Subscribe now


Christ Crucified

By Donald Macleod
July 2014 | Review by Mostyn Roberts
  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-78359-101-5
  • Pages: 272
  • Price: 16.99

Book Review

Christ Crucified —Understanding the Atonement

Donald Macleod


255 pages, £10.87

ISBN 978-1-78359-101-5

Star rating: Four stars


There are few more wonderful subjects to study than the atonement and anyone who reads this book is in for a treat.

The plan of the work is essentially simple. Donald Macleod begins with three chapters tracing the gospel accounts of Christ’s passion, giving a textual orientation sometimes missing in theological studies of the atonement. There are some gems of exposition here that would enrich much gospel preaching.

He then takes seven chapters to cover the great themes of the accomplishment of the cross: substitution, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, satisfaction, redemption and victory. Another chapter deals with the inadequacy of alternatives: the moral influence theory, the rectoral or governmental theory, the vicarious repentance theory and the ‘vicarious humanity’ theory of T.F. and J.B. Torrance.

In the course of writing Macleod, who always expresses himself with enviable lucidity, deals with the aberrant views of those who allege that traditional presentations portray the cross as ‘cosmic child abuse’. He insists that Christ’s substitution is penal.

Particular/definite redemption is expounded, reminding us that this is more to do with the nature than the extent of the atonement.

In dealing with expiation Macleod interestingly warns of the danger of over-reaction against the liberal rejection of propitiation, arguing that where the object of Christ’s work is sin, then expiation is a better translation for the hilaskesthai word group than propitiation (hence he prefers it at Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10) and he prefers, with Calvin, the translation ‘mercy seat’ in Rom. 3:25 (for hilasterion). However he is adamant that propitiation is implied and that where sin is expiated, God is propitiated, so the essential emphasis on assuaging God’s wrath is not missed.

With John Murray, Macleod insists that Christ’s obedience is the axis of his redeeming work.

This is not a work that breaks a lot of new ground, though typically Macleod can often be provocative and makes you look at things with a fresh eye. However as a comprehensive treatment of the Reformed theology of the cross, it should be read by ministers and students alike, and anyone else who wants a good biblical and theological feast.


Mostyn Roberts




Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Never Enough: Confronting Lies about Appearance and Achievement with Gospel Hope
Sarah Ivill

Never Enough is a well-written, thoughtfully structured series of ‘teachable moments’ based on the author’s own testimony of suffering from eating disorders and a battle between fitness and obsession. Ivill talks of how her need to be romantically loved made…

See all book reviews
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
A Beginner’s Guide To Church History
Philip Parsons

This book is a must-read for every Christian, which covers a wide period from the apostolic age to the church under Communism. There are numerous excellent works on church history, like Philip Schaff’s eight volumes, or Andrew Miller’s three volumes,…

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…