Christus Victor and St. Michael the Archangel

As regular readers know I've spent a lot of time over the last few years investigating Christus Victor theology. The classic modern account of Christus Victor is Gustaf Aulen's book.

The attraction of Christus Victor as an alternative to penal substitutionary atonement is that it presents us with a non-violent vision of the atonement. Instead of dying on the cross as a blood sacrifice to appease the wrath of God in Christus Victor atonement the death of Jesus is caused by human and spiritual wickedness and what saves us is Jesus's defeat of the dark cosmic forces enslaving us--Sin, Death and the Devil--in the resurrection. Just like how Aslan saves Edmund from the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (I talk about this in Chapter 4--"The White Witch"--in Reviving Old Scratch.)

So the main theme in Christus Victor is Christ's battle with dark cosmic forces, forces that afflict and enslave humanity. And when you read about that battle in the Bible you're going to read about St. Michael the archangel.

Only two angels are named in the Bible, Gabriel and Michael. There is a third, Raphael, if you include the Apocrypha. Of these, Michael is the angel that is portrayed in the Bible as leading God's armies against demonic forces.

In the Old Testament, for example, in Daniel 10 the angelic messenger is delayed in answering Daniel's prayer because of angelic interference from the Prince of Persia. The angel escapes when Michael, one of the chief princes among the angelic hosts, comes to his aid:
Daniel 10. 12-13
Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
So here in the Old Testament we find Michael associated with angelic combat, a particularly powerful "chief prince" among the angelic armies.

This depiction of Michael is echoed in the book of Revelation where Michael leads the fight against the Devil when war breaks out in heaven:
Revelation 12.7-9
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Because of texts like these in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions prayers to St. Michael evoke Christus Victor themes, petitions for protection from dark spiritual forces. Prayers to St. Michael are also used in exorcisms.

A prayer to St. Michael from the Catholic tradition:
Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Theologically, as the leader of God's army Michael is considered to be the enemy of Satan and a symbol of the victory of good over evil.

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