ATONEMENT & THE DEATH OF CHRIST HB
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- ISBN 9781481312042
- Author CRAIG WILLIAM LANE
- Pub Date 01/01/2020
Through his death on the cross, Christ atoned for sin and so reconciled people to God. New Testament authors drew upon a range of metaphors and motifs to describe this salvific act, and down through history Christian thinkers have tried to articulate
Through his death on the cross, Christ atoned for sin and so reconciled people to God. New Testament authors drew upon a range of metaphors and motifs to describe this salvific act, and down through history Christian thinkers have tried to articulate various theories to explain the atonement. While Christ’s sacrifice serves as a central tenet of the Christian faith, the mechanism of atonement?exactly how Christ effects our salvation?remains controversial and ambiguous to many Christians.
In Atonement and the Death of Christ, William Lane Craig conducts an interdisciplinary investigation of this crucial Christian doctrine, drawing upon Old and New Testament studies, historical theology, and analytic philosophy. The study unfolds in three discrete parts: Craig first explores the biblical basis of atonement and unfolds the wide variety of motifs used to characterize this doctrine. Craig then highlights some of the principal alternative theories of the atonement offered by great Christian thinkers of the premodern era. Lastly, Craig’s exploration delves into a constructive and innovative engagement with philosophy of law, which allows an understanding of atonement that moves beyond mystery and into the coherent mechanism of penal substitution.
Along the way, Craig enters into conversation with contemporary systematic theories of atonement as he seeks to establish a position that is scripturally faithful and philosophically sound. The result is a multifaceted perspective that upholds the suffering of Christ as a substitutionary, representational, and redemptive act that satisfies divine justice. In addition, this carefully reasoned approach addresses the rich tapestry of Old Testament imagery upon which the first Christians drew to explain how the sinless Christ saved his people from the guilt of their sins.
As reviewed by Dr. Stephen McQuoid in August 2020- 'An unusual and significant book. It is significant because it is a detailed critique (300 pages) of the doctrine of the Atonement and unusual because Craig normally writes books on apologetics not theology. That said, this is a major academic contribution to the issue.
Craig starts by defining what the word atonement means before looking at some of the biblical data that relates to the subject such as Isaiah’s portrait of the Servant of the Lord, the biblical concept of Divine Justice and the biblical concept of Redemption. Next there is a survey of some of the historical understandings of the atonement, starting at the Patristic period, going on to Medieval theories of atonement before looking at the understanding of the issue during the Reformation period. The strengths and weaknesses of different theories are reviewed. Craig concludes that thinkers throughout the ages have positively contributed to the debate with analogies and pictures that are helpful, but the central feature of the atonement remains the issue of Penal Substitution. He maintains that whatever model of the Atonement we use, it must still allow Penal Substitution to be central. Indeed, Craig states that, ‘no atonement theory that neglects Penal Substitution can hope to account adequately for the biblical data…particularly Isaiah 53 and its NT employment’ (p.147). Interestingly Craig argues against the ‘New Perspectives’ movement and NT Wright receives some particular criticism, especially because of his description of the atonement in his book ‘The Day the Revolution Began’. Having read that book, I am with Craig in his criticism.
Next Craig calls upon his skills as a philosopher to argue for the coherence and justification of penal substitution. This is an interesting section because few theology books contain this kind of philosophical argumentation. He argument is then rounded up with a look at the issues of the satisfaction of God’s divine justice, God’s pardon and its effects and the moral influence of Christ’s work. Each of these is argued convincingly, thought the extent of Craig’s detail and his fine nuancing require sustained concentration. Overall, this is an important work from a very able scholar. It is well written but for an academic audience, though, if you want a robust and well-argued defence of a traditional view of the atonement, this will be a very good book to get.'
Hardcover: 328 pages
Publisher: Baylor University Press (July 1, 2020)
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches