Atonement: Considering the Intent & Extent

April 21, 2014

Many discussions at this blog and others concern the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Some say it is limited.
Some say it is not limited.
How does Lightner’s position inform your view of the atonement?


Order a copy of Lightner’s book, HERE.


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Norm Miller

The moderator believes Lightner’s articulation of Christ’s atonement may make soteriological compadres of those who once thought they were not.

Tim G

Lightner hits the sweet spot when he ties the complete work of Christ, wrapped in God’s foreknowledge, to the personalization to the individual via the pathway of faith.

Doug Sayers

I really like Mr. Lightner’s first line. Why conjure up a secondary meaning for texts that make sense and don’t contradict other texts?

The “money” is in the bank, so to speak; the debt was paid in full. 1 John 2:2 But the payment must be imputed. (Rom 4) Each culpable sinner must draw from it by faith. Hab 2:4 In the biblical system, we can tell those who end up in hell that they didn’t have to be there because Jesus died for their sins. There was a bona fide offer of forgiveness for them. They actually could have escaped the wrath to come. But in the Calvinistic system, we would have to say to the damned, “Sorry about your luck, or your providence. Its too bad you weren’t chosen to be a believer. I guess you shouldn’t have sinned in the Garden before you were born. (?)

Whew! That’s got a bad smell.

Allen Rea

This book ministered to me at a crossroads in my theological journey. Many Calvinists proclaim the Owen has never been defeated. They can only state that if they are ignorant of Lightner. I am thankful that this book was in my Systematic Theology II syllabus as recommended reading. I wish this little wonder of theological truth was better well known. It is currently published by Kregel.

Pam Knight

Really !!! It is all there in scripture too 2 Cor.5:19-21 to name only one…..and so very simple to see when ya spend time hangin out with The Lord… we are reconciled by His death BUT…..MUCH MORE……we are BEING saved by His LIFE……IN US !..RIGHT NOW.!… not one day in Heaven….but Right Now….What a Life !! ….What a Savior !!!…. Thanks Norm for sharing
In Christ
pam knight


I have made this point many times before. But I say it again as the quote from Lightner brings it out once again.

When dealing with the atonement of Christ we have to keep in mind that there are two very distinct elements of it.

There is the provision of atonement (which is universal and intended for all).

And there is the applicational element (which is limited and in the case of able minded persons is only applied to those who respond with faith).

The major error of Owens and his followers is that in their zealousness to “prove” the false doctrine of limited atonement: they conflate these two aspects as if they are one. So they end up arguing for instance that if Jesus died for all (that is the provisional element), then all will be saved and universalism (the claim that all will be saved in the end) is true. But the provisional element without the applicational element is not the full and intended atonement that God was after. The provision of the atonement without faith does not accomplish salvation.

Other Calvinists again conflating the two elements will argue: “But we believe in an effectual atonement, that whomever Jesus died for will be saved, so that God never “fails” in regards to the atonement.” But this again leaves out faith, and the role of faith in the application of the atonement. That not all believe is not “failure” on God’s part. God’s plan is perfectly successful, He provides the atonement for all but saves only those who believe (and THAT is precisely His plan to save those who trust Him alone for their salvation, these are the people who do have faith and so they are the people to whom the atonement will be applied). Sometimes hearing the Owenites repeatedly making their owenesque type arguments (which all conflate the two elements of the atonement) gets grating and old. Fortunately, there are others who clearly see the two elements of the atonement (e.g. Lightner) and so their presentation on the atonement is balanced and accurate and Biblical.


Dennis L. Dabney

The limited atonement view based on the Calvinistic position remind me of the difficulty Christ had in Nazareth to do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went about the villages, teaching. The same difficulty existed when He preached the gospel to the same crowd.We experience today the same resistence and interference. Unbelief slams the door on life eternal. For this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. It is impossible to know what one is unwilling to believe as truth. This statement didn’t keep those out because they were not atoned for, yea rather their unbelief prevented them from entering in. Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ told them emphatically, “you shall die in your sins”.


Ron Smith

Lightner is a 4pt. Calvinist. He believed in unconditional election as did DTS’s founder L.S. Chafer. You may get part of his book here:

Lightner, Robert P. – The Death Christ Died -A Case for Unlimited Atonement – Introduction & Ch. 5 Problems with a Limited View of the Atonement, 30p

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. taught at DTS for many years and was 4pt. Later he became 5pt. In the early 90’s, he gave 6 messages on 4pt Calvinism and what he saw as inconsistencies with that position. If anyone is interested, these messages can be found here:

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