “Christianized animism.” In Georges’ Christus Victor gospel message there is no mention of the gravity of our sin against God or the need for forgiveness. The overall focus is on how one can get power and spiritual authority so that they are freed from oppressive forces. This partial gospel presentation, like animism, provides a human-centered worldview that neglects the God-centered vision of reality revealed in the biblical worldview. It addresses our sources of fear and power at a horizontal level regarding our relationship to spiritual powers but neglects the vertical dimension of our salvation upon which the achievements of the cross are based. At the end of the day, such a message falls short of addressing our deepest need as revealed in Scripture.
Contrary to Green, Baker, and Georges, this article contends that if we are going to construct and present a theology of the atonement that reflects the biblical teaching on the cross, even in so-called animistic fear-power cultures, then we must do so from within the Bible’s own framework and categories, rather than from extra-Biblical categories such as one’s culture. It is true that every interpreter comes to the Scriptures with cultural and philosophical presuppositions that potentially influence the way we understand certain passages, and that God’s revelation comes to us via the cultural context of the biblical authors. Nevertheless, with faithful exegesis and the Spirit’s illumination, we can actually understand the meaning of Scripture as intended by its original author, no matter what cultural background we may come from or reside within. We are greatly influenced by our cultural presuppositions and categories, but we are not trapped inside of them. The Bible gives new categories and transforms worldviews so that we can understand what Christ has done for us on the cross. God’s Word illuminates darkened minds and confronts and creates a new culture among those who hear the gospel and respond.
Certain biblical themes may certainly stand out more lucidly to those in differing cultures, but if we approach the atonement from within the interpretive framework of Scripture, we discover that penal substitution is essential to a biblical theology of the atonement and the gospel and cannot simply be set aside in favor of other views that we deem more effective in a given culture. Furthermore, the Bible often speaks about fear and power and how the cross addresses these issues, but we must understand them in relationship to penal substitutionary atonement since it is the means by which our fear and power issues are rightly dealt with before God.
6. Penal Substitution and Fear-Power Dynamics
When we trace the history of fear, we have to begin in Genesis 3:10, as God calls out to Adam in hiding. Adam’s response, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid” reveals the source of Adam’s fear. He is afraid because he has disobeyed God’s commandment to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree and has already experienced one consequence of his disobedience—awareness of his nakedness (shame). But there is little doubt that Adam was afraid of God finding him out because of a greater consequence that He had forewarned Adam about. In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam that the consequence for violating the one law in Eden was death. Was God now on His way to execute this judgment on Adam? We have every reason to assume this was the case based on God’s clear commandment.
According to Matthew Schlimm, the Hebrew word for “fear,” occurs 419 times in the Old Testament and of the more than 200 references that refer to a fear of God, three-quarters of them indicate a fear derived from the perception that God will judge them for their sins. There is clearly a causal relationship between our guilt and fear in the Bible. This does not discount the reality that many animists today live in fear of evil spirits as also many people did during the earthly ministry of Jesus. Nor is it to undermine the importance of the Christus Victor motif evident in the storyline of Scripture. It is simply to highlight that the source of all our fear, and the correlated desire to gain power in order to minimize that fear, is a result of our first ancestor’s transgression against God.
The Christus Victor metaphor of the atonement has experienced a renaissance in the past century, especially since Gustaf Aulen published his work Christus Victor in 1931. Since then, theologians have increasingly drawn attention to the warfare motif in Scripture and Christ’s victory over the cosmic powers. This theme in Scripture is undoubtedly an important one that is all too often neglected by evangelicals in Western cultures. As a result of the “flaw of the excluded middle,” many Westerns live as if there were no such thing as spiritual principalities and powers, nor a literal Satan who exercises power over institutions, ideas, and people. As Rutledge says, “most biblical interpretation in the modern age has been done as though there were only two dramatis personae, God and humanity—thereby demystifying the New Testament, which presents three.”
The Christus Victor theme of the atonement helps us appreciate and live in light of Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness and has profound implications for how we understand our sanctification in this life and our future hope in the life to come. Not only should it be proclaimed from the Scriptures to those in animistic fear-power cultures, but it should also be heralded among Western evangelicals. What Green, Baker, and Georges propose, however, fails to account for the biblical teaching that Christ’s victory over Satan and demonic powers was actually made possible by Christ’s penal substitution for sinners on the cross. Georges’ 3D model enables him to separate the various themes of the atonement from one another in order to place emphasis on that which is most culturally plausible. But should we not place emphasis where Scripture does and not separate what Scripture holds together? How does Scripture portray penal substitution and Christus Victor as relating to one another?
