From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective  -     Edited By: David Gibson, Jonathan Gibson
    By: David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson, eds.
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From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective

Crossway / 2013 / Hardcover

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Product Description

There is a palpable sense of confusion - and sometimes even embarrassment - with regard to so-called limited atonement today, pointing to the need for thoughtful engagement with this controversial doctrine. Incorporating contributions from a host of respected theologians, From Heaven He Came and Sought Her stands as the first comprehensive resource on definite atonement as it examines the issue from historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral perspectives.

Offering scholarly insights for those seeking a thorough and well-researched discussion, this book will encourage charitable conversations as it winsomely defends this foundational tenet of Reformed theology.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 703
Vendor: Crossway
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 1433512769
ISBN-13: 9781433512766

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Publisher's Description

With contributions from a number of well-respected Reformed theologians and church leaders, this volume offers a comprehensive defense for the doctrine of limited atonement from historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral perspectives.

Author Bio

David Gibson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is minister of Trinity Church in Aberdeen, Scotland. Previously he served as a staff worker for the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship (part of UCCF) and as an assistant minister at High Church, Hilton, Aberdeen. Gibson is also a widely published author of articles and books such as Rich: The Reality of Encountering Jesus and Reading the Decree: Exegesis, Election and Christology in Calvin and Barth.

Jonathan Gibson (PhD, Cambridge University) is associate minister at Cambridge Presbyterian Church and assistant professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of historical and biblical articles in Themelios and Journal of Biblical Literature and regularly speaks at conferences in Australia and South Africa. Jonathan and his wife, Jackie, have two children.

J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.

Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of systematic theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and the former senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of several books, the most recent being By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Sinclair and his wife, Dorothy, have four grown children.

Paul Helm (MA, Worcester College) is a teaching fellow at Regent College in Vancouver. He previously taught philosophy at the University of Liverpool and was was the J. I. Packer Chair of Theology at Regent College. He also publishes online at Helm's Deep. Paul is married to Angela, and they have five children.

John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for 33 years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God, Don’t Waste Your Life, This Momentary Marriage, Bloodlines, and Does God Desire All to Be Saved?

Thomas R. Schreiner (MDiv and ThM, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary; PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of the school of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He was editor of Themelios for nine years, has authored or edited more than a dozen books, and has contributed to multiple publications including the Dictionary of Historical Theology and The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology.

Lee Gatiss (PhD, Cambridge University) is the director of Church Society, a lecturer in church history at Union School of Theology, and a research fellow of the Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa at the University of the Free State, South Africa. He also serves as a member of the editorial board of Themelios and editor for the internet journal Theologian. Lee and his wife, Kerry, have three children.

Matthew S. Harmon (PhD, Wheaton College) is professor of New Testament studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He was previously on staff with Cru for eight years and is the author of several books. Matthew and his wife, Kate, live in Warsaw, Indiana, and have two sons.

Michael A. G. Haykin (ThD, University of Toronto) is professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He has authored or edited more than twenty-five books, including Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church.

Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Stephen lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Karen, and their five children.


Garry Williams (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the director of the John Owen Centre for Theological Study at London Theological Seminary in the United Kingdom, which provides theological teaching for pastors after their initial training. He is also a visiting professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Garry and his wife, Fiona, have four children.


A massive product of exact and well-informed scholarship . . . with landmark significance. . .I give this book top marks for its range of solid scholarship, cogency of argument, warmth of style, and zeal for the true glory of God. I recommend it most highly.
-J. I. Packer,
Regent College

I cannot imagine that this book could have been published twenty-five years ago: there were not at that time enough well-informed theologians working in the Reformed heritage to produce a volume of such clarity and competence. Whatever side you hold in this debate, henceforth you dare not venture into the discussion without thoughtfully reading this book, which, mercifully, makes argument by stereotype and reductionism a great deal more difficult. Above all, this book will elicit adoration as its readers ponder afresh what Jesus achieved on the cross.
-D. A. Carson,
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The topic is worthy enough. Yet the lineup of contributors to this volume makes this, in my view, the most impressive defense of definite atonement in over a century. Beyond rehearsing traditional arguments, first-rate historical, biblical, and systematic theologians bring fresh angles and exegesis to bear. From Heaven He Came and Sought Heris a gift that will no doubt keep on giving for generations to come.
-Michael Horton,
Westminster Seminary California

This is the definitive study. It is careful, comprehensive, deep, pastoral, and thoroughly persuasive.
-David F. Wells,
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

There is a conventional wisdom that seems to believe definite atonement is the weakest of the five heads of doctrine confessed at the Synod of Dort. But you may come away from this book believing it is the strongest, in its historical attestation, biblical basis, and spiritual blessing. Written by first-rate exegetes and theologians, this book covers all the difficult issues and emerges with a highly persuasive and attractive case. Highly recommended!
-John M. Frame,
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

For whom did Christ die? This volume makes a fresh and impressively comprehensive case for definite atonement as the answer true to Scripture. It shows convincingly, through multi-authored contributions, (1) that the issues of the extent of the atonement and its nature cannot be separated - penal substitution, at the heart of why Christ had to die, stands or falls with definite atonement; and (2) how definite atonement alone provides for a gospel offer of salvation from sin that is genuinely free. In engaging various opposing views on this much-disputed topic, the editors seek to do so in a constructive and irenic spirit, an effort in which they and the other authors have succeeded admirably.
-Richard B. Gaffin Jr.,
Westminster Theological Seminary

This book is formidable and persuasive. Those familiar with the terrain will recognize that the editors know exactly the key issues and figures in this debate. And none of the authors who follow disappoint. The tone is calm and courteous, the scholarship rigorous and relentless, the argument clear and compelling. This penetrating discussion takes into account the major modern academic criticisms of definite atonement (Barth, the Torrances, Armstrong, Kendall, and others) as well as more popular critiques (Clifford, Driscoll and Breshears). An impressive team of scholars adorns this subject and aims to help Christians toward a deeper gratitude to God for his grace, a greater assurance of salvation, a sweeter fellowship with Christ, stronger affections in their worship of him, more love for people and superior courage and sacrifice in witness and service, and indeed to propel us into the global work of missions with compassion and confidence.
-J. Ligon Duncan,
Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi

Whether you are sympathetic to or suspicious of definite atonement, this book will surprise you. Here are historical details, exegetical links, theological observations, and pastoral perspectives that are fresh and fascinating, even though there is also plenty that will prove controversial. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her offers the fullest and most nuanced treatment on definite atonement I know, and will richly add to the substance and quality of future conversations about the intent of the atonement. Whether you think that you agree or disagree with the authors, wrestling with these essays is well worth your time.
-Kelly M. Kapic,
Covenant College

Product Reviews

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  1. Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Every Pastor Should read this book!
    September 8, 2014
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    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!
  2. Southern Illinois
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Yes!!! But...
    January 22, 2014
    Southern Illinois
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    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!!!
  3. Alhambra, CA
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    An Honest, Balanced Biblical Treatment
    December 27, 2013
    Joshua Perez
    Alhambra, CA
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    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
  4. Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Exploring a difficult doctrine to the glory of God
    November 30, 2013
    Oak Harbor, WA
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    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.
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