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What does simplicity have to do with the atonement? (Matthew Barrett)

What does simplicity have to do with the atonement? If we abandon simplicity can we really make sense of attributes in tension at the cross? How might simplicity guard us from an atonement theology that sets God’s attributes against one another? Does simplicity aid us in understanding inseparable operations of the Trinity at Calvary?

I answer these questions and more in a message at the Shepherds’ Conference I gave titled, “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. 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

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

This message has been abridged and edited and will be published in the book High King of Heaven: Theological and Pastoral Perspectives on the Person and Work of Jesus (Moody) in 2018.

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