The Finished Work Of Christ

The Nature of the Atonement, by J. MacLeod Campbell (Clarke, 1959, 464 pp., 17s 6d. and The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation, by James Denney (Clarke, 1959, 339 pp., 17s. 6d) are reviewed by R. A. Finlayson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Free Church College, Edinburgh.

When the older theologians were explicit in their reference to “the finished work of Christ,” it was in order to distinguish between the objective work completed on the Cross, and the unfinished or progressive work of Christ carried on through His Holy Spirit to the end of the age in the regeneration and sanctification of men. And they were equally clear and insistent on the fact that the objective work of Christ was the basis of man’s subjective experience. It is found that historical deviations from the orthodox view of the atonement tended to neglect this distinction and to view the atonement of Christ mainly, if not altogether, in its ethical implications. This can be more clearly seen towards the close of the eighteenth century when, with the disintegration of the Satisfaction Theory under the impact of Rationalism, there arose the school in theology identified with Schleiermacher and Ritschl in Germany and MacLeod Campbell in Scotland, which labored to place the meaning of atonement purely on a basis of history and experience.

Campbell’s theology was so heretical that in 1831 he was deposed from the ministry of the Church of Scotland. Evidently, the mood of the present generation of theologians is more hospitable to his theology since his book has been republished after the lapse of a full century.

MacLeod Campbell’s theory of the atonement is listed even by so discriminating a conservative theologian as Warfield as among ...

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