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God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – January 10, 2010
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"Few if any themes are more central to the Bible than atonement. . . . My hope and prayer is that this volume will become a 'standard' contribution in the field, informing and enriching its readers as to what God achieved by sending his dear Son to the cross on our behalf. Eternity itself will not exhaust our wonder at these truths. This book, I am sure, will establish many in the right direction." (D. A. Carson, from the preface)
About the Author
Graham A. Cole is Anglican Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama. Previously he served as professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and principal of Ridley College, Melbourne. He is the author of God the Peacemaker (NSBT), Engaging with the Holy Spirit, He Who Gives Life and numerous articles in periodicals and books.
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Cole's style is thoughtful and engaging. His interactions with Scripture and numerous other scholars is fresh and enlightening. He not only address the issues raised in the text, but also addresses current issues (New Perspective, theories of the atonement).
In this study of the atonement, Cole examines why there was the need for the atonement, the effects of Christ's death and the aftermath of living post-atonement. In all of this, Cole's underlying point is that atonement (should) bring us shalom - peace. There is no shalom with God without sacrifice. Peace is made through the blood of the cross. And ultimately the goal is God's glory. Why did God create? Why salvation history? Why the Cross? Why a new heaven and a new earth? So that we might glorify God.
As part of this discussion Cole examines in-depth the various view of atonement, especially christus victor and of course penal substitution. This is an clear a presentation of these two models as I have read. And Cole's conclusion acknowledges that both the christus victor and penal substitution are vital in understanding the `why' Christ died and in explaining `what' happened when died and rose again.
Cole writes: Any delineation of the atonement centerpiece needs to do justice not only to penal substitution but also to the christus victor motif.. .
This book gives you the framework to actually live out the atonement in everyday life. It gives you BOTH the theology and the response, which makes it a great addition to the books on the Atonement which are available.
I highly recommend it.
At the same time, Cole keeps an eye on current discussions and debates, interacting graciously with proponents of the New Perspective on Paul and those who question the centrality of penal substitution. One section is devoted to the question of what took place on Holy Saturday.
This volume represents the bringing together of exegetical analysis, pastoral reflection, and contemporary discussion.
At two places in the book (p178 196), he rejoices in the idea that he "has been died for", but he rejects any kind of "logical completeness" which would point out that his false gospel says that even those who perish have been died for. Cole makes the imputation of Christ's death and resurrection a second blessing, subsequent to "union with Christ". (p158) He assumes what almost everybody assumes, that a "real" union (with the Spirit) precedes any legal imputation of the benefits of Christ's death.
To this end, Cole twice (p168, 158) uses the same Calvin quotation from 3:11:10 which is pushed on us by Torrance and Gaffin. "As long as Christ is outside us..." The priority of the Spirit in applying election and the atonement functions as an unexamined given. Nobody, except Bruce Mccormack in What's at Stake in Justification (p104-116), seems to have examined the possibility that Christ is outside us as long as we are outside Christ forensically, ie, that imputation is the union which results in Christ's gift of the Spirit, because Christ's death has purchased that Spirit's work in the elect.
My concern is not simply that those who talk about "union with Christ" define it, instead of assuming that such a union is not legal but the "real" cause for the legal. My concern is a false gospel which, with Hans Boersma, regards "high Calvinism's limited atonement theory as locating violence in the very heart of God." (p251). I reject the double-talk of Cole, who quotes Bernard of Clairvaux: "remove freewill and there will be nothing to save; remove grace, and there will be nothing to save with." (p217). If the death of the Lord Jesus paid all the penalty for those who perish, then that death is not a sufficient substitution and we are in the miserable position of finding some other way to remove the guilt and penalty of sin.