The apostle Paul said that God, through Christ, was pleased “to reconcile to himself all things… by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20 NIV). God is the great peacemaker who brings peace through Jesus’ death on the cross. What exactly does this mean? Graham Cole explores this theme in his 2009 publication, God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom. In a word, this book argues that “atonement brings shalom by defeating the enemies of peace, overcoming the barriers both to reconciliation and to the restoration of creation” (p. 229).
The first section of the book talks about God’s divine perfections and man’s deep imperfections. The second section is a discussion of God’s remedy for man’s sin. The final section is where Cole ties it all together by talking about peace, Christian living in light of the atonement, and God’s glory. There is also an appendix which traces various views on the atonement (although it doesn’t really discuss the extent of the atonement).
I enjoyed this book because it goes a bit deeper into the doctrine of Christ’s atonement. In line with historic Christian theology, Cole emphasized God’s love and justice which do not contradict, but come together in Christ’s work on the cross. Cole also did a nice job tracing the Bible’s story line and how the atonement is at the center; he made it clear that the OT promises are fulfilled in Christ. Of course, the book also talks about how Christ’s sacrificial death satisfied divine justice.
Although I didn’t agree with every single conclusion in the book, I don’t have any major criticisms of the it. I do, however, wish Cole would have talked more about the cosmic shalom that the atonement brings. He really only discussed the cosmic aspect in three or four pages. Based on the subtitle, I was expecting a longer and more detailed discussion of the cosmic aspect.
Graham Cole’s God the Peacemaker is a helpful resource on the doctrine of the atonement. To be honest, I think Louis Berkhof’s treatment of the atonement in his Systematic Theology is better, and George Smeaton’s book on the atonement is more detailed and comprehensive, but Cole’s addition to this topic is one worth reading as well. It’ll help the reader better understand the significance of Jesus’ work on the cross, which certainly does bring peace!