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The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological & Practical Perspectives Paperback – April 28, 2004
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This is a timely resource for those who would seek to understand several of the biblical and theological dimensions of the atonement, and some of the debates surrounding the doctrine. Whether or not one agrees with the basic assumptions, arguments and conclusions of the authors is no barrier to benefiting immensely from this book, which may well be found more frequently on the desk than on the shelf. (Anna Robbins, Themelios 32/2)
About the Author
Hill is professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He is author of Regnum Caelorum, Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity.
Frank A. James III ( DPhil, Oxford; PhD, Westminster) is president of Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Previously, he served as provost and professor of historical theology at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts. He is the author of Peter Martyr Vermigli: The Augustinian Inheritance of an Italian Reformer, coauthor of Church History: Reformation to the Present, vol. 2 and coeditor with Heiko Oberman of Via Augustini: Augustine in the Later Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation.
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Hill and James have assembled a formidable collection of scholars to provide contributions to this work, and the quality of their scholarship is not in question in their contributions here. Many of the articles are very substantive and rigorous. One major strength of the book is that many of the articles contain thorough and rigorous exegetical analysis, though unfortunately, not all of the pertinent articles do as will be discussed below. This is not really a beginner level book, though someone unfamiliar with Greek and Hebrew can still profit from many of the articles. For those who have a working knowledge of the Biblical languages, they will find many of the articles to be quite rigorous and exegetically satisfying. Carson, Hill, and Nicole in particular all deliver quality articles in this area.
Another strength of the book is its historical analysis. This is where readers will find the best article in the book, in my view. Vanhoozer's analysis of the atonement in light of postmodern thought and theology is simply outstanding. It alone justifies purchasing the book. But further, the article pertaining to Bavinck's atonement theology is also quite good, and for those looking for something especially complicated but provocative, McCormack's discussion of Barthian approaches to the atonement is also heavyweight reading.
The last section of the book deals with mainly pastoral concerns relating to atonement theology. Ferguson's article is quite good, as expected, and makes the whole book a very good gift idea for the reader's pastor.
Having said all that, I must point out some notable deficiencies that compel me to a 4 star rating. My problems with the book do not really pertain to what's covered, but what isn't covered in the book. The New Perspective is only marginally addressed, mainly by Carson's essay, and even here, it is not really addressed head-on, and certainly not thoroughly. Further, the open theism phenomenon and its gutting of the atonement is really not addressed at all. Both of these omissions are quite serious, in my judgment. Both of these movements have gained a foothold in evangelical circles, and both are likely here to stay to some degree. It is most unfortunate that in a book that interacts in considerable length with scholars from long ago, scant attention is paid to these two major contemporary movements that both undo the atonement to the degree that they do. This is a major weakness of the book.
In addition, one will labor quite hard to find a solid defense of the Reformed understanding of the atonement in terms of the extent of the atonement. In particular, the essay that intends to address 1 John in general, and 1 John 2:2 in particular is quite poor. It is an essay that focuses on everything except the extent of the atonement, relegating discussion of this critical issue to a mere couple of paragraphs. Other essays also make passing mention of the extent of the atonement, but as best I could tell, none of the essays are devoted to thoroughly defending and articulating the Reformed understanding in this area. This oversight is quite amazing, and unfortunate.
So in summary, this book is a good effort that contains a number of very good and challenging contributions. It was clearly intended to present a positive perspective, instead of thoroughly critiquing dissenters. As such, while it is a valuable resource that should be purchased and perused, the reader will likely find himself needing to supplement this book with other works in order to fill in the sizable gaps one finds in here.