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Last week Doug Wilson linked to a piece by Randy Alcorn, who suggested that the logic of limited atonement is appealing but the exegetical basis for it is lacking. Doug offered a brief response, with valid points about Christ securing actual salvation and not possible salvation, but asserts that post-millenialism is the real solution. I don’t see how the post-mill scheme helps much exegetically, but that’s not the point of this post.

Let me mention a couple of things that I found helpful when I began exploring this issue several years ago.

In his classic The Death of Death in the Death of Christ John Owen explained the dilemma of those who deny definite atonement:

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, “Because of unbelief.”

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!

In other words, it is impossible to reconcile the proposition “Christ paid the punishment for all the sins of all people” with the idea that “Some people will pay the punishment for their sin in hell.”

Secondly, Lorraine Boettner showed in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination that both Calvinists and Arminians “limit” the atonement.

The Calvinist limits the extent of [the atonement] in that he says it does not apply to all persons . . . ; while the Arminian limits the power of it, for he says that in itself it does not actually save anybody.

The Calvinist limits it quantitatively, but not qualitatively; the Arminian limits it qualitatively, but not quantitatively.

For the Calvinist it is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge which goes only half-way across.

I think these are valid arguments.

But it was John Piper who helped me see the issue from another angle. In effect, Piper argues that Calvinists essentially affirm the biblical truth that Arminians insist upon. But the Calvinist affirms something more—something biblical that Arminians deny.

If you want to think this through, then I’d encourage you to read the following carefully. I’ve added some headings and italics to help process the argument a bit.

What Arminians Believe

Arminians take all the passages which say the death of Christ is “for us” (Romans 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:10) or for “his own sheep” (John 10:11, 15) or for “the church” (Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28) or for “the children of God” (John 11:52) or for “those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14) and say that the meaning is that God designs and intends the atonement for all people in the same way, but that God applies it as effective and saving only for those who believe and become part of “us” and “the sheep” and “the church” and “the children of God.”

In this view, then, the sentence, “Christ died for you,” means: Christ died for all sinners, so that if you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins.

Now, as far as it goes, this seems to me to be acceptable teaching.

What Arminians Deny

But then Arminians deny something that I think the Bible teaches.

They deny that the texts about Christ’s dying for “us” or “his sheep” or his “church” or “the children of God” were intended by God to obtain something more for his people than the benefits they get after they believe.

They deny, specifically, that the death of Christ was not only intended by God to obtain benefits for people after they believe (which is true), but even more, Christ’s death was intended by God to obtain the very willingness to believe.

In other words, the divine grace that it takes to overcome our hardness of heart and become a believer was also obtained by the blood of Jesus.

Where Arminians and Calvinists Agree

There is no dispute that Christ died to obtain great saving benefits for all who believe.

Moreover, there is no dispute that Christ died so that we might say to all persons everywhere without exception: “God gave his only begotten Son to die for sin so that if you believe on him you may have eternal life.”

Where Arminians and Calvinists Disagree

The dispute is whether God intended for the death of Christ to obtain more than these two things: (1) saving benefits after faith, and (2) a bona fide invitation that can be made to any person to believe on Christ for salvation.

Clarifying Questions

Specifically, did God intend for the death of Christ to obtain the free gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8) and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25)?

Did the blood of Jesus obtain both the benefits after faith, and the benefit of faith itself?

Here’s the Rub

Does the historic Arminian interpretation of any of the “universal” texts on the atonement necessarily contradict this “more” that I am affirming about God’s intention for the death of Christ? (Texts like: 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19; John 1:29; 2 Peter 2:1.)

I don’t think so. Arminians historically are just as eager as Calvinists to avoid saying that these texts teach “universal salvation.” So they do not teach that the death of Christ “for all” saves all. Rather, they say, in the words of Millard Erickson, “God intended the atonement to make salvation possible for all persons. Christ died for all persons, but this atoning death becomes effective only when accepted by the individual.” Erickson then says, “This is the view of all Arminians” (Christian Theology, p. 829, emphasis added).

What has come clearer to me as I have pondered these things is that Arminians do not say that in the death of Christ God intends to effectively save all for whom Christ died. They only say that God intends to make possible the salvation of all for whom Christ died. But this interpretation of these “universal” texts does not contradict the Calvinist assertion that God does intend to obtain the grace of faith and repentance for a definite group by the death of Christ.

Arminians may deny this assertion, but they cannot deny it on the basis of their interpretation of the “universal” texts of the atonement. That interpretation simply affirms that all may have salvation if they believe. Calvinists do not dispute that. They only go beyond it.

Here’s the rub: if he did this “more,” he didn’t do it for everyone. So at this level the atonement becomes “limited.” And this is what Arminians stumble over: is there anything that God would do to get some unbelievers saved that he would not do for all? This “limitation” implies a choice on God’s part to save some and not all.

A word about the comments before anyone responds. Let’s dialogue respectfully. Before critiques are offered—for or against limited atonement—let’s make sure we have an attitude of faith seeking understanding.


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Comments:


171 thoughts on “A Primer on Limited (or Definite) Atonement”

  1. Doc B says:

    Useful. I need to memorize it. I have several in my SS class that just don’t ‘understand’ particular redemption and choose logical fallacy (“I think it’s both”) over one or the other. They are not unconvinced by my teaching, but can’t let go of what they’ve believed all their life. They don’t argue with the scriptural teaching on this, they just don’t release their long-held other beliefs.

    Leave it to Piper to make the complex understandable. Only Sproul is better at that, and he doesn’t tend to write as concisely as Piper on these things. (I’ve though about memorizing Sproul’s ‘Chosen by God’ but that’s just too much.)

    1. Clint says:

      Would God’s sovereignty and human responsibility be a logical fallacy then?

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        >>>Would God’s sovereignty and human responsibility be a logical fallacy then?

        In a correct scriptural understanding, God’s sovereignty is not expressed by *dictating* men’s actions but rather by *judging* them. These are not incompatible.

        Calvinism, on the other hand, is completely self-contradictory (and hence absurd).

        1. Venkatesh says:

          If you could believe that God was really a man (Your book’s TOC) and that your Christianity is anything but an ended belief, then I am not surprised that you call Calvinism absurd and self-contradictory.

  2. Justin,

    Thank you for taking time to write out this post. I have benefited greatly from the books you mentioned, as well–especially from Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ. My question has to do with Amyraldianism. There are actually three positions within Protestantism. Amyraldians, as I am sure you know, say that the Scriptures teach that Jesus died for all sinner, but His death is only made effectual for the elect. Calvinist have historically held to the doctrine of the atonement which suggests that Jesus died only for the elect, and that His death is effectual only for them; but, we conclude, that His death was sufficient to save the entire world. In other words, Jesus would not have had to shed one more drop of blood to save more sinner (if, hypothetically speaking, the Father had given Him more in the eternal council), or one less drop to save even one sinner (if, hypothetically, the Father had only chosen to save one fallen man or woman). But this is not the same as saying that He died for all sinner. The Puritan Richard Baxter and the 19th Century Presbyterian Edward D. Griffen were both Amyraldian in their understanding of the atonement. I have heard that Bruce Ware, as well as Driscoll and others in the “new Calvinism” school are as well. Do you see this as a biblically, viable alternative to Arminianism? Thanks.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Nicholas,

      I need to read more careful treatments of 4-pt Calvinism, but I have trouble seeing its coherence, esp with regard to the “double jeopardy” dilemma.

      Here is an outline from Ware re: his 4.5 position:

      http://www.powerofchange.org/storage/docs/ware_atonement.pdf

      I believe this is Driscoll’s view as well.

        1. JT,

          I go around and around with this. I especially like Charles Hodge’s treatment of the extent of the atonement in his Systematic Theology.

          Double jeopardy is certainly a powerful argument, however, I keep bumping up against the logic of “eternal justification” as I ponder it. That is, if Jesus actually paid for the sins of the elect at His death and resurrection, are the elect then forgiven even before the atonement is applied? If not, why not if, in fact, their sins are paid for?

          Secondly, it always brings up the spectre of each individuals atonement having an actual price. That is, that Jesus had to pay so much for each person, and therefore the atonement price is finite. As I understand it, this reasoning is rejected by all particular/limited atonement advocates. They all say that the price paid was infinite in value. If this is true, and the price paid is the same for one as it is for all, then I don’t see the difficulty of the Amyraldian view.

          Hope this isn’t too long. I realize that what I have said here may get my street cred as a “Calvinist” revoked. :) But I honestly struggle on this point of theology, and I have for years. Thanks for posting about this.

          Brad

          1. I should hasten to add that Charles Hodge is a Five Pointer, and not bothered by some of the things that bother me! You can read his chapter on “For Whom Did Christ Die?” in the second book of his systematic theology here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology2.iv.viii.i.html

            Very nice resource there!

          2. MarieP says:

            I almost embraced eternal justification at one point…and interestingly enough, it was from thinking through “double jeopardy”…perhaps the double jeopardy argument could be rephrased to be about eternal punishment rather than simply punishment? Though, is there that much of a distinction? Is it the same wrath that abides upon non-believers as will abide upon them forever if they don’t repent and believe?

          3. Venkatesh says:

            Good thoughts. I never thought of them.

      1. MarieP says:

        Justin,

        Have you read Dabney’s lectures on the theology of the atonement? VERY interesting stuff! He didn’t agree with the “double jeopardy” argument either. And, he held “universal expiation” and “particular propitiation” (I’m unconvinced those are the best terms, but I understand his struggle- he rightly noted that if we can’t understand why some the Arminians believe as they do, then we don’t haven a firm grasp on the Biblical doctrine of the death of Christ). I’d say that all the reasons for why Christ died were accomplished- for the sure and certain salvation (both body and soul) of the elect, for the free and universal offer of the Gospel (“sufficient for all, efficient for the elect”), and for the establishment of the new heavens and new earth. And NONE of the precious blood of Christ was wasted!

        1. Two more resource worth referencing: Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo and Athenasius’ On the Incarnation. Both of these works provide arguments that you will find in Edwards’ dependence on the idea of the “infinite” and “eternal” in the realm of theology. Anselm was the one who showed that each and every sin is rebellion against an infinite and eternal Being, and, therefore, deserved an infinite and eternal punishment. This is how Christ’s death on the cross is a suitable sacrifice–He is an infinite and eternal Being, as the Son of God. The full wrath of God is poured out on Him as the substitute for His people. Hell is the place where the wrath of God is poured out for all eternity on finite creatures for whom that wrath was not satisfied.

    2. Reid Ferguson says:

      Nicholas – I appreciated your comments here, but would only ask if you have investigated Amyrault’s positions beyond what others have said? While I find myself agreeing with Alcorn on this topic, I fear that attaching the name Amyrauldian to it is simply inaccurate (though I’ve been called much worse!) :-) Amyrault’s construct actually called for a form of hypothetical ELECTION as I read him. Something most who deny a strct view of limited atonement would not side with either. Richard Muller @ Calvin Seminary labels Baxter’s view (and others like Davenant who sat on the Synod of Dordt, J. C. Ryle, etc.) as “non-Amyrauldian, English hypotheticalism”. Wherein the thought is not that all are hypothetically elect, but that Christ’s atonement could (hypothetically) save all, should all believe. It does not cross over to ask the question of whether or not faith itself is purchased in the atonement, since that does not seem to be directly asserted in the Bible – but rather leaves a tension between the reality that God sovereignly elects, and, that Christ has truly died as the universally applicable remedy for sin.

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        >>>…Something most who deny a strct view of limited atonement would not side with either….

        It is interesting to me that even John Calvin had no such “strict view of limited atonement” – or even of “substitutionary atonement.”

      2. Reid,

        I appreciate the reference to Muller. I was actually thinking about referencing him in this regard. I would like to suggest that anyone interested in learning more about Amyraldianism read Richard Lum’s outstanding doctoral dissertation Brief Treatise on Predestination and its Dependent Principles by Moyse Amyraut – A Translation and Introduction (Th.D. diss., no publisher, 1985), and G. Michael Thomas’ The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997)

  3. Brother Hank says:

    Nic,

    Thanks for asking the question I was trying to figure out how to ask!

    ‘BH

  4. Justin writes:

    In other words, it is impossible to reconcile the proposition “Christ paid the punishment for all the sins of all people” with the idea that “Some people will pay the punishment for their sin in hell.”

    You can add this premise to reconcile them:

    (1) the people in hell reject Christ’s payment.

