Recovering the Gospel — Why Belief in an Unlimited Atonement Matters

June 8, 2012

By David L. Allen, Professor of Preaching, George W. Truett Chair of Ministry, Director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching, and Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Allen is co-author of Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.


Article 3 addresses the Atonement of Christ. It consists of one proposition in affirmation and three in denial.

I expect there will be no disagreement on the affirmation regarding the penal substitution of Christ. The penal substitutionary atonement, though often attacked and vilified in modern theology, is the bedrock doctrine for explaining the work of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world. Sin can only be atoned by the shed blood of Christ on the cross as our substitute. The word “penal” connotes legal imagery. Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied the justice and wrath of God against our sin. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. Apart from his atonement, there is no salvation. Only the cross of Christ provides an available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

The first proposition in the denial states: “We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.” The operative word here is “free.” The Scripture teaches that the atonement is only applied to those who meet the condition of repentance and faith. When it comes to the question of free will, it needs to be understood that all Calvinists affirm some form of divine determinism along with free will. Most affirm “compatibilism,” by which is meant God changes the will of the individual by means of irresistible grace, such that having been regenerated, he genuinely and freely desires to trust Christ. It should be noted that according to compatibilism, the individual does not have the ability to choose any differently. Compatibilism is heavily dependent on Jonathan Edwards’s concept that we always act according to our greatest desire.

We do not believe that compatibilism comports with genuine freedom. The reason should be obvious. In this construct, God imposes regeneration, and the individual is “free” to exercise faith but he is not free to choose any differently. By any normal understanding of freedom, this is not freedom. In order to have freedom, there must be the opportunity for a genuine choice between at least two options, and there must be no coercion made with respect to the choice. Acts committed under compulsion are not truly free acts. Furthermore, Scripture (Romans 7) and human experience illustrate that we do not always act according to our desires. In fact, sometimes we act against our desires. This question of free will is a difficult issue in theology. The first proposition in the denial should be understood to mean that we deny compatibilism and affirm genuine freedom. This is with the understanding that there is no such thing as absolute freedom, and that the freedom we do possess in no way conflicts with or ever overrides the sovereignty of God.

The second proposition in the denial states: “We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will.” This denial must be understood in light of the meaning of the first statement of denial and its explanation. While compatibilists argue that no one is saved apart from an exercise of their free will, we are simply saying that irresistible grace vitiates free will for reasons stated above. In the Calvinist system, the elect are regenerated by an act of God which it is impossible for them to resist. It seems to us that in that case, God is indeed “imposing” salvation. However divine sovereignty and human responsibility interact, we must affirm both for Scripture affirms both, and we must not go against Scripture nor should we go beyond Scripture.

The third proposition in the denial states: “We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.” This is our denial of limited atonement. This third proposition addresses the question of the extent of the atonement. This is a far more intricate subject that most realize. I shall only be able to address the issue in summary fashion.

When it comes to the atonement, it is crucial to keep three major concepts in mind: 1) intent, 2) extent, and 3) application. The “intent” of the atonement answers the question: “What was God’s purpose in providing the atonement. The “extent” of the atonement answers the question: “For whose sins did Christ die?” The “application” of the atonement answers the question: “When and to whom is the atonement applied?” Though these questions are interrelated, my comments below will be focused primarily on the question of “extent.”

With respect to the question of the extent of the atonement, there are only two answers: 1) Limited Atonement – Christ died for the sins of the elect alone; 2) Universal Atonement – Christ died for the sins of all people. Calvinists who reject limited atonement (four-point Calvinists) believe Christ died equally for all with respect to extent, but has an unequal intent or will to save all through the death of Christ (their view of election makes this so along with their notion of God’s two wills: revealed and decretal). But it is important to note that they do believe that Christ actually satisfied for the sins of all people. Most Baptists who are not Calvinists believe that Christ died equally for the sins of all people with equal intent to save all who believe. Thus, we agree with four-point Calvinists on the question of “extent,” but not on the question of “intent.” Five-point Calvinists believe that the “intent” and “extent” of the atonement are identical: Christ died only for the sins of those he intends (wills) to save. These are important distinctions.

Historically, the first person to advocate limited atonement was Gottschalk in the 9th century, and he was condemned by three French Councils. Within the broad spectrum of the Reformation, none of the first generation reformers on the continent or in England affirmed limited atonement, including Calvin. In the generations to follow, many well-known Calvinists rejected limited atonement and argued against it explicitly or implicitly in their writings: Davenant (signer of Dort), Amyraut, Baxter, Bunyan, Preston, Howe, and Charnock, to name only a few. Also added to this list would be Jonathan Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Hodge, Dabney, Shedd, and J. C. Ryle. Many others could be named, including Andrew Fuller who revised his famous work The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (2nd edition, 1801), where he totally rewrote his section on the extent of the atonement.

The key issue in the debate over the extent of the atonement has to do with the “sufficiency” of Christ’s death. All Calvinists will affirm this sufficiency as “infinite” to save any and all. But, and this is crucial, what those who hold to limited atonement mean by this is that Christ’s death could have paid for the sins of the whole world had God intended for it to do so, but He did not intend such and hence the death of Christ is limited to the sins of the elect. We believe, along with all Calvinists who reject limited atonement, that Christ’s death is actually sufficient for the sins of all because it actually paid for the sins of all. This is called “infinite” or “universal” sufficiency.

Oftentimes one hears the famous statement, originally coined by Peter Lombard in the Middle Ages, the death of Christ was: “sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect.” This statement originally meant that Christ died for the sins of all, but the benefits of His atonement are only applied to those who believe (the elect). This is the biblical position. When you hear a Calvinist use this statement, you must ask “what does ‘sufficient’ mean?” That is the key question! The third proposition in the denial is meant to affirm an infinite, genuine, universal sufficiency in the death of Christ in that He died for the sins of all people.

But enough history. What does the Bible say? There are two kinds of texts in the New Testament that play a key role in the question of the extent of the atonement. There are those texts which use words like “all” and “world” with reference to the death of Christ. Then there are those texts which speak of Christ dying for his “sheep” or for the “church.” Those who affirm limited atonement rightly understand these latter texts to be limited with reference to extent. This would not be surprising when the biblical speaker or author was specifically addressing those in the church. However, Calvinists then interpret the universal texts in a limited fashion, suggesting that in places like John 1:29, John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4-6, to mention three, “all” and “world” should be interpreted to mean “all without distinction” and not “all without exception.” Thus, the argument goes, “all” or “world” in these texts refers to either 1) all kinds of people, or 2) Jews and Gentiles as a group, or 3) the elect only.

This is a linguistic/exegetical issue. Sometimes the Bible uses the words “all” and “world” in a sense that does not mean, “all without exception.” This point is not in dispute. The problem lies in the invalid hermeneutical/exegetical legerdemain that transmutes the words “all” or “world” into something less than all humanity in the New Testament passages where it is used in direct and indirect reference to the extent of the atonement. Passages like John 1:29, John 3:16, and 1 Timothy 2:4-6 simply cannot be shackled with the limiting lexical chains which restrict the meaning of “world” and “all” to something less than all humanity. This is a huge linguistic mistake. D. A. Carson rightly pointed out, as have many Calvinists, that “world” in Scripture never means “the elect.” Context usually makes it clear whether “all” or “world” means “all without exception” and “all without distinction.” These three texts are clear, not to mention a dozen other New Testament texts. It is simply not exegetically possible to interpret “all” and “world” in the three texts listed above, and several others, in a limited fashion. I fear some of those who do are operating out of a pre-conceived theology which they bring to the text.

Much more could be said here, but space constraints push us to move on. Turning to theological issues, the key argument used by Calvinists for limited atonement is the double payment argument (see John Owen). In essence, it argues that justice does not allow the same sin to be punished twice. There are at least four strong arguments against this: 1) It is never found in Scripture, 2) it confuses a commercial understanding of sin as debt with a penal satisfaction for sin (the latter is the biblical view), 3) Even the elect are still under the wrath of God until they believe (Eph. 2:1-3), and 4) it negates the principle of grace in the application of the atonement since nobody is owed the application.

The other theological argument used to support limited atonement is the “Triple Choice Argument.” It is built on the double payment argument. Either Christ died for all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some of the sins of all men. If Christ died for the sins of all, then why are not all saved? The argument sounds good logically, but it is flawed. Scripture never says a person goes to hell because no atonement was provided for him. People are said in Scripture to perish because they do not believe. Even though Christ died for all, he does not apply salvation to all. Faith in Christ is the condition for salvation. Finally, the argument quantifies the imputation of sin to Christ, as if there is a ratio between all the sins of those Christ represents and the sufferings of Christ, an unnecessary move given the extrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s death for the sins of the world.

Let’s talk logic for a moment. Some read verses that say Christ died for his “sheep,” “church,” or “friends” and draw the conclusion that since these groups are limited, so the atonement must be limited. Not so fast! This line of argument is logically flawed because it invokes the “negative inference fallacy,” which says the proof of a proposition does not disprove its converse. When Paul says “Christ died for me” in Galatians 2:20, we cannot infer that he died only for Paul. This is the logical mistake made by all High Calvinists on this point. There is no statement in Scripture that says Jesus died only for the sins of the elect.

Some argue that if Jesus died for the sins of all people, then all people will be saved. This is a false conclusion for several reasons. First, the Scripture is clear that all will not be saved. Second, it confuses the extent of the atonement with the application of the atonement. No one is saved by the death of Christ on the cross until they believe in Christ. This point was made by Shedd, a Calvinist with impeccable credentials (Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, p. 477). As stated above, Ephesians 2:1-3 makes clear that even the elect are under the wrath of God and “have no hope” until they believe. Third, as 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 makes clear, reconciliation has an objective and subjective aspect to it. The death of Christ objectively reconciles the world to God in the sense that His justice is satisfied, but the subjective side of reconciliation does not occur until the atonement is applied when the individual repents of sin and puts faith in Christ. Along these lines, don’t miss Colossians 1:19-20 which speaks of Christ’s universal reconciliation of all things. This of course does not mean “universalism,” but it does mean that Christ’s death on the cross is a crucial aspect of his Lordship over all people and things (Philippians 2:9-11). Every knee shall bow.

Finally, we believe there are some negative practical implications for ministry entailed by limited atonement with respect to preaching and evangelism.

1) Diminishing of God’s Universal Saving will. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 affirm God desires the salvation of “all people” not just the elect. It is difficult to sustain this clear teaching of Scripture from the platform of limited atonement.

2) The “Well-Meant Gospel Offer.” Second Corinthians 5:19–20 states: “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Here we have God himself offering salvation to all. But how can He do this according to limited atonement since there is no provision for the salvation of the non-elect in the death of Christ? Furthermore, how can God make this offer with integrity? It seems difficult to suppose He can. Without belief in the universal saving will of God and a universal extent in Christ’s sin-bearing, there can be no well-meant offer of salvation from God to the non-elect who hear the gospel call. It would be like being invited to the Master’s banquet table where no chair, table setting and food has actually been provided. This implicates and impugns the character of God in the making of the offer of salvation to the non-elect because in fact there is no salvation to offer: Christ did not die for their sins.

3) The “Bold Proclamation.” The bold proclamation of the Gospel is an old term used to refer to telling people individually or corporately that “Christ died for your sins.” Notice how some Calvinists use code language here. Those who believe in limited atonement will say “Christ died for sinners,” which is code for “elect sinners.” This is confusing at best and disingenuous at worst. Calvinists point out that they preach to all because they don’t know who the elect are. Certainly true, but this misses the point. Belief in limited atonement puts the preacher in the difficult position of preaching to all people as if Christ’s death is applicable to them even though they believe all are not capable of salvation. This creates a situation where preachers operate on the basis of something they know to be untrue. In addition, how will such a preacher respond to the following question from an unbeliever: “When you say Christ died for sinners, does that mean Christ died for me?” There is no way to answer that question with a firm “yes” from the platform of limited atonement. On the other hand, preachers who affirm universal atonement can boldly proclaim Christ died for their sins.

Let me be clear. We all agree that doctrine matters. Doctrine informs praxis. This is not an issue of whether someone is committed to preaching and evangelism. This is not a question of whether one is passionate about preaching and evangelism. I take it for granted that Calvinists as well as Traditionalists desire to obey the Great Commission. That being said, and for the reasons stated above, I am arguing the case that a belief in limited atonement necessarily entails a hindrance to preaching and evangelism. Paul said the content of the gospel he preached included the fact that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). This is what he preached pre-conversion, not post conversion. Limited atonement denies and distorts a crucial aspect of the gospel: that Christ died for the sins of the world.

Thus, for biblical, theological, logical and practical reasons, we deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved. We believe that Christ died for the sins of all to provide a genuine offer of salvation to all, and that his death not only makes salvation possible for all, but actually secures the salvation of all who believe. (For a more detailed presentation of the issues discussed in this response, consult David L. Allen, “The Atonement: Limited or Universal?” in Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, eds. David L. Allen and Steve Lemke [Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010], 61–107, along with chapters authored by Dr. Steve Lemke on Irresistible Grace and Dr. Jeremy Evans on Determinism and Human Freedom).


