OK. We have been here before at ADU (e.g. first of four 2010 posts here, this year here and here, the latter responding to Liturgy's posts, e.g. here). Lately I have sung 'In Christ Alone' in two versions. The one which excites controversy, "the wrath of God was satisfied," and one which attempted not to, by substituting the cited words with (from memory) "the love of God was full magnified."
Benjamin Myers, an Australian theologian of note and burgeoning reputation, has posted something interesting in relation to the question of what happened on the cross on his blog Faith and Theology. Asking the question "How does Jesus save?", he summarises the "typology" or categorisation of salvation theories by Gustav Aulen and then offers an alternative set of six explanations, grounded in Scripture and in the writings of the Fathers:
"1. Christ the Second Adam. A major theme most powerfully developed by Irenaeus in his account of recapitulation. Christ restarts the human race from the beginning and sets it on a course towards life. Christ replaces Adam as the new life-giving head of the human family. (Main scriptural source: Romans 5.)
2. Christ the Sacrifice. This is an important background theme that becomes explicit mainly in liturgical texts. Melito of Sardis' On Pascha provides the most vivid elaboration of sacrificial imagery, artfully interwoven with a plethora of other Old Testament themes and images. (Main scriptural source: the Pentateuch and the Gospel of John.)
3. Christ the Teacher. A characteristic theme of the Alexandrian tradition. Christ is the divine pedagogue who, by a slow and patient process, leads human souls up into the presence of divine wisdom. In some accounts this process extends into the afterlife. Clement of Alexandria developed this theme explicitly. The same theme supplies the basic architecture of Origen's thought. Many accounts of deification are really just elaborations of the end result of this educational process: life is a school, and deification is the graduation prize. (Main scriptural source: the four Gospels.)
4. Christ the Brother. The adoption theme is prevalent in early Christian writing. Christ becomes our brother. Through him we become members of God's family. What he is by nature, we become by grace. It is often in this context that language of deification is used: Christ is God by nature, and as his brothers and sisters we become gods by grace. Adoption language is especially pervasive in Origen. By the fourth and fifth centuries the emphasis tends to fall more on deification, but the deification theme should still be understood as a subset of either the adoption theme or the education theme (#3 above). (Main scriptural source: Romans 8.)
5. Christ the Life-giver. One finds this theme everywhere in early Christian liturgical and theological texts. It is developed with an impressive systematic rigour in the work of Athanasius. The divine Logos had to become incarnate in order to become capable of dying; by entering into death, he absorbs death into the divine life, thus draining away death's power; and by rising again, he transforms corruptible human nature into a glorious incorruptible nature. Here Christ's death and resurrection are equally emphasised as the two poles of the saving event. (Main scriptural source: 1 Corinthians 15.)6. Christ the Healer. My impression is that this theme recurs more than any other soteriological theme in patristic writing, even though it is seldom developed in much detail. Very frequently Christ is described as a physician who cures our illness. Often he is also described as medicine. Gregory of Nazianzus speaks of the incarnation as a healing of human nature. Augustine is particularly fond of the healing theme, and it is a constant refrain in his sermons. He speaks of Adam as infecting the human race with the disease of pride, and of Christ's humility as the medicine that cures us. (Main scriptural source: the four Gospels.)"
There is food for thought here. Soteriology is a diamond with many faces!
Incidentally, Googling up the previous ADU posts led me to this brilliant post by Scot McKnight [corrected from earlier attribution to Michael Bird], in which he sets out the late, great Charlie Moule's argument for 'expiation' rather than 'propitiation' being the correct interpretation of those NT passages featuring hilasterion or related words.
What do you think? Should we still sing 'the wrath of God was satisfied' when we sing this popular hymn?