Atonement – Under Attack.

imageThis slim collection of essays is rooted in the proposition that the doctrine of atonement is under attack. While I agree that there are a number of views about the nature of atonement and what it accomplished, I dispute the idea that the doctrine itself is under attack. Given the publisher (P & R Publishing) and the group who assembled the project, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, I believe the perceived challenge is to the application of the the Penal Substitution theory. It is not clear as to why this distinction isn’t made clear other than the possible notion that any other theory is so far outside of the range of discussion that it can simply be dismissed.

The essays, assembled by editor Gabriel Fluhrer, come from presentations given at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology. Bringing the best Reformed minds to bear on a topic of importance to Christ’s Church, this collection of discussions on atonement from the Conference is almost universally excellent. Heavyweight pastors and theologians J.I. Packer, James Boice, R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Sinclair Ferguson, John R. DeWitt, and Alistair Begg each repeat the truth and application of the atonement brought about on the cross at Calvary from a variety of perspectives.

Packer and Boice are at their usual best offering clarity in defining atonement drawing the important distinction between propitiation and expiation. Boice’s essay on the language of the marketplace and his exposition of the grace in Hosea bridges God’s wrath and His redemptive love and bear repeated reading. Gerstner’s emphasis on centering atonement only within the narrow stem of the TULIP is out of place among the winsomeness of the other authors. Perhaps I misread his intentions but it appears that atonement, in his view, can only be seen in its limited form, something the other authors avoided emphasizing.

Atonement is a fine addition to the literature on this doctrine but it remains to be seen where it fits in the library. It is an excellent introduction to the admittedly narrow definition of the doctrine of Atonement but it doesn’t offer anything new in the way of ideas.

5 thoughts on “Atonement – Under Attack.”

  1. Yeah but the idea of the book probably wasn’t to offer new ideas, but rather state the orthodox truths about the atonement that are under attack. You may be right, the idea of the atonement may not be under attack-only the penal aspects of it, but what is the atonement w/out that aspect? Is it THE atonement?

    I would probably like Gerstner’s article haha! I’m a fan of Gerstner. He was a funny yet hard man. A lot of people in my church new him personally and I always enjoy hearing those stories. His book on Dispensationalism, “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” is amazing.

    1. Brother Logue! Haven’t heard from you in quite some time. I agree that the editor should have taken a different approach to presenting these essays rather than trying to say that they were a defense in the face of attack.

      I’ve always heard good things about Gerstner but I don’t have any of his books. Perhaps that one will be a good place to start.

  2. Thats the only book I’ve read of him. He’s OLD SCHOOL. I mean, hard core. He puts it all on the line. Not many guys write that way anymore. I once saw a video on the Westminster Confession of Faith and he was HILARIOUS though.

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