The Atonement

By Johnson, Adam | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 2018 | Go to article overview

The Atonement


Johnson, Adam, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Atonement. By William Lane Craig. Cambridge Elements in the Philosophy of Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, 106 pp., $18.00 paper.

In his brief new book, The Atonement, William Lane Craig gives us a delightful work on the doctrine, divided into three sections, each helpful and surprising in its own way.

The first section canvases the biblical material on the atonement. Craig covers an immense amount of material, getting to the point with a conciseness that belies his depth of insight. But the most important contribution is tucked into the first paragraph. Having noted the presence of a multiplicity of biblical metaphors and motifs pertaining to the atonement, he warns: "If any of these go missing from a theory of the atonement, then we know that we do not have a biblical theory of the atonement. We may then be spared the digression of pursuing such a theory further, since it is disqualified as a Christian atonement theory" (p. 7). This is a bold claim, though a refreshing one. Personally, I would like to amend this to say: "If any of these are incompatible with a theory of the atonement, then we know that we do not have a biblical theory of the atonement"-for I do not know of any work on the atonement that has satisfactorily covered all the motifs and metaphors pertaining to the atonement in Scripture.

But the point stands. To construct a Christian doctrine of the atonement, one must not simply choose some aspect or dimension of the biblical witness but embrace it holistically. Anything less is to remake the doctrine according to one's own whims, ignorance, and (perhaps) sin. One would think this would not need saying, but a perusal of recent books on the subject suggests otherwise.

The second section offers a selective overview of the history of the doctrine. On the one hand, this section is very refreshing. At nearly every point, Craig shows clear evidence of having worked through the primary sources. One would not think this to be noteworthy-what else are scholars supposed to do?-but in fact this part is exceptional. Craig regularly notes his surprise to find theologians expressing views contrary to, or quite divergent from, what he had been led to expect in the secondary literature, especially when it comes to Anselm, Abelard, and Grotius.

On the other hand, this section is somewhat disappointing. First, Craig basically skips the first thousand years of the church, stating that "when the Church Fathers did mention the atonement, their comments were brief and for the most part unincisive" (p. 28). I can only hope that Craig will attend to Irenaeus, Athanasius, Maximus, and other such theologians in future work on the atonement, for I think that, much to his delight, he will find himself mistaken. Second, Craig follows a line of thought that excessively favors Reformed theology, even in the medieval theologians he covers. While I find penal substitution to be a biblical feature of Christ's saving work, the way Craig elides honor and justice in Anselm, and then spends most of his allotted space in post-Reformation theologians, is historically skewed. Finally, Craig really does not spend much time interacting with theologians post-Turretin, which leaves a lot of delightful material to be covered. Of course, I could be seen as asking him to write a history of the doctrine, a task that he obviously did not set out to do. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Atonement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.