Review: Unoccupied Mission Fields of Asia & Africa

Rating: ★★★

Author: Samuel M. Zwemer was a pioneer missionary among Arabs along the Persian Gulf. His later career was spent writing, teaching and mobilizing for missions among Muslims while he was based in Egypt for many years, and later at Princeton Theological Seminary. (Click here for more on Samuel M. Zwemer, or read his biography.)

Genre:

The genre of this book requires some explanation. Unoccupied Mission Fields, especially the first half, falls into the category of missions survey. Missions survey books sought to compile information from European explorers and pioneer missionaries to explain basic information that we would expect to read today on Wikipedia: geography, demographics, population statistics, religious statistics, as well as other information pertinent for missionaries and intercessors. Missions survey is not well represented today in publishing, but in comprehensive resources and websites such as Operation World, The Joshua Project, and some resources by Voice of the Martyrs. Missions newsletters, biographies, and some large-scale studies (like A Wind in the House of Islam) also may meet the same goals as missions survey.

Overview:

Zwemer writes in the preface:

The purpose of this book is to give a survey of the extent and condition of the wholly unoccupied mission fields in Africa and Asia . . . and to consider the questions that bear on their occupation. (Preface, loc. 18)

This twofold purpose is roughly how the book is divided. After a lengthy rundown of neglected areas (especially Muslim-majority populations), the second half of Unoccupied Fields deals with heart issues and head issues involved with missionary advancement in these pioneer fields.

The book begins with many accounts of geographical areas with no missionaries (as of 1911). These are mildly interesting, since we can clearly see which areas have experienced rapid progress in the past century (mainly sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Asia), and others that have seemingly changed little since Zwemer’s day.

Zwemer then discusses the obstacles to missionary advancement in each region, the social and religious poverty among the unreached, missionary strategy, and the need for pioneer efforts.

Zwemer’s sources are primarily missions reports and missions biographies, with some explorers’ accounts and travelogues.

Despite many dated quotations, the second half of the book shows what made Zwemer famous. Aside from his very thorough research, the book is dripping with a pioneer spirit for the glory of Christ among the unreached, and that is the book’s chief value. The last few chapters are especially potent, and “The Glory of the Impossible” is worth the price of the book.

Quotes:

“These fields are the enemy’s citadels, the high places of his dominion, flaunting defiance in the face of a militant church.” (ch. 1, loc. 167)

“The first Missionary came unto His own and His own received Him not.” (ch. 1, loc. 169)

“God does not deal with mankind in the mass, but as individuals, nor should we. [sic]” (ch. 1, loc. 678)

“Decentralization in the mission field itself is another pressing problem.” (ch. 2, loc. 855)

“Meanwhile, how slowly move the hosts of God
To claim the crown He hath already won!” (ch. 3, loc. 1099)

“The march of missionary progress throughout the past century of Protestant missions has, with some exceptions, been along the line of least resistance. When the whole non-Christian world was awaiting pioneer effort, the Church sometimes postponed the harder tasks. . . . ” (ch. 3, loc. 1128)

“The gradual breaking down of barriers . . . is a call to greater faith and enterprise.” (ch. 3, loc. 1594)

“Long neglect, trying climates, political barriers, national jealousies and religious intolerance in all the unoccupied fields are only a challenge to faith and intended of God to lead us to prayer. All difficulties can be surmounted by those who have faith in God.” (ch. 3, p. 107, loc. 1630)

“The eyes of the Christian world turn as instinctively toward the lands closed to the Gospel in this missionary age, as do the eyes of a conquering army toward the few remaining outposts of the enemy.” (John Muir, qtd. in ch. 6, p. 166, loc. 2546)

“The pioneer stands in a class by himself, like Paul among the Apostles. His glory and joy is the magnitude and the difficulty of the task. The unknown attracts him. Obstacles allure him, and difficulties only knit his moral fibre and strengthen his purpose.” (ch. 7, p. 198, loc. 3027)

” . . . men who do not know what discouragement means. . . .” (ch. 7, p. 200, loc. 3059)

“God does not put the Polar bear on the Congo, nor the hippopotamus in the heart of Arabia . . . Lambs are provided with wool, and it is untrue that God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. He does not need to temper the wind, because He does not shear the lamb.” (ch. 7, p. 214, loc. 3267)

“Heap the difficulties together recklessly . . . He is the God of the impossible.” (Lillias Trotter, qtd. in ch. 8, p. 225, loc. 3436).

