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DEFINITE ATONEMENT IN PASTORAL PRACTICE

Chapter 21 — Slain for the World? The “Uncomfortability” of the “Unevangelized” for a Universal Atonement
(Daniel Strange)

This chapter exposes the problematic relationship between the “unevangelized” and a universal atonement. Daniel Strange contends that unless proponents of universal atonement deny the fides ex auditu (faith comes by hearing) and embrace some form of soteriological inclusivism (with its deeply problematic ramifications for evangelical exegesis, doctrine, and mission), universal atonement is in actuality a “limited” atonement, not simply in its “quality” (in offering only the “possibility” of salvation), but also in its “quantity” or “scope.” More provocatively, for those who never hear the gospel, not only is universal or “unlimited” atonement susceptible to the claim of not presenting a sincere or “well-meant” offer of the gospel, but actually for this category of humanity, it makes no offer at all, thus making it “limited.” Using John Owen’s classic argument in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Strange presses home the logic of the dilemma with clarity and force, showing how the “unevangelized” remain an “uncomfortable stone in the shoe” for advocates of a universal atonement. 

Chapter 22 — “Blessèd Assurance, Jesus is Mine”? Definite Atonement and the Cure of Souls
(Sinclair B. Ferguson)

Jesus’s description of himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep carries with it pastoral implications for gospel ministers who serve as under-shepherds and assistant bishops to Christ. The analogy implies definite atonement. Jesus dies for his own whom the Father has given him. But surely definite atonement is a sophisticated and controversial point of theology, and therefore one unlikely to impact pastoral ministry? More pointedly, in the nineteenth century, John McLeod Campbell, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister, argued that the doctrine of “limited atonement” robs a Christian of their assurance. In this chapter, Sinclair Ferguson engages with Campbell’s seminal work The Nature of the Atonement, exposing the main tenets of his arguments. In conversation with Calvin and the Westminster Divines, Ferguson demonstrates how assurance is the singular fruit of the gospel and the birthright of every Christian. The grounds for this assurance is found, contrary to Campbell, not in a universal atonement but in a definite atonement, one in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have worked in harmony to secure. And this is a true cure of souls.

Chapter 23 — “My Glory I Will Not Give to Another”: Preaching the Fullness of Definite Atonement to the Glory of God
(John Piper)

With clarity and passion, John Piper portrays the glory of the atonement and its ramifications for preaching. The cross of Christ is the climactic revelation of the glory of his grace, which is the apex of the glory of God. The glory of God’s grace includes the glorious design and power of the atonement to secure the faith and salvation of his elect. Connected to this are the issues of God’s love and the efficacy of the new covenant which is obtained by the blood of Christ. Piper engages firmly but fairly with modern Reformed expressions of “unlimited limited atonement” (Mark Driscoll) and the “multiple-intentions view” (Bruce Ware), exposing how the dilemma of a “double payment” attends both schemes. Piper concludes his essay with the very real and practical issues of the sincere and universal offer of the gospel for everyone, and the benefits of preaching definite atonement to God’s people.