    Now, of course, that’s not consistent with most accounts of Reformed thought. But the claim was that the two propositions were irreconcilable. In order to show they are, one merely has to suggest a possible proposition that reconciles the two.

    It may be that (1) is false. But it is only contingently, not necessarily, false. In that case, the two propositions are not irreconcilable.

    1. Except the payment isn’t theirs to reject. The payment is made to God. Man cannot nullify the payment made to God in Christ.

      The Bible doesn’t teach that we accept or reject Christ’s payment for sin, but that we accept or reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

      1. Jugulum says:

        P.S. Another option is that the restaurant checks with you before they accept my payment–but in that case, I never actually paid your bill.

      2. Jugulum says:

        *sigh*

        Sorry, I intended to attach this to my 2:06pm comment, below.

    2. Jugulum says:

      Dr. Beckwith,

      I understand how one could say, “They reject the gift that God offers to them.” If I seek to give something to someone, they can reject it.

      But if I give you a gift, John Smith can’t reject it for you. The potential recipient can reject it, but no one else can.

      How can you say it’s different with payment? The recipient of the payment can reject the payment. How can anyone else?

      I suppose you could say that Christ offers payment to the Father, and if someone says they don’t want Christ to pay their price, then the Father “returns the payment”. (Analogy: I pay your bill at the restaurant. When you find out, you insist that the restaurant returns the money to me, and then you pay it yourself.)

      It seems to me that a better response for you to make would be something like, “The language of payment is a metaphor, and it only goes so far. The ‘double-payment’ argument against Universal Atonement attempts to extend the analogy further than Scripture uses it.”

    3. Justin Taylor says:

      Frank,

      Thanks for your comment. I could have been more precise in seeking to frame it as a formal contraction. I think the hidden premise in my argument is that it is unjust for God to punish two people for the same crime.

      JT

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        >>>…I think the hidden premise in my argument is that it is unjust for God to punish two people for the same crime…

        It is also improper to accept vicarious payment (via vicarious punishment), and also speak of “forgiveness” of sins…

        Suppose someone paid your Visa bill. Could Visa then forgive your debt? Of course not.

        Yet God forgives sins, freely.

        So the “payment” model is bogus. Sins are freely forgiven by God, not paid for by Jesus.

        1. If someone paid my Visa bill, Visa would be forced to forgive my debt because it is already paid. Visa couldn’t accept someone else’e payment for my bill, and then come to me asking for it again; that would double their income.

          The payment model isn’t bogus, it is biblical. Col 2:13-14 is a prime biblical use of the payment model. There are others as well.

          1. WoundedEgo says:

            >>>The payment model isn’t bogus, it is biblical. Col 2:13-14 is a prime biblical use of the payment model. There are others as well.

            Note that the actor in that passage is God, not Jesus. He is said to “forgive” and in a figure (not LITERALLY) nailing it to the wood. This is a picture of forgiveness by God, not of payment by Jesus.

            1. Peter Eddy says:

              Well, in this analogy, Visa would be God. Visa is going to fogive your debt by paying it for you.

              1. WoundedEgo says:

                >>>…in this analogy, Visa would be God. Visa is going to fogive your debt by paying it for you.

                That is nonsensical.

              2. Mark G says:

                Why is it nonsensical? Let’s look at it another way. If you break my window and I forgive you, that means that I’m making the payment for the window myself. God forgives us by paying the required payment Himself in the form of Christ. Thus, God is able to be just and the justifier.

  5. Cavman says:

    The “universal” texts are most often found in a context in which the author is stating that salvation is not limited to a particular people group. In John, it is not limited to Israel, but that God has other children or sheep scattered throughout the world. In Timothy, not just the poor and persecuted, but God can and will save even rulers and the rich. So, I think, we find the limiting texts (John 10, Eph. 5) to be determinative. And the context of those texts is that the atonement actually does something, not just makes a potentiality.
    I’ve yet to see an Arminian even acknowledge Owen’s vise, much less attempt to refute it.

  6. Mark says:

    This debate is not simply about Calvinists/Reformed versus Arminians. This debate needs to be clarified a little wrt its historical context, esp. considering that hypothetical universalists represented a trajectory *within* Reformed orthodoxy and were, in many cases, quite representative of it.

    For that reason, we should not understate the presence of non-Amyraldian forms of hypothetical universalism in the Reformed tradition. One only has to read the Protestant scholastics and even Bullinger before them to note this presence. Many of the signatories at Dort and Westminster were Hypothetical Universalists.

    Indeed, as I’ve alluded to above, there are differences between the Amyraldian schema and hypothetical universalism. They are not the same, just as Owen’s position is not the same as the view of John Preston or John Davenant (both hypothetical universalists).

    I would also suggest that the real issue of debate may have to do with the nature of the atonement. Classical Arminians deny a substitutionary atonement because they realize the implications of what substitution means. This, again, is a complex debate, but I think three important points need to be made:

    1. To be Reformed/Calvinistic does not necessarily mean that one agrees entirely with Owen’s doctrine of the atonement. One can hold to hypothetical universalism and be part of Reformed orthodoxy. However, I think certain Amyraldian views would not sit well with, say, the Westminster Confession of Faith.

    2. The nature of the atonement has everything to do with whether one is Reformed or Arminian. Substitution and classical Arminianism are strange bedfellows.

    3. This debate also has a lot to do with the order of decrees, and even there we are learning that the division between infras and supras is not so neat and needs revising!

    I say all of this as one who happens to agree with Owen!

    1. bossmanham says:

      “Substitution and classical Arminianism are strange bedfellows”

      Could you tell me how this is the case? Most Arminians I know accept the penal substitution view of the atonement, but add that it is provisional. Arminius himself accepted that view, so to say that Arminianism and substitution are strange bedfellows is to ignore that fact.

      1. Jugulum says:

        Bossman,

        (Can I call you Bossman?)

        I think the problem becomes more clear if you rephrase “substitutionary atonement”.

        Jesus’ death atoned for my sin, in my place. –> Jesus died on my behalf, to remove my sin. –> Jesus died in my place, dying the death my sin deserved. –> Jesus died in my stead. –> Jesus died instead of me.

        It seems to me that the very statement “Jesus died instead of John Smith” directly tells us that John Smith will not die.

        1. bossmanham says:

          Or, as the Bible seems to indicate, Jesus died for John Smith and will provide John Smith the atonement if John Smith meets the condition of being in Christ.

          1. Jugulum says:

            bossman,

            What was “or” attached to?

            “Jesus died instead of John Smith”? (Were you saying “died for John Smith” doesn’t exactly mean “instead of”?)

            Or the idea that “‘Jesus died instead of John Smith’ directly tells us that John Smith will not die”?

          2. Jugulum says:

            I’ll go ahead and say what I would have said after your clarification:

            If “Jesus died for John Smith” means “died for his sake”, that can work.

            But I don’t think you got my point. If that is what the Bible teaches, it means that the Bible doesn’t teach substitutionary atonement. “Jesus died instead of John Smith” literally, explicitly means that John Smith does not die. (Just like “I ate pie instead of cake” means I didn’t eat cake, and “I stood watch instead Bob” means Bob didn’t stand watch, and “I substitute-taught for Mrs. Wilson” means that Mrs. Wilson didn’t teach.)

            There could be a kind of provisional substitution–as in, Jesus definitely did die for the sake of every individual, in the sense that every person who believes will be united with him in his death. He died instead of everyone who is united with him in his death, and that is available to everyone in the world, if they will believe. But his death isn’t actually substituted for anyone who isn’t united with him in his death.

  7. bossmanham says:

    John Owen’s “dilemma” has been dealt with multiple times by multiple Arminian theologians. He wants to stick it to the Arminian by saying “if Christ died for all sins, why would unbelief be left unpaid for!?!?” Well, we bypass Owen’s two options (1) that if Christ died for the unbelief of all people, then we must accept universalism or 2) deny universalism for limited atonement) for a third and split the horns of this dilemma. We say that Christ’s atonement is provisional for those who are “in Christ” by faith. Christ made provision for all sin, but only those who enter into union with Him are given that provision.

    Scriptural support: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [believers] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. 1:3

    “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” Eph 1:7

    “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Eph. 1:13

    “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14

  8. pduggie says:

    When Piper talks about Christ’s death obtaining a “willingness to believe” it sounds strangely reified, like Jesus goes to the store with a blood-dollar in hand and buys a box of “willingness to believe” and gives it to the elect.

    What Christ’s death (AND RESURRECTION) accomplishes is the sending of the Holy Ghost, universally, to earth, and “will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment”. And the Holy ghost is effective for the elect. But why? Is it really because of the nature of atonement?

  9. Andres Nelson says:

    Regarding atonement, what is the amount due to atone for one sin? Or, what is the cost to redeem even one from eternal damnation to eternal glorification in the presence of a Holy God?

    More directly, was the payment of infinite value (literally)?

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      Fair question.

      Sins are felonies, not misdemeanors. The penalty is not a fine. They cannot be paid for. This is an EXPLICIT principle of divine justice:

      Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

      No exception was made for Jesus.

  10. bossmanham says:

    Also, you quote Piper as saying, “They deny, specifically, that the death of Christ was not only intended by God to obtain benefits for people after they believe (which is true), but even more, Christ’s death was intended by God to obtain the very willingness to believe.”

    A couple things. Arminians do think that God’s grace is absolutely necessary and that man is unable to come to Christ in his own power, since, as Arminius wrote, “in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good.”

    However, Piper says that Christ’s death necessarily entails that certain people will repent; that Christ’s death is a sufficient condition, so to say, for repentance of those whom He chose. So Christ’s death “obtains” belief. Could I see a scriptural reference to that effect?

  11. Scott C says:

    I have found another avenue of evidence for the specific design of the atonement. It is the pervasive ground of the believer’s relationship with Christ that is often refered to as our union with Christ. John Murray and Richard Gaffin argue at length that union with Christ is foundational to our understanding of salvation, and yet it is a very under-emphasized doctrine.

    One of Paul’s favorite phrases is the “in Christ” phrase. He also uses similar phrases like “in Him”, “with Christ” and “with Him.” I are basically synonymous and used over 100x in Paul. But of particular interest is the specific teaching that the believer has been united to Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. This finds support in Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2;20; Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 2:10-14 and Col. 3:1-4. Paul coins unique verbs (found nowhere else in Greek literature) in these passages to describe this union using a prepositional prefix (i.e. “with”) added to the verbs. Thus, we see terms like “crucified together with”; “buried together with” and “rasied up together with” in connection to our union with Christ. I believe these unique verbal constructions are consciously used by Paul to coincide with his “in/ with Christ” phrases. These phrases (particularly with the use of the preposition “in”) are locative phrases, meaning that in the mystery of God’s design and providence that somehow we were actually “located” together with Christ in His actual death and resurrection. That is why I believe Col. 2:14 can speak of our specific sins being nailed to the cross. There was a real atonement for actual sins of actual people taking place. Furthermore, Eph. 1:4 takes this union with Christ back to eternity past when it says we were chosen “in Him” before the foundation of the world.

    These unique phrases are used exclusively of the beliver’s relationship to Christ. The ‘potential’ beliver (whatever that means) can in no way be said to have been united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Thus, the atonement was specifically designed for the sheep whom Christ laid down His life. These sheep were His own as the Father gave them to Him before the foundation of the world and they were united to Him in the cross and the resurrection. Of course there is some mystery to this, but I believe it secures the blessings of our salvation in a way nothing else does.

  12. Jared Moore says:

    Justin,

    I appreciate you examining the issue. I do not affirm limited atonement because of the exegetical brevity in the Scriptures (I’m a 4 pointer). What I don’t understand is why this subject demands a limited atonement in the Calvinistic sense. It seems like we’re saying, “If this is true, and this is true, then limited atonement is true.” We however do not apply the same approach or mentality whenever we approach other biblical conundrums: the Trinity, God’s 100% sovereignty vs. man’s 100% responsibility, Christ being 100% man and 100% God, God’s sovereignty and the problem of evil, the livability of creation in spite of original sin, etc. What I’m saying is, “Because of the weak exegetical evidence, why don’t we chalk the doctrine up to another paradox that we will not understand on this side of eternity, if we ever do?” Also, If you’re 100% convinced concerning the resurrection of Christ, what percentage are you convinced that limited atonement is true?