Click this link to see the full statement of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Right click to download
A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Soteriology SBC Today.pdf
Click this link to see the list of signers of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Email sbctoday@gmail.com to join the movement and sign “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” as follows: 

Name, Position, Organization/Church, City, State

For example: John Doe, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Anytown, LA or
Jane Doe, member, First Baptist Church, Anytown, LA or
Jamie Doe, Professor, Some Seminary, Anytown, LA


Discussion of Article Three: The Atonement of Christ in “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Note: As we discuss each article of the statement, today’s comments should focus on the affirmation and denial in Article 3. Please limit your comments here to Article 3.

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.

Psalm 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12; John 12:32, 14:6; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 16:30-32; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:12-15, 24-28; 10:1-18; I John 1:7; 2:2

 

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Les

Dr. Allen,

While I disagree with your conclusions, and the statement on this and other issues, I commend you for the best argument for one of the articles of the statement I have seen so far. Outstanding, scripturally based and well reasoned. Even though we disagree on much of what you said, I applaud the presentation of your side of the disagreement.

All that said, I have no interest in trying to refute your argumentation as I’m sure others will and frankly, I’ve been down this road so many times on LA before that I just don’t think it would be productive.

Blessings to you.

Les (not the Original Les)

Ron Hale

Dr. Allen,
I read every word and I am so very thankful for your scholarship in this area of theology. It is important. I read your chapter on The Atonement in the book … Whosoever Will where you clearly showed that John Calvin did not believe in limited atonement … but held to a form of universal atonement.

Thanks especially for pointing out the difference between compatibilism and geniune freedom. Many Blessings!

Brad Whitt

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for such a clear, concise and Christian presentation of what I believe that overwhelming vast majority of Southern Baptists believe about the sacrificial death and substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross.

I have never forgotten, and in fact have kept the email, where you sent me the citation from Calvin’s commentary regarding his denial of limited atonement. It has come in very handy on more than one occasion while talking to one of my high school or college students who has had their first encounter with Calvinism.

Thank you again for your thoughtful, scholarly and most of all scriptural presentation of our belief regarding the atoning work of our Lord.

I look forward to seeing you in NOLA.

Les

Ron,

I’m still not wanting to debate the atonement as presented. But have you read Dr. Roger Nicole’s WTS Journal article “John Calvin’s View of the Extent of the Atonement?” Worth a read from the other view of Calvin on this issue. He deals with the history of the debate and in one place quotes Cunningham using Calvin’s words,

“I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.”

http://www.apuritansmind.com/arminianism/john-calvins-view-of-limited-atonement/

Blessings,

Les

    Lydia

    “I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.”

    Strange question Calvin asks since his Genevan church had no choice but to attend church and take sacraments.

      Les

      Lydia, must you always disparage Calvin and Mohler and Mahaney and Driscoll? Almost everywhere you comment one or more of these men are disparaged with some snide remark.

      I’ve said before, these guys, and really all of us Calvinists are living in your head.

        Lydia

        Hi Les,

        I take spiritual abuse seriously because I care more about people than cult of personality. And 3 of the 4 you mention have documented spiritual abuse. That does not live in my head. It is a fact.

        Now, as to my original point. Many things Calvin said confuse me because it was not possible to apply or live by in a state church. So I find him incongruous. Even Luther had the wisdom to lament he dreamed of a “believers church”

      Debbie Kaufman

      Lydia: Calvin isn’t going to hurt you, he’s dead. He is in heaven, so you may have to put up with him for eternity.

      Much of what you attribute to Calvin is a wives’s tale. They are not true. Was he perfect? No. He was a product of his time and coming from Catholicism and not knowing any different at the time, did some pretty radical things that all were doing. He sincerely thought he was right and he was sincerely wrong in many thing. I think had he lived longer he would have come to different conclusions as far as some of his actions. But as I said, you accuse him of having much more power than he had. He was running most of the time. He wasn’t exactly wanted by many and had a price on his life too.

      Now, can you refute unlimited atonement Biblically? That would be refreshing. To stick to the post.

        Lydia

        “He was a product of his time and coming from Catholicism and not knowing any different at the time, did some pretty radical things that all were doing.”

        Hi Debbie,

        I suppose you might also consider Mark Driscoll a product of his time and not “knowing any different’ since you are using a cultural argument? Not sure I can buy this defense as a good one for a supposed brilliant theologian considering there were other’s who were not products of their time being drowned, tortured or imprisoned for refusing to be baptized and obey the state church. Mann, Hubmaier, Blaurock, etc, were not products of their time and standing for what was clearly not taught in scripture but Calvin could not see it?

        People are using Calvin’s name to describe what they believe but then want to outlaw discussion of what his practices. I find that strange. Myopic?

        How can one not read up on the guy whose name they use quite a bit to describe theology?

          Debbie Kaufman

          Lydia: You cannot compare Driscoll to Calvin. As I said, much of what you have attributed to Calvin is simply not true. They are stories that have circulated for years and not true.

          Driscoll should know better. There is no excuse. Two totally different things. The same could be said of Fundamentalists, many who are controlling. I know having come from such a background.

          Cite your findings. That would also be helpful. Many of you give quotes with no citing. That is simply unacceptable to me. Taking things out of context or getting information from say David Hunt for example is simply getting erroneous information. No citing makes whatever you say not credible in my eyes.

        Brad Whitt

        Here is a post by Dr. William R. Estep (Professor of Church History, Emeritus, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) that I thought was pertinent to this discussion. Especially since is was written by one of the most respected church historians of our time. Enjoy.

        http://calvaryvscalvinism.blogspot.com/2010/12/calvinizing-southern-baptists-by-dr.html

          Debbie Kaufman

          Brad: Thank you for the link but I think since we are talking John Calvin, a reformed view would be helpful and possibly more historically accurate. Kind of like the Southern Baptist view of Billy Graham vs. an atheist view of Billy Graham. Which would you deem more accurate? Try this link for starters.

          http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin

          Joshua

          Brad,

          Here is a line from Church historian Estep:

          “Fourth, historically, Calvinism his been marked by intolerance and a haughty spirit. ”

          Does that sound like material from a world renown church historian or someone with an agenda? Seems clear to me. Neutrality out the window.

          Les

          I read the Estep article. You non-Calvinists should be embarrassed about that hack job masquerading as a history piece. Any sources acknowledged? Nope. Here are some of his nuggets:

          “First, it is a system of theology without biblical support.”

          “Second, Calvinism’s God resembles Allah, the god of Islam, more than the God of grace and redeeming love revealed in Jesus Christ.”

          “Third, Calvinism robs the individual of responsibility for his/her own conduct, making a person into a puppet on a string or a robot programmed from birth to death with no will of his/her own.”

          “Fourth, historically, Calvinism his been marked by intolerance and a haughty spirit.”

          “Fifth, logically, Calvinism is anti-missionary.”

          ” If the Calvinizing of Southern Baptists continues unabated, we are in danger of becoming “a perfect dunghill” in American society…”

          These kinds of historically inaccurate statements by Estep will really help promote unity. NOT!

          This is a terrible piece of writing and as I said, you non-Calvinists should repudiate it quickly so as not to look foolish by referring to it.

      Mary

      Lydia, LOL! You respond to a quote from Calvin with a thought on Calvin and now you’re being attacked for saying something about Calvin!

      We’re gonna to rule book printed up here.

        Lydia

        “Cite your findings. That would also be helpful. Many of you give quotes with no citing. That is simply unacceptable to me.”

        Debbie, As I have told you before in other venues, I am not going to do your reading for you. I have spent years reading all sorts of history simply because I love it. I read around every subject and not just the history written by the victors.

        “Taking things out of context or getting information from say David Hunt for example is simply getting erroneous information. No citing makes whatever you say not credible in my eyes.”

        I have never sought to be credible in your eyes. And I have never read one thing by David Hunt and have only heard of him because of the Hunt/White debates which I did not watch or listen to.

        Tell you what, I will give you one source for a very indepth subject that has quite a bit of proof if one is willing to dig. How about Calvin as a source?

        In his “Defensio”, Calvin betrayed his true motive when he said that if Servetus not been so abusive toward him, then Calvin would have sought to spare Servetus’ life.

        Here is a fact: Blasphemy in Geneva was in the Civil Code, and punishable only by banishment. It was only in Lutheran country that the Soveriegn law provided death for blasphemy. Calvin was the author of the Geneva Civil Code since the Geneva Revolution of 1535. No one knew better than Calvin he exaggerated the penalty while refusing Servetus a lawyer. The Geneva Civil Code did not even have a crime of “heresy”.
        This was making some uncomfortable (Like Castellio). So Calvin came out with Defensio arguing heresy as a capital offense.

        There is documented evidence that Calvin hated Servetus long before he set foot in Geneva and came to hear him preach. Remember, there was NO captial punishment for heresy in Geneva when Servetus came there. And while Servetus was very arrogant he was also an intellectual and avoiding the Catholics who were trying to burn him.

        I think we owe to ourselves to read everything about the man whose name so many use to describe the Gospel.

        There is a lot of uncomfortable detail to this that is rarely discussed and quite rightly so. It does not bode well for the name so many use to describe the Gospel.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Lydia: Any writer worth their salt knows when they say something, especially accusations such as you have done, citing the work you read it in is a must. This is taught in High School for crying out loud.

          Lydia

          “Lydia: Any writer worth their salt knows when they say something, especially accusations such as you have done, citing the work you read it in is a must. This is taught in High School for crying out loud.”

          Huh? Did you miss “Defensio”?

          Debbie Kaufman

          Lydia: You never cite any work. You don’t even have to give a link, just cite the work. Give the book, the page that you get your information from.

          Another thing I have noticed about you is you never debate theology using scripture. You rarely talk theology, just history or try and trash people in order to make your point. That is circumspect with me as well.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Lydia: The English title of Defensio is the Bondage and Liberty of Free Will. You are giving someone’s interpretation of this work which you have not cited the source but it is wrong.

          In this work, Calvin is refuting semi-pelagianism and the man who was teaching it by the name of Pighius. There are some great quotes in this book. I do not believe you have actually read the book but are quoting someone who thinks they have and they have not read it properly.

          I will discuss theology with you which you seem to avoid. I will discuss this topic with you, which you have gotten off track again, and I will discuss Bible with you. I do not have time to refute your misinformation on this subject.

        Debbie Kaufman

        By the way if you should choose to purchase and actually read the book, you can find it here.

        http://www.monergismbooks.com/The-Bondage-and-Liberation-of-the-Will-p-16201.html

          Lydia

          “Lydia: The English title of Defensio is the Bondage and Liberty of Free Will. You are giving someone’s interpretation of this work which you have not cited the source but it is wrong.”

          Defensio orthodoxae fidei, contra prodigiosos errores Michaelis Serveti Hispani (Defense of Orthodox Faith against the Prodigious Errors of the Spaniard Michael Servetus). 1554

          That is it for me, Debbie. I am bowing out. Blessings to you

        Debbie Kaufman

        A quote from “The Bondage and Liberation of Free Will”

        “…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.” John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70

        http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/qna/freewill.html

        Now I will discuss the subject of this post and nothing else. I am done with this.

    James

    Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed reading his work.

    Godismyjudge

    Les,

    Roger Nicole dismisses out of hand the idea that Calvin was inconsistent. But his statements are hard to reconcile. Here’s one that’s very clear that Christ redeemed the non-elect.

    The only Lord God, or, God who alone is Lord. Some old copies have, “Christ, who alone is God and Lord.” And, indeed, in the Second Epistle of Peter, Christ alone is mentioned, and there he is called Lord. But He means that Christ is denied, when they who had been redeemed by his blood, become again the vassals of the Devil, and thus render void as far as they can that incomparable price.

    Calvin on Jude 4:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom45.viii.ii.ii.html

    God be with you,
    Dan

      Les

      Thanks Dan. I suppose we could go on and on in a quote tug of war about what appears to be contradictory statements by Calvin from Genesis to Revelation. Suffice it to say that it is not so simple nor is it accurate to claim Calvin rejected L.

      But I do find interesting your statement, “…Christ redeemed the non-elect.”

      Do you believe that “Christ redeemed the non-elect?”

      Just looking at those words evoke nonsense, and I don’t mean that in any offensive. The Non-elect have been redeemed? I’m sure that will come as a supreme shock when they are thrown into the lake of fire…”And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

      God bless. I’m unlikely unable to interact much over the next 4-5 days as I am heading back to Haiti. I will if I can.

      Les

        Godismyjudge

        Les,

        I was using Calvin’s term but yes, at least there is some sense in which Christ redeemed them (2 Peter 2:1). For a helpful review of what Peter means by redemption, please see Doug Kennard’s Petrian Redemption it’s Meaning and Extent.

        http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/428

        In short, he argues that redemption for Peter is out of a corrupt sinful life into a holy one.

        God be with you,
        Dan

    Debbie Kaufman

    A 319 page paper on the Bondage And Liberation of Free Will by John Calvin Aka Defensio written by Choy Kiven.

    http://www.calvin.edu/library/database/dissertations/Choy_Kiven_S.PDF

Ron Hale

Les,
No I haven’t read that article by Dr. Nicole, he was a greatly respected theologian and many still mourn his passing.

