Subscribe now


By Chris Woodall
October 2015 | Review by Paul Wells
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock
  • ISBN: 978-1-4982-0795-9
  • Pages: 208
  • Price: 17.00
Buy this book »

Book Review

Chris Woodall, of North-West University in South Africa, has produced a book adding to the growing list of publications on the doctrine of atonement. It comes as third in a series, following Covenant and Kingdom. I have not read the previous volumes and it was difficult to place Atonement’s perspectives in a broader context.

Woodall writes from an evangelical perspective with mild Calvinistic tendencies (p.27). He freely cites Berkhof, Lloyd-Jones, Hendriksen, Stott and others on the topic. The author gets close to what might be called Calvinism, but can hold back in surprising and original ways.

For instance, he has a section addressing John Owen’s The death of death in the death of Christ, but does not do justice to Owen’s position. He suggests that a more valid title would be The death of death in the resurrection of Christ. We wonder about the usefulness of this comment that hardly does justice to ‘death’ as understood by Owen.

Woodall distinguishes God’s purpose (the arrival point of the biblical narrative) from his plan (the preferred choice of means). Yet, if God’s plan is purposeful, is this distinction valid? Is it merely God’s purpose that is achieved in man’s atonement, or is it more profoundly the glory of God himself in salvation?

When the author speaks of the atonement being necessary and the means to bring God’s purpose about, this is not quite the same as the ‘necessity’ of the atonement in classical theological discussions.

This appears to result from Woodall’s view that what is lost and restored by atonement is a right relationship with the creator. The purpose of the atonement is to ‘effect the reconciliation of relationship between God and man’ (p.92). So man is reconciled, which is not quite God being reconciled to man.

Having gone through sections on the necessity and reality of the atonement, we arrive at its benefits. The author speaks with heart-warming appreciation of these, albeit stopping short of espousing limited atonement: ‘Scripture is not sufficiently conclusive to promote or dismiss it’ (p.128).

There is much to appreciate in this book, but one feels that the author, though approaching a theology of grace, is slipping away from it at the same time. I felt uneasy with this ambiguity. Is it — to use one of Woodall’s own expressions — a ‘cop out’?

Paul Wells


Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Why Should I Trust the Bible?

We should trust the Bible, says Timothy Paul Jones, because it is ‘grounded in the words of a man who died and rose again’ (p.111). Jones’s basic presupposition is this: ‘If we live in a world where it is possible…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Who Am I? Human Identity and the Gospel in a Confusing World
Thomas Fretwell

In today’s secular society, religion is often regarded as without rational or scientific basis, and therefore irrelevant to life in the modern world and all areas of public engagement. If that is our social context, then it is no wonder…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Pastor’s Life: Practical Wisdom from the Puritans
Matthew D Haste & Shane W Parker

This book highlights ‘some of the many lessons that today’s pastors can learn from the Puritans’ (p.151). As such it is aimed at pastors, but the lessons are really for anyone who is a Christian leader. The opening chapter provides…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church
Stephen J Nichols

What a breath of fresh air this book is! Stephen Nichols has given us 40 vignettes from church history that are brief enough to be digested over a bowl of cereal. The book doesn’t aim to be a beginner’s guide…