    1. Greg Long says:

      This is an excellent comment, Jared. I agree completely. Although I am somewhere between a 4 and 5 pointer, I agree with 5 pointer Wayne Grudem who says:

      “Finally, we may ask why this matter is so important at all. Although Reformed people have sometimes made belief in particular redemption a test of doctrinal orthodoxy, it would be healthy to realize that Scripture itself never singles this out as a doctrine of major importance, nor does it once make it the subject of any explicit theological discussion. Our knowledge of the issue comes only from incidental references to it in passages whose concern is with other doctrinal or practical matters. In fact, this is really a question that probes into the inner counsels of the Trinity and does so in an area in which there is very little direct scriptural testimony–a fact that should cause us to be cautious. A balanced pastoral perspective would seem to be to say that this teaching of particular redemption seems to us to be true, that it gives logical consistency to our theological system, and that it can be helpful in assuring people of Christ’s love for them individually and of the completeness of his redemptive work for them; but that it is also a subject that almost inevitably leads to some confusion, some misunderstanding, and often some wrongful argumentativeness and divisiveness among God’s people–all of which are negative pastoral considerations. Perhaps that is why the apostles such as John and Peter and Paul, in their wisdom, placed almost no emphasis on this question at all. And perhaps we would do well to ponder their example” (Systematic Theology, 603).

      1. Jared Moore says:

        Greg,

        I agree with Grudem as well. That’s a great quote. Maybe we should all affirm that the atonement is limited (only applied to the elect); and yet, Jesus died for the entire world. It is a paradox. Must we define it in such detail? It is an enjoyable discussion; and only truth brings glory to God; so, the subject is important, but it should not be grounds for doctrinal division. I agree that there is a sense where Jesus only died for the elect in that His atonement on the cross is only applied to the elect; but, does this mean that He did not die for the entire world? Absolutely not!

  13. Jeffrey says:

    The verse I’ve always stumbled over is 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

    How do I get past this verse?

  14. christopher says:

    i think the upsurge in the number of Reformed who espouse a view of the death of Christ that falls somewhere between 4.5 and 4.75 point Calvinism is a good thing. i think it is reflective of at least two encouraging trends (1) the prioritizing of exegesis over and above logic coherence/theological systems and (2) renewed recognition that the debt satisifed by Christ’s substitution is not pecuniary, but penal.

    Alcorn’s objection to limited atonement was largely based on its less than convincing exegetical foundations, despite whatever logical appeal it may have. Wilson’s response was…well…a logical response, fundamentally rooted in the suppossed coherence his postmillenialism provides to the limited atonement view. And Justin’s appeals to the arguments made by Owen and Boettner in defense of limited atonement are, again, logical defenses. Such responses from 5 pointers are typical and understandable, but they do not address the fundamental concerns held by most 4.5-4.75 pointers re: the exegetical foundations for limited atonement. For this growing contingent among the Reformed–of which i consider myself a part–Arminian and 5 point Calvinist views of the death of Christ present us with a false dilemma.

    Piper seems to make more of an effort than many to grapple with the text of Scriputre in order to support his limited atonement view, but even he appears unable to avoid what appears to me to be the appeal of logical coherence and human reason. (See his debate with Bruce Ware on this subject.) While 4.5-4.75 pointers of both the classic (Baxter, Hodge, Ryle, Bunyan) and modern (Ware, Driscoll, Alcorn) may differ from one another in their precise explanation of their view of the death of Christ, what they all appear to have in common is a desire to be constrained more by the text of Scripture than apparent logical coherence. And this desire appears to undergird their rejection of the false dilemma.

    There is so much that can be said on this issue, but i have been greatly helped in my study by the website of Tony Byrne, which has compiled an amazing amount of helpful historical and exegetical resources for your consideration.

    http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/

  15. Justin,

    Thanks to the link for the Ware article. I too have trouble seeing thew coherance of the Amyraldian view, but it is certainly better than the Armininian position. I do have a problem calling 4 pointers Calvinists and wonder if there would not be a better nominclature. 2 Cor. 5:14-15 seem to be the greatest challenge to a Reformed view of the atonement: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but(W) for him who for their sake died and was raised.” J. Grecham Machen’s treatement of this text in his God Transcendent is extremely helpful, as is Eric Alexander’s address on the passage. It can be found here. Both argue persuasively that the “all” in the text is to be understood by what folllows (i.e. Christ died for “all”…therefore “all live.) You have, then, two options. Christ died for all the elect so that they all live, or Christ died for everyone so everyone will be saved. Arminianism is not even an option here.

    Finally, I believe Owen’s most persuasive argument is the one he draws from the work of the high priest. The high priest was to sacrifice and interceed. Jesus is the great High Priest. He sacrifices for His people and then interceeds on their behalf. All those for whom He sacrificed, He also interceeds. This is clear from the later verses of Isaiah 53. “My servant shall justify many…He shall make intercession for the transgressors.” Earlier in the chapter Isaiah says that “He was wounded for our transgressions.” So He was wounded for and interceeds for His own.

  16. CG says:

    “This “limitation” implies a choice on God’s part to save some and not all.”

    I think this tends to shock people (particularly in the post-enlightenment egalitarian west) because they subconsciously hold a false premise that God could have no possible reason for choosing to save some and not all. In essence, our ego tells us that we are just as informed as God is.

    However, if we insert “God may have a reason unknown to me for saving some and not all” into our thought process, it goes a long way towards correcting our limited view of God. I think this is what Paul is getting at in Romans 9:22 with his “what if?” speculation about God’s possible motives for choosing to save some and not all.

  17. Very good thoughts. I have been thinking through this issue a lot lately, and I have come to the conclusion that the limited atonement view is biblically correct, but I think there is need for some nuance in the way it is formulated. I actually believe we can speak of the intention of the cross in more ways than one, for it seems to be biblical that Christ died for the purpose of saving the elect, but he also died to secure a good faith offer of the gospel to all people.

    My thoughts are further spelled out in a series of blog posts here:

    http://cruxchristi.wordpress.com/category/the-cross-of-christ/

  18. Richard says:

    I got stumped with the first sentence when you refer to Doug Wilson saying that post millenialism is the real solution to the logic of limited atonement. Huh?

  19. donsands says:

    Jesus said, “I pray not for the world.”

    “The doctrine before us is one which is specially hated by the world. Nothing gives such offense, and stirs up such bitter feeling among the wicked, as the idea of God making any distinction between man and man, and loving one person more than another. Yet the world’s objections to the doctrine are, as usual, weak and unreasonable. Surely a little reflection might show us that a God who regarded good and bad, holy and unholy, righteous and unrighteous, with equal complacency and favor, would be a very strange kind of God! The special intercession of Christ for His saints is agreeable to reason and to common sense.

    ….we must not narrow the love of Christ to sinners, and on the other [hand] we must not make it too broad. It is true that Christ loves all sinners, and invites all to be saved; but it is true that He specially loves the “blessed company of all faithful people,” whom He sanctifies and glorifies.” -JC Ryle

    Ryle goes on to say Christ prayed for Peter, and though Peter fell, he repented. Judas however “fell never to rise again”.

    The Lord has mercy on whom He will, and He hardens whom He will. The thing is, He should harden all of us really.

    But we can take great comfort that Christ does pray for us, as He prayed for Peter. And we can also praise Him for not praying for the world, though this may feel foreign to our hearts, and just wrong to our minds.

    A lot of good thoughts in your post JT.

  20. Nick says:

    Justin,

    Don’t you think that questions as to the extent of Christ’s atonement somewhat miss the point? After all, the point is that God has a peacemaking project (a very extensive project indeed) and is restoring ruptured humans to himself. I am currently reading Graham Cole’s book “God the Peacemaker” and he places the atonement in this context: “This broader perspective reckons with God’s grand plan to restore the created order, and places the story of Jesus, his cross, and empty tomb within it. Thus this work takes the broad approach but hopefully not in a way that masks ‘the cruciality of the cross’…The grand goal of the divine comedy is nothing less than to secure God’s people in God’s place under God’s reign living God’s way enjoying God’s shalom in God’s loving and holy presence as both family and worshipers, to God’s glory” (p. 25). I wonder how limited atonement would fit into such a framework?

  21. My point was to simply suggest that the claim of “irreconcilable” is too strong. It could be, as many of you have correctly voiced, that there is a good theological and/or biblical reason to reject holding both propositions simultaneously. But it seems that there are no good logical reasons.

    It is interesting how our prior understandings of justice and how “justice works” are assisting us in our quest for hermeneutical clarity. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. For Christ himself relied on his listeners’ intuitions on what constitutes good parenting: ““Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’

    Since I am neither Calvinist nor Arminian (I am a Thomist, which is closer to the former than the latter: in the Catholic world the parallel conflict is between the Thomistic/Augustinians v. the Molinists)), I have no dog in this fight. I am just fascinated by the unspoken role that our common sense juridical beliefs shape the way we read Scripture.

    1. bossmanham says:

      Dr. Beckwith, I was wondering what the Catholic would think of the view I offered, which most Classical Arminians hold to, that the atonement is provisional for only those in Christ, though it has been made for all men?

  22. Gavin Brown says:

    JT,

    You quoted Piper saying: “They deny, specifically, that the death of Christ was not only intended by God to obtain benefits for people after they believe (which is true), but even more, Christ’s death was intended by God to obtain the very willingness to believe.”

    I do not necessarily disagree with Piper here. But I don’t think that this is a solution to the problem, but merely sets up the real problem, which I believe are more logical and philosophical than exegetical.

    It is the problem of the freedom of the will with respect to moral responsibility (or accountability).

    Specifically, the problem, insofar as I can tell, lies in reconciling the following two (sorts of) statements:

    (1) Jesus’s atonement is only effective for those God has chosen unto salvation.

    (2) All persons are morally accountable before God for their sin.

    And I believe that the compatibility of these two statements is counterintuitive, to say the least…so my point is that although there are good exegetical arguments for Calvinism, the antinomy is more often than not philosophical, logical, and ultimately, experiential rather than an exegetical tit for tat.

  23. Gavin O. says:

    Thank you for posting this, its a very helpful overview.

  24. Robert says:

    Justin,

    I am reading your presentation of limited atonement and you make some comments that are troubling. You engage in an argument where you present a claim without any evidence in support of the claim and fail to meet your own burden of proof (i.e. the legal maxim which is reasonable is that he who asserts must prove, so if you assert X it is not incumbent upon me to prove not-X, rather, YOU MUST PROVE X with some sort of evidence).

    “But it was John Piper who helped me see the issue from another angle. In effect, Piper argues that Calvinists essentially affirm the biblical truth that Arminians insist upon. But the Calvinist affirms something some more—something biblical that Arminians deny.”

    OK, you and Piper claim there is **more**. That is your claim, so you have to PROVE, by providing evidence for YOUR claim.

    “What Arminians Deny
    But then Arminians deny something that I think the Bible teaches.”

    OK, if the bible actually “teaches” it then you should be able to directly point out what specific verses teach it. For example I claim that the bible teaches justification through faith and can bring up verses in both Romans and Galatians to support my claim.

    “They deny that the texts about Christ’s dying for “us” or “his sheep” or his “church” or “the children of God” were intended by God to obtain something more for his people than the benefits they get after they believe.”

    Again, you speak of “something more”, fine, then show FROM THE TEXT that something more which you are claiming. All you are doing is asserting your claim with no evidence from the bibical texts whatsoever.

    “They deny, specifically, that the death of Christ was not only intended by God to obtain benefits for people after they believe (which is true), but even more, Christ’s death was intended by God to obtain the very willingness to believe.”

    Here you actually present your claim, couched in the final phrase: “Christ’s death was intended by God to obtain the very willingness to believe.”

    Sorry Justin there is no bible verse anywhere in scripture that states this.

    Nowhere does it state that the atonement obtained “the very willingness to believer.”

    It just is not there.

    So as the burden of proof is upon you to show from the text this is true, and THERE IS NOT TEXT STATING THIS, you ***fail ***your burden of proof. So your claim is false and unsupported. You merely assert the claim with no biblical evidence in support of it whatsoever.

    “In other words, the divine grace that it takes to overcome our hardness of heart and become a believer was also obtained by the blood of Jesus.”

    Again, show us the bible verse(s) that says “the divine grace that it takes to overcome our hardness of heart and become a believer was also obtained by the blood of Jesus.”

