The Top Five....Books on Atonement

A week late, but here they are - the top five (plus one releasing this fall) books on the Atonement, according to Dr. Greg Strand, Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing at the EFCA. Having just read the book, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, in which the authors were asked to talk about Scripture, Trinity and the Atonement, I asked Dr. Strand for the best (in print) books on those topics. Today I want to share with you the top books he gave me on the Atonement. In no particular order...

The Glory of the Atonement, Frank James & Charles Hill - ed.
The atonement is the crown jewel of Christian doctrine. And it is the responsibility of each generation of theologians to preserve its heritage, explore its facets and allow its radiance to illumine their day. With The Glory of the Atonement editors Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III, along with a group of expert contributors, attempt to fulfill this trust at the dawn of a new millennium.

The Glory of the Atonement is divided into three parts--biblical, historical and practical--with each section introduced by an overview essay. In part one evangelical biblical scholars explore the atonement within the contours of Scripture, looking first at the atonement in the Pentateuch, Psalm 51 and Isaiah 53, and then more closely at the major texts of the New Testament.

In part two historical and systematic theologians weigh the atonement in the ancient, medieval and Reformation traditions. The primary perspective of the contributors is the Reformed tradition, which is further represented by essays on John Calvin, Herman Bavinck and Karl Barth. A timely capstone to this historical view is a stimulating consideration of the atonement and postmodernism.

Finally, the implications of the atonement are brought home in part three with a look at the atonement in contemporary preaching and Christian living.

Here is a full-course feast for ministers of the Word, a textbook for students of the Bible and theology, and a valuable resource for any theological library.

The Atonement, Leon Morris
Leon Morris examines the rich variety of New Testament terms used to describe the significance of Christ's death and resurrection.
Why is the cross the crux of Christianity? What are the meaning and significance of the atonement? The Bible uses a host of terms to illuminate the answers to these questions: covenant, sacrifice, the Day of Atonement, Passover, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, justification. In plain English Leon Morris explains each of these words, thus opening up for students, pastors and teachers the fuller biblical dimension of God's great salvation.

Where Wrath and Mercy Meet, David Peterson
In this collection of papers, delivered at the Oak Hill summer school of theology, four members of the faculty defend a strong articulation of penal substitution in the face of contemporary challenges. David Peterson surveys the atonement in both Old and New Testaments; Gary Williams examines the nature of punishment at the heart of a penal doctrine; Michael Ovey expounds how sin is the 'de-creation' of God's world; and Paul Weston reflects on John's gospel and the lessons it provides on proclaiming the cross today. The collection is then completed with an appendix on justification by faith by Alan Stibbs.

The Cross of Christ, John Stott
The work of a lifetime, from one of the world's most influential thinkers, about the heart of the Christian faith.

"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. . . . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?" With compelling honesty John Stott confronts this generation with the centrality of the cross in God's redemption of the world -- a world now haunted by the memories of Auschwitz, the pain of oppression and the specter of nuclear war.

Can we see triumph in tragedy, victory in shame? Why should an object of Roman distaste and Jewish disgust be the emblem of our worship and the axiom of our faith? And what does it mean for us today?

Now from one of the foremost preachers and Christian leaders of our day comes theology at its readable best, a contemporary restatement of the meaning of the cross. At the cross Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, the sin and bondage of the world exposed.

More than a study of the atonement, this book brings Scripture into living dialogue with Christian theology and the twentieth century. What emerges is a pattern for Christian life and worship, hope and mission.

Destined to be a classic study of the center of our faith, Stott's work is the product of a uniquely gifted pastor, scholar and Christian statesman. His penetrating insight, charitable scholarship and pastoral warmth are guaranteed to feed both heart and mind.

Cross Words, Paul Wells
The post-modern society is so focussed on the internal life of the individual that it makes the significance of the cross a difficult concept to grasp. Even Christians are trying to find alternative ways of explaining it - some have abandoned the concept of atonement entirely.

Jesus, though, is far more than a victim. When God receives and approves the condemned Jesus he transcends the world of oppressor and victim to create a new humanity, capable of new kinds of relationships. Atonement speaks of a transition from brokenness, alienation and the death of love to a place of restoration, healing, and wholeness. A place that holds out hope for deepening friendships and mutual confidence - the exact same things the post-modern mind is lacking, and is looking for.

Pierced for Our Transgressions, Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey and Andrew Sach
The doctrine of penal substitution states that God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin.

Although this is the historic Christian view, it has recently come under attack. Controversy has raged since 2003 when Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Trust, likened the doctrine to ‘a form of cosmic child abuse’.

Pierced for our Transgressions offers a fresh affirmation of penal substitution, engaging with exegetical, theological, pastoral and historical perspectives. It is designed to be useful for pastors, theological students, and all thinking Christians.

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