Book Review: Atonement

Atonement is a collection of presentations given at the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology edited by Gabriel N. E. Fluhrer.  This collection includes the following speaker/authors.  I’ve included the title of each chapter with their corresponding author below.

J.I. Packer                            The Necessity of the Atonement

John R. De Witt                   The Nature of Atonement: Reconciliation

James M. Boice                    The Nature of Atonement: Propitiation

John R. Gerstner                The Atonement and the Purpose of God

R.C. Sproul                          Sacrifice and Satisfaction

James M. Boice                    The Language of the Marketplace

Sinclair Ferguson                Christ, the Sin-Bearer

Alistair Begg                         Preaching the Cross

In short, this is a quality book offering various viewpoints on individual aspects of Jesus Christ’s atonement.  The atonement is under attack today, from everyone from liberal theologians to fundamental conservatives and every sort of animal in between.  In the introductory chapter, Packer offers an exposition of Romans 8:32 in which he seeks to define how Christ’s death on the cross was the only way that God could justify a sinful people.  Rightly focusing on the justice of God, while highlighting propitiation, Packer concludes that the atonement of Jesus was “necessary in light of the nature of God, which must inflict retributive punishment on sin.”

In chapter 2, De Witt teaches on 2 Corinthians 5:21 and brings the reader to the understanding that sinners need reconciliation to God.  He states, according to the Apostle Paul, “reconciliation, therefore, is a breaking down of barriers or a restoration of a breached relationship” (see Romans 5:9-11).  The focus of chapter 3 is 1 John 4:10, specifically propitiation, which James Boice gives its proper due.  Building upon the previous chapter, Boice sets out to also define reconciliation and redemption.

Chapter 4, The Atonement and the Purpose of God, by Gerstner builds upon the rich theology found in Romans 8:29.  In reaching his conclusion, Gerstner first sets out to define the Calvinistic acrostic, T.U.L.I.P. He focuses primarily on the total depravity of man (T) stating that this is the primary objection that most people offer when confronted by the doctrines of grace (Calvinism).  “Those who object to the decrees are actually suffering from a lack of conviction of their depravity.  Only if you are convinced that you are not just sick, but dead, will you know that there is only one person who can make you alive – the Giver of life Himself – and therefore be utterly persuaded of the decree of unconditional election.” 

In Chapter 5, R.C. Sproul  discusses Sacrifice and Satisfaction by expounding on Galatians 3:13.  In doing so, he contrasts the blessings of God, such as those found in Numbers 6:24-26 with what it means that Christ became a curse for us.  This is a striking chapter that really puts into perspective the sacrifice that Christ made in dying for His sheep.  In chapter 6, Boice now explains the principle of redemption by describing The Language of the Marketplace.  In doing so, Boice gives proper attention to the Old Testament premise of “kinsmen-redeemer”. 

Chapter 7, “Christ, the Sin-Bearer” is built around Isaiah 53:3-4, in which Sinclair Ferguson concludes, “Without Jesus Christ bearing our sin, there is no salvation.  The very reason for his suffering and agony, the very reason he goes to the cross of Calvary, and the very reason he is marred beyond human recognition was so that he might be the sin-bearer of men and women.”  Alistair Begg wraps up this collection of presentations with a pastoral perspective by emphasizing the importance of Preaching the Cross where he states, “Without the cross of Jesus Christ there is no gospel.”   Concluding, Begg adds, “the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ…compels me in evangelism, saves me, corrects my silly notions of struggling on, and it forms my character.  A person who lives near the cross will be marked by holiness, love, and endurance.”

This is a helpful book for anyone wanting a quick, but thorough, study on various aspects of the atonement.  It will rightly point you to Scripture and expand you thinking on the glorious work of Christ on the cross.  Each of these chapters is essentially an introductory treatise on larger doctrines of the Atonement.  As this book concludes, the cross of Christ is essential for the Christian to realize and recognize what Christ has accomplished and to understand it so that they can rightly proclaim the Gospel.

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.


  1. I read the book just recently and I would have to say I find your review very aggreeable with my own feelings on the book. I enjoyed the collection of essays on one of my favorite doctrines. Nice blog keep up the great work. God bless!

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