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The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views Paperback – November 9, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"The directness of the responses is a strength of the book. It serves to highlight differences, expose weak points, and provide the reader with questions and issues to pursue. The book makes a positive contribution both through highlighting the diversity of thinking about the atonement within evangelicalism and through encouraging discussion about this diversity." (Mark D. Baker, Religious Studies Review, March 2010)

"One strength of this study is its multifaceted scope. The book presents four views side by side and allows the reader quickly to see what the primary differences and similarities are between the various positions. By including defenses of positions by those who hold to these divergent views, this volume adds a valuable dimension to the evangelical discussion on the issue of the atonement." (Ched Spellman on Says Simpleton, April 11, 2008)

"Those looking for evangelical and scripturally founded treatments of the atonement will find this book a lively register of current opinions." (Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 2007)

"There are a number of reasons to applaud The Nature of the Atonement, not least its provocative and illuminating presentation. . . . If you are looking for a more focused discussion on the atonement--that is, in terms of today's evangelical milieu, The Nature of the Atonement can certainly serve as a fine forum for exploring essential matters of the Christian faith." (Kathleen Borres, Catholic Books Review, http://catholicbooksreview.org/2006/beilby.htm)

About the Author

James K. Beilby (Ph.D., Marquette University) is professor of systematic and philosophical theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. His books include Why Bother With Truth? (with David Clark), Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views and The Meaning of the Atonement: Four Views (both with Paul Eddy), Naturalism Defeated?, For Faith and Clarity and Epistemology as Theology. His articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Faith and Philosophy, Philosophia Christi, Religious Studies, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Sophia and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Paul R. Eddy (Ph.D., Marquette University) is Professor of Theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. His books include John Hick's Pluralist Philosophy of World Religions (Ashgate), Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (with G. A. Boyd, Baker) and Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (with James Beilby IVP).

Gregory A. Boyd (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is a pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Previously, he was a professor of theology at Bethel University, also in St. Paul. His books include Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies, Letters from a Skeptic, God of the Possible, Repenting of Religion, Seeing is Believing, Escaping the Matrix, The Jesus Legend, Myth of a Christian Nation, Is God to Blame, God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil.

Joel B. Green (B.S., M.Th., Ph.D.) is professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary. He was vice president of academic affairs, provost and professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Prior to his appointment at Asbury in 1997, he was associate professor of New Testament at the American Baptist Seminary of the West/Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

His books include What about the Soul? Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology (Abingdon, 2004); Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching: The Recovery of Narrative and Preaching the New Testament (Baker, 2003); Salvation (Chalice, 2003); Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology (with Paul Achtemeier and Marianne Meye Thompson, 2001); Beginning with Jesus: Christ in Scripture, the Church and Discipleship (2000); Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (with Mark Baker, 2000); Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology (with Max Turner, 2000) and The Gospel of Luke in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (1997).

For over 20 years, Green has been the editor of Catalyst, a journal providing evangelical resources and perspectives to United Methodist seminarians. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, he has pastored churches in Texas, Scotland and Northern California. He has also served on the boards of Berkeley Emergency Food and Housing Project, and RADIX magazine.

Bruce R. Reichenbach (Ph.D. Northwestern University) is a professor of philosophy at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has also been a visiting professor at Juniata College, Daystar University in Kenya and Morija Theological Seminary in Lesotho. He is the author or coauthor of a number books, including Introduction to Critical Thinking, On Behalf of God: A Christian Ethic for Biology (coauthored with V. Elving Anderson) and Evil and a Good God.

Thomas R. Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. His other books include The Law and Its Fulfillment, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles and Romans.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; unknown edition (November 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830825703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830825707
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The atonement, broadly speaking, refers to the saving work of Jesus Christ.

It was John Wesley who once said, "Nothing in the Christian system is of greater consequence than the doctrine of the atonement."

If Wesley is correct, then the atonement is a Christian belief that deserves to be discussed.

_The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views_ (IVP Academic, 2006) seeks to give the Christian doctrine of atonement its proper due by fostering dialogue between four scholars, who hold as many interpretations of the atonement.

The four understandings/theories of the atonement under examination are:

1. The Christus Victor model: the atonement is a divine conflict and victory in which Jesus fights against and triumphs over the evil powers of the world.

2. The Penal Substitution model: "the Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son...to satisfy God's justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God's holiness and love are manifested." (p. 67)

3. The Healing model: the atonement is primiarly a healing/restoration from sin and its resultant sickness.

4. The Kaleidoscopic model: the atonement is understood in multiple ways and no one theory has priority over the others.

None of the participants in the book disagrees as to whether the different theories are viable explanations of the atonement. Where the difference of opinion lies is in which theory is primary or foundational. The first three models purport to be foundational while the fourth model, the Kaleidoscopic view, claims that there is no foundational model.
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I was born and raised in evangelical and reformed churches on the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. And, as one contributor to this work points out, the penal substitutionary model "is so pervasive in American Christianity that many Christians may wonder whether the saving significance of Jesus' death can be understood in any other way." The first reason, then, that you should read this book is because you will come away with a whole new understanding of "other" Christians as well as a deep appreciation for their views on the atonement.

After all, for about 1000 years or so, until the time of Anselm, the Christus Victor perspective dominated the church's thinking and teaching. And today this model is seeing something of a revival of interest on both the popular front (CS Lewis) and the theological (NT Wright)--I happen to be Anglican today. So, I thought, there must be something here worth investigating. And, sure enough, as I read the opening essay by Greg Boyd, I couldn't help responding, "Yes, of course!" as I was blown away by the force of his presentation.

But then I moved on to Tom Schreiner's case for penal substitution and I recovered my senses with an "oh yeah." Next came Bruce Reichenbach's healing model and a "wow, that's important too!" By the way, one thing I really appreciate about this work is the irenic nature of the responses to each essay.

Finally, wowed as I was by each presentation, I found Joel Green's essay on the kaleidoscopic model to be a brilliant synthesis. It's not easy reading as he delves into epistemology and hermeneutics to make his case that each view properly appeals to different historical and cultural circumstances.
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In Bible College and Seminary I was taught the various views of the atonement. I remember hearing about the ransom theory, the satisfaction theory, the moral government theory, and the penal substitution substitution theory, and the example theory, but for some reason, I don't ever remember learning about the Christus Victor view. I went back and looked at my notes, and sure enough, not a word was said about it.

I am trying to figure out why. Was it because my professors didn't know about it? Or possibly they did know about it, but didn't think it was worth mentioning. Either way, it kind of ticks me off, because after reading this book, I believe that the Christus Victor view is correct. Why did nobody ever at least mention it or bring it up in class?

Oh well, I've learned about it now, thanks to this excellent book edited by Jamed Beilby and Paul Eddy. This book presents four views on the atonement (which are not all the possible views).

The introduction points out that there are three main paradigms that guide atonement perspectives. The first paradigm is the Christus Victor paradigm, which is Satanward in its approach so that Jesus is seen to be fighting against and triumphing over the devil and his works. The second paradigm is Godward in its focus so that the work of Christ on the cross is said to satisfy or appease something within the nature and character of God. The third paradigm is manward in focus so that the work of Christ is thought to accomplish something for humanity. All of the various theories about the atonement fall into one of these paradigms, and this book chose four theories to consider.
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