DEFINITE ATONEMENT IN CHURCH HISTORY
Chapter 2 — “We Trust in the Saving Blood”: Definite Atonement in the ancient church
Using John Gill’s monumental work The Cause of God and Truth as a window on the tradition, Michael Haykin investigates the issue of definite atonement in the ancient church. Statements and arguments from key figures in the ancient church (Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Prosper of Aquitaine) are shown to be tendential to the doctrine of definite atonement. His findings demonstrate that the stress on a specific, particular defined purpose of God in salvation, so prominent from the Reformation and beyond, was not the invention of Reformed scholastics, but had its beginning in the early church fathers. Some of the key arguments used by late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformers in defense of definite atonement are shown to be present in seed form in the ancient church.
Chapter 3 — “Sufficient for All, Efficient for Some”: Definite Atonement in the Medieval Church
David Hogg assesses the works of Gottschalk of Orbais, Peter Lombard, and Thomas Aquinas. These Medieval theologians wrote about predestination, divine foreknowledge, free will, and the atoning death of Christ in a manner that is not only consistent with later Reformed expressions of definite atonement, but are in fact preparatory and foundational for this doctrine. The inductive study of this period supports the thesis that there is a continuous trajectory running from the ancient church through the medieval church that stresses a specific, particular and defined purpose of God in salvation.
Chapter 4 — Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement
The presence of indefinite or indiscriminate language with respect to the scope and efficacy of the atonement in John Calvin’s writings is often taken as strong evidence that he denied definite atonement. Holding to an important distinction between Calvin committing himself to definite atonement and being committed to definite atonement, Paul Helm argues that Calvin’s language is thoroughly consistent with the doctrine of definite atonement. Helm investigates Calvin’s views of (1) divine providence and the future; (2) his language of aspiration; and (3) his commitment to universal preaching (providing two test cases in Ezekiel 18:23 and 1 Timothy 2:4). Helm concludes that Calvin’s use of indefinite language cannot be used as an argument against his commitment to definite atonement.
Chapter 5 — Blaming Beza: The Development of Definite Atonement in the Reformed Tradition
Did John Calvin teach “limited atonement,” or did later Reformed thinkers, such as Theodore Beza, concoct this allegedly harsh doctrine by substituting Calvin’s restrained biblical exegesis with a deterministic, rationalistic, and deductive system? Raymond Blacketer brings a wealth of historical knowledge to bear on this question and answers it with accuracy and nuance. He provides a brief historical tour of how Calvin has been read or misread and the methodological cul-de-sacs in much recent Calvin scholarship. Using Theodore Beza as his main test case, Blacketer demonstrates that there is more continuity with Calvin in the late-sixteenth century Reformer than previous scholarship has allowed.
Chapter 6 — The Synod of Dort and Definite Atonement
Definite atonement achieved confessional status at the international Synod of Dort (1618–1619). Rather than treating them as a collection of abstract doctrinal documents, this chapter puts the formularies and deliberations of that famous gathering of theologians and pastors into historical context, and particularly notes some of the diversity amongst the delegates, not least on the issue of atonement. There was no monolithic Reformed consensus but in their refutations of Arminianism, Reformed theologians used a variety of approaches and exegetical tactics. Lee Gatiss focuses especially on the classic sufficiency–efficiency distinction as it was employed in the debates and final statements at Dort, and the concept of divine intention. Since they have been unduly neglected in the scholarship to date, he also examines the biblical annotations commissioned by the Synod to see how Reformed doctrine was grounded textually by Reformed biblical scholars in their rejection of Arminian impositions upon the text.
Chapter 7 — Controversy on Universal Grace: An Historical Survey of Moïse Amyraut’s Brief Traitté de la Predestination
The purpose of this chapter is to present an historical survey of Amyraut and his writings and the controversy that ensued as a result of their publication. To date, there is no detailed, published presentation of Amyraut’s main theses in the English language. Djaballah provides a brief overview of Amyraut’s background and upbringing, his education and theological training, before presenting the main tenants of Amyraut’s thesis on predestination as contained in his infamous Brief Traitté de la Predestination et de ses principales dependances. Djaballah then traces the subsequent historical controversy over grace in France and beyond, concluding with some brief examples of Amyraldianism in evangelical theology in the last century.
Chapter 8 — Atonement and the Covenant of Redemption: John Owen on the Nature of Christ’s Satisfaction
In this chapter, Trueman explores the complexity of doctrinal formulation and the interconnectedness of one doctrinal locus to another in relation to the nature of Christ’s satisfaction. In conversation with John Owen and Richard Baxter, Trueman tackles the issue of whether Christ’s atonement ipso facto rendered the elect justified, and thus whether faith is a mere awakening to a justified state that already belongs to the elect. The discussion turns on the nature of the payment that Christ rendered to the Father: was it an equivalent payment or an identical payment? By advocating an identical payment, Baxter believed that Owen’s theology pushed towards a doctrine of eternal justification or, if not that, at least justification which took place at the cross and whose objectivity and effectiveness thus stood independent of any need for individual repentance, faith, and a disciplined Christian life. Trueman demonstrates how Baxter’s concerns were ill-founded because of the way Owen, in an exemplary fashion, located the identical payment within a wider theological framework: that of the covenant of redemption and the unity of the office of Christ’s mediatorship.