Definite atonement, that Jesus died for the elect, has long been a controversial aspect of Reformed theology. The question is, as Louis Berkhof asked it, Did the Father send Christ to make atonement for the purpose of saving only the elect or all men? (46)
editors have compiled these articles so we readers can explore the
historical foundations of the doctrine, how it is developed from
Scripture, and how it is to be preached. “The argument set forth in
this book,” they write, “is that, before time, the triune God
planned salvation, such that the Father chose a people for himself
from among fallen humankind, a choice that would involve the sending
of his Son to purchase them and the sending of his Spirit to
regenerate them. In the mind of God, the choice logically preceded
the accomplishment and the application of Christ's redemptive
editors review the critiques of the doctrine in their Introduction.
The subsequent articles, by various authors, address them. This
includes controversies and nuances of the doctrine in church history,
its presence or absence in the Bible, the theological implications of
the doctrine, and its pastoral consequences. Each essay is a self
contained argument so readers can turn to the ones of specific
interest. The indexes at the end of the book make it very easy to see
what the various authors have said on a particular Scripture or about
a certain author.
is an extensive look at the doctrine. It seemed to me the various
authors addressed every Scripture related to the discussion and
answered every critique others have presented. As with the doctrine
of the Trinity, this doctrine is not clearly stated in Scripture. It
is a theological conclusion reached by holding together various
soteriological texts while at the same time synthesizing various
doctrines. (332) Confusion surrounding the doctrine is cleared up
when it is viewed in light of the entire plan of salvation.
was impressed with the aim to show that definite atonement is to
God's glory. This was clearly related by John Piper in his article on
preaching. He reminds us “that the central task of Christian
ministry is the magnifying of the glory of God.” Preaching definite
atonement, he argues, is a significant part of the glory of God's
grace displayed through the work of his Son.
Christians will find great satisfaction in this extensive defense and
clarification of a doctrine that often confuses them. Those opposed
to the doctrine may not be convinced of its truth after reading this
book, but they should certainly read it to understand the problems
that come with not believing it. I was particularly struck with the
problem regarding universal atonement and universal accessibility.
That issue alone should jar people believing in universal atonement
to reconsider their stand.
Gibson is minister of Trinity Church in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Gibson is currently working on a PhD in Hebrew Studies at
Books, 704 pages. Visit the publisher's product page to learn more
about the book, the editors, see the table of contents, and read an
received a complimentary egalley from the publisher for the purpose
of this review.