    You can make these kind of claims all that you want, but absent any biblical evidence whatsoever, those who base their theological conclusions on biblical texts will not be persuaded by your bald assertions. You will in effect only be preaching to the choir, speaking to others who like yourself want to READ IN these calvinistic ideas into the biblical texts.

    “Where Arminians and Calvinists Disagree
    The dispute is whether God intended for the death of Christ to obtain more than these two things: (1) saving benefits after faith, and (2) a bona fide invitation that can be made to any person to believe on Christ for salvation.”

    Again, you claim there **is** more, and yet provide no biblical evidence for this “more” whatsoever.

    “Clarifying Questions
    Specifically, did God intend for the death of Christ to obtain the free gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8) and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25)?”

    As you probably already know, the text of Ephesians in the Greek does not say that faith is the gift, it says salvation is the gift. So that text does not say anything about the atonement obtaining saving faith. The Timothy passage according to reputable bible teachers like John MacArthur is not talking about the repentance of unbelievers, but in context is talking about the repentance of squabbling believers. In these verses in Timothy Paul is not talking about a problem that unbelievers have but a problem that believers there had.

    “Did the blood of Jesus obtain both the benefits after faith, and the benefit of faith itself?”

    Apart from any biblical evidence for the claim (you have provided none and there is none), this becomes a question committing the fallacy of complex question (the only way you can say that the atonement obtains saving faith is if you make that assumption, but if you make that assumption and then ask the question you simply engage in the fallacy of complex question).

    In contrast to your questions, here is the key question and the question that exposes your whole attempt at eisegesis (i.e. reading in ideas into the text rather than exegeting them out of the text):

    what bible text(s) (properly interpreted) present any evidence that the atonement of Christ obtained saving faith?

    Unless you can actually answer this question and provide biblical texts, you are merely engaging in unsubstantiated assertion, which will not persuade anyone who is trying to derive their theology from the biblical texts.

    Robert

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks for the question, Robert. Piper did provide biblical evidence for this thesis: in the above he cited Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Timothy 2:24-25. He would also add verses like Acts 16:14 and John 6:65. These verses show that the willingness to believe is granted by God, and if something is granted by God than it is purchased by Christ’s blood, as are all blessings (Eph. 1 etc.).

      Hope that helps, and sorry it wasn’t more explicit in the post.

      Justin

      1. Robert says:

        Justin you wrote:

        “Thanks for the question, Robert. Piper did provide biblical evidence for this thesis: in the above he cited Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Timothy 2:24-25. He would also add verses like Acts 16:14 and John 6:65. These verses show that the willingness to believe is granted by God, and if something is granted by God than it is purchased by Christ’s blood, as are all blessings (Eph. 1 etc.)”

        None of these texts states (anywhere within the texts themselves), that the atonement of Christ obtained or purchased our initial saving faith.

        Now I happen to like stage magic and you are attempting some nifty sleight of hand here (or is it sleight of mouth? :-) ).

        The Second Timothy passage as I already suggested is not even dealing with God giving repentance to nonbelievers (if MacArthur and others are correct the context is divisions among Christians and the idea that God can bring them back in unity if those who are sinning repent of their divisive and oppositional behavior). The Ephesians 2 passage says absolutely nothing about the atonement purchasing or obtaining or in any other way securing our initial faith. If you have Wallace’s text on the Greek (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, and Wallace is a Calvinist as well so you cannot claim anti-Calvinist bias in his comments on the Ephesians 2 text) you may want to see his take on it. But by no stretch of imagination (and it is a stretch of imagination on your and Piper’s part) does it state that our initial saving faith was obtained or purchased by the atonement of Christ. The Acts 16:14 passage speaks of the Lord “opening” Lydia’s heart. I have evangelized lots of people and seen the Lord “open their heart” to scripture and yet for some they did not then become believers (and in the case of some others they never became believers). The idea that God only opens the heart of those who will eventually believe is a Calvinist assumption and is not supported by scripture or the personal experience of evangelizing people. You cannot (or better should not)equate the “opening of Lydia’s heart” with the claim that the atonement of Christ obtains or purchases saving faith. Again, in the text there is no mention of the atonement, no statement that the atonement caused the opening of her heart, etc.

        It just is not there.

        If that is your proof text your position is desperate.

        Regarding the John 6:65 verse it parallels John 6:44 with both stating that we cannot come to Christ in faith on our own apart from God working in our hearts. This working in our hearts, which I would claim is the work of the Spirit prior to conversion enables a faith response (i.e. results in a person being capable of making the choice to trust in Christ alone for salvation) but does not necessitate it (the person is enabled but can still choose to reject the truth). Again, anyone experienced in evangelism can share instances where someone did experience the work of the Spirit (which would include things like revealing they were a sinner, illuminating particular scriptures and making them understandable, showing the individual their need for forgiveness, showing the individual that Christ is the provision for their sins, etc. etc.) what could be simply referred to as having their heart “opened” and yet for a time they did not become believers (and in some cases never). Some heard the message multiple times, knew it was true, understood their condition and yet did not become believers for days, months or even years (showing they experienced the work of the Spirit and yet did not automatically become believers). Some experienced having their hears opened in this way and have not yet and may not ever become believers.

        The texts you provide are all lacking of any language indicating the atonement causes or purchases or obtains saving faith. None of these texts state this claim at all. Instead you simply read into the text an idea that you would like to be there, but is not exegetically derived. I submit that you and Piper are engaging in a clear case of eisegesis. You will need to do much more than that to establish your claim that: the atonement obtains our initial saving faith. That idea may sound nice to fellow Calvinists, but it has not been established exegetically (and the extreme lack of support from even your own proof texts further confirms this).

        Robert

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          Robert,

          You seem quite animated on these issues!

          If you read my comment carefully, I suggested that Scripture teaches that faith and repentance are gifts. I did not claim that those specific passages themselves explicitly say these were purchased at the cross. That is a broader scriptural teaching that the benefits of the new covenant were purchased by Christ at the cross. So the question is whether the Bible really teaches that faith and repentance are among such benefits.

          I don’t find your exegetical observations very careful or compelling, but I’m not going to work through each text in this forum. (It started by you going on at length about Piper not citing any passages, and I was responding to point out that you missed the citations.)

          If you want to hear more from “the other side” you may want to listen to the audio or watch the video of the seminar section on irresistible grace where this is treated in more depth.

          http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Seminars/1727_TULIP/#Grace

          The notes online are just an outline.

          Grace and peace,
          Justin

          1. WoundedEgo says:

            >>>…If you read my comment carefully, I suggested that Scripture teaches that faith and repentance are gifts….

            Which the scriptures do not.

            1. Matt says:

              Faith is a gift Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 1:29

              Repentance is a gift 2Timothy 2: 25, Acts 11:18.

    2. IMO, and I hope you do not take this the wrong way, those verses cited do not teach any unconditionality of the one thus graced, nor does it regard particularity.

      Ephesians 2:8-9 merely states that salvation by grace through faith is God’s gift, but there is no mention that it is God’s gift solely to the unconditionally elected, as though the gift cannot be refused or is granted irresistibly.

      2 Timothy 2:24-25, contextually, regards those who oppose the young preacher’s teaching, so that God may correct the one in error, not that grants His unconditionally elected faith and repentance.

      Acts 16:14 confesses that God opens the heart, but this is also attested by Arminians by their doctrine of prevenient grace. The same can be said of John 6:65: Coming to Christ Jesus must be granted by God, God having initiated and enabled one to believe in Him for salvation. Again, these do not attest to particularity or unconditionality.

      My thoughts are that these scripture references are used in an effort to support a presupposition. Again, exegesis is against the theory of Limited (Particular) Redemption, strictly taken.

      WilliamBirch
      View profile Translate to Translated (View Original)
      More options Jun 24, 2:02 pm
      From: WilliamBirch
      Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2010 11:02:48 -0700 (PDT)
      Local: Thurs, Jun 24 2010 2:02 pm
      Subject: Justin Taylor’s New Post on Limited Atonement
      Reply | Reply to author | Forward | Print | Individual message | Show original | Report this message | Find messages by this author
      Taylor’s latest post can be found here:
      http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2010/06/24/limited-a

      I found the following statement rather alarming. Arminians deny the
      following: “In other words, the divine grace that it takes to overcome
      our hardness of heart and become a believer was also obtained by the
      blood of Jesus.”

      Could anyone point me to just ONE scriptural reference which
      explicitly (or I’ll even take implicitly) insists that Christ Jesus’
      atonement “obtained” the divine grace that it takes to overcome our
      hardness of heart “and become a believer”? I was unaware that,
      strictly taken, Christ’s atonement “obtained” the believer’s faith.

      He’s using John Owen’s argument (and subsequent Cs like Piper) that
      since unbelief is a sin, and Jesus atoned for all sins, then even “the
      sin of unbelief” was atoned for, and thus this sin could only have
      been intended for the unconditionally elect.

      I am curious, as an aside: How is it that the unconditionally elect are not saved before they’re born, since their faith has already been obtained, and their sins have already been atoned? No doubt this has led some into the error of hyper-Calvinism’s eternal justification.

      1. I believe your final question is a very good one, and I have trouble seeing how, if the unbelief of the elect is atoned for, how it is that they could ever be “children of wrath” after the atonement of Christ since even unbelief is paid for.

        1. Jared Moore says:

          Brad + William,

          “if the unbelief of the elect is atoned for, how it is that they could ever be “children of wrath” after the atonement of Christ since even unbelief is paid for.”

          Outside of time, where God is, all things take place in the “present.” Christ has already returned, and the world has ended in the mind of God outside of time. However, inside of time, those things have yet to happen. I imagine one could argue that outside of time, there is a timeless justification through the finished work of Christ being applied to the elect (but it’s not “before” they are born because everything is in the “present”). However, for those that affirm Dr. Bruce Ware’s essentialism, the elect were not atoned for until the cross and resurrection; and the atonement was not applied until the gift of faith was given to the elect. In relation to time however, I don’t understand how the classical view of God being outside of time alone answers the question of the atonement being applied within time? I assume they would argue that it is continually applied since God views us always “in the present,” or that it is applied in the mind of God always… in this moment, in eternity past, and eternity future, since God is not related to time or “moments.”

          1. Jared,

            The eternity of God does not help here. If we are at one “time” children of wrath, then were we only children of wrath in “time” and never in eternity? In other words, if we are eternally justified, that is, from eternity we are truly justified, then when in eternity were we under the just condemnation of God?

            1. Jared Moore says:

              Brad, the answer is simply “in the present.” It doesn’t help because we are both justified and condemned continually in the mind of God timelessly. Within time however, there are moments where one is true and the other ceases to be. I’ve heard some argue for divine temporality (William Lane Craig); where God has entered time with us, but is not outside of time anymore.

              I assume that although salvation is limited in the atonement, it is applied whenever faith is given. I imagine this is the classic position in Reformed Theology. Some historical guys may help shed some light for us.

  25. David says:

    Check out the book, “The Death Christ Died” by Robert Lightner.

    http://www.amazon.com/Death-Christ-Died-Robert-Lightner/dp/0825431557/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_3

  26. donsands says:

    “God having initiated and enabled one to believe in Him for salvation.” -William

    Does God enable everyone? And why doesn’t everyone believe? Better why do some believe, and others don’t?

    “How is it that the unconditionally elect are not saved before they’re born” -William

    They are in a sense. Just as Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

    The salvation of God’s children, who are children of wrath and rebels, was determined by our Father before Adam fell. And yet, I’m sure God was grieved when Adam fell.

    He is an Eternal God, and a God who never had a beginning. He is infinite, and good. His will is perfect, whether He judges pharaoh, or has mercy on Saul, who would become Paul.

    I say all this because it is a mystery how God can be eternally sovereign and yet grieve. He can know all His sheep, and when they will be saved, and yet rejoice with great joy when a sheep is found, and comes home to pasture.

    And one more thought. We will never agree on this doctrine methinks. That’s alright. We Reformed and Non-Reformed brothers can work together for the Gospel and glory of God just the same. This, I’m sure, pleases our Lord.

    Have a great evening.

  27. donsands says:

    “I have evangelized lots of people and seen the Lord “open their heart” to scripture and yet for some they did not then become believers (and in the case of some others they never became believers).” Robert

    How do you know God opened their heart?

    I know God opened a heart when I see a sinner love the Lord, and become a new creature in Christ. But I don’t know how else to know that God opened a stoney dead heart.

  28. Don Sands

    Does God enable everyone? And why doesn’t everyone believe? Better why do some believe, and others don’t?