However, I take to heart the words of a dying man, Calvin’s last will and testament says, “I testify and declare that as a suppliant I humbly implore of him to grant me to be so washed and purified by the blood of that sovereign Redeemer, shed for the sins of the human race, that I may be permitted to stand before his tribunal in the image of the Redeemer himself.”

Blessings!

    Les

    Ron,

    I am aware of that quote. I still urge to follow the link to Dr. Nicole. It is scholarly and very good reading. Not that it would change your mind, mind you.

    Les

Cliff

I am thankful for the leadership of men on both sides of this discussion who are able to articulate their arguments clearly, without vitriol or ambiguity. The nuances of theological language can be and have often been whether, intentionally or unintentionally misapplied in the past. One of our distinctives as “Baptists” is that of being a people of the “Book” and we must continually allow the Book to determine our theology rather than imposing our theology on our exegesis of Scripture. Regardless of one’s theological position we owe it to one another, our people, and future generations of Christ followers to have this discussion now in the Spirit of Christ Jesus.

Tim G

Dr. allen,
You sir just hit the ball out of the park! Thank you for taking the time to do so and for being gracious and bold while doing it!

Darryl Hill

This is an excellent article. Well written, scriptural, logical, and helpful.

I can’t help but observe, however, that the final sections on the way a belief in particular redemption would affect the way we do evangelism seem a bit presumptuous. I have no problem preaching a universal call to all and waste NO time attempting to decipher who the elect in the room are. In essence there is no difference in the way I would approach evangelism. I believe the practical difficulties here are imagined, and this is no reason to divide.

I will say this, however, in regard to the positive outcome of believing particular redemption. You’ll never see someone who believes in sovereign grace use manipulation, the sinner’s prayer, bow your head and raise your hand, or similar mass evangelism techniques to get “decisions for Christ” with an unlimited. atonement in mind. They must trust entirely upon a miraculous move of God for any person to be saved.

    Bob Hadley

    Darryl.

    Just curious. Your statement is indeed interesting. “You’ll never see someone who believes in sovereign grace use manipulation, the sinner’s prayer, bow your head and raise your hand, or similar mass evangelism techniques to get “decisions for Christ” with an unlimited. atonement in mind. They must trust entirely upon a miraculous move of God for any person to be saved.”

    There are really three phrases that caught my attention. The first is, “manipulation, the sinner’s prayer, bow your head and raise your hand, or similar mass evangelism techniques to get “decisions for Christ”

    I will only assume everything after the word manipulation defines what YOU consider manipulation… lets assume your position is accurate; how does that effect God’s efficacious call?

    The second phrase is “with an unlimited atonement in mind.” I could not image ANYONE thinking a sovereign grace minister would do that; you are correct. understand something, that is the reason for all the debate. To FAIL to see the sufficiency of the gospel and its efficiency to ALL WHO WILL BELIEVE as opposed to all to WHOM IT WILL BE GIVEN TO BELIEVE is a major theological difference that we maintain is not the traditional, mainline Southern Baptist position.

    The final phrase is the last sentence, “They must trust entirely upon a miraculous move of God for any person to be saved.”

    I now have two comments with respect to this last statement. First of all, how can you criticize the method if the results are there? If someone truly trusts God miraculous move and raises their hand or prays a sinners prayer or walks the isle in a church service in front of all their friends and strangers as a testimony to the transforming power of God, how is that being manipulative?

    May second thought is this: Trust is a human response to God’s claims of Who He is and what it is that He has promised to do. I simply behooves me to think that trust is only possible for those God gives the ability to trust in the first place. To preach to prisoners chained to their chairs and invite them to come to dine at your table KNOWING that there is no plate set for them because not one of them was going to be released is NOT good news. The limited atonement view pictures lets say 4 plates set; food prepared for 5… you and those 4 and no more…

    And when you give the invitation, the warden goes to the 4 or any 4… whatever and releases their chains and brings them to the table and sets them down and they eat. I suppose one can claim that this is gracious good news… for those 4 and no more… but that is not the gospel message that I will preach… Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to save them ALL… God’s provision is intended for ALL who will repent, believe and by faith TRUST Him and come unto Him and BE SAVED.

    God does not save us in order to come; He saves us because we do come.

    Praise God for His unspeakable riches of Glory in Christ Jesus!

    ><>”

      Randall Cofield

      First of all, how can you criticize the method if the results are there? If someone truly trusts God miraculous move and raises their hand or prays a sinners prayer or walks the isle in a church service…

      This form of “non-calvinist” pseudo-evangelism is filling SB Churches with unregernerate members…who live no different than the world outside the church and bring immeasurable shame on the name of Christ.

      This issue lies at the very heart of this debate, and to date I have seen anyone even allude to it.

      Randall Cofield

      Brother Hadley,

      You said: “First of all, how can you criticize the method if the results are there? If someone truly trusts God miraculous move and raises their hand or prays a sinners prayer or walks the isle in a church service…”

      This form of “non-calvinist” pseudo-evangelism is filling SB Churches with unregernerate members…who live no different than the world outside the church and bring immeasurable shame on the name of Christ.

      This issue lies at the very heart of this debate, and to date I have seen anyone even allude to it.

        Bob Hadley

        Randall,

        I beg to differ with you… your comment is worse than most of the straw-man” arguments I have seen hurled by some for far less reasons.

        This form of “non-calvinist” pseudo-evangelism is filling SB Churches with unregernerate members…who live no different than the world outside the church and bring immeasurable shame on the name of Christ.

        This issue lies at the very heart of this debate, and to date I have seen anyone even allude to it.”

        First of all, this is not at the heart of this debate, not for me anyway. What is at the heart of this issue is the theological position of calvinism related to regeneration, total inability and repentance and the exercise of saving faith. For the record, that is why this statement has been drafted and why it is being discussed on this forum.

        Here is really what irks me about comments like yours: if calvinism is as you guys say it is and it is God who does and does not save, then why all the ranting and raving like your comment, about evangelistic methods being used by people who are consciously and responsibly preaching the Word of God and extending an invitation for those who need to be saved to come forward and trust Christ?

        It seems to me it is as if these “pseudo-evangelistic tools” are the only thing God’s efficacious calling cannot overcome.

        The charge of unregenerate membership in non-calvinist churches is certainly cause for concern… and any responsible pastor (calvinist or non) ought to be concerned with leading his people to be the best that God would have them be. Now… are you suggesting calvinist churches do not have this problem?

        Here is a question for you sir. You seem to have a keen eye for unregenerate folk… if you have unregenerate members in a church (I will not assume you are a pastor so I will not make this about YOU… ) should that church remove them from membership?

        Who decides where the line is drawn as to who can and who cannot stay?

        Now… here is the biggie as I see it. Who is to say that the unregenerate you are thinking about kicking out today is not one of the elect that will be saved next month or next year and his or her being in church is the means that God is using to bring about their new birth?

        If conversion is ALL about God and it is His choice alone that determines who gets into heaven, personally I do not see the relevance of this argument on your end in the first place.

        How about commenting on that.

        ><>”

          Debbie Kaufman

          Bob: Thankfully because I believe God does the saving and the moving, He works despite the evangelistic means. I am grateful for that because as Baptist we have gotten away from doing it effectively and we have been away from it for a long time. Thankfully we are as a whole getting back to scripture and looking at it deeper. All of scripture not just the OT and select passages from the NT.

        Debbie Kaufman

        I agree Randall.

      Tim B

      Ron,

      I really like your prison illus. It does in fact seem that if Calvinism is true then the gospel is good news only for the elect. It is good news for some but bad news for everyone else from both heaven and earth’s perspective. I’m wondering how Calvinists would respond to that?

        Alan Davis

        The gospel is good news only to those who repent and believe. To those who do not it is the worst news ever and some people are under gospel preaching purliy as judgement against them. Now you and I do not know who so we just preach the gospel. The gosple is good news to all men in a general sense but to those who do not repent and believe it is judgement and condemnation. And the scriptures are clear there are and will be many of those who do not repent and believe.

      Darryl Hill

      Hey Bro. Bob, I understand your frustration with my comment. I would have likely reacted similarly 10 years ago, though even then I had serious misgivings regarding the use of “the sinner’s prayer” and “bow your head and raise your hand” kinds of “invitations.”

      Please understand, I do not have problems giving an invitation. I do not even have problems in pleading with people to repent and believe, warning them of the need to come to Christ. But, regardless of one’s theological positioning, I would wish that the entire practice be done away with. Here’s why I believe using a repeat after me prayer is dangerous and wrong…

      1. It assumes that if a person speaks certain words that it will move the hand of God.
      2. It is putting words in someone’s mouth that are not coming from their own hearts.
      3. No biblical teacher or preacher, including Jesus or any of the Apostles, ever instructed people to pray a prayer for salvation- the command of the Gospel is “repent and believe.”
      4. The overwhelming fruit of this method is false converts.
      5. It inoculates people against the future working of the Holy Spirit.

      I have definitely thought and prayed for many years about this practice, along with similar ones. They are often used in conjunction in an effort to “close the deal” so to speak. But Scripture never instructs us to close the deal. God closes the deal. The truth of the matter is, if God is working, and I think we can all agree that God must be working in order for someone to be saved (correct?), we don’t have to close to the deal.

      But this is the the danger of unlimited atonement. It leads to the belief that all I need to do is get someone in the door and we’re good. It also leads to a very man-centered Gospel and a very man-centered invitation.

        Jim

        Recently a young man in a neighboring community passed away. He was in his mid 20’s and died as a result of living a reckless lifestyle. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol, had frequent run-ins with the law, and had not darkened the door of the church where his parents attended for more than ten years.

        The funeral was held at his parent’s church and dozens of friends living a similar lifestyle were in attendance. During the service the preacher made the comment that though this young man may not have lived the kind of life he should heaven he knew he was in heaven today because when he was 8-years old he said the sinner’s prayer at VBS and that’s all that mattered.

        The message was clear. You can live a life of sin and debauchery, and that’s okay. As long as you’ve said the “magic words” God will let you into heaven.

        This was at one of the larger SBC churches in the area.

          Darryl Hill

          I hope your example is the exception, not the rule, but this is the result of our poor understanding of what genuine regeneration, repentance, and sanctification is all about. We emphasize the ABCs while we fail to mention counting the cost. We want to talk about justification and glorification while we seem to forget that sanctification will always happen in the meantime. But that’s the way we approach it- it’s like a vaccine. Get your shot and you’re in. Repeat after me. Pray this prayer. Get baptized. Never lose it. What more do they need?

          I won’t engage in this ever again. I will give invitations but I will not use these “methods.” Oh yes, they are “effective” at getting people to come forward and getting decisions, but I don’t believe they ever save anyone. On the other hand, if I faithfully share the Gospel, God may well miraculously draw and quicken hearts and no matter what I do, I can’t mess up closing a deal that He has already closed.

          Alan Davis

          This is rampant in the churches in my association where I serve. This exact stuff happens almost weekly here in one of the 62 churches.

          It is painfully obvious that we as SB have baptized in the last 20 years 8 million people, and our roles have SHRUNK…and not from deaths. We need to start keeping track of those we baptize this year and see where they are at and what they are doing 5 years from now. That would tell the real story.

          Point to make with another real story here. A few years ago our association had a youth “revival” brought in a big name youth guy in SBC, big bands, I went and most youth from our church went. Over the week we had over 700 “professions”. It was raise your hands one night, come forward nobody is looking another night, no preaching 2 nights and an emotional story, and friend night , etc.
          We have two high schools with grand total of 2000 students, after this “revival” there was zero change at the schools, same sinful attitudes, same stuff going. Seems if you had 750 truly saved with those who are already saved there would have been a differance in the schools but no the teachers said no difference.
          The church I served got 28 cards of young people who had made a decsion. We followed up, 22 of those had no intrest in attending any church and said so and most that I know of are still totally inactive in church and continue to live happily in sinful life styles today. They had “prayed the prayer” and for them that was enough. 2 came to church but quickly fell out to enter ungodly relationships and because their lifestyle was uncomfortable in a church setting. 4 were in our church and were Baptized and starte don a discipleship course. Of those 4 in about 4 years 2 fell out to enter into and live very sinful lifestyles and have been counseled but have said they are happy doing what they are doing. one telling me “that was just a phase of my life”.
          Now to the 2 who remained; 1 was one of my daughters, she dwelling on the scriptures one night fell under deep conviction, I knew nothing of this, she prayed through the night and late came into our bedroom with tears of joy and told me God had saved her that very night. After some counsel in the next few days she made it clear that she was truly saved while dwelling over the scriptures and not at the youth revival.
          Now on to the last one, a young man who also begin to dwell over the scriptures and came under deep conviction (on his own) and God birthed him into His family in a simalar way and now has even called him to preach the gospel. both these young people have kept the faith for better than three years now and have grown greatly. They both denounce the type of evangelism that was at the youth revival that caused them to make an emotional decision and to stay mixed up for some time.
          As for the 26 others…well you read it. This “nobody looking around, raise your hand, repeat after me, you are now saved stuff” is an affront to the gospel. Invitations are great if they do not employ manipulation, it is easy to get a few people to walk the asile but write those names down and see how many of those same people are living for the glory of God 5 years from now or 10? That is the real test!

