Friday, August 7, 2009

Calvinism 6: Limited Atonement

Calvinism: Limited Atonement

Limited atonement is an issue that, for a long time, I saw no point in debating. Calvinism stands or falls based on the other points. Recently, however, I began to see that scripture clearly does support the idea of unlimited atonement, that is to say, Christ died for all. I also began to see that it does make a difference whether or not Christ died for some, or for all. Although the application remains the same, the purpose and intent of the death of Christ reveals to us that which is important to God. The issue of why the most important event of all history happened is actually more important to our lives than we might think. We are to have the mind of Christ, and if He cared enough to die for reasons that we don't even care to look into, how is that godly?

"Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”
Exodus 33:13
"He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel"
Psalm 103:7

"Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths."
Psalm 25:4

We are called not just to know the acts of the Lord, like all the disobedience children of Israel, but to know His ways as Moses did. We are told in Exodus 33:11 that God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend.

"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you."
John 15:15

Now, there are verses in Scripture that say specifically that Jesus died for us, the elect.

"As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
John 10:15

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her"
Ephesians 5:25

I do not argue this point: of course Christ died for us! It does not, however, say that Christ did not die for all. Some calvinists will trip over the question of "for whom was the atonement designed?" If atonement was intended for all, and all are not saved, then has God failed? But we know that God does not fail, therefore, they reason, atonement must not be for all. If atonement is only for some, those few must be the elect, for the Bible clearly states that Christ died for His sheep. The dilemma is a false dilemma because those are not the only two options. A third alternative is that Christ's sacrifice was intended to provide salvation for all, and to procure salvation for the elect. Christ died to provide salvation for all, and He does not fail to procure salvation for those who call on Him.

"And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Acts 2:21

There are many verses that plainly and clearly state that Christ died for everyone, and in a few moments, I intend to list several of those verses for you. Now, as you may have guessed, calvinists are aware of these verses in the Bible. How then are they able to remain blind to the obvious truth of the verses? Calvinism generally try to get around the verses and explain them away by constantly redefining words. To the calvinist, "all" means "some," and "the world" means "the elect," but only in verses that are contrary to their docrine. Verses that they love and agree with, such as:

"They have all turned aside,They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one."
Psalm 14:3

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness."
Psalm 50:12

Suddenly, "all" really does mean "all of all," and "the world" means "the whole world." Now, I personally believe that no word in the Bible is an accident. If God said "all," there is this slight chance that maybe, just maybe, He really did mean all. I am not even kidding about this, I wish I was, that calvinists, in an attempt to explain away verses that contradict their doctrine, write that "it is clear that all is not all."(cited from "the five points of calvinism, by Palmer)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "
John 3:16-17

It seems fairly clear to most anyone reading the text that God loved the "world" so much that He gave Christ to die for that same "world," which is the same whole "world" that is in danger of being justly condemned. The Bible says "the world," it means "the world," and it is clearly the same "world" that deserves condemnation. One notable calvinist, John Owen, responded to the passage with this shocking retranslation: "God so loved his elect throughout the world, that He gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved"! Yes, well, as Norman Geisler said, "this needs no response, simply a sober reminder that God repeatedly exhorts us not to add to or subtract from His words." And I would add that maybe God did mean just the elect... OR maybe He actually meant what He said...! :)

"And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world."
John 12:47

Again, calvinism claims that "the world" here in used only in a limited sense, meaning only part of the world, namely the elect. They will point out verses such as John 12:19 as an example of the limited usage of the word "world." That verse is where the pharisees are complaining to one another that "the whole world has gone after Him!" Those flawed humans were first of all using a hyperbole, whereas Jesus was speaking sincerely. Also, flawed humans often speak things that are not true: that same "whole world" the pharisees spoke of, later decided to crucify Christ. God never speaks untruth.

"And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."
1 John 2:2

The point of this verse is very clear: Christ is not only a propitation for our sins, but also for the world, the whole world. No further comment should be needed. Calvinism claims that what the verse is really trying to say is that Christ died not only for the sins of the elect Israelites, but also for the elect from the rest of the whole world. This is an obvious case of eisegesis, which is reading into the text. If you study the word (cosmos) and the context, you will find that same word used a few verses later, when John exhorts us not to love the world, or the things of the world. Later he uses the word yet again when he says "we know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." It seems very clear then, then when he says cosmos, and in fact the "whole cosmos," he is not just referring to the elect.

It does kinda bug me sometimes when people misinterpret what I say. For instance, I will say "please finish the dishes before you play outside," and then I'll leave. I will have more than one reason for asking this, but suppose the main reason I said that was that company would be visiting for supper, and I wanted the place to look nice. I come back later, to find the dishes still not done, and ask the person in question, and they respond "Well, yes, but I knew that when you said that, you meant that you wanted me to get my chores down today before going off and amusing myself. But x-and-such brother wanted me to play air-soft, and I am of course going to finish dishes before I go out and amuse myself, but I am amusing my brother right now, which is completely selfless, and I was sure you wouldn't mind." They have no right to suppose that they knew all the reasons I gave that order, or that I meant it differently than I said it. I'm sure that God is equally unhappy when He says "the whole world," and we say "well, of course, but I knew that what you really meant was the elect from around the whole world!"

"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction."
2 Peter 2:1

The terms used to describe those people leave little doubt that they are lost souls. They are "false prophets," "false teachers," they deny the Lord, are "destructive," and bringing themselves "judgement." (vs 2) They are also, in verse three, compared to fallen and unredeemable angels who were cast into hell. By all account, it does not appear that these people are saved! Yet the verse tells us plainly that it is these reprobate sinners who the Lord bought. Also see 2 Corinthians 5:14-19 and Romans 5:6. Again I would say of all these verses that God meant the words that He inspired people to use. If the meaning had been "the elect," He could have easily had that written. The word "elect" was, in fact, a regular part of New Testament vocabulary (see Mt 24:24, Mk 13:22, Luke 18:7, 1 Peter 1:2, Rom 8:33, Col 3:12, 1 Tim. 5:21, Titus 1:1) This is also true of the words "some" and "few." Yet in the whole Bible, in the whole New Testament, not once does the Bible say that Jesus only died for the elect. Now isn't that interesting...?

Other verses to consider, regarding God's desire for all to be saved and command that all be saved:

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent"
Acts 17:30

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:3-4

"Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time"
1 Timothy 2:6

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone."
Hebrews 2:9

As you can see, I do not rely on one or two "proof verses," but rather I see throughout the Scripture a landslide of verses that clearly teach that Jesus loves you, died for you, and wants you to be saved - whoever you may be. The offer of redemption is clearly open to all. Jesus Christ our Savior died for the sins of the world. I should not have to argue to defend each one of these verses. If you do not believe the Word of God, you will not listen to me either. I have come to see that Christ's blood was not only shed for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole entire sinful world. I should add, with reference to conditional election, that although the offer of salvation is open to all, not all will believe, and therefore not all will be saved. That is clear from the Bible.


Kevin Jackson said...

Well said.

abuhennah said...

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I came across your web site while doing some research on Calvinism.
I noticed that you think a lot.
Please visit my website at:

Let me know if you can guess what happened under the fig tree? or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Keep up the good work and God bless

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