    That is not the point of this post. It was merely a response to Justin’s (and Pipers’) proof-texting. Nonetheless: Antinomy! (Much like your “mystery” below.) Hey, it works for the Calvinist ; )

    “How is it that the unconditionally elect are not saved before they’re born” -William

    They are in a sense. Just as Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

    A good English translation would connect the phrase “before the foundation of the world” with the names in the book of life (cf. Rev. 13:8 with 17:8). To suggest that anyone is saved in any sense prior to faith in Christ Jesus is unbiblical, IMO, and an affront to sola fide. It also has a person saved prior to being justified, since we are only justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).

    I say all this because it is a mystery how God can be eternally sovereign and yet grieve. He can know all His sheep, and when they will be saved, and yet rejoice with great joy when a sheep is found, and comes home to pasture.

    Agreed entirely. And all Arminians say Amen.

    And one more thought. We will never agree on this doctrine methinks. That’s alright. We Reformed and Non-Reformed brothers can work together for the Gospel and glory of God just the same. This, I’m sure, pleases our Lord.

    Agreed again, brother! Entirely.

  29. Bob says:

    Good discussion Justin!

    Tell me… are Arminians elect?

  30. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:…

    One of the ways that you careen off the tracks is your presumption that God was “venting” on Jesus, and another is your presumption that Jesus was being “punished.” These two errors alone make all of your leaps of logic just more “structure on sand.”

  31. donsands says:

    “To suggest that anyone is saved in any sense prior to faith in Christ Jesus is unbiblical”

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

    It’s biblical. And there are other passages as well, that clearly show God’s sovereign salvation. John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from the womb for instance.

    “A good English translation would connect the phrase “before the foundation of the world” with the names in the book of life (cf. Rev. 13:8 with 17:8).” -William

    I’ll have to check into this. Thanks.

    1. Don,

      Consecration to service is not salvation, thus it remains unbiblical. And John the Baptist being filed with the Spirit “from the womb” was one exceptional case, not the norm by far.

      God bless.

      1. Matt says:

        so some are elect and others make themselves elect.

  32. donsands says:

    “..your presumption that Jesus was being “punished.”

    What about Isaiah 53?

  33. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    and before you were born I consecrated you;
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

    Jeremiah was the oldest son of a Levite. As such, he was “holy to the lord.” This did not mean that he would be faithful to his calling, only that he would be burdened with responsibility. As Paul said, he still had to be faithful or he would be a “castaway.”

    >>>…John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from the womb for instance.

    But the Hebrews were admonished that such blessing led to great responsibility and accountability. As Paul said, “apprehend what you have been apprehended for…”

    >>>“A good English translation would connect the phrase “before the foundation of the world” with the names in the book of life (cf. Rev. 13:8 with 17:8).” -William

    The “book of life” would be a scroll. In that book were names and deeds. If the deeds were incongruent, the names would be erased.

  34. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>What about Isaiah 53?

    Isaiah 53 says that the servant will be presumed to be smitten by God:

    4 ¶ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet ***we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted***.

    The point is that he actually suffered at the hands of wicked men:

    Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

    Correctly translated, Isaiah 53 says that the suffering servant suffered unjustly, and no one correctly reports that.

    1. Not really, Wounded Ego. The next two verses that you quote overthrow your assertion:

      But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

      It is very clear that the Lord God laid upon the Messiah the iniquity of our sins, not just that we “esteemed” it to be this way. This is the imputation of our sin to Jesus, and His imputed righteousness to us. This is clearly laid out in 2 Cor. 5:21.

  35. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…I agree that there is a sense where Jesus only died for the elect in that His atonement on the cross is only applied to the elect;…

    Where do the scriptures speak of Jesus’ death as an “atonement” – let alone a “limited atonement?” The only place where Jesus’ death is identified as an atonement is when it is linked with his own sin:

    Hebrews 7:27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

    Can you abandon your unscriptural speaking and posit something actually found in the pages of scripture, rather than in your philosophy?

  36. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>Outside of time, where God is, all things take place in the “present.”…

    You do enjoy the sound of your own voice, don’t you!

    1. Jared Moore says:

      WoundedEgo,

      I’m trying to answer by thinking outloud. Not intended to think highly of myself, just trying to progress the discussion while learning myself. It’d be nice if you’d help progress or rip apart some of the things I wrote instead of making an enjoyable theological discussion, a personal incorrect attack on my personal character.

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        >>>I’m trying to answer by thinking outloud…

        Everyone sees themselves in the mirror as wearing the white hat. But from here, you seem to be content to just assert your ideas as fact, with no evidence. To me, this pontificating is in bad taste.

        Please restrict “thinking out loud” to that which is evidential. Your personal philosophy is not relevant to a discussion of a sacred text.

        1. Jared Moore says:

          WoundedEgo,

          You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you really want me to prove to you that God exists outside of time and space? Ok… Genesis 1:1 (I thought that it went without saying since we were all discussing the difficult doctrine of limited atonement. I assumed everyone here knew that God exists outside of time and space. Although some may believe in only Divine Temporality.) Also, do you really want me to prove that God exists in time with us? Ok… all the anthropomorphic language in the Scriptures where God is described as joyful, angry, sorry, etc. points to God being in time with His creation; as does the verses where He speaks to His creation. Dr. Ware argues that God is relationally mutable toward His creation, but is immutable in His “essential” attributes that make Him God. Thus, he argues that when the Bible speaks of God’s emotions, it speaks of something that is true of God. He does not believe that God is impassible, which is the classic doctrine. He furthermore argues that humans are theomorphic, possessing emotion because God is perfectly emotional.

          It may be your opinion that I like to hear myself speak, but I personally think you’re the most arrogant person that I’ve ever come into contact with on a Christian blog. Do you not realize that by speaking up, you show that you enjoy correcting others on your definition of “proper limited atonement discussion.” Do you not realize how arrogant it is to call someone arrogant that you just met through a short paragraph that wasn’t even addressed to you?

          BTW: Go back up and read my post, I do not “argue as if my thoughts are fact.” I use terms like “imagine,” “could argue,” and “assume.”

          Since we’re posting our opinions about how to discuss theology, how bout you only post arguments that actually help the discussion? Do you think that you have helped anything by attacking my personal character?

          This will be my last post to you unless you have a theological question. I doubt Justin want his blog used for fruitless discussion.

          1. WoundedEgo says:

            >>>You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you really want me to prove to you that God exists outside of time and space?

            Yes.

            >>>Ok… Genesis 1:1

            Um, if you notice, in Genesis 1, time and space already exist. There is a bottomless sea, darkness and wind.

            >>>(I thought that it went without saying since we were all discussing the difficult doctrine of limited atonement. I assumed everyone here knew that God exists outside of time and space.

            In the scriptures (though not in Platonic philosophy) God is a manlike deity who lives in the sky. He is “the ancient of days” but after six days, he’s tired and rests to be refreshed. He gets angry and destroys people and things, then repents. He has to travel down from the sky (which is one tower-height above the dry land) to investigate the reports he has received from his deputies.

            THAT is what the scriptures say. You are ASSuming that Plato’s god is the god of Israel, but that is not the case.

        2. Matt says:

          “wounded ego” what a joke….

          1. WoundedEgo says:

            Matt, is it Jared you find amusing or is it Genesis?

            Genesis 1:1 explicitly says:

            “When the god began to make the sky and land, and the land was unformed and unfilled, and darkness was on the face of the bottomless sea, and the breath of god was over the face of the abyss, the god said…”

            Oceans exist in space and wind movement occurs in time and space.

            Then, Genesis recounts 6 days in which god works, and a 7th in which he rests.

            Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

            God makes man to look like himself, to share his likeness, to have dominion, to share his very breath.

            Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

            What you people need to realize is that you are operating from a presumption that philosophy’s “Uncaused Cause” etc is the deity described in Genesis but it is most certainly not.

  37. Thanks for this thoughtful post.
    I, for years, resisted the “L”. And I was not persuaded by logic, not even Owenian logic.

    But I studied John’s Gospel and found very clear definitions. Jesus knew of a body of people given to him by the Father — his sheep, all that the Father has given, etc. John uses a variety of phrases to describe this. And these are from the mouth of my Lord in the days of his flesh.

    And Jesus says he lays down his life for this particular body of people.

    In other words, in John, we find that Jesus knew he was laying down his life for a subset of the human race. He was sent to be intentional in his work. There is no Owenian logic or mathematical abtraction about the total sins of all or the total sins of some. That thinking is not where I think Scripture goes at all — nor is it necessary. John is clear — Jesus laid down his life, consciously, intentionally, to save those the Father had given to him.

    When I saw the clarity of John 6, 10, 17 I was convinced not of an “L” but of another “I” — intentional atonement.

  38. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “What has come clearer to me as I have pondered these things is that Arminians do not say that in the death of Christ God intends to effectively save all for whom Christ died. They only say that God intends to make possible the salvation of all for whom Christ died. But this interpretation of these “universal” texts does not contradict the Calvinist assertion that God does intend to obtain the grace of faith and repentance for a definite group by the death of Christ.

    Arminians may deny this assertion, but they cannot deny it on the basis of their interpretation of the “universal” texts of the atonement. That interpretation simply affirms that all may have salvation if they believe. Calvinists do not dispute that. They only go beyond it.”

    So well-stated and well-argued. Incontrovertible, really.

  39. donsands says:

    “John the Baptist being filed with the Spirit “from the womb” was one exceptional case, not the norm by far.” -William

    But it could have been the norm.

    How about Paul, the murderer:

    “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me”

    “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,”

    God foreknew all his elect. He loved you William before He made this universe. He knew you would be a rebel, but predetermined to save you from your sinful life, and give Himself up; give His beloved Son up for you, and for me.

    What a God and what a Savior!

  40. Agreed, and Amen! But I was not saved in any sense until faith in Christ Jesus sprang within me.

  41. orthodoxdj says:

    Suppose Jesus died only for the Church. If that’s the case, then what does it take to be part of the Church? Calvinists say unconditional election. To be logically consistent, then, salvation is not by faith alone. It is by election alone.

    Election, according to Calvinism, is both necessary AND sufficient for one’s salvation.

    Can God be separated from his will? I believe most Calvinists would say He cannot be. Can God’s will ever NOT be done? most Calvinists would say God’s will is always done. Is the world as it is an accident or exclusively by God’s design? The Calvinists I have dialogued with have told me that EVERYTHING as it is is how God has eternally intended it. If all of the previous is true, can anyone give me a meaningful distinction between Calvinism and pantheism? Perhaps the main distinction is that Calvinism says God is personal. I’m sure there are Hindus who would say the same. I can only do what God makes me do. Nothing can be anything except what God has willed it to be. Everything is an extension of God by virtue of being DIRECTLY ordained and caused by Him. What is, is.

    1. Venkatesh says:

      Bro. orthodoxd,
      I come from a hindu background. I can tell you that Arminianism is principally closer to Hinduism and not Calvinism.

      “To be logically consistent, then, salvation is not by faith alone. It is by election alone.” — You are right. Salvation is by election alone. It is Justification which is by faith alone. Salvation encompasses Foreknowlegde, Predestination, Calling, Justification and Glorification ( Rom 8:28 -30). To be justified, you need faith. And that faith is given only by God. (Philippians 1:29).

      “Can God be separated from his will” – He cannot but we need to understand what kind of will you are speaking about. From the bible we can easily deduce that there are two will in God. For eg. God expected Pharaoh to repent when he showed him signs and wonders (his preceptive will). But he himself “hardended his heart” (his decretive will). I encourage you to study the bible more carefully and you will certainly realize that the Bible does speak of God’s will in different ways. Calvinism systematizes the concepts perfectly. I also struggles with it for a long time but then came to a full conviction of its truth.

      1. orthodoxdj says:

        Are you saying God contradicts Himself? If God has two opposite wills, then He is not holy. He cannot command obedience and faith AND make it impossible for that to happen and hold someone personally responsible.

        Calvinism makes God the author of evil. There’s no getting around it.

        As for studying the Bible, I can say the same in response to you. It is people who say God is the author of evil, but God declares that there is no darkness in Him.

  42. Daniel MacKenzie says:

    I haven’t read all the previous posts so I hope I’m not repeating anything, but how does the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit play out in Owen’s argument? Did Jesus die for that sin?

    What would a reformed understanding of Luke 7:30 be?

