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5 Stars Out Of 5
Every Pastor Should read this book!
September 8, 2014
This book was the most thorough and gracious book on definite atonement I have ever read. It is so thorough that at times it finds itself getting very deep and somewhat academic for some people and their likings. However, this book rightly points out that what we believe about the atonement changes the way we pastor and function. This book graciously and gently shuts down opposing views with ease but in love and for the sake of truth and thus the glory of God. Indeed what you believe about the atonement, shapes your view on the character and work of God. Does God simply make salvation possible for everyone and yet secures it for no one in the universalist view, or does God actually guarantee salvation to His people by both dying on the cross for the elect as well as applying it to the elect. Indeed the bible teaches clearly that God both purchased a people and applied the promises of the new covenant to them as found in Ezekiel and Jeremiah thus guaranteeing salvation for his purchased people. This book is rife with biblical passages and good exegesis and makes the word the foundation of its argument. Every Pastor should read this and get square their theology, practice and logic. It is hefty but it is certainly worth it. What a treasure!
I am going to make this review as quick and to the point as possible. I just finished From Heaven He Came and Sought Her from Crossway. Before I get to what I disagree with I need to state that I have a lot of respect for the contributing authors and am grateful that the book has been written. I ascribe to definite atonement (and more) so naturally I was looking forward to reading and enjoying. While I did enjoy the book I have to say it did disappoint. So my goal of this post is to simply point out the biggest problem I see with the content of the book. Instead of focusing on the whole, I am going to look at the last chapter the book because it will allow me to use a couple quotes that I believe are consistent with the rest of the book. I will attempt to show the incompleteness of the arguments contained in the book as a whole.
"The term definite atonement refers to this truth-when God sent his Son to die, he had in view the definite acquisition of a group of undeserving sinners, whose faith and repentance he obtained by the blood of his Son. This is a divine purpose in the cross-to purchase and create the saving faith of a definite, freely chosen, unworthy, rebellious group of sinners." pg 643
As someone who holds to definite atonement I would like to affirm the above quote as truth. In fact most of the people I know who hold to a reformed type soteriology would also affirm the truth contained in this quote. If that is the case then what is my problem with the content of the quote. My problem is that it does not take the extent of the atonement far enough. Many people who hold to definite atonement say "yes" to Jesus death for the elect, but want further and biblical answers to statements like this from John Piper "Whatever blessings flow to the world from the cross of Christ, and they are many, there was in its design a "Great Love" specifically intended to rescue "His Own". pg 641 So my question to Piper and for the book is what are the many universal blessings that flow from the Cross of Christ to the world? From the statement above can we not say in some way then Christ in fact has died even for the non-elect? If universal benefits flow from the cross to the world it seems perfectly consistent to affirm dual purpose in the atonement. This is a problem throughout the book. Almost every chapter contains generalized statements about benefits that universally flow from the atonement to the world but then start to critique anyone who would try to answer the very questions that flow from the writers affirmations of universal benefits.
For some reason the contributers never seem to answer the question "What are the universal benefits that flow from the cross"? To those who would try to answer that question, all that we get is chapter after chapter arguments of Owen's double payment and Trinitarian Unity. I am left wondering why the authors did not further elaborate on those who affirm Christ atonement for the elect specifically and Christ death for all generally. We are not all Hypothetical Universalist or Amyraldian. We agree with Owen and Trinitarian Unity we just try to biblicaly answer "What are the universal benefits to the world?" In my estimation the view expressed in the book truly does "Limit" the atonement.
Why does God "Make the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust" Mt 5:45
Why does God "Have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord: so turn and live" Ezk 18:32
Why does God "Love the world" Jn 3:16
Why does God let any non-believer live another day?
Could it not be that those might be some of the "Universal Blessings" that Piper was talking about?
btw... The 2 Books I have read on the atonement are both by the same auther, George Smeaton. His books "Christ Doctrine of the Atonement" and "The Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement" are worth finding and reading. Jerry Bridges said about the ADOC that it is his favorite book on the atonement. I agree!!!
This book is by far the definitive resource on Definite Atonement. It leaves no stone unturned. I agree with Ligon Duncan; the first chapter alone is worth the price of the book. The honest, biblical and balanced approach to the subject will surely be noticed by anyone reading the book. It will clarify a lot of concerns that one has with the doctrine. The men in this book deal with the text and other issues in way that truly shows that they know how to accurately handle God's Holy Word. This work not only provides solid biblical exegesis to so called "problem passages", but also provides excellent points for anyone to consider when contemplating this issue of "For Whom did Christ die?" Highly recommend
Exploring a difficult doctrine to the glory of God
November 30, 2013
Oak Harbor, WA
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)
The 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 work..." (46)
The 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.
This 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.
I 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.
Reformed 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.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.