I decided for some reason or other to open a twitter account -- woohoo -- and in order to "celebrate" I have written a short article on limited atonement - Enjoy!
My twitter account is @PredestinedBlog , not @thepredestinedblog, but the name of the twitter account is "The Predestined Blog" - confusing I know...
Quick introductory points
This is truly one of the most, if not the most, contentious petal of TULIP. One reason, I believe this is so is that limited atonement is an agreement within the Godhead (i.e. a meeting just between the Father, Son, and Spirit) itself. Whether they want to extend to atonement to all sins or to just the elect is a divine prerogative. The other 4 points are about the ability of man in some way:
Total Depravity - Can man choose God?
Unconditional Election - Are there be conditions man must fulfill for salvation?
Irresistible Grace - Can man refuse God?
Perseverance of the Saints - Can man leave God?
The most important point I want to emphasize is that for both sides of the coin (Calvinist side: Limited atonement / Particular redemption and Arminian side: Unlimited atonement / Universal redemption) the atonement is LIMITED in some aspect.
1. The same amount of people go to heaven with either doctrine.
2. The Calvinist side states the atonement is UNLIMITED in its power, scope, and reach, but God chooses to limit its efficacy to the elect.
3. The Arminian side is LIMITED in its power because although “all sins” have been atoned for, it is not powerful enough to save all.
Calvinist: The value of the atonement is unlimited and infinite because of the value of Jesus Christ, but it is efficacious only to the elect. It is like a rich person who has an infinite amount of money and has the chance to buy all the cars in the world, but decides to buy just all the American cars (to help our economy :P). He could have bought all the cars in the world, but planned to buy just the American ones. His plans are fulfilled (i.e his goal of buying all the American cars is attained).
Arminian: The same rich person wants to buy all the cars in the world and pays for them, but is only able to obtain just the American ones, even though he really wants all of them. His plans are frustrated b/c he is limited only to the American cars (i.e he wants all the cars of the world, but cannot attain his goal).
Main questions against limited atonement
Q: Is it a real offer if the atonement is limited?
A: First, Christ’s death did lead us to offer the Gospel freely. We do not know who is saved and thus Christians freely distribute the Gospel to everyone. Second, it is a true offer that we give b/c those who reject the gospel freely do so without any constraints b/c they voluntarily want to reject it. Finally, it is like a group complaining about how cruel it would be to torture unicorns. This would all be empty talk b/c there is no such thing as a unicorn! In the same way there is no one who wanted the Gospel and salvation and was not able to receive it b/c of limited atonement. Meaning, all the complaints about this not being fair falls flat b/c there is absolutely no one that wanted to be saved that was not saved. Just a lot of theory that does not approximate reality.
Q: What does take away the sins of the “whole world” and for “all men” mean?
A: Please see here: An Overview and Defense of the Reformed Doctrines of Salvation Limited Atonement, part 20 by Ra McLaughlin
Basically, there are different uses of the “whole world” and “all men.”
The “whole world” and “all” can have at least two senses:
1) All without exception i.e. every single individual person
2) All without distinction i.e. all kinds of people - men and women, Jews and gentiles, educated and uneducated, etc.
In regards to salvation, the Bible uses the 2nd definition frequently and we need to be careful not to automatically jump to either definition.
1. Sins of the Demons and Satan
The sins of the demons and satan are not atoned for thus some sin is left unaccounted for in the universe. Further limiting, “unlimited” atonement. This is not an issue in the limited atonement view, but is for the universal redemption view.
2. Double Jeopardy
The idea of double jeopardy b/c God is punishing people for sins that are already paid for by Jesus. The common response of “they are being sent to hell for their unbelief” does not fly b/c unbelief in itself is a sin.
3. Actuality of the Purchase
The actuality of the purchase of Christ’s atonement. This is an important fact. When Jesus died did He actually pay for anyone’s sin? In the Arminian view, no one could be guaranteed salvation that day b/c no ones salvation was personally secured by Jesus on the cross. Your salvation is only secured after you profess faith and actually, in the true Arminian scheme, your faith is not secured even then b/c you can lose your salvation.
To clarify, in the Arminian view, if Jesus died for all sins in general, he did not die specifically for you, so on His death on the cross, He only potentially died for you, but did not actually die for you. He heroically paid for all sins, but did not specifically guarantee your salvation.
In the Calvinist view, where Jesus died for the elect, Jesus actually did die for your personal sins on the cross and secured your individual salvation. Many people call this the “actuality of the purchase.” Only in the limited atonement view did Jesus secure anyone’s salvation on the cross.
4. Analogy of the Old Testament Sacrifices
The Old Testament sacrificial system, which foreshadows the cross, definitely favors a limited atonement view.
a) Individuals brought sacrifices to atone for their own personally sins and not for everyone.
b) There were special events of the year (ie Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur) where the sacrifice was for the nation of Israel, but these were to atone for the sins of only Israel / God’s chosen people. This the perfect analogy for Christ’s death atoning for the sins of just the elect
5. The Unpardonable Sin
Now, it makes little since for Jesus to die for a sin that cannot be pardoned. From the verses below, it is clear people who blaspheme the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven, but if Jesus dies for their sin, why not? I believe this concept strongly favors the limited atonement view
Mark 3 28"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"--30because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."
32"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
Verses in Support of Limited Atonement
1 Tim. 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
John 17:9"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;
Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
-He does not give His life for all, but many
Mark 14:24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many
-He does not pour out his blood for all, but many
Additional Reading Material:
Short: (Limited Atonement: Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect)
Limited Atonement by Hoeksema
Was Anyone Saved at the Cross by Dr. James White
Audio Lecture Links:
Steve Lawson series (Highly Recommend):
S. Lewis Johnson series (Highly Recommend):