Two significant New Testament passages that reveal the interconnectedness of both motifs are Colossians 2:13-15 and Hebrews 2:14-17. We will briefly consider these in turn. First, let us consider Colossians 2:13-15:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
In this passage, Paul clearly sets forth the forensic aspect of our salvation when he indicates that Christ’s death canceled the record of debt against us with its legal demands. Our “record of debt” is the result of breaking God’s law with all its legal demands. Melick puts it well when he writes, “the slate of human lives was soiled with an I.O.U. that stems from the law and its requirements.” As the representative of His people, Jesus paid the penalty we were under by dying our death. In this one verse, we are given a concise description of penal substitution. Notice how Paul then moves effortlessly in verse fifteen to describe the cosmic victory likewise achieved at the cross. The rulers and authorities, undoubtedly the evil powers against us, were put to open shame and God triumphed over them in Christ. Bruce points out that rulers and principalities had possession of the “damning indictment” that “was a means of controlling” Christ’s people. In other words, the way in which Christ overthrows the powers is by the payment of our sin debt.
A similar concept is found in Colossians 1:13-14 where Paul tells us that believers are rescued from the domain of darkness and are transferred into the kingdom of God’s beloved son, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Thus, the work of Christ on the cross brings forgiveness of our sins and simultaneously effects deliverance from Satan. Smeaton aptly explains how the atonement of Christ results in victory over the Satan:
Sin was the ground of Satan’s dominion, the sphere of his power, and the secret of his strength; and no sooner was the guilt lying on us extinguished, than his throne was undermined, as Jesus Himself said (John 12:31). When the guilt of sin was abolished, Satan’s dominion over God’s people was ended; for the ground of his authority was the law which had been violated, and the guilt which had been incurred. 
A similar picture emerges in Hebrews 2:14-17:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
The author of Hebrews indicates that Jesus, through his death, destroyed the devil and delivered those who were enslaved to him as a result of their fear of death. But why did Jesus have to share in flesh and blood with the human race and die in order to destroy the work of the devil? Why did Jesus not simply wage war on the devil and annihilate all the armies of hell with a word? His earthly ministry demonstrates that there was no contest between Satan’s power and his own. Why not just call on legions of angels from heaven to overthrow Satan instead of the horrific suffering of the cross? These questions bring us again to that early scene in Eden where the ancient serpent tempted Adam to sin and Adam hid in fear from God.
Genesis 1 tells us that Adam was made in the image of God and was to have dominion over all God’s creation (Gen. 1:26-28). In other words, Adam and the human race that would come from him were to rule over God’s creation as his representatives. In Genesis 3, however, we are told that Satan, in the form of a serpent, entered the garden and deceived the first man. Satan did so by getting Adam to question God’s command and to rebel against his Creator. Rather than submitting to God and exercising dominion over creation, Adam sinned and as a result, Satan gained dominion over him and all humanity. Bondage to Satan, therefore, is a result of Adam’s rebellion against God, and his disobedience had cosmic implications for the whole human race.
It is first and foremost Adam’s sin against God, therefore, that necessitates the death of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. The whole letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that the judgment of death comes as a result of sin (Heb. 9:27) and we are freed from punishment as Jesus, our representative and true image of God, makes propitiation for our sins (Heb. 2:17). Once Christ has removed our guilt for sin, Satan no longer has power over us and there is no fear of punishment or death (1 Jn. 4:18). Here, as in Colossians 2:13-15, we see that the Christus Victor theme is operative through penal substitution because Satan’s primary weapon against us is accusation (Rev. 12:10-11). Thus, Christ’s obedient death as our sinless substitute has cosmic repercussions over the powers of sin, death, and Satan. Once our greatest problem is addressed—the need for the forgiveness of sins, all other problems that were the result of Adam’s sin, are also resolved.
