The Design and Scope of the Atonement

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Louis Berkhof's presentation for limited atonement from his systematic is pretty convincing. Dr. Fred Moritz's notes and discussion against limited atonement during class years back was also pretty convincing! Smile

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dgszweda's picture

John Owen's work, including the forward is man's crowning achievement to articulate this doctrinal position.  I would recommend any and all to read this work.  It greatly changed my thinking.

Ron Bean's picture

I've been reading books on this subject for 30 years and the best by far is John Owen's. The first time I read it, I did so as a new Christian without any knowledge  of the subject. I've read it since along with many who have attempted to disagree with his presentation and have found the objectors to come up short.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

G. N. Barkman's picture

I understand objections to Particular Redemption from those who deny unconditional election.  I have a more difficult time understanding objections from those who believe in unconditional election.  If the Father chose His people, and gave them to the Son before the world began, why would Christ render an atoning sacrifice on behalf of those who are not elect?  Is this a doctrinal objection, or an emotional one?

G. N. Barkman

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Where does the Bible say, if all for whom Christ died are not saved, then God failed in His purpose? 

“God’s purpose may well include the magnifying of his mercy in that provision and the demonstration of human culpability and the sinfulness of sin in its rejection.  There was provision made for many in the exodus, but only two of those who began the journey as adults attained the land.  Did God’s purpose fail?” -David L. Allen, The Extent of the Atonement. 

“God in effecting the salvation of his own people, did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men, and therefore to all the offer may be, and in fact is made in the gospel.”  -Charles Hodge

By the way, David Allen's book has a number of pages devoted to John Owen.  Good reading. 

David R. Brumbelow

TylerR's picture

Editor

I need to read Allen's new book, one day!

The three views book on the atonement was truly excellent. I sided with Hammett's view that the atonement had different intentions for the elect, non-elect and creation itself. I've always felt that God's intention in the atonement had different deliberate impact for different people, so Hammett's contribution was extraordinarily helpful. This is a good introduction to the discussion by some good men. Carl Trueman took the "limited atonement" position.

Louis Berkhof, the master synthesizer, has probably the best discussion on this topic in any systematic theology. Rolland McCune's discussion was also very helpful for me.

I haven't worked up the courage to read Owen yet. I need to buy a paperback copy and grab a pen! I remember Naselli wrote that Owen is very difficult to follow.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

To conclude that Christ must savingly atone for the sins of every man in order to be able to offer Christ to every man, is a misunderstanding.  Since we do not know who the elect are, we can and should proclaim the gospel to all indiscriminately.  In truth, only the elect will believe it, but that does not affect my sincere and earnest proclamation to the non-elect.  I preach the same gospel to all with the same passion and pleading concern.

In a similar manner, human culpability in rejecting the gospel is unaffected by the design and scope of the atonement.  Since no man can possibly know he is not elect, his rejection is a sinful act, and he is culpable for his sin of unbelief.  Everyone who desires Christ may have Him.  Every one who rejects Christ is responsible for his own condemnation.

G. N. Barkman

Wayne Wilson's picture

I respect the opinion of those who hold to a limited atonement, but I am a little tired of this particular statement being used in support of it. It's a fair point against an Arminian view of salvation I suppose, but that's all. The idea that Christ died for all (as the Bible says) does not require that one believe the Father intended to make salvation possible for all but certain for none. His electing grace and effectual call makes salvation certain for all who have been given to the Son. That is, in my mind, a completely separate issue from the extent of the Atonement. 

Paul Henebury's picture

"I haven't worked up the courage to read Owen yet. I need to buy a paperback copy and grab a pen! I remember Naselli wrote (link is external)that Owen is very difficult to follow."

Owen's style is to say something once and then to promise to say it in detail further on.  When he does he is not always as substantive, and certainly not as lucid later as one might expect and he refers to what was said already.  

From my perspective, having read and marked up Owen, I remain unpersuaded by arguments for definite atonement.  I certainly see that election is God's prerogative, mysterious as it is.  What I see is what I might call the 'Eve Syndrome' by which I mean the intrusion of unaided reason in spite of clear statements from God.  

    

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Maranatha Baptist University

Under the "Soteriology" header:

"We do not support positions that.....limit the extent of Christ’s atonement to the elect."

https://www.mbu.edu/about/statement-of-faith/

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Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary

Under "Jesus Christ" in the Statement of Faith:

"We believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary; that He is One Person possessing two natures and thus is true God and true man; that He lived a sinless life and gave Himself as a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all humanity; that He arose bodily from the grave, ascended into Heaven where He is seated on the right hand of God interceding for His people and will return to the earth in keeping with His promises."

http://www.faith.edu/about-faith/position-statements/doctrinal-statement

[Note the words "all humanity."  Merriam Webster defines the word "humanity" as "the totality of human beings; the human race" - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humanity   Moreover, FBBC further adds the quantifier "all" to the statement.]

