Doctrines in Context

Hugh Martin’s book The Atonement is a profound and rich treatment of the theology of the cross with some beautiful passages that make me stop and wonder at the reality he describes (it is currently in print with the Banner of Truth). One of the burdens of the book is to show that if we locate a doctrine in its correct context many of the supposed problems with it disappear. He sets this out as part of his argument that ‘the Doctrine of the Atonement ought to be discussed and defended as inside the Doctrine of the Covenant of Grace’. Here is the principle itself: ‘Now it surely is extremely injudicious and impolitic for defenders of the faith to discuss any scriptural doctrine, and particularly to profess to do so fully and exhaustively, outside of any greater category to which the doctrine properly and natively belongs. For by doing so they place it in a position of unnecessary danger, and assign to themselves a greater difficulty in defending it than Scripture assigns to them.’ We might rebuke the critics of orthodoxy for failing to observe this principle, but we should always ask first if we ourselves might be the source of their confusion: if we were clearer on the dogmatic context of the atonement then perhaps fewer might find the difficulties with it that they do. Doctrinal judgement begins with the household of God.