Back in February I had the pleasure of delivering a message at the Shepherds’ Conference. The media for each address at that conference has now been made available to the public. The title of mine is “In Our Place: The Atonement in all its Dogmatic Glory.” The address pulls together a number of “silk strands” (if you listen to the address you will see why my theological method moves me to use this illustration!) in my theological thinking of late. As you can tell from the title, this message is an excercise in “dogmatics,” seeking to determine how everything from divine simplicity to Chalcedonian Christology determine the conclusions one reaches in his/her atonement theology.

Here is my broad outline:

1. The judicial nature of original sin, imputation, and union with Christ as it relates to atonement

2. Atonement, justification, and the divine perfections
2.1 Divine justice and divine justification
2.2 Divine simplicity

3. Atonement, wrath, love, and inseparable operations in the Trinity

4. Christology and atonement
4.1. What deity has to do with atonement: A lesson from Machen’s critique of Protestant Liberalism
4.2. Kenoticism, the “extra,” and the atonement reinterpreted
4.3. Fallen/corrupt humanity?

Conclusion: Atonement, dogmatics, and pastoral ministry

I say near the start:

In years past we might have assumed that a denial of penal substitutionary atonement could be countered by a robust defense of specific biblical texts supporting the concept of propitiation. While that, no doubt, remains absolutely essential to today’s defense of substitution, it is becoming more and more apparent that denials of penal substitutionary atonement are due in large part to one’s modification of other doctrinal strands, such as original sin, divine justice and simplicity, the hypostatic union, and union with Christ.

And I end with this pastoral charge:

What then does this mean for you, as a pastor? It means, at the very least, that as important as it is to exegete individual passages of scripture in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, that is just the beginning. Much more is needed. Each of you—without exception—must think theologically. You, pastor, must be a theologian. Only then will you behold the atonement in all its dogmatic glory. Only then will your people see the atonement in all its systematic beauty.

Here is the link to the address in full: “In Our Place: The Atonement in all its Dogmatic Glory.”

Many thanks to those of you I talked to after the address and my apologies to those of you I did not get to talk to as time just ran out. And, of course, many thanks to the outstanding staff who put this conference together; it was superb and I recommend it to pastors everywhere. You can keep an eye out for next year’s conference here.


Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is tutor of systematic theology and church history at Oak Hill Theological College in London, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Salvation by Grace (P&R, 2013), Owen on the Christian Life (Crossway, 2015), God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture (Zondervan, 2016), and Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2017). Currently he is the series editor of The 5 Solas Series with Zondervan. You can read more at MatthewMBarrett.com.

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