“We are not to choose conditions, but to meet them. The early apostles did not wait until the Roman Empire was ‘opened.'” (S. C. Rijnhart, qtd. in ch. 8, p. 227, loc. 3467)

Zwemer cites Bishop French’s tale, adding that MacKay had called for six young men and only French responded (ch. 8, p. 233, loc. 3572)

Livingstone challenged Cambridge men: “Do you carry out the work which I have begun. I leave it with you.” (ch. 8, p. 240, loc. 3674)

Selected quotes on Arabia and Islam:

“But in its native Arabian soil, the tree planted by the Prophet has grown up with wild freedom and brought forth fruit of its own kind. As regards morality, Arabia is on a low plane . . . ” (p. 142, loc. 2171)

“A religion that does not purify the home cannot regenerate the race.” (Fairbairn, qtd. p. 136, loc. 2085)

“The Gospel is the only hope for the social uplift of the world.” (p. 135, loc. 2061)

Zwemer cites amulet use (p. 118, loc. 1801); open slavery (p. 113, loc. 1729-1730); prostitution in Mecca veiled as ‘temporary marriage’ and the like.

“The chief barrier is that of Moslem political authority and not primarily religious fanaticism.” (p. 94, loc. 1437)

“Northern Oman together with the coast along the western side of the Persian Gulf has a large number of villages and cities. Only the coast towns thus far have been visited by missionaries and colporteurs and the people would welcome medical missions, yet there is no station in the entire area of the map.” (p. 45, loc. 675)

“Missionary work in Arabia so far has been largely preliminary.” (p. 34, loc. 518)

“The eastern tribes . . . are pagan . . . Their dialect is distinct . . . their customs are peculiar and primitive.” (p. 33)

Sources cited with recommendations:

In the Torrid Sudan
With Tibetans in Tent and Temple
Across the Sahara 
(Vischer)
Fighting the Slave-Hunters in Central Africa (Swann, 1910)
The Lower Niger & Its Tribes (Leonard, 1906)
Leaves from an Afghan Scrapbook
Six Months in Meccah
(Keane, 1881)

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The Danger of an Exalted Mission

An exalted mission is an ever-present tonic to the Christian. The mission will brook no lazy or chicken-hearted missionary. He stands up straight and checks his pulse at the tug of the apostolic chain. She who once neglected her body will now bring it under submission, for she is not shadow-boxing.

The mission demands much; it demands God. It puts us in immediate need of the Holy Spirit. The seven sons of Sceva find themselves out of their depth; hearsay has no power over the usurping devils in the human heart. We must have personal knowledge of him we preach.

The mission demands much—sometimes too much. It must not demand all. Then it becomes like a proud mustard tree, inviting foul birds to infest its branches. Mission may outstrip calling. Mission may outfly faith. Then we find ourselves, like Sceva’s sons, unable to provide the very power that our mission demands.

The apostolic missionary must take care that mission always submits to calling. Calling encompasses all of Christian life; mission, only a part. Calling is an expression of our relation to our Creator; mission is how we join him in rectifying a broken Creation. Mission is work; calling is not primarily work. We are called to:

  • The fellowship of his Son (1 Cor. 1:9)
  • Peace (1 Cor. 7:15)
  • The grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6)
  • Freedom (Gal. 5:13)
  • His kingdom and glory (1 Th. 2:12)
  • Holiness (1 Th. 4:7)
  • Marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9)
  • Suffering (1 Pet. 2:21)
  • Blessing (1 Pet. 3:9)
  • Glory and virtue (2 Pet. 1:3)

Never let the mission become more important than your calling. Don’t let being a hero become more important than being a Christian. Answer your Creator’s call with your waking breath, and let the mission be your response to that infant helplessness of prayer.

Review: A Pilgrim of the Infinite

Rating: ★★★★

Author: William Valentine Kelley (1843-1927) was an American Methodist preacher and author. He was a talented essayist and was editor of The Methodist Review from 1893 to 1919.

Kelley is an engaging writer with a florid, literary style. His breadth of subject matter is similar to literary preachers like Boreham, Gossip, or Stewart; but his content is less pointed.

Overview: A Pilgrim of the Infinite (1914) is a long essay on the subject of personality. Its overall argument, while rather philosophical, will ring a bell for readers of Mere Christianity or The God Who Is There; Kelley argues from human personality to the infinite.

Meat: Kelley argues convincingly that we have “eternity in our hearts”; the potential of human personality is boundless, and it can only be satisfied by an infinite God. Truly each of us is a “pilgrim of the infinite.”