Joshua

Dr. Allen,

Thanks for posting this. It has been an engaging read,

Have you listened to Dr. Wellum’s recent faculty address at SBTS regarding Limited Atonement and how it is the only viable position for Baptist ecclesiology? If so, would you be willing to respond to this address in a white paper? Would love to hear your take on Dr. Wellum’s argumentation and positions.

Here is a link to the .mp3 for those interested: http://archive.org/details/DrStephenWellumSbtsWhatDoesTheExtentOfTheAtonementHaveToDoWith

    James

    Thanks for the link.

    Jim G.

    Hi Joshua,

    (Disclaimer: I’ve not listened to Wellum’s address. I don’t have the time to do so today. I’m going under the assumption that your words “limited atonement is the only viable position for Baptist ecclesiology” is a correct summary of his address.)

    Wow. Colin Hansen nailed it when he said Southern is Ground Zero for the YRR. This is more of the same coming out of Louisville. First Mohler, and his “reformed thinking is the ONLY option” mantra, and now one of his faculty says that L is the “ONLY viable option for Baptist ecclesiology.”

    It is this kind of language that gives rise to the Traditional Document. That ahistorical, insensitive – may I call it tribal, to allude to a critique (by Wellum’s boss) of the Traditional Document? – myopic view of Baptists is why there is a theological fight going on right now.

    If Wellum had said that L is “A” viable option, not even an eyebrow would be raised. Why? Because it has been a viable option for Baptists for centuries. He would be absolutely correct. It’s those exclusive words of “THE ONLY” that those of us who theologically disagree find insensitive and problematic. That is why there is such a push-back. The obvious implication that L is the only option for Baptists is that those who reject L are not truly Baptists in some way or another.

    My major professor at SEBTS, John Hammett (who by the way is a man I love and deeply respect, and I refuse to let our theological differences get in the way of our unity as brothers and friends) is a Calvinist and rejects L. He also “wrote the book,” so to speak on Baptist ecclesiology and Baptist ecclesiological history (“Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches”). I say this to say that a great number of Baptist Calvinists should have trouble with Wellum’s address, along with all traditionalists. To say L is a viable option is fine. I don’t agree with L but I think it is and has been a viable option. To say that it is the ONLY options smacks of a tribalism and elitism that his very boss said should stop. The irony here is, to paraphrase a critique of said boss, stark.

    Jim G.

    Jim G.

    But if he is NOT saying that L is the only viable option, I will be happy to retract everything I wrote – and apologize.

    Jim G.

    Bart Barber

    Wellum’s enormous problem is the historical record. It is Smythe and Williams. It is the historical fact that the re-emergence of Baptist ecclesiology, in the preponderance of streams where it re-emerged, occurred simultaneously with a rejection of Calvinism.

    Bart Barber

    Indeed, Wellum’s address is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Brad Reynolds

Darryl,

ok, I admit you kinda struck a nerve on a man that just yesterday, gave a Bible to a precious lady who was saved a wedding I did (a few weeks back) when she bowed her head, prayed a prayer, raised her hand and was saved (along with others)! Praise be unto God!

I don’ think you mean the following, but unless you define what you mean, many of us will infer you believe: 1) that after God has spoken via the preached Word we should not encourage a time to speak back to God (perhaps encouraged by bowing in humble recognition of Him); 2) that after presenting the gospel we would be wrong to give all the lost persons present (many of whom may have never even heard of Jesus) who desire to express their faith some sort of guidance (i.e. – “one way to confess you are a sinner is to simply say that – you can tell God right now “I’m a sinner”” etc); 3) Or that after they have dealt with God we would be wrong to say “If you have trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior today I would like to pray for you and I would like to share more with you so if you would just lift your hand that I might take note, I would be grateful”

Not to mention the numerous individuals (ELECT) you just offended because they were saved via a sinners prayer

On another note, how can a Calvinists even believe manipulation is possible. To a Calvinist the Elect are not manipulatable and the Non-Elect can’t be saved so it doesn’t matter if they think they are or not.

The only reason I could see it mattering to a Calvinist is out of a sincere love and concern for a minister who does use actual manipulative scare tactics to get numbers. Were this the case the Calvinist may feel led to “privately” pull the individual aside and speak gentle words of rebuke. Personally, I would rather hear a Calvinist rant about the sins of which the Bible speaks (like gossip and hate, etc) than about supposed made-up evils the Bible doesn’t address (sinners prayer).

    volfan007

    Also, who would ever go fishing without reeling in the fish!! I mean, you why would you find the right spot to fish….throw out the nets…and not haul the net in with the fish!!!

    Haul that net in, Calvinists. Fish to catch fish! Dont just be satisfied throwing the net…..and, dont be scared that you might catch a fish that needs to be thrown back.

    David

      Debbie Kaufman

      David: When the disciples cast their nets and pulled in more fish than they could hold, who was actually responsible for that catch? The disciples? Christ was with them at the time. What was the actual lesson of that passage? (John 21:1-14)

      We give the Gospel from scripture. But who gives those who come to Christ in faith?

        volfan007

        Debbie,

        I never said that God didnt fill the nets with fish; now did I? Of course, it’s God who does the saving…but, He did tell us to FISH! A HUGE part of fishing is hauling in the nets….God told us to do it. And, when we do it, it brings Him glory.

        David

        PS. May the Lord stir my heart to be more of a fisher for men….

    Darryl Hill

    Brad, I do not deny that there are times when people are saved after having repeated a prayer, but as I said in my comment above, my experience is that the overwhelming fruit of this practice is false converts. Here’s our trouble. It’s like we don’t understand the mentality of a lost person. They are often just looking to ease their conscience and they certainly have no intention of repenting and submitting to God naturally. So, when they hear, “All you need to do is repeat after me and you’re in… and you’ll never lose it,” they’re gung ho on that one. “So you mean I can clear my conscience while getting a guarantee for heaven and it’s as easy as ABC? Sign me up!”

    But you an I know that many repeat a prayer and there is no real change in their lives. Many never come back. They got what they “needed.”

    But just to clarify for you…
    1. I have no problem asking people to respond. I just believe putting words in their mouths is wrong.
    2. I have no problem asking them to pray. Indeed, this might be the first of many prayers they would pray, but to imply that it’s like a vaccination is wrong. To imply that God will continue convicting you of sin and that repentance now becomes a lifestyle would be correct.
    3. I don’t think it’s wise to lay hands on someone quickly. That is, there will be evidence if a person’s life is truly changed. That is, you won’t have to go hunt them down the next time the church is meeting. God will change their lives. Declaring people to be saved is dangerous.

    Manipulation is possible for anyone. The real problem is not with those who are truly saved. The real problem is with those who just repeated the magic prayer and there is no repentance and faith. Those people are now inoculated to the Gospel. They have no further need of God because they got what they wanted- a clear conscience and a religious experience. And then when we baptize them we seal the deal. They may never “hear” the Gospel again, believing, “I’ve already done that,” when in fact they may have just had a religious experience that had no real affect spiritually speaking.

    In my experience, this happens all the time. I’m certain it happens everywhere. They walk in the front door and they walk out the back. “What happened to so in so? They got saved and baptized. Where are they now?” And the answer comes- they decided to quit coming. The truth is people become more hardened to the Gospel when we use these techniques.

    I’ve been counseling with a girl for over a year now. She came to me, concerned about her soul and wondering if she was truly saved. Others would have said, “Did you ever pray a prayer?” and then “Did you mean it?” And they would have told her to ignore the conviction because it’s the devil bugging her. But I didn’t believe that was the right way because I believe salvation is an act of God, not merely a decision of man. The Scripture says “examine yourself” and that’s what we did. She struggled with it for some time, several months in fact until God gave her a peace about it. But today she is a growing and committed believer who is helping me in the ministry. If I had approached it with the typical “Baptist” approach, I don’t know what would have happened, because it’s clear she knew something wasn’t right and “did you pray a prayer and mean it?” wouldn’t cut it.

      Bob Hadley

      Darryl,

      I do not believe anyone would argue the point that offering an invitation for someone to come to Christ is without fault and that there are times when some folks issue invitations irresponsibly and there are some who respond in the same way. However, to complain about the method because it is used improperly is not a justifiable move either as I see it.

      Now… let me ask you a question about your work with this one who came to you a year ago… or anyone for that matter; becoming a Christian involves someone being born again; it involves someone repenting of their sin and faithing God; believing that HE is everything His Word says He is and that He will do all His Word says He will do. This involves a choice on an individual’s part and what better way to express that choice than to profess and confess one’s faith in the Lord publically…

      Anyone who would argue that leaving the new born Christian to himself at that point is irresponsible… no more responsible than taking a 10 week old putting him at the bus stop with a credit card a suit case and a tux and saying… there is the world buddy… go tackle it!

      So I am assuming you are working with this young lady and discipling her and encouraging her as she grows in the Lord. I do not see any problem with her having begun this process with a sinner’s prayer or a public invitation to come and make a commitment to begin a new walk with the Lord.

      And here is one other small detail; this young lady is still with you but I am sure there are countless others in all of our churches that have come and for a variety of reasons, in spite of concerned efforts and opportunities for those to get plugged into the educational ministries of our churches, they have simply not done so. I am not so sure that is the result necessarily of individuals who have prayed the prayer and then hit the streets thinking… oh boy; I am headed to heaven… lets go party hearty!

      ><>”

        Darryl Hill

        Yes I am sure there are people like this, which is the reason, as far as it depends on me, I will not employ a method that produces such poor results. From what I see, the Gospel presented is either weak, altered to appeal to a lost person, or it’s no Gospel at all, and then it is followed with this “no sacrifice, great reward- easy as pie” repeated prayer and you’re done. This is what a guy like Joel Osteen does. The message is primarily therapeutic but he throws in a sinner’s prayer at the end and declares them “born again.” That is the danger of unlimited atonement- I don’t think that happens everywhere but variations are common in my estimation. It happens at my church too- at times.

ronald

Are these descriptions of the different articles written to be understood by the layperson or is this just a highly scholarly debate. Very little is plain.

“In order to have freedom, there must be the opportunity for a genuine choice between at least two options, and there must be no coercion made with respect to the choice.” Why can’t God have the same opportunity to choose who He saves and who he does not?
Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

These 2 verses contain the words “all” and “world”, they do mean the same here as in the verses in the article, don’t they? Why hasn’t the end come yet?

I do not mean to argue or be cruel, I have seen to much of that in my life already. I only ask for clarity as I am only a year into my Bible education.

Tim Rogers

Dr. Allen,

You have come a long way for a South Georgia boy. An excellent grasp, without denigrating what someone else believes, on the belief system we hold dear–that of an unlimited atonement.

Bill Mac

I would like to ask a question regarding the title of the article: Recovering the Gospel

Founders has come under a lot of criticism for using terminology like this for its implication that Calvinism is a necessary component of the Gospel.

Are you taking the reverse view? Is believe in and the preaching of unlimited atonement a necessary component of the true Gospel? If so, does that mean that Calvinists cannot and do not preach the true Gospel? The words “recovering the Gospel” must mean something.

Thanks

    Mary

    Bill Mac,

    Where besides Peter’s blog has there been criticism? I’m not as familiar with all the blogs. You state Founders’ has faced “a lot” of criticism. Was there any criticism more public than Peter’s blog.

    And so if you think it’s offensive for Dr. Allen to use the phrase do you think the Founder’s needs to apologize having using an offensive phrase.

    It’s interesting in this discussion that if the Traditionalists are now doing what groups like he Founder’s have been doing for years the Calvinists are responding with attacks like Ascols of divisiveness and now the questioning of whether it’s hypocritical for Dr. Allen to use the same wording now. Since Founder’s has never apologized and changed their wording perhaps those who criticized it have simply moved on with the thought “well if this is the rules of the game, so be it.”

    Is it wrong for everybody are just some. Was the criticism itself wrong and there’s nothing wrong for this group and that group to claim to be recovering the Gospel?

Richard Jones

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for your contribution to this important discussion. A few questions came to mind as I read your article.

You wrote “Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied the justice and wrath of God against our sin. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. Apart from his atonement, there is no salvation.” That is a beautiful statement of a blessed truth. But you went on to write “Only the cross of Christ provides an available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.” It is your use of the word “effective” that I question. Do you mean that Christ’s sacrifice was effective for those who spend eternity in hell? If so what was the intended effect of the cross, to save or to make salvation possible?

You wrote “The Scripture teaches that the atonement is only applied to those who meet the condition of repentance and faith.” Is this not a form of limited atonement in that its application is limited?

Is God free? Can He save any and all He chooses to save or does salvation depend on the sinner’s cooperation?

Can the gift of life, whether spiritual or physical, ever be an imposition? Did Jesus impose upon Lazarus when He called him forth from the tomb?

