‘From Heaven He Came and Sought Her’ – A Review by Ian Hamilton
Book Review: From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective; edited by David and Jonathan Gibson, with contributions by Sinclair Ferguson, Henri Blocher, Paul Helm, Robert Letham, John Piper, Thomas Schriener and others. [Crossway Books, hardback, 704pp, $50/£25-£33 (also available on Kindle).]
Historically referred to as ‘limited atonement’ or ‘particular redemption’, the Reformed doctrine of definite atonement has always courted controversy. It is viewed as the product of ‘scholastic’ debates of the seventeenth century that sought for precision where the Bible leaves only loose ends; it is said to be exegetically unsound, a ‘textless doctrine’ which imposes a theological construct on the Bible; it distorts the love of God and destroys the biblical mandate for evangelism; it robs the believer of personal assurance. Even in the ‘new Calvinism’ movement, the doctrine is often viewed with suspicion or as an embarrassing relative, included in the family more out of duty than delight.
But there is no need for any awkwardness. At least that is what a new edited book on the doctrine proposes. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her argues that definite atonement belongs at the heart of the Reformed household. This volume aims to make this plain by providing a depth and breadth of perspective usually only assembled from many disparate sources.
With a combination of younger and established scholars from several Christian denominations, this book demonstrates that definite atonement is not a doctrine loved and defended only by one older generation or by one particular Christian tradition. This collection of penetrating academic essays is an invitation to explore the historical foundations of the doctrine and to think afresh about the vitality of its exegetical, theological, and pastoral expressions.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church.
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