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DEFINITE ATONEMENT IN THE BIBLE

Chapter 9 — “Because He Loved Your Forefathers”: Election, Atonement, and Intercession in the Pentateuch
(Paul Williamson)           

This chapter investigates the relationship between election, atonement, and intercession within the Pentateuch. The relationship between Israel’s election and their subsequent redemption out of Egypt is presented as the larger biblical-theological framework in which any analysis of sacrifice and redemption must take place. Particular attention is given to the key redemptive moments in the Pentateuch of the Passover and Day of Atonement—the latter in sensitivity to the covenant–elect distinction. The corporate and individual nature of atonement is also discussed. The material that is surveyed demonstrates that, though not fully developed, the seeds of definite atonement have been sown in the early stages of the Bible’s story.

Chapter 10 — “Stricken for the Transgression of My People”: The Atoning Work of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant
(Alec Motyer)

An inductive exploration into Isaiah 53 reveals the resources that it holds for the doctrine of definite atonement. Setting the fourth “Servant song” in its literary context, Alec Motyer shows how this famous passage presents key theological concepts that are complementary to the doctrine of definite atonement. The Servant’s death exhibits a penal substitutionary atonement that has several ramifications for its intent and nature. Motyer provides insight into the accomplishment of the Servant’s redemptive death, while also illuminating the Servant’s role in applying that same redemption. The chapter closes with an insightful note on “the many” for whom the Servant brings salvation.

Chapter 11 — For the Glory of the Father and the Salvation of His People: Definite Atonement in the Synoptics and Johannine Literature
(Matthew Harmon)

Rather than simply describing the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Synoptic Gospels and Johannine Literature situate the work of Christ within the larger framework of an agreement in eternity past between the Father and the Son. In the light of that agreement, this chapter demonstrates that the ultimate purpose of the atonement is to display the glory of God. The Son accomplishes this ultimate purpose by successfully completing the work the Father sent him to do, which was effectually to accomplish the redemption of the people whom the Father gave to him. This claim is supported by the numerous texts that refer to Jesus specifically dying for his people and consistent with those texts that assert God’s love for the world.

Chapter 12 — For Whom Did Christ Die?: Particularism and Universalism in the Pauline Epistles
(Jonathan Gibson)

This chapter takes up the task of analyzing the particularistic, universalistic, and “perishing” texts. Prima facie, various texts in the Pauline corpus reveal a tension between particularism and universalism in Paul’s atonement theology. Jonathan Gibson presents a detailed examination of these three sets of texts in the Pauline epistles, before making important qualifications on the interpretation of the terms “many,” “all,” and “world.” Interpretation of these terms is made in conversation with scholars such as Bruce McCormack, Murray J. Harris and I. Howard Marshall. The practical relationship between Paul’s soteriology and evangelism is also briefly explored. Gibson demonstrates that the universalistic elements in Paul’s letters complement rather than compromise the possibility of interpreting Christ’s death as a definite atonement.

Chapter 13 — The Glorious, Indivisible, Trinitarian Work of God in Christ: Definite Atonement in Paul’s Theology of Salvation
(Jonathan Gibson)

In discussions on the intent and nature of the atonement, particularistic, universalistic, and “perishing” texts are often employed in a textual quid pro quo as each respective side tries to support their position. It is no different in the Pauline corpus. In this chapter, Jonathan Gibson seeks to plot a new course for the discussion, one that understands Paul’s doctrine of the atonement through the lens of his soteriology. Integral to the apostle’s soteriology is a collection of texts that concern doctrinal loci which directly impinge upon his atonement theology, such as election, eschatology, union with Christ, christology, Trinitarianism, and doxology. It is these doctrinal loci that are often neglected, and this chapter lets their voice be heard in the debate over the intent and nature of the atonement. In the final analysis, it becomes clear that Paul’s soteriological framework can point in no other direction than that of a definite atonement.

Chapter 14 — “Problematic Texts” for Definite Atonement in the Pastoral and General Epistles
(Thomas Schreiner)

Proponents of a universal or general atonement often marshal universalistic texts in the Pastoral and General Epistles to show how limiting the scope of the atonement is biblically unwarranted. In this chapter, Tom Schreiner deals with these “problematic” texts (1 Tim. 2:4–6; 4:10; Titus 2:11–14; 2 Pet. 2:1; 3:9; Heb. 2:9). By close work on individual words and terms, as well as being sensitive to their historical, literary, and theological contexts, Schreiner demonstrates that none of these texts tells against the doctrine of definite atonement.