    I’ve not yet seen these questions dealt with from a reformed perspective.

    1. Venkatesh says:

      No, Jesus did not die for that sin. And that sin is only committed by the “vessels prepared for destruction”

      1. pduggie says:

        But that is also true of people who die in unbelief. It is only committed by the reprobate. So the same thing applies.

  43. bossmanham says:

    I just want to point out to anyone missing it that I have split the horns of Owen’s dilemma earlier in the combox. See here.

  44. Venkatesh says:

    I found this post of James white very helpful. http://vintage.aomin.org/Was%20Anyone%20Saved.html. Also, I have found D A Carson’s treatment of this subject to be most satisfying in his book Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.

    One reason why I reject Arminian atonement is this:
    John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
    John 10:26″But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.

    John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; [or in other words “believe”]”

    Jesus Dies for his sheep
    His sheep follow him or believe him
    Pharisees did not believe because they are not his sheep (not the other way round)
    Hence Jesus did not die for the pharisees (or for non-elect in general)

  45. donsands says:

    “But I was not saved in any sense until faith in Christ Jesus sprang within me.” -William

    What about when our Savior was on the Cross, and He was enduring the wrath, and drinking His Father’s cup. Wasn’t He right then taking your sin upon His broken and pierced body? Wasn’t He washing your sins away?

    As Matthew says: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

    Jesus died for all my sins. The forgiveness was “Finished”. In my life here on earth I was a rebel, and rejected Christ until I was 31 years old. But one day in 1984-85 God sought me out and brought me to Himself, and to faith and repentance. He made my salvation complete, by quickening me, and bringing me out of darkness, and into His marvelous light. I was dead in my sins, and yet Christ had died for all my sins, even all the sin I had not committed as yet, and all the sins I will committ until I die.

    So, in a wonderful loving way God does save His elect, before the foundation of the earth, for He has us in His heart; and on the Cross when Christ cried, “It is Finished”, God in another sense was saving His elect children.

    And when we finally receive this forgiveness, and His Spirit, then we experience the fullness of God’s eternal purpose for us.

    This truth humbles me. God did all this for a rat like me, who was a drunk, blasphemer, fool, and mocker. I’ll never understand His love for me, but I accept it, and gratefully worship Him in Spirit and truth.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>..and on the Cross when Christ cried, “It is Finished”, God in another sense was saving His elect children…

      Ugh. When Jesus cried out “it is finished” he was referring to his own suffering. Don’t you remember that he had just prayed, “My god, my god, why have you left me here in the lurch?” And why would he wonder that, except that he had prayed three times (fervently) that God would let his vessel quickly pass “through the valley of the shadow of death” into death itself.

      “It is finished” had NOTHING to do with anyone’s sins.

      It was kind of like the Calvinist who fell down a flight of stairs, brushed himself off and said “I’m glad THAT’S over with!”

  46. “I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

    The trouble with the idea of “Jesus died for the sin of unbelief” position is that it seems to make faith unnecessary for salvation. The whole point of Calvinism is to show that, though faith is necessary for salvation, it is a work wrought in the heart of human beings by the Spirit. So one can affirm the “Jesus dies for some of the sins of all men” position and still affirm unconditional election and irresistible grace.

  47. the way i frame the difference is simply with the question: do we choose god because he chooses us, or does he choose us because we choose him? both parties make a choice, both sides of the debate agree about this, but which chooser is ultimately determinant?

    1. orthodoxdj says:

      Both. It’s like a marriage.

  48. Brian says:

    I would be interested in knowing how the folks struggling with the scriptural basis for limited atonement respond to these two texts from John 10:

    John 10:11 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

    John 10:26-27 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

    If Christ’s intention is to provide a universal atonement, why would he exclude these Pharisaical Jews from the people for whom he lays down his life? Years ago, it was the juxtaposition of these two texts that persuaded me to stop “beating the ‘L’ out of TULIP” and abandon 4-point Calvinism.

  49. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…John 10:11 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

    Taken in context, Jesus is saying that he is not a “hireling” who runs when the wolf comes. He is dedicated to the welfare of the sheep, even in view of personal peril. It is not speaking of justification – that is not in view.

    >>>John 10:26-27 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

    Again, you have to understand what is going on… Jesus says that the father had formerly entrusted the faithful Jews (his sheep) to many shepherds (see Ezekiel 34, 37 I believe) that exploited them, rather than cared for them. God promised to raise up a single shepherd who would treat them properly. Jesus was claiming to be the good shepherd appointed by God to tend the flock of faithful Jews. This was the “little flock.” To care for them, he even shed his blood to act as surety for the new covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah.

    The “other sheep” are the gentile believers.

    >>>If Christ’s intention is to provide a universal atonement, why would he exclude these Pharisaical Jews from the people for whom he lays down his life?

    It was not “Christ’s intention” to speak of “an atonement” at all. His death is not spoken of as an atonement for the sheep. Your “problem” lies in the ASSumptions that you are making, not with the text.

    >>>Years ago, it was the juxtaposition of these two texts that persuaded me to stop “beating the ‘L’ out of TULIP” and abandon 4-point Calvinism.

    This “limited atonement” of yours is still just a fantasy. These verses do not speak of an atonement at all, let alone a limited one.

  50. Brian says:

    Wounded Ego,

    The only way you can make that assertion is to disconnect the death of Christ from the idea of atonement. There is absolutely no question that Christ has the cross and resurrection in view in John 10.

    John 10:17-18 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life– only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

    Jesus is clearly talking about his own death and resurrection, and his intention toward his sheep in those acts. If for you, this in no way relates to then atonement, then you have much bigger issues you need to work through.

    I’ll assume (no capitalization) that you left your finger on the caps button too long, and did intend that in a mean-spirited manner. Let’s keep it clean brother!

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>…If for you, this in no way relates to then atonement, then you have much bigger issues you need to work through.

      Why, scripturally speaking, do you refer to his death as an “atonement?” An atonement is something done by a perpetrator as an appeal for forgiveness.

      Your verbiage is unscriptural, as are your concepts, assumptions and conclusions.

      1. Venkatesh says:

        Bro. WoundedEgo,

        I think you need to cool down and study the bible more carefully. I agree with Brian 100%. Be careful of passing sweeping judgments. We are to give an account of not only every word we speak, but also every word we write.

    2. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>How exactly do you interpret these statements?
      “He was wounded for our transgressions”
      “He was crushed for our iniquities”
      “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”
      “he shall bear their iniquities”
      “he bore the sin of many.”

      The text is about someone suffering unjustly. No one declares his side of the story. He is presumed to be suffering because of God’s wrath, though this is not the case.

      >>>Atonement biblically speaking is reconciliation through a payment for sin.

      No, that is not at all consistent with the actual usage of the word. For example, God gave the blood of animals to the Jews to make atonement. Did it reconcile? Did it pay for sin? Isaiah 1 says no.

      >>>That just happens to be the language that both the OT and NT use to describe the death of Christ. If you prefer some specific NT texts, here you go:
      Colossians 1:20-22 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him

      Note that this is God acting through Jesus. How is that a payment to God?

      An atonement is made by the perpetrator, not the judge.
      Romans 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

      Please help me understand where the disconnect between Christ’s death and atonement exists. Because of both the scriptural testimony and the overwhelming testimony of church history, the burden of proof is upon you, brother.

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        Have you ever paused to consider how Matthew understands this text as it relates to Jesus?:

        Matthew 8:
        14 ¶ And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.
        15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.
        16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
        17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

        Perhaps you are so committed to pop theology that you think Matt got it wrong?

  51. Judd says:

    Justin,

    As usual great post…I did not read all the responses so I may have missed this, have you looked at Driscoll’s take? What are your thoughts?

    Blessings,

    Judd

  52. Michael says:

    In most discussions I’ve had with Arminians their view of evangelism drives their view on limited atonement and their hermeneutic on the relevant passages. In other words, they falsely reason, “If Christ died is limited to the elect, then why evangelize. The Bible tells us to evangelize, therefore limited atonement must be unbiblical.”

    Also, does anyone else find it humorous that Alcorn uses logic and reason to determine that this doctrine is only based on logic and reason.

    Limited atonement is part and parcel to the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election is all over the Bible. Therefore we don’t need 100 verses just on the atonement, since it goes with election.

    1. orthodoxdj says:

      I would like one clear verse that says Jesus did not die for all people.

  53. donsands says:

    Hey wounded,

    Here are some verses that corrolate with John’s 10th chapter about the Jews:

    “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

    “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

    Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

    “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
    lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”” John 12:37-40

    And:

    “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, …….If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”” John 8:43-48

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      The fact that this is specific to these Jews at this time indicates that it is irrelevant to the discussion of general soteriology. This is a large theme in scripture – a temporary, partial, judicial hardening on Jews. Romans 9, likewise, refers to this.

  54. Brian says:

    Wounded Ego writes: “Why, scripturally speaking, do you refer to his death as an ‘atonement?'”

    Isaiah 53:5-12

    5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

    nuff said.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>…nuff said.

      So where does that passage say that the death of Jesus was an “atonement,” let alone a “limited atonement?”

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        What, to your mind, is an “atonement” anyway?

  55. Everett Berry says:

    I have not read all of the comments here. So please forgive me if this question is redundant. Has anyone addressed this classic Arminian objection; namely that if Jesus only atoned for the sins of the elect, then why are unbelievers judged because of their unbelief (and the rest of their evil works as well). In other words, if the atonement has no provisional trajectory directed at the “nonelect” whatsoever, then isn’t it fair to say that they should not be judged for rejecting the gospel because in reality, it is not for them in the first place. A Calvinist enjoying the dialogue…

    1. Terrance Tiessen says:

      Everett,

      You put your finger on a subject that I too have pondered. I made my best attempt to date at offering a framework for understanding God’s distress at the unbelief of the non-elect, in a chapter called “Who is Able to Believe?” in the book _Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions_ (IVP 2004). I won’t get in to my proposal here but I welcome conversation with you or anyone else who has thoughts about my suggestion.

      1. Everett Berry says:

        Prof. Tiessen,

        I have the book and have read portions of it. I’ll check out that chapter.

  56. Brian says:

    Wounded,

    How exactly do you interpret these statements?

    “He was wounded for our transgressions”
    “He was crushed for our iniquities”
    “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”
    “he shall bear their iniquities”
    “he bore the sin of many.”

    Atonement biblically speaking is reconciliation through a payment for sin. That just happens to be the language that both the OT and NT use to describe the death of Christ. If you prefer some specific NT texts, here you go:

    Colossians 1:20-22 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him

    Romans 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

    Please help me understand where the disconnect between Christ’s death and atonement exists. Because of both the scriptural testimony and the overwhelming testimony of church history, the burden of proof is upon you, brother.

  57. Pastor Matt says:

    Everett,

    Good question. I believe that Paul answers that question best in Romans 9… which is to say that he sort of doesn’t answer it. He basically says that God is God and we are not (verses 19 & 20 in particular). It’s interesting that he doesn’t try to explain the sovereignty of God in a way that doesn’t seem unfair or apologize for the fact that God has prepared beforehand vessels for dishonor and vessels for honor… he simply states that God does what He wills… period. I think sometimes we should do as Job did in Job ch. 40 and just put our hand over our mouth when we are tempted to accuse the Almighty of being unfair or unjust. I’m certainly not saying that you are doing this, I just think it’s good advice in general.

    (Rom 9:14-24 ESV) [14] What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [16] So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. [17] For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” [18] So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. [19] You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” [20] But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? [22] What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    I hope that helps… might have created more questions though, sorry.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>…He basically says that God is God and we are not…

      As in, “might makes right?”

      Actually what he says is that if God says that the way to approach is by faith, then those who choose to approach by law keeping will not be accepted. Their willing and running is all for nought. He is saying “it is my way or the highway.”

      30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33As it is written:
      “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
      and a rock that makes them fall,
      and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”[m]

  58. Everett Berry says:

    Pastor Matt,

    No question that we ultimately have to punt like Paul did when it comes to God’s providence. The question though is how to reconcile the effectual langauge of the atonement with passages that describe judgment as being enacted because people do not obey the gospel and submit to King Jesus (e.g., Rom 2:8-9; 2 Thess 2:7-8). Perhaps part of the answer is to say that the atonement does not apply to them not only because God does not elect them but because they do not want the atonement to apply to them regardless.