Bones: Kelley’s style is sometimes over the top.

Gairdner at Niagara

Temple Gairdner was a prolific writer, an erudite scholar, and a committed missionary to the people of Egypt. The following is Temple Gairdner’s thoughtful account of visiting The Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls. He reflects on climbing into a dangerous cave, where winds can reach up to 68 mph. According to Wikipedia, guided tours were conducted there from 1841, but the cave was closed permanently in 1954 after a massive rockfall, making Gairdner’s description all the more precious.

I feel the same reluctance to begin writing about Niagara as I felt to approaching it. I hung about and finally approached the river above the Falls themselves—as bashfully as one approaches a mistress. And how shall I begin to write of it?

It is a roaring sea tilted up, seething down in great billows, gigantic waves leaping madly, not because they strike a rock but simply because they are burst upwards by the intolerable pressure of the furious waters beneath, all tearing pell-mell down, shoving each other down, up, aside, in the rush for annihilation over the fatal brink. And weirder and more terrific than the noise and the commotion of the rapid, is the silence, the helplessness with which they finally disappear over that edge. It is in the curve of that Horse-Shoe Fall that the waters really heap up, and that you realise the quantities that are going over. It is there that the water, as it seems to pause for an infinitesimal moment, shows the clear, deep body that reminded me again and again of that astounding description in Exodus “as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.”

When the audacious mortal tries to force an entrance into the very arcanum of Niagara, and dares the passage behind the Fall! That is the most thrilling—and the most baffled moment—of all.

This is the entrance into what is called the Cave of the Winds. Why it is so called will be clear in a moment. It is situated behind a small section of the American Fall, about fifty feet broad, isolated from the remainder by the occurrence of a very small islet above. One goes over to Goat Island, enters a changing-room, takes off every stitch of one’s clothing and dons a suit of flannels with a complete oilskin which is drawn over the head, and weird canvas shoes which make one’s two feet look like the tail of a seal. Then comes the descent by a spiral staircase enclosed in a chimney of wood, down the face of the cliff of Goat Island, till the screes at the bottom are reached.

We turn to the right and make towards the corner of the American Fall. Where it hits the screes, it divides into two or three cascades which come foaming down the rocks in two or three channels. These are spanned by small wooden bridges. Then, as we set foot on the first of them we are immediately enveloped in fine spray-mist. . . . We penetrate into the middle of the cloud. . . .

And then—oh wonder! Marvel of beauteous marvels! What sight is this? A rainbow. But what a rainbow! The like was never seen, save by S. John, around the Throne. A brilliant sun is shining overhead. Its rays of intense light fall on and suffuse this saturation of fine spray in the midst of which we stand, and the result is a rainbow of unimaginable intensity and brilliance—a double Rainbow. But—how shall I put the rapturous sight into words—it is not an arch! It is a circle! It bends about me on this side and on that side, yea, seems almost to meet behind me at my very feet! And oh ye gods, what is this? It moves, it moves as I move!!! It surrounds me and moves with me!! When I go forward my rainbow goeth forward!! It is my rainbow! I go back, it goeth back, for it will by no means leave its lord. Ha! What is this? Am I a god? By Jupiter—I am Jupiter! What ho, Ganymede! Bring me my golden flagon of nectar! My eagle, perch on my right hand! Hither to me, Lady Juno, and hear the behest of the rainbow-encircled one . . . Heavens! It was a godlike moment. The oil-skinned one with fishlike tail of canvas yelled with exultation against the bellow of the cataract, and cavorted, encaged in his rainbow, upon that slippery bridge.

Oh godlike moment, must thou pass? Yes, for I came to discover not a divinity for myself, but to track down the divinity of Niagara within her own temple. The Valhalla of this goddess is not the Rainbow-bridge on which I stand, but the deep mysterious recess to which this Rainbow is but the bridge. On, then, again.

I crossed the bridge and began to go up the path by the cascade direct towards the Fall. Already on the bridge one had been drenched from head to foot, in spite of the oilskins: a torrent of water had at once found its way down by the neck over one’s whole body. But torrential though the rain of spray on the footbridge was, it was child’s play to what followed. As I approached the foot of the cataract I was assailed by a perfect blizzard of wind and water, hurricaned across the path by the impact of the falling water on the rocks. One must half shut one’s eyelids and sidle along by the hand-rail peering and blinking. And yet that again was child’s play—only the vestibule to this tempest-goddess’s shrine. We now prepared to pass right behind the Fall, or rather, you understand, that small band of it which is isolated by the two islands above. The passage into this Cave of the Winds is made possible by the occurrence of a hollow, which the cataract clears in its leap from the ledge above. Into this veritable Hall of Aeolus, we now struggle.

