Lately I've been trying to study a little about the different views of the atonement. I fellowship with some brethren from a Mennonite-type of background from time to time and they got me thinking about the subject. They believe in what is called the "Ransom Atonement." Below are some brief overviews of different thoughts.
What do you think? (In case there are link problems, all the below is from Wikipedia.)
The Ransom view of the atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology related to the meaning and effect of the death of Jesus Christ which originated in the early Church, particularly in the work of Origen. The theory teaches that the death of Christ was a ransom paid to Satan in satisfaction of his just claim on the souls of humanity as a result of sin.
"Redeeming" meaning, literally, "buying back," and the ransoming of war captives from slavery was a common practice in the era. Objections to this view often center about the notion that something was due to Satan for redemption. Others, such as Gustav Aulen, have suggested that the meaning of the Ransom theory should not be taken literally but rather understood as a liberation of human beings from the bondage of sin and death. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_%28ransom_view%29]Ransom View[/url]
The governmental view of the atonement (also known as the moral government theory) is a doctrine in Christian theology concerning the meaning and effect of the death of Jesus Christ and has been traditionally taught in Arminian circles. Drawing primarily from the works of Jacobus Arminius and Hugo Grotius, the governmental theory teaches that Christ suffered for humankind so that God could forgive humans apart from punishment while still maintaining divine justice.
The governmental theory arose in opposition to Socinianism  . Grotius wrote Defensio fidei catholicae de satisfactione Christi, in which he utilized "governmental" semantics drawn from his training in law and his general view of God as moral governor (ruler) of the universe. Grotius demonstrated that the atonement appeased God in the divine role as cosmic king and judge, and especially that God could not have simply overlooked sin as the Socianians claimed.
Despite its origin, Grotius' view is most often contrasted with that of the satisfaction theory formulated initially by St. Anselm, which is held by the Roman Catholic Church, and developed further into the punishment theory held by most Lutherans and Calvinists. The satisfaction and punishment theories argue that Jesus received the full and actual punishment due to men and women.
By contrast, governmental theory holds that Christ's suffering was a real and meaningful substitute for the punishment humans deserve, but it did not consist of Christ receiving the exact punishment due to sinful people. Instead, God publicly demonstrated his displeasure with sin by punishing his own sinless and obedient Son as a propitiation. Christ's suffering and death served as a subsititute for the punishment humans might have received. On this basis, God is able to extend forgiveness while maintaining divine order, having demonstrated the seriousness of sin and thus appeasing his wrath.
A second feature of governmental theory is the scope of the atonement. According to governmental theory, Christ's death applies not to individuals directly, but to the church as an entity. Individuals then partake of the atonement by being attached to the church through faith. It is also, therefore, possible to fall out of the scope of atonement through loss of faith. This view contrasts especially with the punishment theory, which holds that Jesus' death served as a substitute for the sins of individuals directly.
This view has prospered in traditional Methodism and among most who follow the teachings of John Wesley, and has been detailed by, among others, 19th century Methodist theologian John Miley in his classic Atonement in Christ and his Systematic Theology (ISBN 0-943575-09-5) and 20th century Church of the Nazarene theologian J. Kenneth Grider in his 1994 book A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology (ISBN 0-8341-1512-3).
Variations of this view have also been espoused in the "New Divinity" school of thought (or "New England Theology") by the followers of the 18th century Calvinist Jonathan Edwards, though it is debated if Edwards approved of this view himself, and by 19th century revival leader Charles Grandison Finney. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_%28governmental_view%29]Governmental View[/url]
The satisfaction view of the atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology related to the meaning and effect of the death of Jesus Christ and has been traditionally taught in Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed circles. Drawing primarily from the works of Anselm of Canterbury , the satisfaction theory teaches that Christ suffered as a substitute on behalf of humankind satisfying the demands of God's honor by his infinite merit. Anselm regarded his satisfaction view of the atonement as a distinct improvement over the older ransom theory of the atonement, which he saw as inadequate. Anselm's theory was a precursor to the refinements of Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin which introduced the idea of punishment to meet the demands of divine justice. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_%28satisfaction_view%29]Satisfaction View[/url]
The moral influence view of the atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology related to the meaning and effect of the death of Jesus Christ. While it originated in the Middle Ages it has been largely taught in liberal Christian circles, most famously by Charles G. Finney, whose Systematic Theology expounded heavily upon it. Drawing primarily from the works of Pierre Abélard, the moral influence theory teaches that Christ's death on the cross served for humankind as an example of God's great love and Christ's obedience.
It has been contrasted with the satisfaction view of the atonement. [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_%28moral_influence_view%29]Moral Influence[/url]