Cb scott

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for this post. It is one that is of value to read with prayeful reflection several times.

David L. Allen

Les,

I appreciate your comment very much.

David L. Allen

Cliff,

Your words should be etched in stone! May God help us all to display the spirit of Christ in our discussion of these issues.

Anthony Battaglia

David, (or anyone that signed the statement) could you state some of the men preceding the 100 year Southern Baptist tradition that you and “the statement” would most closely align with and reflect in Church history? (I know the temptation would be to say Jesus or Paul, but I mean after the first century and up until the 100 years preceding the Souther Baptist Tradition referred to).

Anthony Battaglia

David, read this:
Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

My question is: Could Nebuchadnezzar in his “free” will choose not to be driven away from mankind and begin eating grass like cattle? And if God imposed such a restriction on the King (almost like his heart was a channel of water and God turned it wherever He wished) who are we to assume salvation or any other matter to be acted upon differently by Almighty God showing His glory to the world through the Church?

David L. Allen

Darryl,

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I have no doubt that you preach the gospel without attempting to decipher who the elect are. My point is that to be consistent with your belief in limited atonement, you cannot make the bold proclamation “Christ died for your sins.” There are many things you can say, but this you cannot say; at least you cannot say it and be consistent. What are you offering the non-elect in your congregation? You are offering them nothing since Christ did not die for their sins. In my opinion, this necessarily hinders our preaching and evangelism.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Dr. Allen: I appreciate that from the reading of your post, you have represented my view on Limited Atonement properly and accurately. You are also correct in that I cannot tell every single person that Christ died for their sins. I can say Christ died for our sins, referring to all the born again Christians all over the world past, present and future.

    When giving someone the Gospel, the mention of Christ’s death and what it accomplished is told. Doesn’t the word atonement mean reconciliation?(Romans 5:11)

    If one wants to see what Christ’s death accomplished we only have to go to the Old Testament as all the Old Testament is a beautiful picture of the New Testament. “Greater love have no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

    For the lost, Christ’s death gave the postponement of God’s wrath which all of us deserve.

      Debbie Kaufman

      I also add, that we do not know who the elect are. It seems that some infer we have privy to that information. We do not. God knows. I also believe God to be active in salvation through the Holy Spirit who is also God. He is not sitting there inactive and not drawing those to Himself.

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    Do we find anywhere in scripture where anyone makes the declaration “Christ died for your sins.”?

    Respectfully

Randall Cofield

The evangelistic tactics of repeat-prayers, emotionally-charged isle walking, and raise-your-hand-if-you-want-to-be-saved…congratulations-you-are-now-a-child-of-God was actually defended earlier on this thread.

This form of “non-calvinist” pseudo-evangelism is filling SB Churches with unregernerate members…who live no different than the world outside the church and bring immeasurable shame on the name of Christ. And it is destroying our witness to the world.

This issue lies at the very heart of this debate, and to date I have not seen anyone even allude to it.

Discussion, anyone?

David L. Allen

Darryl,

With respect to your comment in the last paragraph, let me say I wholeheartedly affirm that those who believe in unlimited atonement and who employ evangelistic methods such as the altar call can fall into the trap of manipulation. But when that happens, it is the fault of the preacher, not the means of using an altar call. I also wholeheartedly affirm that all of us must trust entirely upon a miraculous move of God for any person to be saved. That issue is not in dispute.

I have listened to the preaching of many preachers who believe in “sovereign grace” (by the way, I do too!) via the internet or other venues, and some of them go to the opposite extreme of failing even to invite the unsaved to believe in Jesus for salvation! I’m not talking about the fact that they don’t use a public altar call. I’m talking about the fact that in some of their sermons, especially at the conclusion, they don’t encourage people to believe on Christ for salvation. I listened to one sermon by a well-known Calvinist on John 3:16 who explained to us why this passage teaches limited atonement, why those who believe in universal atonement are incorrect, and then simply failed to invite people to believe in Christ for salvation! Thus, with respect to your final comment paragraph, sauce for the goose.

    Randall Cofield

    Hi David,

    Brother, is the alter call a biblically defensible evangelistic method?

    Debbie Kaufman

    Could it be that this minister was speaking to Christians only? Not all sermons are for the unbeliever but for the Christian.

    Darryl Hill

    I really do believe that the method is at fault David. It’s not the altar call per se that I’m referring to, but it’s the methods… soft music playing, pastor speaking to illicit an emotional response, bow your head and close your eyes, raise your hand, I see that hand, say these words, You’re saved!, now come forward, who here would agree that this person is saved today? Amen!

    I am not saying that no person has ever been saved by any of these methods, but I AM saying that these methods have never saved a soul alone. And I’m also saying that none of these methods are Scriptural and they have resulted in many false conversions- and because of our poor understanding of sanctification and our poor definition of once saved, always saved, it has likely caused many to enter into eternity believing themselves to have satisfied the “requirements” and may well end up being among those who one day stand before the Lord and say “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name… and He will say to them, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness, I never knew you.”

David L. Allen

Joshua,

Good to hear from you. I hope your studies are progressing well at Louisiana College. I have not heard all of Dr. Wellum’s presentation, only parts of it. I intend to listen to all of it when I can get to it. To be fair to Dr. Wellum, I don’t think his presentation was an attempt to argue that Limited Atonement is “the only viable position for Baptist ecclesiology.” He is arguing that, in his opinion, the Priestly role of Christ’s intercession is for the elect alone, and that this entails limited atonement. Furthermore, via theological method, he is arguing, I think, that this best supports a Baptist ecclesiology. He correctly notes that this argument (Christ’s priestly intercession entails limited atonement) is not new and that it is rarely discussed by those who reject limited atonement. However, it has been discussed at least as far back as the 17th century and by Calvinists who engaged this argument who also rejected limited atonement. As I recall, Bunyan himself addresses it. Due to other writing projects, I doubt I will be able to engage Dr. Wellum in a white paper anytime soon, but I may give it a shot at some point.

    Joshua

    Thanks for replying Dr. Allen. My studies at LC have been very enjoyable and I am so thankful for the godly and wise men God has blessed me with in my Christian Studies courses. Louisiana College is blessed to have them.

    I hope I was not more bold than Dr. Wellum intended. If I was, I apologize. A direct quote from his address: “a consistent Baptist ecclesiology is best defended by the embrace of a definite view of the atonement.”

    Thanks again for replying and I hope you get a chance to respond to Dr. Wellum’s address as it would benefit everyone.

David L. Allen

Bill,

Thanks for the question. We should be very careful to identify what we mean by the content of the Gospel. Some of my Calvinist brothers do go so far as to say that Calvinism is the Gospel, or that Calvinism is a necessary component of the Gospel. This is, I think, very unfortunate. What I am attempting to say by the title and the article is that what we believe about the atonement of Christ is inextricably linked with the gospel. If it turns out that the New Testament affirms an unlimited atonement, and if Paul is teaching such in his definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, then I do believe that to define the gospel in limited atonement terms is a distortion of the content of the gospel. To believe limited atonement is not a denial of the gospel, but it is a denial of what I consider to be a crucial aspect of the gospel. I do believe that Calvinists are preaching the gospel. I also believe, for the reasons stated in the article, that they are preaching a truncated gospel with respect to the extent of the atonement by sawing off the arms of the cross too close to the stake.

    Bill Mac

    Dr. Allen,

    Fair enough. I think to equate the Gospel with a particular soteriology is a mistake. I believe a good solid presentation of the Gospel should probably not give any hints as to the inclinations of the preacher.

    Les

    Dr. Allen,

    You write, ” Some of my Calvinist brothers do go so far as to say that Calvinism is the Gospel, or that Calvinism is a necessary component of the Gospel. This is, I think, very unfortunate.”

    But you seem to say the same “unfortunate” thing in the opposite direction when you write,

    …[a belief in limited atonement] is a denial of what I consider to be a crucial aspect of the gospel.”

    Am I understanding you to really be saying the same thing with different words?

    “necessary component of the Gospel” for Calvinists

    “crucial aspect of the gospel” for the signers of the statement

    Thanks,

    Les

David L. Allen

Richard,

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. What I mean to say is that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is effective for those in hell only in the sense that his death satisfied the justice of God with respect to their sins. God is objectively reconciled, but God has also made subjective reconciliation a necessary part of salvation. We must repent and believe the gospel. If we do not do that, and we die in that unbelieving state, then the death of Christ is not effective for our salvation because its benefits were never applied. With respect to your second question, yes the atonement is limited in the application. All orthodox believers affirm this. As to your third question, yes, God is free, and he has endowed human beings with genuine freedom as well. Salvation depends on the work of Christ on the cross, the convicting and drawing work of the Holy Spirit, and sinners responding to the gospel by repenting of sin and believing in Christ for salvation. Your final question needs to be nuanced I think. A conceived child in the womb and a physically dead person of course have life “imposed” on them. To ask whether a living human being has spiritual life imposed on him depends on how you define the metaphor of what it means to be spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3) and how you define free will.

David L. Allen

Randall,

I do believe the altar call is a biblically defensible evangelistic method. Let me encourage you to read Dr. Alan Streett’s chapter on the giving of public altar calls in the book “Whosoever Will.” Also you might want to check out his excellent book “The Effective Invitation” which is a summary of his doctoral dissertation on the subject. By the way, Dr. Streett is a Calvinist.

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I will add them to my reading list.

    In the mean time, what passage of scripture would you use to defend alter calls?

    Respectfully

      volfan007

      Randall,

      Dr. W. A. Criswell was a 4 pt. Calvinist, and you should read what he wrote about giving invitations in his handbook for Pastors. He wrote a whole chapter on giving invitations. I think you’ll find it interesting reading.

      David

    Alan Davis

    thank you Dr. Allen for that resource. Will be getting it later today. I have been looking for a resource like that.

    Alan Davis

Les

“Revival and Revivalism” by Murray is also a great book on the subject dealing with the modern phenonomen of altar calls.

Reformed MLJ, in response to a question about whether altar calls are biblical and should be used said in part,

“I can sum it up by putting it like this: I feel that this pressure which is put upon people to come forward in decision ultimately is due to a lack of faith in the work and operation of the Holy Spirit. We are to preach the Word, and if we do it properly, there will be a call to a decision that comes in the message, and then we leave it to the Spirit to act upon people. And of course He does. Some may come immediately at the close of the service to see the minister. I think there should always be an indication that the minister will be glad to see anybody who wants to put questions to him or wants further help. But that is a very different thing from putting pressure upon people to come forward. I feel it is wrong to put pressure directly on the will. The order in Scripture seems to be this – the truth is presented to the mind, which moves the heart, and that in turn moves the will.”

Of course the Reformed will answer the objection “but if God elects some and not others what are you worried about?” with, Of course that is true. But we also should seek to be biblical to the extent we fallen yet redeemed preachers can be.

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?422

David L. Allen

Randall,

I respond to this question concerning where in the Bible do we find anyone making the declaration “Christ died for your sins?”on page 99 of my chapter in “Whosoever Will.” Allow me to point out that such an assertion is squarely contradicted in 1 Corinthians 15:3: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins. . . .” Note that Paul is telling the Corinthians what he preached to them before they were saved! He preached to them “Christ died for their sins.” I would further add that this concept is assumed by the New Testament writers as can be gleaned from passages like Acts 3:26 which states: “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Peter is telling his unbelieving audience that God sent Jesus to bless each and every one of them and to turn every one of them from their iniquities. This is equivalent to Peter saying: Christ died for you. How could Jesus save every one of them (which is what blessing and turning away from iniquity involves) if he did not actually die for the sins of all of them? Certainly “each one” of the Jews Peter addressed must have included some who were non-elect for we know that not everyone believed.

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    You said: “Note that Paul is telling the Corinthians (I Co. 15:3) what he preached to them before they were saved! He preached to them ‘Christ died for their sins.’”

    Yet Paul was telling them this post-regeneration. They were already saved, hence the 1st person plural is entirely appropriate.

    Peter’s declaration in Acts 3:26 fits perfectly both his context (repent, your Messiah is come—vss. 18-20) and Paul’s assertion that God “commands all men everywhere to repent.” Taken with the fact that (ekaston) may just as easily be translated “each one”—rendering the statement less than all-inclusive—this hardly seems a hill to die on for declaring a full and perfect atonement for all without exception.

    Respectfully

John

As a pew sitter and a follower of this conversations regarding Calvinism, I wonder if we are allowing God through the Spirit to work in us. The title along with the preamble on its face seems to call into question whether a Calvinistic leaning person can possibly be saved. I am not sure if this is the purpose of this statement or not. I am sure that the spirit that is working in me says that this is not a statement of growth, or mission based discipleship for the Glory of God.

So I would like to ask anyone who has signed this letter a simple question? What do you see as the purpose and the goal of this statement?

“Its purpose is to engender a much needed Convention-wide discussion about the place of Calvinism in Southern Baptist life.”

Have you accomplished this purpose? If so, now what is the goal?

    Randall Cofield

    Well queried.