    Enjoy the dialogue friend.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>…effectual langauge of the atonement…

      “effectual” and “atonement” are not scriptural terms or concepts in relation to the death of Jesus.

      1. WoundedEgo says:

        Were your sins paid for 2000 years ago? If so, then why do you ever speak of the forgiveness of your sins?

  59. Pastor Matt says:

    Everett,

    Let me chew on your comment a bit and get back to you. I see what you’re saying though…

    Also enjoying the dialogue… blessings!

  60. donsands says:

    “Were your sins paid for 2000 years ago? If so, then why do you ever speak of the forgiveness of your sins?”

    Yes, and because, even though the Lord took all our sins from us on the Cross, as far as the east is from the west, it’s still a loving relationship.
    It gives God even more glory than we could ever imagine, and it magnifies His love beyond the stars!
    And His forgiveness, when we understand it, makes us long to obey Him, and not sin.

    What a Savior! Incredible love and mercy for wretches like us.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>Yes, and because, even though the Lord took all our sins from us on the Cross, as far as the east is from the west, it’s still a loving relationship…

      Eh? Your reply is nonsensical, is it not?

      If your sins were paid for before you were born, then when, how and mostly, why were they forgiven?

  61. Terrance Tiessen says:

    Thank you, Justin. Your summing up of approaches by Owen, Boettner and Piper is very helpful.

    What I missed (though it may be there implicitly) is a clear statement of the critical importance of the harmony within the Godhead. That is foundational, in my view. It emphasizes that Christ died for all those whom the Father gave to him and that the Spirit applies Christ’s work (by producing saving repentance and faith) to those whom the Father gave to the Son and for whom the Son made satisfaction to the Father. (Hence Piper’s helpful emphasis on faith as the fruit of Christ’s atoning work.)

    Four point Calvinism fatally disrupts the Trinitarian unity. It has the Son trying to do something that the Father is not trying to do, namely eternally save everyone. Furthermore, since Christ’s death is aimed at satisfying the divine wrath, the critical question becomes whether the Father accepts the Son’s satisfaction for everyone’s sins. If he does, then everyone will be saved. If he does not, then the unity within the Trinity is destroyed.

    I’ll mention in passing my ongoing mystification at the Arminian insistence that justifying faith is not praiseworthy (contra Eph 2:8-9). As Boettner notes, in the Arminian construct Christ’s death doesn’t save anyone because it must be supplemented by a faith that is enabled equally for all by the Holy Spirit but exercised at human discretion. Thus, a human act must be added to Christ’s atoning work in order for the Father’s justice to be satisfied and it is the human act, not the universally indiscriminate act of Christ, that is decisive. If such were the case, why would we not congratulate those who believe and are saved?

    1. Arminians might or might not view saving faith as a “praiseworthy act,” but none will say that it is something they can boast in before God. This is because it makes no sense to boast in the reception of a gift. Rather, it is the generosity of the gift-giver that is made much of. I have never understood the “why would we not congratulate those who believe and are saved?” objection, because no Arminian believes they have what it takes to get right before God. God provides what it is needed before Christ and gives sufficient grace to those he calls through the gospel to receive the gift or reject it. Receiving it does not imply some meritorious action. Calvinists often insist that it is–that faith is a “work”–that it is something we can boast in before God. Yet that makes no biblical sense (Rom 4:4-8).

      1. Terrance Tiessen says:

        Thanks for your comment, Adam. Here is why I remain mystified. It is true that Arminians (including you perhaps?) believe that faith is a gift, but only in the sense that through universal prevenient grace, God makes it possible for everyone to believe. Precisely because that gift is universal, however, it does not account for the belief of some and not others. The human act of receiving that gift is not one that God effects; the difference between the person who believes and the one who doesn’t is completely attributable to the human person. If I were an Arminian (which was once the case), I would congratulate believers for having done the wise thing in accepting God’s gift.

        I agree with you, however, about Arminian practice. Most of my life, I have worshipped in churches that did not take a position on the monergist/synergist question but in which synergists predominated. Yet, in testimonies of conversion I never heard a person take any credit for their having believed. They always gave thanks to God for saving them. Perhaps this is because, as one Arminian friend explained to me, the grace of God is so much more significant than the human act, even though it is the latter that is decisive in the outcome. As a Calvinist, I have been blessed by the hymnody of Charles Wesley, which magnifies God’s grace in ways that strike me as more Calvinist than Arminian. It is precisely this practical phenomenon in my observation of Arminian practice that keeps me from being as concerned about Arminian theology in the church as some of my fellow Calvinists are.

        It seems obvious to me that God has chosen to allow synergism and monergism to co-exist within the church, because I am confident that he could, by the illumination of his Spirit, have made most of the church one or the other if he had wished to do so. God’s work in the world gets done through both of us, in slightly different ways and God appears to like it that way. In fact, providentially, most of the church is synergistic, which gives me pause but doesn’t make me uneasy about my own monergistic understanding.

        Shalom,
        Terry

        1. WoundedEgo says:

          >>>…believe that faith is a gift…

          In the scriptures, faith is not a gift, but rather something that a man does with his heart (the ancients didn’t know about the brain):

          Romans 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

          It is man’s work:

          John 6:
          28 ¶ Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
          29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

          Faith is not imparted by fiat but rather by hearing:

          Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

        2. Very interesting thoughts, Terry. I think the question about why some believe and some don’t is a tough one. But I don’t think the consequences of locating it in the will of humanity is as a bad as the inversion: the reason why some people don’t believe and are damned is located in the will of God. Once we limit the atonement the way Calvinism does we are left with aweful truth that God purposely wants some of his creatures made in his image to be lost (contradicting Scripture that teaches God wants everyone to repend and come to the knowledge of the truth). And for the elect stricken with tender consciences the Calvinistic logic can leave them wondering if their savior really died for them. All they can look to is their works and faith for assurance that they are “truly saved” (an unhelpful slogan if there ever was one), and most of us know those can be as reliable as shifting sand.

  62. donsands says:

    “Your reply is nonsensical, is it not?”

    No indeed. It’s very biblical. Jesus said on the Cross, “It is Finished”.

    He drank the Father’s cup. He saved me from my sin. There is no other forgiveness of sin.

    God is eternal. And this was His eternal purpose. What an incredible God and Savior!

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

    In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” -Paul the Apostle

  63. bossmanham says:

    “Jesus said on the Cross, “It is Finished”.”

    Yes, the atonement was finished. That says nothing of its application.

  64. Clint says:

    Alcorn was arguing that people find more logical reason for limited atonement than exegetical. I find it interesting that 5-pointers respond to that by giving more logical reasoning.

    1. Michael says:

      I find it interesting that Alcorn used logical reasoning to determine there was more logical reason for limited atonement than exegetical. If we’re not to trust logical reasoning from the foundation of the Scriptures, then why trust it at all?

      1. orthodoxdj says:

        Michael, you actually point out a problem with Calvinism. Calvinists argue that man’s ability to reason has been tainted through and through by the fall. If that’s the case, then there are no reasons to trust reason. It destroys epistemology.

  65. Timothy says:

    I think Randy Alcorn’s argument is that the doctrine of limited atonement is one derived from the logic of the Calvinist system and is not derived from exegesis of the Bible. When support is sought for it from the Bible, various intellectual gymnastics have to be undertaken in order to refute biblical objections and find biblical support. This argument can be turned on the Arminians. What they assert is often equally a reflection of the system they have adopted and require an equal measure of biblical gymnastics. This ought to be no surprise because Arminianism is derived from Calvinism, an attempt to ameliorate some of the more offensive aspects of Calvinism as expounded in the early 17th Century.
    But this should lead us to question whether we should accord any system the authority that makes us mangle scripture and then accord truth claims to our mangling. Systems are often useful and I would not wish to dispose of them but they need to be treated with caution and never allowed to control scripture. This was what the Reformation was about; the freedom and authority of scripture over that of human systems such as the Roman Catholic magisterium.

    Two specific comments of the argument of the post. Owen’s argument depends on a strictly quantitative understanding of atonement. Put that to one side and the argument collapses.
    One comment mentioned the connection between limited atonement and election. If election is election to the task of saving the world rather than to a place in heaven, then the whole debate is radically transposed. And this is what the doctrine of election in most of the bible is about, the means of the salvation of the world. Israel was elect. Why? To save the world. It was their insistence that their election was for their salvation and not for the world which is the reason for their failure to grasp the righteousness that is in Christ.

  66. donsands says:

    “Yes, the atonement was finished.”

    Amen. What an awesome truth.

    Jesus saved His people on the Cross. He paid the ransom. He became sin, and a curse for His elect. It was finished. Amen. Salvation was accomplished, and the Son drank the cup of His Father’s wrath. The wrath due for us.

    “That says nothing of its application.”

    For all the saints who died before the death of Christ, were on that day made complete. And the Lord would from that day on seek out all His lost sheep as the Good Shepherd, and bring them into His pasture.

  67. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…If that is what the Bible teaches, it means that the Bible doesn’t teach substitutionary atonement…

    Now you are starting to get it. Jesus didn’t die *instead of* anyone – the scriptures never say that!!! In fact, if you haven’t noticed, the death rate is still 100%! Jesus died the same way that you and I die.

    So, the scriptures spit on your ideas just as surely as does simple observation.

  68. orthodoxdj says:

    Calvinism=nihilism.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      Ha!

      Calvinism is the belief that there is a madman at the helm!

  69. donsands says:

    “Calvinism is the belief that there is a madman at the helm!”

    Nope.

    John Calvin taught that there was a merciful sovereign God with all authority. And this God has mercy on sinners, proud people, mockers, self-righteous, and blasphemers.
    He should justly judge us all for our sin, but what a merciful God to have mercy on a sinner like me.

    Have a blessed Lord’s day Ego.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>Nope. John Calvin taught…

      What does John Calvin have to do with the sect that bears his name? Not much. Sr. Cauvin would roll in his grave if he could hear the drivel that is spoken in his name.

      However, he was a murderer of Servetus – a man he admitted was a good and pious man in every way except for “denial of The Doctrine of the Trinity” – that most wicked of dogmas. And he was the “Taliban” of his day, prosecuting and imprisoning men for offenses as intrinsically matters of conscience as wearing knickers…

      >>>..He should justly judge us all for our sin, but what a merciful God to have mercy on a sinner like me.

      I should not count your chickens before they hatch. Being a Supralapsarian will in the end not spare you from death. Of that I can assure you.

      >>>Have a blessed Lord’s day Ego.

      Ha! Do you mean the one KURIOS KONSTANTIN dedicated to the sun?! No thank you. There is no seventh date but the seventh; not the first.

      The “lord’s day” to which John referred is “the day of the lord”:

      Isaiah 13:6 Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.

      Isaiah 13:9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

      Isaiah 34:8 For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.

      Jeremiah 46:10 For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts hath a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.

      Your complete inability to speak anything true, your confidence in your favored position with god despite anything you may have done or do, your bearing the name of dead man, while putting words into his mouth, all appear to me to be, scripturally speaking, a perfect storm that will topple your sand-built house.

  70. Kim Cosgrove says:

    My understanding of the universal texts on Jesus’ death and it’s relation to the whole world is that Jesus did not die for all people the same way. For the elect, His death effects their salvation. He is their substitute and dies the death they deserve. For the non-elect, His death allows God to be just while being merciful to them their entire life. In other words, God has been patient with them, blessing them with numerous gifts throughout their life while judgment awaits its appointed time.

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>My understanding of the universal texts on Jesus’ death and it’s relation to the whole world is that Jesus did not die for all people the same way.

      How, precisely, does one die in two ways simultaneously? Did his left die differently from his right? Perhaps he had the piercing of just his right side added the extra twist needed to “pay up the bill” on behalf of the “elect” while the other side was cast on the ground like 30 pieces of cheap silver, doing nothing for the damned losers. (Oh wait, he was already dead).

      >>>For the elect, His death effects their salvation.

      So when he shouted “it is finished,” your unborn children became cleared by double jeopardy? While the non-elect unborn remained on their trajectory to endless conscious torment – glory be to God?!

      >>>He is their substitute and dies the death they deserve.

      Did he suffer endless conscious torment on their behalf? Or is that part of their “death” (in Calvinist-speak) undeserved?

      >>>For the non-elect, His death allows God to be just while being merciful to them their entire life.

      Because everyone is too stOOpid to realize that God is just playing games with justice in order to ultimately commit a horrendous atrocity??

