From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological and Pastoral Perspective
Reviewed by Thomas E. Troxell, Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA), Sun City West, AZ 85375
David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson, editors
Crossway, 2013 $50.00
667 pages plus bibliography and three indicies.
This is a tome, in every sense of the word, but its size ought not to be a discouragement for pastors and serious readers of theology. However, this work is probably not for every church library. The title is taken from Samuel Stone’s hymn The Church’s One Foundation, the last two lines of the first verse:
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.
This book seeks to answer in a comprehensive way the question “For whom did Christ die?” from the Reformed/Calvinistic perspective. The work seeks to be a corrective for all the wrong ideas and attitudes the come from the “L” (limited atonement) in the acronym “TULIP.” As a Calvinist I would agree that “limited” conjures up ideas of a stingy God and that the term “definite atonement” is much more to the point. There are twenty-three essays by twenty-one authors representing a cross section of present-day Reformed scholarship.
The book seeks to deal with “four interrelated aspects of the doctrine: its controversies and nuances in church history, its presence or absence in the bible, its theological implications, and its pastoral consequences.” (p.37)
"The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. The death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of god’s people alone." (p. 33)
This is a work to be savored, like a fine wine with all its complexities. I would say that J. Alec Motyer's chapter (10) "Stricken for the Transgression of My People: The Atoning Work of Isaiah's Suffering Servant" [Isaiah 52:13-53:12) is worth the price of the book. [This is particularly striking as I write this review during Lent in 2014.] The two final chapters by Pastor/Teachers Sinclair Ferguson and John Piper deal pastorally with the subject, something this pastor appreciates.
I believe this quotation from Editor David Gibson captures the aim of the book: “Definite atonement is beautiful because it tells the story of the Warrior-Son who comes to earth to slay his enemy and rescue his Father’s people. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, a loving Bridegroom who gives himself for his bride, and a victorious King who lavishes the spoils of his conquest on the citizens of his realm.” (p. 17)
Should one need a more nuanced review I would send you to the reviews by Aaron Denlinger and Tom McCall at Reformation21: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/two-tales-of-a-doctrine-reviewing-definite-atonement.php.
I agree with Tom McCall when he states “both adherents to DA [definite atonement] and opponents of the doctrine stand to benefit from this book.” As a reformed pastor I found this work to be a great addition to my library. It is a thorough-going treatment of Definite Atonement not seen since the Puritan John Owen’s “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”