This review was originally published in the journal Churchman.
This, the latest book from the prolific Scottish theologian, begins as all works of theology should, with the acknowledgement that proclamation is accompanied by explanation. In this refreshing and deep book Macleod masterfully, carefully and accessibly unpacks what is going on the atonement of Christ – both the event of the Cross and the surrounding events and implications of the passion and Resurrection. This is systematic, biblical theology from the old school – not bowing to sociological or philosophical fads, but engaging with the text at every level.
MacLeod deftly demonstrates the way that the atonement is at the heart of Christian theology by weaving in (amongst others) the central doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation, in his powerful and deep fourth chapter, “Substitution: the man for others”. With notable works of systematic theology often seeking to consider what it means to understand that God is ‘with’ and ‘for’ us, it is refreshing to see this particular book respond resoundingly with the message of the Cross.
This book is well organised, and divided into two parts. Firstly, the initial three chapters consider and explore ‘The way of the Cross’, the path walked by Christ and considers carefully some of the key questions that arise around the ‘event’ of the atonement. MacLeod is deeply scriptural, thoughtfully pastoral, and provocative in the present context. The second part, comprising chapters four through eleven, delves into the ‘word of the cross’, which explores the wide range of implications and challenges that the message of the atonement can be seen as spelling out in the New Testament, and implying for disciples of Christ in the present day.
To attempt to conclude, then – and space prevents a full appreciation of this book, or an evaluation of its challenge to both contemporary academic ‘systematic’ theology and that part of evangelicalism for whom the Cross is an afterthought – this is an important book. Comparisons could be drawn, perhaps, to Stott’s magisterial ‘The Cross of Christ’, but this is a different beast. Drawing from both Scripture and a life lived in the light of the truth proclaimed here, MacLeod’s contribution is a welcome reminder of the Doctrine of the Atonement, and a provocative challenge to those who would silence the roar of the heart of the Gospel.