Andrew Fulford Archive Authors Nota Bene

Two Reviews on Definite Atonement

The recent publication of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (edited by David and Jonathan Gibson) has once again stoked the fires of an inter-evangelical dispute between “Calvinists” and “Arminians” over the extent of the atonement. Last month, Reformation 21 hosted a twofold review of the book by Tom McCall and Aaron Denlinger, providing a polyphonic perspective on the book. Denlinger claims:

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her has been lauded as “the most impressive defense of definite atonement in over a century” (Michael Horton). I’d be willing to go a bit further and name it as the best defense of definite atonement at least since John Owen’s magisterial work The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1647). Indeed, it may even rival that work. I suspect that both the editors and contributors of this book might baulk at having their collective effort compared to Owen’s work as equals. I would, however, defend my claim partially on the basis of certain characteristics of the work which I will shortly identify, and partially on the premise that when standing on the shoulders of theological giants, we–theological midgets that we are–see ever-so-slightly further than they.

McCall writes in turn:

This book truly deserves much more engagement than this short review can provide; rather than provide counterarguments, I’ve only been able to nod toward some issues that deserve much more attention (look for a review essay forthcoming in the Trinity Journal). Many of these essays are very good, and both adherents to DA and opponents of the doctrine stand to benefit from this book. Upon completion, I confess that after working through these hundreds of pages of intelligent argument and valuable insight mixed with some overstatement, misrepresentation, and what strikes me as hasty, forced argumentation as well as internal contradiction, I find myself more incredulous than before. Despite the unevenness, however, overall this book mounts a stout defense of a difficult doctrine, and clearly it is the one with which we should wrestle. I learned a great deal. Perhaps more importantly, over and over I was reminded of the precious common ground that is shared at the foot of the cross.

No doubt more interactions will follow in the days to come. We at TCI would be remiss not to mention the work of David Ponter, whose ever expanding and copious historical research on this subject is freely available at his site, Calvin and Calvinism.