Randall Cofield

A “CALVINISTIC” SERMON AND INVITATION:

1) Read the text
2) Explain the text
3) Apply the text
4) Show the gospel relevance of the text
5) Invitation: “If the Spirit of God is working in your heart, I (and others, if necessary) will be available for private counsel in my study after the worship service is concluded.”

No anxious bench, no repeat prayers, no isle-walking, no raise-your-hand-if-you-want-to-be-saved…congratulations-you-are-now-a-child-of-God-Joel Osteen manipulations…

    volfan007

    Randall,

    What you just said is pure nonsense, Brother.

    David

      Randall Cofield

      Ok. I guess I stand corrected. :-)

David L. Allen

Debbie,

Thank you for your affirmation of my effort to be accurate in my description of what my fellow brothers and sisters mean concerning Limited Atonement. Too often I have heard “drive by” statements in sermons, writings and conversations on this issue by those on both sides that are factually incorrect. It is incumbent on us to do our very best never to misrepresent a particular theological belief. Of course, where we differ oftentimes is over what is entailed by these beliefs. It is vital we make every effort to distinguish carefully a belief and an entailment of that belief. Thanks again for your encouragement!

David L. Allen

Brothers and Sisters,

I am leaving for the airport to fly to Florida to preach tomorrow. I return to Texas Monday, but then drive to Abilene to preach on Monday evening. I will be checking comments as best as I can and will respond some this evening and again some on Sunday afternoon, then again Sunday evening and Monday morning. Bless you all!

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

Who was John Calvin the man? Some pastors and scholars claim he was the most brilliant Christian theologian since Paul the apostle. They extol his Institutes of the Christian Religion as the definitive work that most influenced their Christian formation. Before enshrining him on the throne of theological greatness, however, should we not examine his life to see if he walked the talk? If you were inclined to follow the leadership of Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russel, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, Charles Sherlock Fillmore, Victor Paul Wierwille or Herbert Armstrong, would you not first examine their fruit? What about Martin Luther, Aurelius Augustinus, Jacobus Arminius and John Wesley? Do any of these men get a free pass on behavior? John Calvin secured a theocratic vice grip on Geneva in 1541. Failure to join the “elect” aristocracy was hazardous to your health if you lived in Geneva. Calvin had no love, compassion, patience or tolerance for anyone who objected to the teachings in his Institutes of the Christian Religion or who refused to submit to him personally. Criticism of his teaching was considered heresy for which the sentence was death. In the ensuing years, he presided over approximately 58 executions, 76 exiles and numerous commitments to prison. Most of the hapless victims had dared to be critical of Calvin or his theology but the executions included about 34 women burned at the stake for witchcraft. For the burning execution of Michael Servetus, Calvin suggested that his men use green wood for the fire because it burned slower. Servetus was screaming as he was literally baked alive from the feet upward and suffered the heat of the flames for 30 minutes before finally succumbing. John Calvin was a diabolically cruel dictator incapable of Christian kindness, mercy or love. Do you believe God plucked a pitiless, ruthless, merciless and brutal man from the dust bin of history to resurrect and extrapolate a theology dormant for eleven centuries, a theology not found in the Christian Church for the first 400 years after Christ? But if not God, what other powerful authorities might have been instrumental in the empowerment of John Calvin? (www.christianapologetic.org)

    John

    1 Corinthians 1
    A Church Divided Over Leaders

    10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[b]”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

    13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

    Randall Cofield

    The only thing sadder than this gross misrepresentation of Calvin (literally riddled with false statements) is the fact that many here will read it and accept it as true because it seems to legitimize their position.

Robin Foster

Dr. Allen

After spending a year with you studying preaching, I am not surprised by your effort in this article. You have proven yourself to me as a top notch scholar and this article reflects that. Thank you for your gentlemanly statesmanship and leadership in our convention. God Bless!

Robin Foster.

Mike Davis

Dr Allen,

I appreciate this excellent article and I think you explained all views fairly and defended yours with precision and careful analysis of Scripture. If Article Three had been the only Article in the Statement I think it would not have caused such a stir.

I have sometimes described myself as a “4.5-point Calvinist” and the L is the point that is still fuzzy for me. I have read and sat though a lot of Reform teaching on 1 John 2: 2 and still see lots of tension in the extent vs intent issue. You have given me a lot more to consider in this excellent post.

Blessings.

David L. Allen

Ronald,

Sometimes theologians can get carried away when writing about theological issues that we inadvertently make it difficult by the use of too much technical jargon and/or lack of clarity in our style of writing. Those of us writing these articles care very deeply that we are writing especially for the layperson. That is why I have made an effort to clearly define the terms I am using.

As to your question, of course God has the choice of choosing whom he saves and whom he does not save. All of us can agree on that. The point of contention is the interpretation of Scripture as to just how God goes about doing that.
Your reference to “all the world” in Romans 1:8, by context and common sense, does not mean every single part of the world so that every single human being has heard about the faith of the Roman church. Matthew 24:14 is a bit different. Jesus appears to be speaking about a coming time when the gospel will be preached to “all the nations,” after which the end will come. I think one could say that since the end has not come yet, this has yet to be accomplished (the preaching to all the nations).

David L. Allen

Anthony,

I’m not sure I could tell you who in church history I would most identify with. I can tell you that as far as theology goes, I’m comfortable with most of the Anabaptists and then with the Baptists who tended to be less Calvinistic but who also stood firm on human depravity, perseverance, and eternal security of the believer.

As to Nebuchadnezzar, we need to be careful about drawing a straight line from events such as this to how God works in the matter of personal salvation.

Finally, we can “assume” the issue of personal salvation is something different from this event in Nebuchadnezzar’s life because the New Testament indicates there are other factors at play in addition to God’s sovereign grace; namely, human responsibility.

David L. Allen

Les,

Thanks for your follow-up. Here is my shot at answering your question. I don’t think what I am saying is at the same level as what Calvinists are saying when they 1) suggest that Calvinism is the Gospel, or 2) suggest that Calvinism is a necessary component of the Gospel. There is far more to Calvinism than limited atonement. All I am dealing with is Limited Atonement. The statement “Calvinism is the gospel,” or “Calvinism is a necessary component of the Gospel” is far more expansive in the ground it covers than saying “Limited Atonement denies and distorts a crucial aspect of the gospel.

Randall Cofield

“Mission Accomplished”

Todd

Dr. Allen,
You say “Notice how some Calvinists use code language here” in reference to how “Calvinists” preach the gospel consistent to their doctrine of atonement. I am curious if you have specific texts in the NT of preachers saying “Jesus died for you” to non-Christians. I think that could settle the debate for many if you were able to show that.
Thanks for engaging so well

Thomas Lusk

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for the excellent article on this particular subject. You have provided a wealth of information with clarity. I also appreciate very much your checking back and answering questions with the same Christ like spirit I have seen exhibited in these discussions with other men of your caliber and persuasion.
I remember in my younger walk with the Lord that it was when I was uncertain in my own beliefs that I became angry when challenged. It is very obvious by your demeanor and graciousness that you are a man of scholar, wise humility and thoughtfulness.
We are in uncertain and challenging times in the SBC. I believe this subject concerning salvation in Christ and His offering Himself for the sins of the whole world to every person who would believe and trust Him is of utmost importance.
May the Lord bless and strengthen our hand in His work.

Tom

Ron Hale

Dr. Allen,
I believe your stated differences between Compatibilism and genuine freedom is most important. For instance, I believe the two thieves next to Jesus had the ability to do otherwise. One faithed Jesus. One remained in his unbelief by rejecting the Christ. But each could have done otherwise …since Jesus was working on both of them. Both could hear, see, and respond to Jesus — one did and the other did not. Do you see the Compatibilist believing that each man acted on his greatest desire? Do you see their decisions/actions being connected to a caual chain of events? If so, how far back does this causality go? Thanks for your work in this area.

David L. Allen

Todd,

In answer to your question, I will repeat what I said above in response to Randall, and add an additional thought. I respond to this question concerning where in the Bible do we find anyone making the declaration “Christ died for your sins?”on page 99 of my chapter in “Whosoever Will.” Allow me to point out that such an assertion is squarely contradicted in 1 Corinthians 15:3: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins. . . .” Note that Paul is telling the Corinthians what he preached to them before they were saved! He preached to them “Christ died for their sins.” I would further add that this concept is assumed by the New Testament writers as can be gleaned from passages like Acts 3:26 which states: “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Peter is telling his unbelieving audience that God sent Jesus to bless each and every one of them and to turn every one of them from their iniquities. This is equivalent to Peter saying: Christ died for you. How could Jesus save every one of them (which is what blessing and turning away from iniquity involves) if he did not actually die for the sins of all of them? Certainly “each one” of the Jews Peter addressed must have included some who were non-elect for we know that not everyone believed.

I might add that the Jewish people to whom Peter preached were steeped in the Old Testament concept of the Day of Atonement, where sins were forgiven on the basis of a sacrifice in the place of the people. The sacrifice died and the blood was placed on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. Then the Scapegoat bore the guilt of the people outside the camp. This was such a part of the fabric of Jewish life, that scarcely need be overtly stated.

Finally, when we preach the gospel, what exactly is it that we are preaching? Christ’s death for our sins, burial and resurrection, according to Paul. The logical inference from this that unsaved people who hear the gospel will think is “Christ died for my sins.” Are we to think that Paul preached “Christ died for sins,” or for “sinners” to the unsaved, without personalizing the gospel? Did Paul only personalize the death of Christ when he preached to believers? That seems difficult for me to conceive.

Even then, you have to face the problem I raised in the article of the genuineness of the salvation offer to the non-elect a la 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

I hope this helps at least to illustrate how I am thinking about these things. Glad you are thinking and wrestling with them too! Blessings!

    Eric Thurmond

    Either way you read it, only God’s sheep can respond to the call:
    47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
    “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
    48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and AS MANY AS WERE APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE believed.
    APPOINTED (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5021&t=NKJV)

mike white

Dr. Allen,
Those blind to the Gospel do not see its truth. They are perishing. They, the perishing, think the words of the cross are foolishness. How then can they, from the heart, make an informed choice between the option to trust Jesus as crucified and risen Lord, or to choose to continue in their own understanding which is really a misunderstanding?
Doesn’t the Arminian position advocate prevenient grace, and is this what you see gives, in a sense, people the choice?
But here is the problem I see: If they are no longer blind to the Gospel truth, how is it that they are not believers? For i read: And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
How can they see unless God opens their eyes?
And if God opens their eyes, how can they not be believers seeing how they have seen the the glory of God in the face of Jesus?
Certainly they have free will. But if you do not believe the Gospel is true and that it is foolishness, you can not choose it from the heart as true.
So in reading this: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Do they not remain of the perishing until God saves them?
To me these verses are saying that as long as they are of the perishing, they are blind to the truth of the Gospel, and [no wonder] they think it foolishness, and therefore they CANNOT from the heart willfully choose to surrender and submit to Jesus as Lord.
Where in my thinking have i gone astray?

    Eric Thurmond

    Amen – scripture is clear.
    Romans 8:7 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

In the first four hundred years after Christ, no mention is made of any theological concept resembling Calvinism by any writer, great or small, in any part of the Christian Church. The foundations of it were laid in the later writings of Augustine, when unguardedly writing against Pelagius. It was afterward taught by Dominicus, a popish friar, and the monks of his order, and at last, it was unhappily taken up by John Calvin.

•This doctrine is injurious to God because it makes Him the author of all sin and represents Him as delighting in the death of sinners, expressly contrary to His own declaration (Ezek. 33:11; I Tim. 2:4)

•This doctrine makes the preaching of the Gospel mere mockery and delusion since many of those to whom it is preached are, by an irrevocable decree, shut out from being benefited by it.

•This doctrine makes the coming of Christ and His sacrifice upon the cross, instead of being a fruit of God’s love to the world, to be one of the severest acts of God’s indignation against mankind. God only ordained a very few for salvation while hardening and increasing the damnation of the far greater number of mankind, namely all those who do not believe. The cause of this unbelief is the counsel and decree of God.

In contrast to Calvinism, the Traditional Bapists Beliefs affirm that God has willed all to be saved and sacrificed his unique Son on the cross so that the great gift of salvation would be available to all mankind. There is hardly any other article of the Christian faith so frequently, plainly and positively asserted. It is that which makes the preaching of the gospel ‘Glad tidings to all.’ Had this offer of salvation been confined to a few, it would be ‘Sad tidings of great sorrow’ to most people. (www.christianapologetic.org)

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. McLaughlin,

    I read the section of your site on Calvinism.

    Observation: Beautiful logic equations in which every conceivable premise consists of a caricature of Calvinism does not = A Valid Conclusion in which Logic Disproves Calvinism.

    Stated more succinctly: Junk In = Junk Out

    Darryl Hill

    Straw man arguments, all.

    I know of a brother who has written of critique of 5-pt Calvinism that is 50 pages long, which he has distributed and will distribute to anyone who will take it, but on a closer examination, you’ll discover that he has not described ANY of the 5-points accurately.

    Saying that God is the author of sin is yet another straw man argument. Here, let me help you burn up that straw man.