7. The Need for an Integrated Atonement Model
Before drawing some final conclusions about Georges’ 3D model, it will be helpful to summarize what we have covered to this point. First, we explored how some missiologists believe that people in an animistic culture will have difficulty grasping or resonating with a gospel presentation that is framed in forensic or substitutionary terms. Instead, they propose that different atonement metaphors should be prioritized above penal substitution since people in these cultures already have categories to understand these concepts and these are the issues faced in daily life. Next, we examined Georges’ tripartite model of culture and determined that while there is some explanatory value in thinking about cultures in this way, there is also a danger in mischaracterizing the complexity of culture. Then, we considered how Georges’ model is in line with Green’s “kaleidoscopic view” of the atonement and noted some of the dangers inherent in this theological method. Such a view rejects any supracultural and Scriptural framework for how the atonement metaphors might be intrinsically related and integrated together. The result of this atonement theology is a “choose your own metaphor” approach to preaching the gospel depending on the cultural context. Furthermore, even though Green indicates that all metaphors should be considered valid and utilized where appropriate, he rejects penal substitution as a biblical metaphor.
While Georges does not reject the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement, his 3D model of culture isolates dynamics of guilt and fear in an exaggerated way. Despite his contention that that all atonement metaphors should not be isolated from one another, in practice, Christus Victor becomes prioritized over and against penal substitution. The practical implication of his model is that there are three different gospels for three different types of cultures. But as we have briefly seen in our examination of Colossians and Hebrews, Scripture presents a unified or integrated model for the atonement in which each aspect is vital for understanding the whole. Missiologists, like Georges, would do better to develop their methods for contextualizing the atonement using theological models that integrate the atonement metaphors rather than isolating them from one another like Green’s kaleidoscopic approach does.
If we emphasize Christus Victor without first grounding it in the penal substitutionary work of Christ, we undermine the reality that our greatest problem is first and foremost that we need to be rescued from God Himself (Ps. 51:4) and we separate what Scripture holds together. Both atonement motifs are essential to what Christ accomplished on the cross. They should not be viewed as competing models in which we have to choose the most plausible one depending on the cultural situation; rather they should be viewed as complementary and integrated.
Furthermore, we must recognize that the doctrine of penal substitution holds a biblical and logical priority over Christus Victor because the former explains and secures the latter. In telling the Corinthians of what is of first importance to the gospel message, the apostle Paul reminds them that Christ died and was buried and resurrected in accordance with the Scriptures “for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is true that we need to be delivered from the power of Satan if we are to live as God’s image bearers, but we are not merely passive captives who need to obtain greater spiritual authority over the powers that keep us bound in fear. We need to have our sins forgiven through the substitutionary death of Christ so that we can be set free from our bondage to Satan and evil powers.
Fear is an emotion experienced by people of all cultures ever since sin came into the world. Most often our fear is sinful and misguided because it is not oriented in right relationship to God. Since the so-called death of God inevitably led to the death of transcendent meaning, many in the postmodern West live with a low-grade level of anxiety and increasingly turn to psychiatrists, psychics, and even shamans to address their fears. In animistic cultures, people still live with fear and trembling because evil spirits and “ancestors” wield control over them.
The way to address these fear-power dynamics in any cultural context is not to present a truncated view of the gospel that only proclaims Christ’s victory over the powers. Such a view would no doubt appeal to those who live in animistic, fear-power cultures as they constantly seek new rituals, spells, mediums or powers to overcome daily challenges. The same was true for Simon the magician as he marveled at the miracles and signs performed by Philip and sought to gain such power by monetary means (Acts 8:9-25). He gladly “believed” in the name of Jesus Christ for his own gain, but what he failed to do was repent before God and experience forgiveness for the guilt of his sins (Acts 8:22).
A better way to address issues of fear and power is to do the hard and sometimes slow work of faithfully teaching people a biblical worldview, which includes giving them categories of sin, guilt, and God’s righteous judgment where these are lacking. Addressing these issues first, provides hearers with a biblical framework from which they can rightly understand biblical dynamics of fear and power, especially as they relate to spiritual forces of evil and their relationship to our sin. Any gospel message that presents our victory over the powers and principalities of darkness without the explanation of how this victory is achieved through Christ’s vicarious substitution on the cross, falls short of the biblical gospel. In the end, such an approach has the potential not only to undermine someone’s understanding of his or her greatest need before God—the forgiveness of sins, but also to undermine how one should think about issues of fear and power in relation to God and the evil spirits. Presenting the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement is thus vital for faithful gospel preaching in every culture.
 Frank Furedi, “Fear Today,” First Things 289 (January 2019): 9–11.
 Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 301-37.
 David F. Wells also explores this shift from a moral foundation to a therapeutic one in God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients Our World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).
 Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (New Haven, CO: Yale University Press, 2000), 40 as quoted in Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017), 303.
