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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 26 April 2007
I picked up my copy on Tuesday and finished it today in three sittings. It's one of those books that you can read quickly and don't want to put down.

Four great things about this book

1. It is drenched in scripture. Some readers may associate Systematic Theology with abstract natural theology or random proof texting. This book shows how to be thoroughly Biblical whilst being systematic. It clearly demonstrates how Penal Substition is taught in all Scripture and how this relates to other doctrines

2. It offers a gracious but firm response to opponents of Penal Substition. It takes time to set out the objections so they can be properly heard and then it answers them.

3. It nails once and for all the lie that Penal Substition is a modern invention. Buy it if only for the section on Church history.

4. It is pastoral. It helps the reader apply doctrine to the real life. An appendix at the end provides useful advice to the Pastor-Teacher wishing to preach the doctrine.
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on 17 September 2007
This book has been heralded with the kind of fanfare that earlier ages reserved for Kings returning gloriously from battle. Witness the 10 pages of endorsements at the front of the book.

What is the fuss about and does this book deserve this wave of acclamation?

Many people sensed that the banner for the age old message of the gospel had to be raised when well known British evangelical Steve Chalke described the doctrine of penal substitution, that Jesus bore the penalty for our sins on the cross, as `Cosmic Child abuse' in his book `The Lost Message of Jesus'. He was not making an original comment. The phrase was first used by feminist theologians. What was shocking was to hear it from someone thought to be part of the evangelical establishment.

It was not only the repudiation of traditional doctrine, but the manner in which it was made that was deeply unsettling. There was an atmosphere of emotional and moral blackmail about it. The traditional doctrine is nasty, nice people don't believe it.

It is to the credit of the three authors here that they steer well away from the attempts at emotional manipulation that pollute much theological debate at present. Instead they present their case in an objective manner, basing it on their chosen texts from the Bible.

However, while this book is good as far as it goes, I do not think that this is the book succeeds in putting forward a full biblical doctrine of the atonement that can answer present attacks.

The book is divided into two sections `Making the Case' and `Answering the Critics'. The first section is drawn far too narrowly and there is not enough room in the second section to answer the 27 criticisms addressed in sufficient depth.

The great mistake of the book is to think that penal substitution can be best defended by being defended in isolation. It is a key truth, but it is not the whole truth of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. Yes Jesus bore the penalty for our sins on the Cross, but he also defeated the powers of evil there and put the power of sin, and sin itself, to death. More than that this book deals with Jesus as victim on the cross but where is the detailed exposition of the equally necessary truth that Jesus was and is our Priest as well as victim? This more than anything else proves the `Cosmic Child Abuse' charge wrong. Concentrating on Jesus as victim can give the impression that at the cross God the Father is acting as God and Priest wielding the knife, as it were, over his victim his son. It has to be said that there is many a sermon that leaves this impression because the truth is not clearly put: that Jesus at the cross is both Priest and Victim who then presents his own sacrifice before the Father, and lives to intercede on the basis of it on our behalf.

So, while this book makes some good points it is a missed opportunity.

A good short introduction to everything Jesus has done for us to save us is provided in 'Aspects of Atonement' by Howard Marshall. What is needed is a more detailed book with the breadth of vision displayed in it.

In the meantime older books like John Stott's The Cross Of Christ provide a more balanced, better rounded exposition of penal substitution.
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VINE VOICEon 17 April 2007
I've not finished this yet but felt like writing it up now. This is a very timely book, coming as it does after many in recent years have been challenging the doctrine of penal substitution. What has been (and to a large extent, still is) a defining doctrine for evangelicalism, there have been a number of challenges to its status by those who claim the term evangelical, on both sides of the Atlantic.

What is so good about this book, though, is not just that they mount a thorough defence of the doctrine, but as the subtitle implies, they revel in its wonder and grace. It makes, therefore, for an encouraging and heart-warming read - which is not something one can say for many (if not most) theological tomes.

The book is in 2 parts - the first an overview of the doctrine from a biblical and historical perspective. The second takes on the specific criticisms. Particularly helpful were ch4 (pastoral importance of the doctrine) and ch5 (the historical pedigree) - these (quite apart from all the biblical and systematic evidence) makes for a compelling case (although i concede that i was pretty convinced already!).

As for the second part, the encouragement was that while they were tackling the likes of Chalke & Mann, Green & Baker, their method was constructive and positive. Again two chapters stick out in my mind - on violence (ch9) and justice (ch10) - both very strong contemporary objections to the doctrine which (particularly the former) in my experience are not taken sufficiently seriously by many traditional evangelicals.

I was mildly amused by the number of endorsements that this book had received before going to press (10 whole pages worth, right at the very beginning!). And you can see more if you go to the useful website that the authors have set up (i originally put a link to it here, but the Amazon spam-filter must have thought i was advertising something dodgy). A search for it will get you to it pretty quickly - it is definitely worth a look. But the endorsements are entirely valid - and i venture to add mine here. This is a book to read, return to and rely on - and i hope it will gain the seminal status it deserves in the years to come.
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on 18 April 2007
This may be one of the most important books of the decade. It is comprehensive without being complicated; profound but not pretentious. The authors honestly deal with the issue of Christ's death for us and all that it means.