A fight it is indeed. We have only some fifty feet to go, but they must be struggled through. The Cave of the Winds! Justly named! A perfect hurricane is blowing; this is no metaphor; the speed of the wind is that of a violent gale: it is the air that has been violently driven down by the falling water, packed and compressed, and now has been turned inwards and, being liberated, smashes obliquely, up and across, towards the opposite cliff-wall, bouncing off from that again, meeting the opposing current, fighting it, and with it producing a wind-inferno. With this alone one would have had almost to close one’s eyes and grope along by the hand-rail; but that is not all; these winds carry along with them flying gallons of thick drenching spray. It dashes itself against one’s face; it assails and assaults the eyes till they smart: mouth and nostrils are smitten till breathing labours; while the ears are deafened and the brain cleaved by the shrieking of the blast and the pelting-sound of the driven water striking the cliff, far more (apparently) than the noise of the Fall itself. The very senses with which one must look upon the goddess are giving out, used up and paralysed by the goddess’s mere attendant slaves. Nevertheless I made one last, and supreme, effort to behold her. Standing fairly in the centre of the footway, where the fury and the din were at their height, I faced—not so much the Fall, as the direction where I knew the Fall was. Disregarding the shrieking and the buffeting, I slowly pulled my eyelids apart and forced the smarting eyes to look straight ahead. . . . In vain! Utterly and entirely in vain! Niagara I saw not: only a vague dimness and obscurity, flying scud, and infernal, elemental din: that was no more Niagara than to stand on a dark night in a gale on a spray-swept deck. No! Divinity Veils itself by excess of light, and blinds the powers of perception that would scan it, not by taking them away but by the intolerable over-supply of the percept. Niagara I found not—saw not (unlike Gerontius) even “for one moment.” I only saw her terrible attendants. Lo, these were but the outskirts of her ways; but the thunder of her mighty power who can comprehend?

Source: William Henry Temple Gairdner. W. H. T. G. To His Friends: Some Letters & Informal Writings of Canon W. H. Temple Gairdner of Cairo, 1873-1928. Ed. Constance E. Padwick. London: SPCK, 1930.

The Ideal Christianity

“… who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?” (Ps. 12:4)

That is the beginning of the iniquity. When we mistake our proprietorship we cease to be religious, and we give up the possibility of being religious. What is the first lesson in true Christian religion? The first lesson is that we are not our own, have no right, title, or claim to ourselves; we are branded: we have the burnt-in mark upon us that we belong to Christ Jesus, that we are blood-bought, that we are not our own; we have not a moment of time, not a single energy, thought, wish, will, desire that is our own. That is the ideal Christianity, the very purpose and consummation of Christ’s priesthood, the true meaning—that is, the large and complete meaning—of self-denial, saying No when anything within us claims to have an existence or a right of its own. But this cannot be taught in lectures, nor can men receive it through the medium of preaching; this is the last lesson as well as the first doctrine which is to be learned in the school of Christ. We can only learn what it is to have no right in ourselves, not after we have been to church, but after we have been nailed to the Cross of Christ in the very presence and companionship of Christ. Who can attain this wisdom? Who will not say before attaining it, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Who does not know that before obtaining this there are Gethsemane days, sweltering of blood, sense of loneliness, and, at the last, crashing temples and opening tombs, and a whole apocalypse of wonder and transformation? So long as we think that our lips are our own we shall speak what we please; when we begin to learn that our lips are not our own, nor our hands, nor feet, nor head, nor heart, we shall have but one question: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Tell me, and give me strength to do it.” That will be the day of jubilee, the morning of coronation.

Source: Joseph Parker. The People’s Bible: Psalms. “The Ideal Christianity.”

Review: The Grave Robber

Rating: ★★★½

Author: Mark Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and author of several Christian living books. His training and affiliation are from the Assemblies of God.

Overview: This book deals with Jesus’ seven miracles in the Gospel of John, organized into 25 short chapters. Although Jesus performs more than thirty miracles in the four Gospels, John only details seven, leading expositors to believe that each one has a  specific theological purpose.