      >>>In other words, God has been patient with them, blessing them with numerous gifts throughout their life while judgment awaits its appointed time.

      Hallelujah! What a savior!

      What a joke. You people are seriously under-medicated.

  71. Terrance Tiessen says:

    Orthodoxj,

    You wanted a clear text that states that Jesus did not die for everyone. For me, all the texts that speak of Jesus as accomplishing salvation by his death make that point. Just for starters, consider Romans 6:3-5.

    Vs 5 says: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

    All those for whom Jesus died, died with him and will rise again with him.

    As Piper and other Calvinists have noted, there are many texts that speak of universal benefits deriving from Christ’s death. The point that Reformed theologians at Dort were making is that the specific benefit of eternal life only comes to those for whom Christ died as a guilt bearer. But these people (and only they) are certainly saved by Christ’s death. It is in that sense that Christ’s death is particular (or limited).

    Like John Murray, I do not think that this is an issue which can be resolved through analysis of the texts addressing the extent of the benefits of Christ’s death. The critical texts, therefore, are the ones that speak of the effectiveness of Christ’s death. What did he accomplish when he died. As Piper pointed out, Scripture clearly indicates that what Christ accomplished for those for whom he died as representative guilt-bearer is salvation, not just savability (or the possibility of being saved). Jesus actually saved people by dying for them, he did not just make it possible for everyone to be saved, while actually getting no one safely to eternal life with God.

    That is what turned me into a 5 point Calvinist, the strong statements regarding the effect of Jesus’ death. I suggest you reread the New Testament with an eye especially to those statements.

    Ironically, I think that Arminians should actually affirm “limited atonement.” They affirm (rightly) that the death of Christ is effective only for those who believe. But they believe that God foreknew who those people would be. So, when the Son came to die for sinners, he knew which ones he was coming to save and gave his life to save them. Consequently, both conditional election and unconditional election leads to a doctrine of particular redemption (limited atonement). If I had been at Dort, I would have made that point but I am not aware of anyone having done so. :-)

    Shalom,
    Terry

  72. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>consider Romans 6:3-5.
    Vs 5 says: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

    I would point to verse 10, that says that Jesus died to his own sin:

    10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

    The believer is to do likewise:

    11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    This is not metaphysics, but just analogy:

    12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

    When Paul says he was “co-crucified with Christ” he is not suggesting that he was actually, in time and space, on then next stake, but rather that he has, like Christ, severed his relationship to sin.

    >>>All those for whom Jesus died, died with him and will rise again with him.

    Jesus referred to “taking up the cross” suggesting that one embraces his death, and, as Paul says, is “buried with him in baptism.” You have a most brittle misreading of these texts.

    >>>As Piper and other Calvinists have noted, there are many texts that speak of universal benefits deriving from Christ’s death. The point that Reformed theologians at Dort were making is that the specific benefit of eternal life only comes to those for whom Christ died as a guilt bearer.

    The “guilt bearer” on the day of atonement was not the goat that died (that was to atone, or make an appeal on behalf of the priest and people) but rather the “scape goat” – the one that lived:

    Lev 16:
    10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
    11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

    Jesus’ death was the goat that didn’t live:

    Hebrews 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:

    Hebrews 7:27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

    Jesus **lives** to make intercession (which is identified as saving those who come to God by him):

    Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

    >>>But these people (and only they) are certainly saved by Christ’s death. It is in that sense that Christ’s death is particular (or limited).

    Complete hogwash.

  73. steve hays says:

    Adam Omelianchuk

    “Once we limit the atonement the way Calvinism does we are left with aweful truth that God purposely wants some of his creatures made in his image to be lost (contradicting Scripture that teaches God wants everyone to repend and come to the knowledge of the truth).”

    Putting to one side your perfunctory spooftexting–unless you’re an open theist, you must believe that God freely created the damned in full knowledge of where they’d spend eternity if he made them. In that event, he purposely made some of his creatures to be lost.

    “And for the elect stricken with tender consciences the Calvinistic logic can leave them wondering if their savior really died for them. All they can look to is their works and faith for assurance that they are ‘truly saved’ (an unhelpful slogan if there ever was one), and most of us know those can be as reliable as shifting sand.”

    i) How can you divorce the assurance of salvation from faith in Christ?

    ii) Why do you think “truly saved” is unhelpful? Do you make no effort to distinguish between true Christians and nominal Christian? For instance, do you think all of the Lutheran Nazis and Catholic Nazis were true followers of Christ? Do you think all of the Baptist Klansmen were true followers of Christ?

    iii) If Christ died for the damned, how is it of any comfort to know that Christ “really” died for you?

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>…–unless you’re an open theist, you must believe that God freely created the damned in full knowledge of where they’d spend eternity if he made them…

      Open Theism is correct on this matter. Clearly, according to the scriptures, life is full of surprises for God:

      Genesis 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

      And by the way, Genesis clearly does not teach that man was condemned to “Hell” but rather to death:

      Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die [“dying, you shall die”].

      “Hell” comes into the picture after their sojourn among the Greeks, where the Greek texts supply “hADES” for “Sheol.”

      The ones to be tormented forever are the “Trinitarians” who worship the creature (Jesus) more than the Creator (God) and accept the “Trinitarian” number on their forehead – the “number of a man,” or “a number invented by man.”

  74. donsands says:

    “Your complete inability to speak anything true”

    That’s a mighty bold statement Ego.

    But, you are basically right. I can do nothing without Christ, and yet i can speak the truth in love by faith, through grace, as I am filled with His Spirit and wisdom.

    I love the Lord, for He died for me, and He is my Savior. I love my Father in heaven, because He loved me first, and gave His Son for me. I love the Holy Spirit, whom the Son sent to abide in me, and comfort me, and help me stand against those who try to bring contradictions and confusing, whose god is their belly, and are enemies of the Cross.

  75. Harry Hammond says:

    John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

      “Christians” always claim inside knowledge because they have “the Holy Spirit.” One would imagine a Church of great understanding, and reliable congruity of thought. Odd, though, that “Christians” are in violent disagreement over every passage of scripture and consider all in disagreement as heretics, etc.

      More hilarious is the fact that the very word “Spirit” is a bogus word, coined in the recent past. In 1611, the “Holy Ghost” was rightly considered God’s “breath” because that is what RUACH (Hebrew), PNEUMA (Greek) and “ghost” (Middle English) all meant in their respective languages.

      As SARX is currently being redefined as “sinful nature” instead of “flesh,” “muscle,” so the word “spirit” was recently coined from the Latin “spiritus” (which meant “breath”) to support a metaphysics revolving around another kind of matter.

      In other words, while Western civilization has grown into a greater grasp of the scientific world, ignorance has ballooned in recent years among the Roman Catholic/Protestant crowd.

      And this is deeply intractable because the True Believers all believe that “God has shown my leaders,” whether it be a Pope, a dead preacher/author or a charismatic leader of swooning parishioners.

  76. Eric says:

    WoundedEgo,

    There are certainly many things in Scripture that are difficult to understand, and can seemingly be interpreted in more than one way, thus even Christians will disagree about them. However, there are some things in Scripture that are very clear.

    John declares plainly: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12) That’s not complicated. It’s very simple. Either you are in a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ or you are not.

    Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

    I ask you the same question. Do you believe this? If not, hear Jesus’ solemn warning: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

    The truth is that God has created you and you are accountable to Him. You, like me, were born a sinner (Romans 3:23), deserving eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23) but Christ died in your place, “for” you, as your substitute, so that you wouldn’t have to (Romans 5:8).

    One day you WILL stand before Christ, your Judge (2 Timothy 4:1). Whether or not you believe this does not change the truth of it. He will not engage you in theological debate (about Calvinism or anything else). He will not compare your intellect to His. He will not weigh your good deeds against your bad. He will simply declare whether or not He knows you (Matthew 7:23, John 17:3). God does not come to you on our terms. We must come to Him on His: Acknowledging your sin, and turning from that sin to Christ as your only hope of forgiveness and acceptance with God. You must accept Christ as He is presented in Scripture: as God come in flesh, crucified for you, and raised from the dead (I Cor. 15:1-4). A God of your own devising cannot save you. You must accept the claims of Scripture.

    You WILL declare Christ as Lord one day (Philippians 2:10-11). I pray you do so before it is too late. Turn from your sin and turn to Christ today!

    With love,
    Eric

    1. WoundedEgo says:

      >>>…but Christ died in your place, “for” you, as your substitute, so that you wouldn’t have to (Romans 5:8)…

      Isn’t the whole point of this blog post to say that that is NOT a given? IE: Aren’t we being lectured that Jesus died for “the elect” only and that it was not to make it “possible” but rather “definite?”

      1. Eric says:

        Perhaps. But my concern at this point (to be honest) is not primarily with the argument of this blog post. Not that it isn’t an important topic, but it is far from essential. What is FAR more crucial is whether or not YOU have accepted God’s very real offer of forgiveness, through the substitutionary work of Christ.

        While these kinds of theological discussions certainly have their place, I fear that, for you, this is merely an intellectual exercise. The questions of Calvinism/Arminianism have been debated for years, and will continue to be so. But that’s not what’s most important here. What’s at stake is not a theological position, but the destiny of YOUR eternal soul. If you do not accept Christ as YOUR Savior and YOUR Lord, you are headed for an eternity of torment, separated from God in Hell. Comparatively speaking, nothing else really matters.

        So, WoundedEgo (for lack of your name) what is your response to God’s command to repent and believe in Jesus Christ?

        1. WoundedEgo says:

          >>>…What is FAR more crucial is whether or not YOU have accepted God’s very real offer of forgiveness, through the substitutionary work of Christ….

          Eric, what is important to me is that you be honest about whether you view my demise as a divine appointment or a personal choice. Which is it?

          Justin? What sayest thou?

          1. Eric says:

            Wounded, I will gladly answer your question. But first, I will make an observation: The fact that THAT is the most important question to you tells me that you don’t understand the nature of the “demise” you speak of, and that you do not believe it to be real. To the soul who truly realizes the terror of his lost state, the details of theology are not what consumes you; the pressing question on your mind should be “What must I do to be saved?” If you reject Christ, there is no other means of salvation available to you. Christ Himself claims to be THE way, THE truth, and THE life. Will you submit to Christ?

            That being said, I will attempt to answer your question as honestly as possible.

            I believe, according to Scripture, that if you ultimately reject Christ you are entirely responsible for that choice and the judgement that it brings (Hebrews 4:6-11). You have been presented with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are responsible for your response to it. Those who have the truth but suppress it are under the just judgement of God (Romans 1:18).

            Our problem as sinners is that we want to be God. This was the basis of Satan’s fall, and also his temptation of Eve. We demand to fully understand God before we will accept Him; but that is not genuine faith seeking truth, but simply an expression of our desire to be like God. If you could fully comprehend God and His workings, if you could make Him fit into your mind and understanding, then He would cease to be God. You need to humble yourself before His Word and submit to His authority.

            You mock the deity of Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit. If you care to hear, I will gladly present those truths from Scripture. But if you do not repent of this sin of unbelief, only just judgement awaits you, a judgement you have brought on yourself.

            I urge you to stop deflecting the question of your own soul in the name of theological debate. You WILL stand before Christ one day. On what basis do you think you will enter heaven?

            1. WoundedEgo says:

              >>>…On what basis do you think you will enter heaven?

              What, pray tell, does “heaven” (the “sky”) have to do with anything? I have been to heaven many times on my international flights.

              “Heaven” just means “the sky” – and believe me – there is no celestial city hovering one “tower-height” above the middle east…

              And no “everlasting conscious torment” just below the crust…

              1. Eric says:

                Interesting. Before we progress further in this discussion, I should point out that I’m coming from the presupposition of the Bible being God’s direct and special revelation of truth to us. Since you’re not, there may not be much basis for meaningful conversation, but I’d love to try. I’d be interested to hear of where you’re coming from.

                Also, I believe we should continue our discussion elsewhere, seeing we are now well away from the topic of this blog post and I probably shouldn’t hijack it any further. I’ve created a temporary email address, which I will delete in a few days. If you’d like to contact me there, I can give you a more permanent address (which I don’t want to post publicly here) and I would be delighted to chat further. erictemp80@gmail.com

                As a response to your last post, what do you believe will happen to you when you die?

                Hope to hear from you!

  77. Eric says:

    **Correction: should read — “I’d be interested to hear MORE of where you’re coming from.” All blogs should have a self-edit function. :)

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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