What Does It Mean to be Reformed?

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Paul Henebury's picture

Challies claims that limited atonement can be traced back to Calvin himself.  I think that is pushing the boat out just a little too far!  I have never read any statement from Calvin teaching limited atonement, although I have read many which teach that Christ died for all sinners.  It is simply ridiculous, not to say disingenuous, to say that one has to be a 5 pointer to be truly Reformed.

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree. I suppose it also means what one means when one says he believes in "universal atonement." If you:

  • believe Jesus' death was sufficient to atone for the sins of every single person in the entire world
  • yet deliberately efficacious for only the elect, who were chosen before the foundation of the world
  • and a legitimate source of condemnation for the wicked, who rejected a provision which was actually made for them (cf. Jn 15:22)

You could be seen as straddling the fence by both camps. This is where I am at. I think John Hammett's contribution to the recent "Four (or Three?) Views on the Atonement," edited by Naselli, was very good on this point.

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?

ScottS's picture

Paul Hartog was one of my instructors for my Ph.D. work at Piedmont International University. He is a great thinker and devoted worker for God. And I agree, his article that Thomas has recommended is a good resource on Calvin's views. 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

ScottS's picture

My rub with what I call the Provisionalist view of atonement, which is essentially what Tyler has outlined here, is that it has a logical flaw (points in same order):

  • "Jesus' death was sufficient to atone for the sins of every single person in the entire world" (yet a key point is that His death is penal substitutionary in its nature of payment)
  • "yet deliberately efficacious for only the elect, who were chosen before the foundation of the world" (efficacious, when dealing with a substitutionary payment, means the substitution is made, for a substitution cannot be anything but efficacious, since it is taking the place of another, which means the payment was really made)
  • "and a legitimate source of condemnation for the wicked, who rejected a provision which was actually made for them" (that last part is the logical flaw as I see it; if [a] the payment is penal substitutionary in nature and [b] truly sufficient, then [c] it must be efficacious, for a substitution cannot be merely provisional, else no substitution really occurred, and if none really occurred, then the payment was not sufficient, for it was then not "actually made," and therefore not really provided).

It was this issue, in part, that drove me back to the Scriptures to resolve a universal penal substitutionary model of atonement that accounted for this fact. The result was my Pananastastic view of atonement.

And regarding the topic of this thread, for me, all the theology that came out of the Reformation is "Reformed theology" (Calvinism, Arminianism, Lutheranism; each with its own variations of flavor). However, I do realize that the term tends to be applied more toward the (5-point) Calvinist view, especially by those who hold to that view who want to claim an exclusive right to holding to "reformed" theology. 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

Editor

Yes, thanks for the reference, Bro. Overmiller! Regarding limited atonement, I could be considered either way depending on how I nuance my position (above)! I need to re-read Hammet's contribution to the four views book; actually, I need to re-read the whole thing. It's worth getting. 

I also need to read ScottS's dissertation on this issue (he linked it above)! 

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?

TOvermiller's picture

TylerR wrote:

Regarding limited atonement, I could be considered either way depending on how I nuance my position (above)

This theological conundrum, like others, leads me to embrace the mystery. Most likely, I will never resolve the apparent tension between various nuances and apparent logical inconsistencies of a biblical view. I express my thoughts on theological "sticky wickets" like this here. Sometimes I fear our debates over issues like this, and then assigning labels and pigeon-holing elaborate positions, takes us far afield of what we should do. Continue to share open, thoughtful conversation from different views, obey what is clear and humbly submit before God who knows the end from the beginning.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

David R. Brumbelow's picture

David L. Allen of SWBTS has a brand new book that extensively deals with Calvin and his view of atonement.  One quote out of about 50 pages on this issue (entire book is about 800 pages):

“High Calvinists have a vested interest in claiming Calvin for their view on the question of extent.  Given Muller and others now argue that most, if not all, of the early Reformers held to a form of universal atonement, it is difficult to relinquish Calvin.  If he falls into the universal category, then the thesis that Beza was essentially the first (excepting Gottschalk) to argue for limited atonement becomes even more probable, and there is a significant discontinuity between the first generation of Reformers and later generations on the specific issue of the extent of the atonement.” 

“Curt Daniel’s pointed statement may rankle some of his Calvinist cohorts, but it is difficult to deny, ‘If Calvin did not teach limited atonement, then those who do are not Calvinists on the subject of the extent of the atonement,’ though they are certainly within the bounds of Reformed confessional orthodoxy.”

-David L. Allen, "The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review," B&H Academic, Nashville; 2016. 

David Allen’s book is a classic on this issue. 

David R. Brumbelow