This is the first of Batterson’s books that I have reviewed. One high point in Batterson’s writing/homiletical style is his variety of sources. He tells personal anecdotes, uses scientific examples, and recounts unique biographical material. This must resonate with his urban, well-educated congregation, and it makes his writing very engaging.

Meat: The most memorable section of the book for me was in the last few chapters (ch. 22-24) in which he asks why Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. It is a fascinating question for expositors. Batterson talks about how God can—and often does—allow a dream to die. He mentioned making an offer on a house and being turned down, but afterwards buying the same house for the same price, one year later. But Batterson could have gone much further on this topic:

  • He could have discussed Joseph’s imprisonment.
  • He could have discussed Abraham, Sarah, and the birth of Isaac.
  • He could have discussed Abram leaving Haran, setting out for the second time.
  • He could have used other examples in the life of Jesus—his wilderness experience, Gethsemane, the loss of John—or Jesus’ resurrection, in more detail that is.

Jesus as “the grave robber” and reviver of dreams is a theme that could be explored at more length.

Bones: One low point is the somewhat trite Pentecostal obsession with miracles and how to make them happen—usually something about either avoiding rationalization or risking reputation. I am not sure if miracles in and of themselves are a topic so central to the gospel that we should preach week after week on them. My position is closer to that of George MacDonald: miracles continue to fill an indispensable place in the witness of the gospel, as they did during Christ’s lifetime; but their role in our Christian lives is rarely as monolithic as it is in Pentecostal preaching. Sometimes I think that the logic might be, because cessationists are preaching almost nothing about miracles, we have to preach double.

Quotes:

“Don’t seek miracles. Follow Jesus. And if you follow Jesus long enough and far enough, you’ll eventually find yourself in the middle of some miracles.”

“God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time, but it’s up to us to see and seize those opportunities that are all around us all the time.”

Review: Christus Victor

Rating: ★★★★★

Full title: Christus Victor: A Historical Study of Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement.

Author: Gustaf Aulén was a Swedish theologian known mainly for Christus Victor. In historical context, he is also part of a movement towards neo-orthodoxy in Swedish Lutheranism (the “Lundensian” movement).

Overview:

The book begins with the following statement:

My work on the history of Christian doctrine has led me to an ever-deepening conviction that the traditional account of the history of the idea of the Atonement is in need of thorough revision.

Aulén sees previous atonement literature as divided into two camps, while a third option has been overlooked since the Reformation. Many previous studies of the atonement used a dichotomy of two logical theories: the “objective” atonement theory (penal substitution) and the “subjective” atonement theory. Aulén’s book, however, traces atonement theory from a third, older view: the “classic” or “dramatic” view seen in Scripture and the Eastern Church Fathers, which is less logically rigorous but just as important. In a nutshell, the classic view is exemplified in the Narnia novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, wherein the atoning triumph is specifically over evil forces, not against an angry deity. The triumph is also sometimes seen as an act of deception over the devil, who attacked Christ at Calvary, not knowing that such a violation of divine law would overthrow his own kingdom:

Christ—Christus Victor—fights against and triumphs over the evil powers of the world, the “tyrants” under which mankind is in bondage and suffering, and in Him God reconciles the world to Himself. Two points here require to be pressed with special emphasis: first, that this is a doctrine of Atonement in the full and proper sense, and second, that this idea of the Atonement has a clear and distinct character of its own, quite different from the other two types. (ch. 1)

In Aulén’s view, the atonement as conflict and triumph over Satanic forces (including sin and death) is the most prominent explanation in the New Testament and Church Fathers, and the objective and subjective theories are later attempts to iron out tensions in the New Testament’s account of atonement.

Thus, Aulén divides atonement history into:

1) The classic view (conflict and triumph), which was the usual explanation in the New Testament and the Church Fathers for the first millennium of church history;

2) The objective atonement (satisfaction theory or substitution), which was developed by Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century and became the “orthodox” Protestant view;

3) The subjective atonement, which is typically credited to Abelard, a near contemporary and critic of Anselm. In Aulén’s view the subjective theory of the atonement is basically a reaction to the objective theory.

Meat:

Aulén’s book is tranquil where others are incendiary, brief where others are verbose, historical where others are critical. It has become key to the entire atonement controversy and should be discussed by modern theology students.

