From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Edited by David and Jonathan Gibson. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014. 709 pp. $50.00. Purchase print at Westminster for less or on Kindle for less than $20.
There is really no hotter topic within orthodox Christianity than the subject of the extent of Christ’s atonement. This discussion has taken place from the days of Augustine to Calvin to Edwards to Spurgeon to Lloyd-Jones to Piper to now. This is a conversation that will never end until Christ returns. That being said, it remains a conversation worth having and, as evidenced by this 700 page tome edited by Jonathan and David Gibson, is a very deep conversation.
Contributors include men like scholars and pastors alike. Some of the more recognizable names include Michael A. G. Haykin, Paul Helm, Lee Gatiss, Carl R. Trueman, Paul R. Williamson, J. Alec Motyer, Thomas R. Schreiner, Donald Macleod, Robert Letham, Stephen J. Wellum, Henri A. G. Blocher, Sinclair B. Ferguson, John Piper, and more.
The book is divided into four parts with twenty-three chapters. The first part looks at the definite atonement in light of church history. Dr. Haykin, perhaps the foremost scholar on the Patristics, begins the sound scholarly essays that comprise this work. The second part looks at the doctrine of definite atonement as found in Scripture. Here, each of the five contributors to the six chapters that comprise this part, look at various elements and arguments for and against an understanding of definite atonement.
The third part begins the shift to the more practical side of understanding the definite atonement. In this third part, the contributors wrestle with the definite atonement in theological perspective. In other words, what does it mean, academically speaking, to hold to this view. These essays lead directly to the importance of the fourth part where the contributors explain how the definite atonement impacts pastoral practice. It is in this section that we find a “rubber meets the road” understanding of this important doctrine.
I realize first and foremost that my website is not designed to engage in heavy theological discussions. I simply right reviews to introduce quality Christian resources and offer a reason why you would want to purchase the book spending your time and money on these resources. That being said, if you are looking for a deeper discussion of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, I would recommend you check out reviews by The Gospel Coalition or SBC Today. Both are lengthy and both are well-reasoned.
As for my thoughts, it must be noted that this book is in no way an “arm-chair theologian” book. Rather, it is a work of scholarship and heart-felt conviction concerning the work of Christ for the salvation of souls. To that end, I can honestly say I have read no other resource that comes close to the depth and breadth of work that From Heaven He Came and Sought Her does. I believe the contributors to have done a masterful job of engaging the discussion from many different perspectives within the group of believers that hold to a definite atonement view. It must be noted that the purpose of this resource was to argue for the Definite Atonement and therefore one should not expect a work of this magnitude to include other views except when there is an attempt to refute them.
For me, as a pastor, I found the fourth part of this book to be the most helpful. While the first three parts can come off as “iv0ry-towerish,” it is this fourth part that shows how holding to this view of the atonement should positively impact your pastoral ministry. This includes, but is not limited to preaching, evangelizing, and missions work.
One other important factor to be mentioned is that while these men write with conviction, they do not come across as many of the “young, restless, and reformed” pastors and writers do. That is, they are humble and write with understanding that this is a debatable though extremely important conversation. As you read through this work, you will find that you need a pen in hand and a Bible at your side.
While I would love to recommend this resource to every Christian (and I do), I realize that there are very few who will want to read a 700 page book on the definite view of atonement. It is my contention that anyone who claims to be Reformed or Calvinistic ought to read this work – especially the fourth part on the pastoral implications. Also, I believe if anyone is genuinely wanting to understand the historicity and biblical understanding of a definite atonement, there is no other contemporary scholarship that will compare to what is found in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her. If you are interested in this subject, then I highly recommend you begin here and build your library on this topic through the works cited and select bibliography.