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Participation and Atonement

An Analytic and Constructive Account

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The atonement is at the heart of Christian doctrine. But how does it relate to the life of the church? And what difference does it make for worship and liturgy?

In this book, theologian Oliver Crisp sets out a new, comprehensive account of the nature of the atonement, exploring how the atonement relates to our participation in the life of God and in the shared life of the Christian community. The book is divided into three sections. In the first, Crisp tackles methodological issues that impinge upon the doctrine of atonement, such as the necessity and value of atonement, the use of models in articulating doctrine, and the place of divine retribution. In the second section, he discusses some major historic accounts of the atonement, including moral exemplarism, the ransom account, satisfaction, and penal substitution. Each view is subjected to sympathetic scrutiny and found to be wanting in some respect. In the third second, he sets out a constructive doctrine of atonement. Beginning with the doctrine of sin, he considers the nature of atonement in relation to the incarnation, cross, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of Christ--as well as in relation to the life of the church and the celebration of the Eucharist. Crisp then concludes with a dogmatic summary of the major themes of the book as a whole.

Participation and Atonement speaks into a resurgence of evangelical interest in the doctrine of the atonement, offering a constructive, analytic theology from within the Reformed tradition that is ecumenical in spirit.


Part 1: Approaching the Atonement
1. Methodological Issues
2. The Value and Necessity of Atonement
Part 2: Models of Atonement
3. Moral Exemplarism and Transformation
4. The Ransom Motif
5. Satisfaction Guaranteed
6. Problems with Penal Substitution
Part 3: Atonement and Salvation
7. Sin and Salvation
8. Representation and Atonement
9. The Mystical Body of Christ
10. Soteriological Synthesis


"Crisp does what the best theologians have always done: engage critically and sympathetically with the tradition and constructively develop it in conversation with old and new questions. Crisp has a finely honed theological and philosophical mind. This is one of the most important recent treatments of the doctrine of the atonement."

Gavin D'Costa, professor of Catholic theology, University of Bristol

"In this rich, nuanced, and full-orbed account of salvation, Oliver Crisp brings new and salient insights to what Paul calls the 'things of first importance.' With characteristic clarity of thought and expression, Crisp sheds light on multiple aspects of soteriology: how we conceptualize atonement in the first place, the mechanism of atonement (the means by which Christ brings about the reconciliation of fallen humanity with God), the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and the relation of the individual to the church and to Christ. Crisp offers some friendly and welcome criticism of past and current thinking on atonement while constructing his own persuasive account of the atonement as participation in the divine life. Here Crisp combines the astuteness of philosophical thinking with years of theological reflection on Scripture and the divine nature to paint a picture of salvation that draws out deep insights into the steadfast intentions of a gracious and merciful God toward his beloved creatures."

Lucy Peppiatt, principal, Westminster Theological Centre, United Kingdom

"Among contemporary theologians, Oliver Crisp stands out for the unusual breadth and rigor of his historical and systematic work. Here he gives us his fully worked out theology of the atonement, constructed upon the foundation of historical figures from the church's past and bold in its effort to refine and integrate the doctrines of covenant, original sin, Christ the second Adam, vicarious representation, satisfaction, union with Christ, and deification. This rich and rewarding book should enjoy a wide readership."

Matthew Levering, James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"This magisterial study provides a lucid analysis of the traditional models of the atonement before weaving their key elements into a forceful exposition of the relationship between the incarnation and the atonement. The account that emerges draws together the doctrines of creation, participation, justification, pneumatology, and ecclesiology in a manner that not only brings out the cogency of the tradition but also testifies to the rich insight that we have come to expect from one of today's most important theologians. This profound exposition of soteriology will surely become required reading for academic theologians and students alike. One of the greatest benefits of this work will be the constructive conversation it inspires. Suffice it to say, the promise of this for contemporary theological debate can hardly be overstated."

Alan J. Torrance, emeritus professor, University of St. Andrews

The Author

  1. Oliver D. Crisp

    Oliver D. Crisp

    Oliver D. Crisp (PhD, University of London; DLitt, University of Aberdeen) is the Principal of St. Mary's College, Head of the School of Divinity, Professor of Analytic Theology, and Director of the Logos Institute at the University of St. Andrews,...

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