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Unlimited Atonement: More Heretical Than I Thought


I had an epiphany yesterday. It happened like this. We were unable to attend worship, so we watched a video of John MacArthur at Grace to You. The sermon, chosen pretty randomly, was The Atonement: Real or Potential? While I already understood the issue pretty much as MacArthur presented it, he clarified my thinking considerably. In fact, a better defense of the doctrine of Limited Atonement Ive never heard. (You can read the transcript, access streaming video and audio, or download the mp3 here.)

Unlimited Atonement is an absurd doctrine, which means it fits into Arminianism perfectly. But mixed with Calvinismas in, Im a 4-point Calvinistit is doubly absurd. 4-point Calvinists are really Arminians, or at least they might as well be, because Unlimited Atonement kills grace just as surely as decisional regeneration does. And that is my point today.

The absurdity of Unlimited Atonement is this: Christ did not actually purchase for God with his blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God who will reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:910). He only made the purchase possiblemade the down-payment, if you like. Then, he defaulted on most of those purchases and let them go to hell. The sins of everyone, including those in hell, have been fully propitiated. The wrath of God against them has been satisfied. Yet they are in hell, being punished with eternal torment for their sins.

If you affirm an Unlimited Atonement, ask yourself this question: what is the difference between those for whom Christ died, whose sins have been fully propitiated, and are therefore justified before God, and are in heaven, and those for whom Christ died, whose sins have been fully propitiated, and are therefore justified before God, who are in hell? The question is, of course, absurd, but its one all 4-pointers must answer. The answer must be in something they did; salvation is dependent upon the sinners response to Christ rather than Christs sacrifice on the sinners behalfas MacArthur says, they just werent clever enough, wise enough, emotionally moved enough, psychologically stimulated enough, to actualize that atonement.

Which brings me to my epiphany: If you deny Limited Atonement, you havent simply made a silly theological blunder; youve interjected some act, some decision of man, into the act of saving. Youve denied grace alone and Christ alone.



Posted 2011·01·17 by David Kjos
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11 Comments:


#1 || 11·01·17··11:53 || Mike Leake

Heretical? That's a little strong isn't it?

I would still consider myself a 5 point Calvinist...but more of the Calvin and Fuller type than the John Owen type. I don't desire a debate I'm just hoping to show how one could hold to an unlimited atonement (much in the way that Calvin did) but still also limit the atonement by means of election.

You may find this article interesting:
http://fbcnewlondon.blogspot.com/2011/01/am-i-still-calvinist.html

You could still hold to unlimited atonement in a very meaningful sense without having "interjected some act, some decision of man, into the act of saving. Youve denied grace alone and Christ alone."

You're just saying that Christ is positionally the savior of the world (meaning that if anyone will be saved it is through His eternal sacrifice) and the ones that will be saved are those that respond in faith and repentance. How do they respond in faith and repentance? Or why do they respond in faith and repentance? Because of the gift of God, because of election, because of grace.


#2 || 11·01·17··12:46 || Victoria

Thanks for the link-I am going there to watch now-I do love MacArthur's clarity.


#3 || 11·01·17··12:59 || Daniel

Sadly, I know a fellow of some persuasion in my area who doesn't ascribe to particular atonement, having (in my estimation) a muddled understanding of what atonement actually does and again what propitiation actually means.

This fellow believes that it is the mark of spiritually maturity to affirm contrary notions such as "A" and "NOT A" at the same time. I have tried to show and explain that there is nothing spiritual about irrationality - but the man is contented in his own opinions.

It would be frustrating to deal with the fellow if I felt that it was my place to undo his warped thinking. Only God is able to do that, and I am glad that is so - lest I would give up on the man altogether.


#4 || 11·01·17··13:08 || David

one could hold to an unlimited atonement ... but still also limit the atonement ...

Mike,
   I dont really have to point out the contradiction there, do I?


#5 || 11·01·17··13:20 || Mike Leake

LOL. I understand how that sounds like a contradiction but I'm saying that in much the same way Fuller did:

If I speak of it [Christs death as a substitute for sinners] irrespective of the purpose of the Father and the Son, as to its objects who should be saved by it, merely referring to what it is in itself sufficient for, and declared in the gospel to be adapted to, I should think that I answered the question in a Scriptural way by saying, It was for sinners as sinners; but if I have respect to the purpose of the Father in giving his Son to die, and to the design of Christ in laying down his life, I should answer, It was for the elect only


#6 || 11·01·17··13:47 || Mike Leake

Also for clarity sake I should mention my motivation in commenting.

My view of unlimited atonement is NOT this: "Christ did not actually purchase for God with his blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God who will reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:910). He only made the purchase possible made the down-payment, if you like. "

And as I said earlier I'd still consider myself a 5 point Calvinist, though some would maybe label me 4. My motivation in commenting is to say that some who hold to 4 Point Calvinism do not hold Universal Atonement the same way that MacArthur defines it. Nor is MacArthur defining their position in much of what he is saying. Being a 4 pointer is different than being an Arminian. (Neither of which should be termed heresy, in my opinion).


#7 || 11·01·17··14:09 || Kim Shay

My friend and I were chatting about this once, and she made an interesting observation. To say that salvation is made "possible" through Christ, or that Christ's sacrifice made people "savable" (unfortunately, my pastor's position) then how are we different from Roman Catholics who are baptized and then must work to ensure their salvation. I thought it was an interesting analogy.


#8 || 11·01·17··14:42 || Rey Reynoso

Trust is not doing. False dilemma.


#9 || 11·01·17··15:10 || David

Mike,
   I havent read Fuller, so I wont pretend to know for sure what he meant, but that quote by itself sounds to me like purely Calvinistic Limited Atonement.

Kim,
   . . . then how are we different from Roman Catholics . . . ? I dont know!

Rey,
   Trust is not doing. Agreed, but in the Arminian scheme, it is, no matter how loudly they scream It isnt! Its a choice you must make, and your salvation pivots on that choice.


#10 || 11·01·20··14:58 || dj

This looks interesting - I will read tonight! Hey, I was looking for the post you did on God Gave Wine (h20f3) or whatever it is... haha. Is there a way I can find it? Doesn't look like i can search??


#11 || 11·01·20··15:35 || David

DJ, Its here.


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