They discuss the views of those who recoil with horror at the thought of God sending his Son to die in our place, and show convincingly that this has been the teaching of the church throughout its history and is not a recent invention.

Part of the book deals head-on with the charge that penal substitution is "cosmic child-abuse." The various arguments against Christ as our substitute are dealt with calmly, but clearly.

This is a book for everyone who loves Jesus Christ, and loves the message of his death for us to read and re-read. It is also an excellent starting-point for getting an overview of the main ideas of the Christian message.

Highly recommended.
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on 26 October 2013
I'd give this three and a half stars if I could. I bought this book because I was applying for a job at Oak Hill Bible College, whose principal and two others are the authors of this book. (I was doing my homework.) I've read most of it but admit I have got a bit bogged down in it of late.

As an admittedly evangelical conservative Christian, I had always just assumed that all Christians believed in the view, argued in this book, that Christ took the wrath of God away from sinners. Apparently not. A number of otherwise doctrinally conservative Christians reject this view. I would have preferred it if these new dissenting voices had been presented more clearly, in some kind of context, instead of, it seemed to me, largely assuming we know these views, and later on presenting some of their ideas piecemeal.

I won't bother re-capping the issues that this book is addressing. I felt that at times it was very good, quite encouraging, and made its point well. I especially liked the chapter which reviews the ideas of the Early Church Fathers and how they support the position of this book. This historical section was very good but rather lost the point by including the views of modern day scholars like Martyn Lloyd Jones and J.I. Packer. It doesn't achieve anything by pointing out that people of your own camp think you're right!

Overall I'm not convinced that it would win over anyone from the opposite camp. I felt this was very much telling people who already believe this view that it's true. Also whilst it responds to criticisms of Penal Substitution from Steve Chalke et al I never really felt like I was getting both sides of the argument presented. Then again, this isn't intended to present both sides, just to argue for one. And it does so very thoroughly.

(BTW - I didn't get the job.)
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on 26 September 2007
This is an excellent book: highly readable, with careful exegesis, a logical structure and a compelling case for an orthodox understanding of the atonement. Contrary to what some of the critics (and even endorsers!) of the book suggest, the authors are not attempting to provide a comprehensive work on the atonement as a whole. Their aim is more modest, to provide a defence ofthe orthodox doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Their argument is straightforward: penal substitution is not the only aspect of God's redeeming work in Christ but it is central. And just like removing a central piece from a jigsaw, removing penal substitution from the cross grossly distorts the picture. This is clearly and helpfully explained in chapter 4 (The Pastoral Importance of Penal Substitution) a must-read chapter for those who think that penal substitution can be discarded with little if any consequences.

The book is divided into two parts: the first sets out the case for penal substitution, biblically, theologically, pastorally and historically; the second, responds to the objections against penal substitution and adopts a scholastic (prosecution - defence) style which is clear and engaging.

Some readers may find the exegetical chapter (chapter 2) heavy going but perseverance is rewarded as the chapter provides a compelling case for penal substitution. The authors anticipate common objections to their exegesis and provide careful and precise responses. The chapter dealing with the historical pedigree of penal substitution (chapter 4) is particularly helpful as it demonstrates that penal substitution can be found in writings that pre-date Athanasius. Hopefully this will put to bed once for all the claim that penal substitution is a creation of the reformation (alas I doubt it will). The chapter also helpfully and concisely records recent affirmation of penal substitution by leading evangelicals and organisations.

Part 2 is a real resource for those seeking to defend penal substitution against the recent attacks of Green, Baker, Fiddes, Mann, Chalke, Wink, Goldingay, Stump. The chapters on penal substitution and violence (chapter 9) and penal substitution and justice (chapter 10) are particular highlights which will be invaluable to readers seeking to engage with the current debate.

The Final Word nicely summarises the mood and substance of current (popular) objections to penal substitution. Critics frequently resort to 'the vague objection' (unsubstantiated criticism) or 'the emotional objection' (forceful language in the absence of a reasoned argument) to discount penal substitution. The authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions are not guilty of using either. Rather they have provided a clear, careful and rigorous defence of a most important biblical doctrine.
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on 28 April 2013
This is an excellent book. It gives a clear exposition of the meaning of the cross, and debunks the opposition to the fact that Christ died in our place.
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on 19 June 2007
This is the book that not just defends the Bible but lays down the gauntlet to the modern day revisionists, who dare to deny penal substitution.

The format of the whole book takes the opponents on with a different tactic of the objection and response formula.

I find it absolutely astonishing that people would want to deny the Bible and penal substitution.

As for one reviewer who gave the book one star, I can only grieve that such a fine book can be so easily dismissed by people who seemingly want to shut their ears to what the Bible says about the atonement. I would rather listen to and take to heart what the Bible says about Jesus' death and this fine book, with the longest set of commendations I have ever come across, than mere personal opinion.

To revisionists who say that the Bible doesn't teach penal substitution, we can only pray that they will read this book with unhardened hearts. To the ones that don't, we can only echo what Jesus said, quoted in John Piper's Forward to the book, where Jesus said: "You are Israel's teacher, and you do not understand these things?" (John 3:10).
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on 3 April 2008
Not only is this book comprehensive, well argued, biblical and convincing - it is also encouraging, awe-inspiring and heart-warming. Excellent.
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on 14 February 2015
Good value
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