Jeremy R. Treat. The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $26.99.
In both the church and the academy, there has been an unfortunate separation of the kingdom and the cross. I’ve experienced church and parachurch settings where either kingdom or atonement was emphasized, to the near-exclusion of the other; and in both contexts I have an ache for what is missing. The same dichotomization characterizes theological tomes – works that treat the kingdom hardly ever mention the atonement, and works that deal with atonement hardly mention the kingdom of God. Both kingdom and atonement are significant motifs in Scripture, and focusing on either while discounting/ neglecting the other can have devastating impacts on both one’s theology and ministry/church life.
In The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology, Jeremy Treat provides an in-depth study of the biblical and theological relationship between the kingdom of God and the atoning death of Christ on the cross. “[T]he answer lies ultimately in Jesus, the crucified king, as properly understood within the story and logic of redemption” (25). Here “the story” of redemption is biblical theology and “the logic” of redemption is systematic theology. Because the cross-kingdom divide has much to do with the divide between biblical and systematic theology (with the former emphasizing the kingdom of God whilst largely neglecting the doctrine of atonement and the latter focusing on the doctrine of atonement whilst paying little attention to the theme of the kingdom of God), a holistic, integrative treatment of the themes of kingdom and atonement “will bridge this gap between biblical studies and systematic theology, incorporating insights from both disciplines for both doctrines” (27).
Part 1 addresses atonement and kingdom from the perspective of biblical theology, tracing the relationship between these two motifs as it unfolds in the storyline of Scripture. Chapter 1 provides a panoramic sweep of the Old Testament, tracing the unfolding themes of victory and suffering. Ultimately, this chapter demonstrates that “the victory and suffering of the protoevangelium gradually develop into royal victory through atoning suffering (p. 67, emphases original). Chapter 2 zooms in on the book of Isaiah, where victory and suffering most clearly converge. By examining the Suffering Servant in the broader context of chapters 1-39 and 56-66 as well as its immediate context of chapters 40-55, Treat demonstrates that the Servant is the Messianic King who will bring about a new exodus, thereby establishing God’s kingdom by means of his atoning death (85).
In Chapter 3, Treat looks at Mark’s integration of the kingdom and the cross as kingdom by way of the cross – the kingdom mission of Jesus culminates in the cross. Chapter 4 deals with how Colossians 1:15-20 and Revelation 5:5-10 link together the blood of the cross and the kingdom of Christ. Chapter 5 summarizes part 1 and furthers the argument through four key points for understanding kingdom and cross in biblical theology. The main thesis of part 1 is that “the kingdom of God is established on earth by the atoning death of Christ on the cross” (139).
Part 2 moves on to look at the relationship between atonement and kingdom from the perspective of systematic theology. “At the most basic level, the kingdom and the cross are held together by the Christ. Therefore, the doctrines of Christology, atonement, and kingdom must each be properly understood, especially in relation to one another” (149). Part 2 deals with each of these doctrines in turn. In chapter 6 Treat offers a reconsideration of the oft-oversystematized doctrines of the two states of Christ and the three offices of Christ that are in part responsible for the cross-kingdom divide and argues for the kingship of Christ on the cross. This challenges the dominant view that Jesus became king in the resurrection or session. The next two chapters address the atonement.
Chapter 7 lays the groundwork by examining the reductionism and relativism that pits atonement theories (particularly Christus Victor and penal substitution) against each other, surveying recent developments in the relationship between Christus Victor and penal substitution, and proposing a model for integration of the two. In Chapter 8 Treat sets forth his proposal for integrating the two atonement theories – Christus Victor through penal substitution. This model provides a royal picture of the atonement that is both victorious and upholds the justice of God. Chapter 9 completes the picture of Jesus as crucified king by arguing for the cruciform nature of the kingdom.
The Crucified King is a revision of Treat’s Ph.D. dissertation at Wheaton under Kevin Vanhoozer. It is moderately academic but accessible to interested laymen, especially those who have done some prior reading in biblical and systematic theology. Greek and Hebrew words are not transliterated, but they don’t appear frequently and do not present a significant hindrance to one without proficiency in biblical languages.
This is a significant book because of the comprehensive, detailed way in which Treat integrates the biblical motifs of kingdom and atonement. While his thesis is not new, no one has worked it out in this much detail. And certainly, no one to my knowledge has done so by integrating the disciplines of biblical and systematic theology, so frequently torn asunder – this also makes The Crucified King a landmark and unique work.
The Crucified King will convince the reader of the importance of holding together both penal substitution and Christus Victor, both the doctrine of atonement and the kingdom of God. In both cases, focusing on one and neglecting the other results in a truncated gospel. This book also provides a robust explanation of how kingdom and atonement relate from the unfolding revelation of Scripture as well as church history and contemporary theology.
Any with interest in kingdom, atonement, biblical theology, and/or systematic theology would enjoy this book. But those who bemoan the dichotomization of kingdom and atonement and/or biblical and systematic theology and long to see them integrated as they should be would especially enjoy and appreciate this book. In The Crucified King, Jeremy Treat has not only provided a robust study of kingdom and atonement, but also a model of integrating biblical and systematic theology that should be employed more in theological studies.
*I received a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
**Originally posted at Grace for Sinners.