Jesus Doesn’t Fail: An Interview on Definite Atonement

Jesus Doesn’t Fail: An Interview on Definite Atonement

To compare the doctrine of definite atonement with the contrasting view of the Arminians, Lorraine Boettner observes, “For the Calvinist, it is like a narrow bridge that goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian, it is like a great wide bridge that goes only half-way across.” The question is not whether the atonement is limited in some sense, but how.

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Ed Vasicek's picture

What irks me in these matters is the idea that Jesus' death had only one purpose.  As one who believes in unlimited atonement, I believe the atonement serves one purpose for the elect and another for the non-elect, leaving the non-elect without excuse and condemnation for "denying the Master who bought them" (2 Peter 2:1).

The biggest impass brilliant minds have is confusing truth with whole truth, substituting a part for the whole.  All women are people, but not all people are women.


In my opinion, limited atonement is a product of European thinking with its emphasis on thrift.  If you have a cheapskate personality, you have a hard time accepting a God who does things lavishly.


"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture


You are spot on about the intended negative effect of the atonement for folks who do not believe (i.e. the non-elect). 

  • "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin," (Jn 15:22).
  • "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day," (Jn 12:48). 

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

I'm not quite sure where Ed got the idea that Calvinists believe that Christ's death had only one purpose.  Calvinists believe that the atonement had more than one purpose, that it has purposes that include the non-elect.  The question relating to Particular Redemption is, "For whom did Christ die savingly?"  Did Christ shed His blood to save people who were not chosen by the Father for salvation?  Did Christ pay for the sins of people who will not believe?  Did Christ die for the sins of people who were already in Hell when He died?  The limitation is in the intention of the atonement, not its value.  What was God's saving purpose in the death of Christ?  Who did the Father intend to save?  Answer:  the elect.  Who does the Holy Spirit draw irresistibly to Christ?  Answer:  the elect.  For whom did Christ shed His blood as a satisfactory propitiation for sin?  Answer:  the elect.  The Father did not send Christ to pay for the sins of those whom He did not intend to save.  The three persons of the triune Godhead are united in purpose.  Christ did not die with the intention of saving those whom the Father had not chosen, and to whom the Holy Spirit will not give life.

If you ask a different question, such as, "What purpose does Christ's atonement have in relation to the whole world?  Answer:  His atonement redeems all of creation back to God.  (Romans 8:19-22)  Another answer:  it gave Christ authority over all flesh.  "Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as you have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him."  (John 17:1,2)  There was something in Christ's death that qualified Him for universal authority over all creation, including the non-elect.  I have listed two purposes in the death of Christ that do not involve the salvation of sinners.  There are no doubt others.  I trust that may help Ed to feel less irked.  Smile

G. N. Barkman