 Michael Reeves, Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 25. In addressing what Western culture does with anxiety and fear, Reeves says, “Given its essentially secular self-identity, our society will not turn to God. The only possible solution, then, must be for us to sort it out ourselves. Thus Western, post-Enlightenment society has medicalized fear. Fear has become an elusive disease to be medicated.”
 Mark D. Baker and Joel B. Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts, 2nd edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011), 42. For other works with similar claims see Mark D. Baker, Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006) and Mark D. Baker, “Embracing a Wider Cross: Contextualizing the Atonement” in Out of the Strange Silence: The Challenges of Being Christian in the 21st Century, ed. Brad Thiessen (Winnipeg and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred Productions, 2005).
 Baker and Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, 192-200.
 Jayson Georges, The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures (N.p.: Timē Press, 2014). Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker, Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016).
 Jackson Wu, Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame (Pasadena, CA: William Carey International University Press, 2013).
 Wu is addressing shame-honor cultures and not fear-power cultures in his work, but he elsewhere endorses and promotes Georges work, which includes the fear-power category. Underlying both of these authors is a similar trajectory toward emphasizing particular atonement models in certain cultures over and against penal substitutionary atonement.
 See for instance David E. Rennalls, “How Penal Substitution Addresses Our Shame: The Bible’s Shame Dynamics and Their Relationships to Evangelical Doctrine,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 23.3 (2019): 77–98. Aubrey Sequeira and Anand Samuel, “Nothing To Be Ashamed Of: Penal Substitutionary Atonement In Honor-Shame Cultures,” 9Marks Journal: The Heart of the Gospel (August 2019): 96-104. Aubrey Sequeira and Anand Samuel, “Still Not Ashamed: A Response to Jackson Wu,” 9Marks, September 3, 2019.
 Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2006).
 These patterns were first explored in Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture (Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2006), which was originally published in 1934.
 Eugene A. Nida, Customs and Cultures: Anthropology for Christian Missions (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 150.
 Paul G. Hiebert, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” Missiology 10.1 (1982): 35–47.
 The term power encounter was coined by missionary anthropologist Alan Richard Tippett, People Movements in Southern Polynesia: Studies in the Dynamics of Church-Planting and Growth in Tahiti, New Zealand, Tonga, and Samoa (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1971).
 Charles H. Kraft, “Three Encounters in Christian Witness,” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), 445.
 Georges, The 3D Gospel, 16.
 Georges writes, “Each culture type accepts a particular conceptual metaphor as most plausible. That means the language and values from one area of life (i.e., courtroom, community, or combat) are used as metaphors to organize their worldview and spiritual life… People can better understand salvation in Christ when we use the language of culturally plausible metaphors. Georges, The 3D Gospel, 58.
 Paul Pruyser makes a similar, though slightly different argument to show the relationship between different atonement motifs and emotions of fear, guilt, and shame in Paul W. Pruyser, “Anxiety, Guilt, and Shame in the Atonement,” Theology Today 21.1 (1964): 15–33.
 The 3D Gospel, 61.
 The 3D Gospel, 57-58.
 The 3D Gospel, 58.
 The 3D Gospel, 74.
 Paul G. Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, 17th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1986), 223.
 The 3D Gospel, 54.
 See, for example, Werner Mischke, Samuel Chiang, and Steven Hawthorne, The Global Gospel: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World (Scottsdale, AZ: Mission ONE, 2015), 60-61.
 Jean Delumeau, Sin and Fear: The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture, 13th-18th Centuries, (New York: St Martins Press, 1991).
 Simon Cozens, “Shame Cultures, Fear Cultures, and Guilt Cultures: Reviewing the Evidence,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 42.4 (2018), 329.
 The 3D Gospel, 25.
 Gailyn Van Rheenen, Communicating Christ In Animistic Contexts (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), 30.
 Geoff Beech, “Shame/Honor, Guilt/Innocence, Fear/Power in Relationship Contexts,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 42.4 (2018): 338–46.
 Darrell L. Whiteman makes the same argument though he is more sympathetic to Georges than the author of this paper. Whiteman, “Shame/Honor, Guilt/ Innocence, Fear/Power: A Missiological Response to Simon Cozens and Geoff Beech,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 42.4 (2018), 352.
 Cozens, “Shame Cultures, Fear Cultures, and Guilt Cultures,” 333.
 Baker and Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, 42.
 Joel B. Green, “Kaleidoscopic Response” in Four Views: The Nature of the Atonement, ed. Paul R. Eddy and James Beilby (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 206.