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Bob Jones University

Under the "Creed" header:

"We believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.

http://www.bju.edu/about/creed-mission.php

[Note: Merriam Webster defines the word "mankind" as: "the human race; the totality of human beings" - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mankind ]

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Appalachian Bible College

Under the "Concerning Christ & His Work" header:

"We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, without ceasing to be God, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, in order that He might reveal God and redeem sinful men. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished our redemption through His death on the cross as a representative, substitutionary sacrifice in providing an unlimited atonement for the sins of the whole world; and that our justification is made sure by His literal, physical resurrection from the dead. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where, as our High Priest, he fulfills the ministry of Representative, Intercessor, and Advocate."

https://abc.edu/about-abc/mission-and-doctrine.php

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Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

Under the "Article 4: Jesus Christ" header:

"We believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God, that He is both God and man, the two natures being inseparably united in one glorious Person through the incarnation. We believe in His virgin conception and birth, His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind, His bodily resurrection from the tomb, and His ascension into heaven as the believer’s High Priest and Advocate before the throne of God."

http://www.dbts.edu/statement-of-faith/

[Note: Merriam Webster defines the word "mankind" as: "the human race; the totality of human beings" - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mankind ]

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Mike Harding's picture

Thanks Larry for that post !!!   When we say unconditional election we simply mean that God's criteria for his choice is not based on any inherent goodness in man.  Only God can choose unconditionally, since one must possess all the infinite attributes of God in order to do so ethically (perfect consistency with the attributes of God).  No being, other than the Triune God-head, knows this specific criteria for God's choosing; therefore, we should not assume that the free, sincere offer of the gospel conflicts with God's unconditional choice. It does not.  Limited atonement is based more on human logic than it is strict exegesis. We all agree that the atonement's application is limited to those who repent and believe the Gospel, unless one is a Universalist.  Also, it is important to realize that God is not bound by time.  He knows all things past, present, and future in one simultaneous act of divine intuition.

Pastor Mike Harding

dgszweda's picture

Mike Harding wrote:

Limited atonement is based more on human logic than it is strict exegesis.

I think this is a broad based statement that doesn't align with the solid literature, church history and confessions around this topic.  To state that past leaders of the church like Spurgeon, Packer, Edwards, Owens and many,many others, as well as a strong church history, and many confessions of the faith were basing their belief on just human logic and not exegesis, not only does a disservice to their work but also exhibits a strong misunderstanding of what particular atonement really means and what it is based upon.

You may not agree with particular atonement and I respect that, but I would argue that there is tremendous amount of exegesis behind it.  We mentioned Owen's book above.  What makes his work so great is that it is not a defense of particular atonement, but a book that slices and dissects the whole of Scripture to provide a view on atonement.  It doesn't defend, it is strong enough to stand on its own.

JohnBrian's picture

Quote:
We all agree that the atonement's application is limited to those who repent and believe the Gospel, unless one is a Universalist.

This statement establishes that all-believers-everywhere affirm a limited atonement, so the L of TULIP is not particularly (pun intended) useful as a descriptor. The disagreement is whether the atonement is limited in it's application, or in it's intent. Those of us who affirm Calvinism, hold to the latter.

Quote:
No being, other than the Triune God-head, knows this specific criteria for God's choosing; therefore, we should not assume that the free, sincere offer of the gospel conflicts with God's unconditional choice. It does not.

Those who do not understand this statement, frequently insist that Calvinism is opposed to evangelism.

It is only Hyper-Calvinism that rejects the "free offer" of the Gospel (see here, here, and also this doctrinal statement, particularly Articles 24, 26, 29, 33, 34)

Quote:
Also, it is important to realize that God is not bound by time. He knows all things past, present, and future in one simultaneous act of divine intuition.

One of these days I intend to write a blog article about Omniscience (OM) and Particular Redemption (PR). The premise of my future article is that all who affirm OM must necessarily affirm PR. My argument will go something like this:

It doesn't matter which view of election one holds - Conditional, Un-conditional, Corporate - if one also affirms OM, he is affirming that before the foundation of the world God knew who would/would not be saved. The number of both is fixed in the knowledge of God, and in the time-space continuum no on can move out of one group to the other. In other words, the individuals that constitute each group are fixed.

If that is so, then why would Christ satisfy the wrath of God, for those who constitute the fixed group of those who will not be saved.

Since a requirement of believing is hearing the Gospel (Romans 10:14), and since there are multitudes who have died without hearing such, it is evident that God had no intention of saving those.

The Old Testament gives examples of particularity in redemption, most notably in the Flood - provision was only made for 8 people (Genesis 6:18), and in the fall of Jericho - Rahab's family (Joshua 6:22-23)

No one knows which individuals are elect, but Revelation 5:9 informs us that they come "from every tribe and language and people and nation." That is both the impetus for and the result of missions.

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