    Here is what I would offer- I would love to sit down with anyone here and actually have an opportunity to explain the doctrines of grace, the straw man arguments that are most often made, the false assumptions, and I would just ask that, without getting angry or overreacting before a full hearing, anyone would simply listen to a full explanation, with opportunities for questions and answers as needed.

    But hey, I don’t have a Ph.D. and I’m not seminary professor. I’ve just, by God’s grace, made it a point to try to understand these things as well as possible and to honestly interact with my own misgivings and my own questions about them in light of Scripture as well as orthodox Christian history and the teachings of non-Americanized Christian theologians. I’ve heard it said- “If you want to discover true Christian doctrine, read the thoughts and commentaries of people who have not grown up saturated in modern western culture.”

Lamar Carnes

There is no “freedom” as expressed by your articles in the sense of “absolute” freedom of the will in man. No person is free from imposing desires and propensities which dictate to him things which even his own “will power” cannot resist. Just try and see if you can break a habit. Your free will so called tries and tries and tries with no success at all. Free-will is a myth. Martin Luther’s writings on the “Bondage of the will” is absolutely true and can’t be denied nor can John Owen’s works on the particular atonement of Christ. No one can refute his writings on that subject with any ounce of success. The Bible is so full of God coming down and actually interfering with a persons will and desires actually making them do things they would never do otherwise it is rather strange people can’t see this fact. One can call this being “not totally free” as a human and think that is just not right or correct all day long. But I find that sin has so destroyed and affected the entire personhood of a human he or she has absolutely no abilities to be even close to being considered a person who can “make a free choice” when or whenever they so please. In my personal life I would like to think I am free. But I know I am not. There are so many things I want to do and want not to do that they would fill a huge area if stacked upon each other. The reason, I am NOT free like many express that thought. My desires, my appetites, my fallenness in sin, my abberations and weaknesses all control me so much I fail miserably. I wish my “freedom” would allow me to do what I want to do, but it doesn’t. I am like Paul the Apostle in Romans 7. This is why God has to “work a miracle” of the new birth in order to give those HE planned to save before the foundation of the world and their creation (those written down in the Lamb’s book of life” the ability to have holy faith and godly repentance. If those graces were not produced in the heart as an ability “first” NO man would seek after God according to Romans 3:12. I know in my life that was a fact. I was not seeking God, had no interest in God at all, wasn’t looking for him, but suddenly I was under great pressure and distrubances in my very soul and inner man, and at a moment in time I fell on my knees crying unto God to help me and He revealed Christ and His cross blood shedding to me in my room and I was saved by His grace and mercy. No because I sought him or looked for him or desired him as a seeker, or anything else at all. I didn’t do anything but express through prayer to Him I needed Him and His help. I would not have done that unless he had done something in my soul first.
Sure, as a child and a few times along the way, I had heard a sermon or two, but didn’t know what it was all about. I never read the word nor was inclined toward such things. I was eighteen when this took place. So that is my experience and as I read th e word of God, I see it teaches that is the way it is for all really. I mean, God acts “first” in true new birth work! Afterward there are different expressions flowing forth from a person, but the initial work is always the same in all people. Could I have resisted and not been saved! Crazy thought! No, and why would I have done so? The point is we are all “made willing in the day of His power” at moments like this. No man would even desire to turn away at all. That is ONLY to those who are the “called” one’s who are written in the book before creation. Now those who are NOT written in the book will certainly resist, certainly continue in unbelief, certainly stay in their rebellion and darkness continually resisting the work of the Holy Spirits general convictions = even similar or the same as we find before the flood as He worked. God has a purpose in hardening and allowing them to go further in their sins and unbelief even unto the end of their life. But we don’t know who these are and we are to preach to all people the Gospel as we can possibly do in this life. All of us know that God doesn’t get the Gospel to ALL human’s on earth in any given generation. He could if He wanted to. To say He can’t because of, is a mistake and takes away from His omnipotent power, and His omniscience. He can do anything He wishes in order to allure, entice, so much so no one would resist if He wanted to, but He doesn’t. Even if there were a “free will” and there isn’t absolutely, He could lay something on the plate that any person who was resisting would automatically desire because they just couldl not turn it down. Yet HE doesn’t! Proving again, God is in charge of all of this and we need to submit to the Potter as clay and stop our whining and rebellion against His word and His person! All of this stuff has to do with mankind in their pride wanting to have CONTROL and be like God and I charge everyone in this category with sinful arrogance and pride because that is what God would tell you from His word and I stand with Him! When we see we are nothing but “worms” in the sight of God perhaps we may have some hope for eternal everlasting life and the mercy of God, but until then, man will stay religious, passionate about their idols of religious thoughts but far from God and salvation! Jesus came to call the sinners to repentance and I am one – are you? He didn’t come to call the righteous thinking folks, the Pharisees, the religious professionals in our denominations – but real sinners who know it and recognize they are not “able to resist” God – He will save those He died for regardless of what they do or Satan does. None can stay His hand. In fact, NO ONE would ever come to Christ if HE did not effectually call them and had not died on the cross shedding His blood for them. The blood was not shed in vain but effectually did its work for the atonement of His peoples sins. If left up to the free will of man none would ever be saved. We willingly – with great desire come to Jesus when He calls because we are His sheep, living in sin at the moment and an enemy at the moment, but He died for us while in that condition and now He calls us unto Himself. Those who are left in their status as sinners unrepentant are responsible as much as Adam was responsible. They chose in Adam and in time when they were born to rebel. God promised Adam and Eve one thing – you eat – you die! He was not obligated to save them or do anything else but allow them to die immediately and physically later. But – in His decree He chose to save some and He does.That to me is the miracle and the mystery – why anyone? All deserve hell. How He made His choice between Jacob and Esau I don’t know. it certainly wasn’t because of their merits or anything about them naturally. But He did. That is HIS right! He is God and no you and I. We may not like it but that is what He said and we are to submit to it fully. Anything less is rebelling against Him and His word.

    Randall Cofield

    “The Bible is so full of God coming down and actually interfering with a persons will and desires actually making them do things they would never do otherwise it is rather strange people can’t see this fact. ”

    Very, very well said…

    Darryl Hill

    Absolutely Lamar.

    Jonathan Edwards said that we are all volitional creatures. Indeed, we make choices everyday. But to think any of us has libertarian free will, the ability to choose anything at any time, does not belong to any of us, except for God alone. (I do find it funny that, to us, man MUST have free will but God can’t) Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? We can’t control the parents we were given. We can’t control the nation in which we were born. We can’t control the city in which we were born or grew up. We can’t control the environment in which we were reared. We can’t control when we first heard the Gospel or even IF we ever heard it. And, according to David, in sin did my mother conceive me and according to the prophets and the Apostle Paul, there is none righteous, not even one and there is none who seeks for God. So, are we to believe that a man who can control nothing in regard to his birth or environment, born in sin, unrighteous, and not seeking for God naturally could possibly have a FREE desire to repent of sin (in which he swims like a fish in water) and submit himself to a Lord? As Luther said, our wills are in bondage to sin and we are born condemned. If God gives us justice, all will die. If God saves anyone, it is extravagant grace and mercy.

    Eric Simmons

    Lamar,
    Am I to understand that only the elect can undergo a transformation like you describe? Is there a number of the elect anywhere in the Bible?

    I believe that I have the assurance of salvation by the intent and extent of God’s atonement and my accepting his gracious gift.

wingedfooted1

Blessings, David Allen.

Overall, your article is biblically sound and accurate.

In regards to 1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins”, you are correct. He told them this while they were still lost. But even this falls on the deaf ears of the 5 point Calvinist.

What should bring an end to this debate about the death of Christ on the cross is any scriptural evidence of Jesus dieing, or shedding His blood, for someone who is lost. Is there any evidence of this in scripture?

Yes.

Luke 22:14-20 (NKJV)….
When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Notice our Lord Jesus was speaking to the 12 apostles, of which Judas was one. Jesus said to the 12 (that includes Judas) “this is my body which is given for YOU.” And then added “this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for YOU.” Here is an actual biblical example from the mouth of the Saviour himself, telling someone who was lost, in this case Judas…. “this is my body, which was given for YOU” and regarding His blood “…which is shed for YOU.”

Notice that the “fruit of the vine” (as well as the bread) was given to each apostle, again, including Judas. For Jesus said to the 12… “take this and divide it among yourselves”. In other words, Judas had an equal amount of the “fruit of the vine” as the other apostles. No more, no less. And Jesus said to them, including Judas, “this cup is…..My blood, which is shed for YOU.”

It seems to me that if Jesus was a Calvinist he should have said…. “take this and divide it among yourselves, but don’t give one drop to that reprobate Judas.”

In Him.

    volfan007

    wingfoot,

    Great point, and very good insight.

    David

      wingedfooted1

      David,

      I appreciate the kind words.

      I brought this same portion of scripture to the attention of a staunch Calvinist preacher (a Presbyterian… I believe). Sadly, he tried to spin it to fit his theology. He said something to the effect that…

      “Jesus was only speaking to those to whom it was applicable.”

      My response was “wasn’t he speaking to those who were holding the cup?”

      Silence.

      That told me right there and then that no matter what scriptural text or biblical example you show a hard line Calvinist, it isn’t going to change a thing. The Calvinist has to be right because he can’t afford to be wrong.

      I found the following quote on a reformed website (and was directed towards the 4 point Calvinist)…

      “Calvinism isn’t a produce stand from which we can pick and choose which doctrines we wish to keep and pass over the rest in a sort of hermeneutical reprobation. Calvinism is an interwoven system of theology which must be accepted or rejected as a whole.”

      I agree completely with that statement. And that is precisely why staunch 5 point Calvinists won’t budge an inch regarding the death of Christ. Regardless what the scriptures say. Because they know if they do, their entire system starts to crumble.

      Come, Lord Jesus.

    Randall Cofield

    Wingfooted1,

    You stopped a verse short: Lu 22:21 “But (except) behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.”

    This verse, coupled with the fact that Jesus identifies Judas as reprobate *before* instituting the Supper in Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, clearly indicate that Christ is isolating him.

    Compare this with Paul’s assertion that one *can* “eat and drink unworthily” and therefore eat and drink to their own “damnation.” They thus become “guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” precisely because they presume to partake of that which does not belong to them (I Co. 11:27-30). This is rather strong evidence that his body and blood (i.e. atonement) was not given for all without exception.

    Peace, brother.

      wingedfooted1

      Blessings, Randall.

      Regarding Luke 22:21, yes the Lord singled him out as the one who would betray him. However, he did not single him out regarding the bread (His Body) and the fruit of the vine (His blood). Judas was given both the bread (representing His body) and the fruit of the vine (representing His blood). And Jesus did say to them (including Judas)… “This is My body which is given for you” and “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

      Any denial that Jesus said this to the twelve (and that includes Judas), is a denial of scripture.

      Still, consider these other verses regarding Judas.

      Mark 3:14-15….
      And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils

      Judas, like the other 11, was an ordained preacher given power to heal sickness and cast out devils.

      Mark 4:10-11….
      And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables

      It was given to Judas, being one of the 12, to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.

      John 6:69-70…
      And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

      Though singled out as a devil, Judas was still chosen by Christ.

      John 13:1…
      It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

      The feet of Judas, just like the other Apostles, were washed by the hands of Jesus. Jesus showed Judas, just like the other Apostles, the FULL EXTENT OF HIS LOVE. Jesus loved Judas to the end, just like the other Apostles.

      Grace.

        Randall Cofield

        Wingfooted1,

        Judas’ inclusion with the 12 until his betrayal of Christ notwithstanding, Paul’s statements in 1 Co. 11 plainly posit that it is possible for someone to partake of the body of blood of Christ (the means of atonement) both unworthily and to their own damnation. Again, this is strong evidence that those thus doing are partaking of that which was not given for them….Wouldn’t you agree?

        Soli Deo Gloria

          wingedfooted1

          Randall,

          The purpose of this post was the extent of the death of Christ on the cross. I prefer not to get off topic regarding eating of the supper improperly.

          Again, Judas was given both the bread (representing His body) and the fruit of the vine (representing His blood). And Jesus did say to them (including Judas)… “This is My body which is given for YOU” and “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for YOU.”

          Here we are given an actual biblical example of someone who was lost (Judas) whom our Lord said to him regarding His blood…. “which is SHED FOR YOU.”

          If the death of Christ on the cross was only for the saved, by extent, then it seems to me that this would have been a perfect time for our Lord to single Judas out.

          But He didn’t.

          Blessings.

pam knight

David, This is an excellant explaination of Article 3 of the TS. Theo and I are so hopeful that this discussion will bring some clarity within the SBC of “who believes what” We think it is important to know where people stand on these issues. We plan on sharing your article with our son and others in the days ahead. Theo and I are so very thankful that God brought you into our lives for such a time as this. Keep preaching the Word.
In Christ
pam knight

Randall Cofield

I have a question to pose to every non-calvinist involved in this discussion.