 Green seems to be leaning toward a postmodern, non-realism hermeneutic here, which indicates that we cannot arrive at a transcendent meaning in the text because we are captive to our own cultural presuppositions and language. For a helpful exploration of a hermeneutic of critical realism, which says we can arrive at adequate, though imperfect knowledge of a text, see Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).
 Greg Boyd, “Christus Victor Response to Kaleidoscopic View” in Four Views: The Nature of the Atonement, 187.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, “Penal Substitution Response to Kaleidoscopic View” in Four Views: The Nature of the Atonement, 193.
 The 3D Gospel, 54.
 Georges and Baker, Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, 294.
 For instance, Baker and Green write, “The Scriptures as a whole provide no ground for a portrait of an angry God needing to be appeased in atoning sacrifice.” Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, 51.
 The 3D Gospel, 12.
 The 3D Gospel, 61.
 Several scholars have observed that the reason the Charismatic movement has seen explosive growth in Africa is because it emphasizes similar ideas as African Tribal Religion. Rather than leading to transformation (i.e. conversion) at the worldview level, Christian concepts are practiced externally, but ATR remains the operational worldview underneath. See Dominic Umoh, “Superstition and Syncretism: Setbacks to Authentic Christian Practice in Africa,” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention 2.7 (2013): 32-40. Matthews A. Ojo, “Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements in Nigeria: Factors of Growth and Inherent Challenges,” The WATS Journal 3.1 (2018): 74-94.
 Hiebert, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” 47.
 See Stephen J. Wellum, God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 82. Wellum writes, “Regarding the interpretive framework for an evangelical articulation and defense, orthodox Christology today requires an intratextual approach…according to the categories and structure of the Scriptures…we must think about Jesus’ identity according to and work from within the interpretive framework of Scripture.”
 Poythress warns us that, “When we come to the Bible and try to listen to its claims, we can easily misjudge those claims if we hear them only from within the framework of our own modern assumptions.” Vern S. Poythress, Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 21.
 Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 442. In discussing worldview change, Hiebert (p. 331) says new believers “must be enculturated into a new culture and socialized into a new community.”
 Emphasis mine. Unless otherwise specified all Bible references in this paper are to The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Standard Bible Society, 2016).
 Matthew R. Schlimm, “The Paradoxes of Fear in the Hebrew Bible,” Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 84 (2019): 25–50.
 Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, trans. A. G. Herbert (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003).
 See Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1997); Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, Reprint edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017); and Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid, God Is a Warrior (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995).
 Rutledge, The Crucifixion, 377.
 For an exploration of the Christus Victor as it relates to our sanctification, see Greg Boyd, “Christus Victor View” in Four Views: The Nature of the Atonement, 46-47.
 Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1991), 264.
 N. T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon (Nottingham, England and Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2008), 113.
 F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 110.
 John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 230, 233.
 Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Christus Victor Et Propitiator,” For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 183.
 George Smeaton, The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1870), 307-8. Quoted in Ferguson, “Christus Victor Et Propitiator,” 184.
 Simon Gathercole argues that the basis of substitution should begin in Genesis 1-3 in “The Cross and Substitutionary Atonement,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 21.2 (2003), 160.
 G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, New Studies in Biblical Theology 17 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 81-93; Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 186-216.
 David H. Wenkel and John B. Song, “The Image of God and the Cosmos: A Response to the Individualist Critique of Penal Substitutionary Atonement,” The Reformed Theological Review 71.1 (2012), 10.
 Thomas R. Schreiner, “Penal Substitution Response to Christus Victor View” in Four Views: The Nature of the Atonement, 53.
 Henri Blocher, “The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Current Theological Situation,” European Journal of Theology 8.1 (1999), 31.
 Joel Green, “Must We Imagine the Atonement in Penal Substitutionary Terms?” The Atonement Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Theology of Atonement, ed. Derek Tidball, David Hilborn, and Justin Thacker (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 164.
 For an example of an integrated theology of the atonement see Joshua M. McNall, The Mosaic of Atonement: An Integrated Approach to Christ’s Work (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019).
 Barry D. Smith, The Meaning of Jesus’ Death: Reviewing the New Testament’s Interpretations (London: T&T Clark, 2017), 196. Smith goes so far to say, “These two theories should really be considered as two parts of a more inclusive theory, which may be called the Satisfaction and Spiritual Freedom theory of the atonement, or some such designation.”
 Treat makes a cogent argument for this in Jeremy R. Treat, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 221-24.