Key to Aulén’s book are the many quotes from Irenaeus, Anselm, Abelard, Luther, and others. He shows quite effectively that “conflict and triumph” is at the very least an underappreciated facet of Christ’s atonement. This was part of a movement of “re-Reformation,” in which Luther’s theology was re-appraised and some key concepts were given new treatments in Lutheranism. Aulén states in the fourth chapter that legal explanations of the atonement had become the only “orthodox” explanations:

The theologians of Protestant Orthodoxy took it completely for granted that the theory of the satisfaction of God’s justice was to be found everywhere in the New Testament, or, rather, that it was presupposed both in the New Testament and in the Old; in fact, it was primarily from the Old Testament that the “scriptural proofs” of the Atonement were primarily drawn, and this is a highly significant point. (ch. 4)

The goal in view in Christus Victor, however, is not to criticize satisfaction theory, but to revise “the traditional account of the history of the idea of the Atonement” (ch. 1).

There are some unique elements of the classical/dramatic atonement that come out in his study:

1) The classical view of the Atonement is a view, not a theory. Aulén contends:

[The classical view] is not a logically articulated theory of redemption but rather an idea, a motif, a theme, which is essentially one and the same in Paul and in the early church, but finds ever-varying forms of expression. (ch. 4)

2) The classical view brings the Incarnation to the forefront. Aulén points out that early explanations of the Atonement were indelibly bound together with Christ’s Incarnation. The legal view, however, is somewhat at odds with the Incarnation, and critics point out that penal substitution pits the Trinity against itself.

3) The classical view makes God the main actor in the Atonement. The legal view of the Atonement often makes God the object of the Atonement, whereas he is the Initiator of the Atonement in the classical view (2 Cor. 5:19). Aulén aptly summarizes this tension:

It may be summed up thus: The classic idea shows a continuity in the Divine action and a discontinuity in the order of justice; the Latin type, a legal consistency and a discontinuity in Divine operation. (ch. 5)

4) Finally, the classical view emphasizes a new order based on grace. The legal view makes the act of grace also an act of payment; in the classical view, God not only makes amends (in Christ) or accepts the means of making amends (in the Father), but he initiates a change in the universal order which we may freely appropriate by faith in Christ. He enables believers to live in freedom from the devil and death. Law does not triumph over law; rather, grace triumphs over law, and the tension in the divine order is palpable in the classical view:

The nerve of the whole is the idea of the Divine Love breaking in pieces the order of merit and justice, and creating a new order to govern the relation of man with God, that of Grace. (ch. 6)

This acceptance of paradox, which is the final note of triumph in Aulén’s conclusion, resonates both with Christian mysticism and with modern writers on paradox such as Gerald Kennedy (in The Lion and the Lamb: Paradoxes of the Christian Faith) and G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy).

Bones:

Aulén’s book is a potent challenge to proponents of substitutionary atonement. If the substitutionary atonement is so important, why is it only discussed during the second millennium of church history? Aulén probably doesn’t give proper weight to the Calvinist explanation, however. The options are these:

1) Aulén’s view: Substitutionary atonement is not mentioned during the 1st millennium A.D. because the dramatic view of the atonement was the dominant explanation.

2) The Calvinist view: Substitutionary atonement is not mentioned during the 1st millennium A.D. because there was no rigorous atonement theory.

As I see it, it would be shortsighted to say that there was “no theory” for 1000 years. This may be just another way of saying that explanations of the Atonement didn’t have all their kinks ironed out, which Aulén freely admits. But the fact of the Atonement was passed on from generation to generation, even in Britain’s medieval mystery plays, with a clear conflict and triumph motif. It cannot be passed on in a vacuum, just as anyone who says they have “no theology” just means that they do not know what theology they have.

Aulén manages to play to the strength of this problem by claiming that the classical/dramatic view is not logically rigorous; but I only mention it to point out that his explanation of this problem could be teased out in a longer work.

Quotes:

“The New Testament teaching corresponds with that of the early church; it being understood that there is not to be found in either case a developed theological doctrine of the Atonement, but rather an idea or motif expressed with many variations of outward form.” (ch. 4)

“It is possible to fix with precision the time of the first appearance of the Latin theory. Tertullian prepares the building materials; Cyprian begins to construct out of them a doctrine of the Atonement.” (ch. 5)

“The Latin doctrine of the Atonement is closely related to the legalism characteristic of the medieval outlook.” (ch. 5)

“Satan’s triumph would be his undoing. This strange paradox, that He who was the stronger than Satan should succumb to the power of evil and thereby break it—this paradox was involved in His situation as the Son of Man in lowliness, but having His high vocation, and all the while an instrument of God’s will.” (quoting Anton Fridrechsen)