I am completely convinced that the heart of every man, without exception, is totally depraved, that God’s grace is so breathtaking that it is completely irresistible, that Christ’s atonement was made particularly and exclusively for those whom God unconditionally chose in Him before the foundation of the world, and that everyone saved upon those grounds will absolutely persevere in good works until the day of Jesus Christ.

And I present the Gospel of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone every time I preach the Word of God.

HERE IS MY QUESTION: Is it acceptable to you for me to coexist with you in the Southern Baptist Convention, my brothers and sisters?

    wingedfooted1

    Randall,

    My question to you is….

    Do you preach the gospel of Calvinism to the Lost? Do you share TULIP with the Lost, or just the saved?

    Calvin wrote…

    “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” Institutes – Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5

    Are you willing to post that quote outside your church doors for all to see (and by “all” I mean all men without exception and not all men without distinction)?

    Grace

      Randall Cofield

      Hi wingfooted1,
      “Do you preach the gospel of Calvinism to the Lost?”
      No. I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost.
      “Do you share TULIP with the Lost, or just the saved?”
      Both, but only as the issues arise in the course of expository preaching.
      “Are you willing to post that quote outside your church doors for all to see…(sarcasm expurgated…?)…?
      No. That’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
      ********************************************
      Yea or nay, brother (or sister)?

      Peace.

Lydia

“HERE IS MY QUESTION: Is it acceptable to you for me to coexist with you in the Southern Baptist Convention, my brothers and sisters?\”

Hi Randall,

Al Mohler is the undisputed leader of the Calvinist wing of the SBC. Recently he said that some of the men (his colleagues) he knows who signed the article don’t really believe what they signed. How does that bode well for Calvinist coexisting with non Calvinist? I realize he said it among pleas for unity but such an insulting zinger toward scholars and pastors only made those pleas less credible. I am astonished at how many SBC Calvinists have given that zinger by their leader a pass if they really desire unity.

    Randall Cofield

    Hi Lydia,

    Thanks for your response.

    So….was that a yes or a no? :-)

Lydia

Asking such a yes or no question without addressing your leader’s remark is framing the question. Can there be real unity when your leader thinks other scholars in the SBC are so ingorant and comes with a hair of calling them heretics? Doesn’t that need to be addressed by other Calvinists in the SBC. Or do they agree. Do you agree with Mohler on that part of his statement? Yes or no? :o)

Randall Cofield

Lydia,

You said: “I am astonished at how many SBC Calvinists have given that zinger by their leader (Mohler) a pass if they really desire unity.”

Keeping in mind that a “zinger” or two existed in the explanation and preamble to the Traditional Statement, I think all the men involved here are big boys and mature enough in their faith to survive. Wouldn’t you agree? :-)

    Lydia

    Looks like neither one of us are willing to answer yes or no questions. :o)

    I take it you think his insult toward his colleagues was justified because of the preamble. And the preamble was written after the GC video remarks by Mohler….and so on. Mohler engaged in “esculation”. I suppose it was decreed. :o)

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Lydia,

      You said: “I take it you think his insult toward his colleagues was justified because of the preamble.”

      Not at all. I think both the preamble and Mohler made some pretty pointed statements, and both of them stopped short of blatant insult. These kinds of discussions are by nature rather intense. Those who are mature will hold themselves above the immaturity of claiming insult. Those who aren’t mature will…well…be insulted.

      I think most of us are capable of spiritual maturity……..Don’t you? :-)

      Any interest at all in answering the question I posed?

Lydia

Oops, “escalation”

John

It is sad to see this has degenerated or began as whose leader has done what first. I thought we all had one leader in Christ. It is starting to appear this will degenerate into poo slinging for a period of time until Satan has had enough fun. The interesting thing is when everyone goes back into their perspective corners. Calvinist will still exist and Non-Calvinist will still exist. Although the body in Christ will have suffered. Thats todays leadership for you.

    Lydia

    “It is sad to see this has degenerated or began as whose leader has done what first. I thought we all had one leader in Christ”

    I think that might be the real underlying debate. Christ or Calvin’s Christ?

David L. Allen

Les (Part 1),

I will break my response to your more recent posts into two or three parts so as to avoid an unwieldy comment length.

With respect to Calvin, I note you say it is not “accurate to claim Calvin rejected L.” [Limited Atonement]. I must take issue on this as the historical record is actually quite clear. Only if one claims Calvin believed in Limited Atonement do his statements appear contradictory. What Calvin believed was what all the first generation members of the movement more narrowly called “Reformed” (Musculus, Zanchi, Kimedoncius, Bucer, Ursinus, and Bullinger) believed, namely that Christ died for the sins of the world, but that only the elect would be the beneficiaries of the atonement. It was only after Calvin’s death when Beza and others began to tease out what they perceived to be logical and theological corollaries of Reformed theology that Limited Atonement appeared on the scene and began to be pushed. This became the single most debated issue at Dort (1619-19), as Reformed scholars agree. It was the introduction of the notion of Limited Atonement that created the brouhaha. There were many at Dort, including the English Delegation led by Davenant, who rejected limited atonement. The final canon on the issue was deliberately written with enough ambiguity to allow both sides to sign so as to nuance the words toward or away from Limited Atonement. This is a matter of historical record which I document in my chapter in “Whosoever Will.”

David L. Allen

Les (Part 2),

With respect to your question about the use of the word “redeemed” with reference to the non-elect, I also must differ with you that this is “nonsense.” In fact, you will find this exact language in the writings of many in the Reformed tradition who believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world. What they mean is that Christ’s death removed all legal obstacles such that all men are “saveable.” They, of course, believed that with respect to the intent of the atonement, God had elected those who would be saved and that through irresistible grace, they would be regenerated. Some moderate Calvinists spoke of Christ “redeeming” the world by which they did not mean that all the world would be saved, but that the death of Christ had paid for the sins of the world, thus removing the legal obstacles such that all could be saved if they believed. Removal of legal obstacles does not ipso facto render one’s sins forgiven. The condition of salvation is repentance and faith. This is the moral obstacle that can only be overcome by repentance and faith. God has so designed that only those who believe in Christ will have the atonement applied to them.

In my studies, I was surprised to learn that even Augustine used the language of “redeem” to express what Christ did on the cross for the non-elect. He even went so far as to say that Judas “redeemed,” in the sense that Christ paid for his sins on the cross. Here is what Augustine said about Judas. “To suffer indeed He had come, and He punished him through whom He suffered. For Judas the traitor was punished, and Christ was crucified: but us He redeemed by His blood, and He punished him in the matter of his price. For he threw down the price of silver, for which by him the Lord had been sold; and he knew not the price wherewith he had himself by the Lord been redeemed. This thing was done in the case of Judas.” [Italics mine] Augustine, Exposition of Psalm LXIX, Section 27, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series, ed. P. Schaff (1888; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 8:309.

David L. Allen

Les (Part 3),

I meant to add this first paragraph at the end of Part 2 above: Prosper of Aquitaine is historically viewed as the normative interpreter of Augustine, and he very clearly held to universal redemption. See his Defense of St. Augustine, trans. P. De letter, (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 149–51; 159–60; 164.

It is interesting to note also that Jonathan Edwards was also a moderate-Calvinist on the question of the extent of the atonement. Edwards said: “From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby.” Edwards is advocating a form of dualism on the extent of the atonement. Christ may be said to die for all, in that he redeemed all, but there is still something particular in his work in the case of the elect, such that he purposes that they alone should obtain the benefit through faith. Redemption applied is limited, but not redemption accomplished. Redemption accomplished is unlimited. (J. Edwards, “On the Freedom of the Will” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979], 1:88. This is not to claim that Edward’s saw no sense of particularity in the design or intent of Christ’s death, but only that he did not see any limitation in the extent of Christ’s suffering on behalf of the whole world.

One final quote from Edwards and I’ll give you a break from my longwindedness! Under the heading “Universal Redemption,” Edwards wrote, “In some sense, redemption is universal of all mankind: all mankind now have an opportunity to be saved otherwise than they would have had if Christ had not died. A door of mercy is in some sort opened for them. This is one benefit actually consequent on Christ’s death; but the benefits that are actually consequent on Christ’s death and are obtained by Christ’s death, doubtless Christ intended to obtain by his death. It was one thing he aimed at by his death; or which is the same thing, he died to obtain it, as it was one end of his death. (J. Edwards [1743], “Book of Minutes on the Arminian Controversy” Gazeteer Notebook, in Works of Jonathan Edwards Online, Vol. 37, Documents on the Trinity, Grace and Faith [Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, 2008], 10–11). Edwards clearly rejected limited atonement.

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    The above three-part post is very well presented, and, I believe, accurately represents both Calvin and Edwards.

    Would it be accurate to say that both of these men contended that Christ’s atonement procured a sort of “stay of execution” for those who ultimately reject Christ…but accomplished a full satisfaction of the wrath of God against those whom Scripture identify as the “elect?”

    Grace and peace.

    Les

    Dr. Allen,

    Thank you for taking the time to interact on this. I’m going to try and get some sleep before I get up at 3:3o am Monday to head back to Haiti this week. I’ll try to read your responses thoroughly and maybe be able to respond the latter part of the week, assuming this post is even still active by then.

    I only wish I had the books and sources you cited too. Oh well, maybe later.

    Thanks again,

    Les

David L. Allen

Les,

In one comment you said in answer to Ron Hale: “I’m still not wanting to debate the atonement as presented. But have you read Dr. Roger Nicole’s WTS Journal article “John Calvin’s View of the Extent of the Atonement?” Worth a read from the other view of Calvin on this issue. He deals with the history of the debate and in one place quotes Cunningham using Calvin’s words, “I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.”

This quote, and others like it, has been dealt with in an excellent work on Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement by Kevin Kennedy, Union with Christ and the Extent of the Atonement in Calvin (Bern: Peter Lang, 2002). Kennedy summarizes this work, which was his doctoral dissertation at Southern Seminary, in the chapter “Was Calvin a ‘Calvinist?’ John Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement,” Whosoever Will (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 191-212. Kennedy concluded that Calvin did not affirm limited atonement. He also points out flaws in the arguments made by Nicole as well as Paul Helm on the issue.

Debbie Kaufman

This article by Paul Helms has a different view showing that although John Calvin did believe in Limited Atonement.

http://www.the-highway.com/articleJuly02.html

    Debbie Kaufman

    From Calvin’s commentaries 1 John 2:2:

    “Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said that Christ [63] suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.”

Debbie Kaufman

I think I am most surprised that you mention Jonathan Edwards as not believing in Limited Atonement. I would strongly disagree. You give a quote from a Freedom of the Will, which I have read and listened to several times. Jonathan Edwards like Charles Spurgeon being my favorite of the Reformed writers. I think this response to this very argument you give is best given by Baptist Spiritfire:

“From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby. As appears by what has been now shown, God has the actual salvation or redemption of a certain number in his proper absolute design, and of a certain number only; and therefore such a design only can be prosecuted in any thing God does, in order to the salvation of men. God pursues a proper design of the salvation of the elect in giving Christ to die, and prosecutes such a design with respect to no other, most strictly speaking; for it is impossible, that God should prosecute any other design than only such as he has: he certainly does not, in the highest propriety and strictness of speech, pursue a design that he has not. And, indeed, such a particularity and limitation of redemption will as infallibly follow, from the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge, as from that of the decree. For it is as impossible, in strictness of speech, that God should prosecute a design, or aim at a thing, which he at the same time most perfectly knows will not be accomplished, as that he should use endeavours for that which is beside his decree. [Emphases added.]

It his certain that Jonathan Edwards taught Limited atonement. To summarize his teaching using his own words: there is “a particularity and limitation of redemption… something particular in the design of his death, with respect to… a certain number only.”

http://strangebaptistfire.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/a-response-to-dr-david-allens-presentation-on-limited-atonement-part-1b-the-historical-question-in-regards-to-jonathan-edwards/

Also James White answers you with further proofs. Both good answers.

https://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2994

I do not see how you can read Universal atonement and not limited atonement in any of Jonathan Edward’s writing. And how you can say he is a moderate Calvinist is way beyond my scope of understanding. None and I do mean none of Jonathan Edwards writings would give this impression.

David L. Allen

Ron,

Perhaps it would be best to let one of our Compatibilist brothers or sisters respond to your question concerning the two thieves on the cross. However, I’m glad to give it a try. I do think a Compatibilist would say each man acted on his greatest desire. I don’t see their decisions connected to a causal chain of events, though no doubt there were influences which there is simply no way we can know about.

Blessings!

David

Debbie Kaufman

http://www.founders.org/journal/fj75/article3.html

This article on Calvin and the Atonement makes for interesting reading as well.

Thank you for engaging in this Dr. Allen. I do believe the discussion necessary and your engaging in this is refreshing and has caused me to respect you even though we disagree.

David L. Allen

Mike,

I think I would say that what gives all people a choice is they are endowed with some form of free will. The Arminian position does advocate prevenient grace, as you say, but that is a construct in the debates within the reformed tradition that we as Baptists are saying is a grid we are not operating from. With respect to your question: “how then can they see unless God opens their eyes?”, I would say they are still blind to the gospel truth because they are not believers. Unless God the Holy Spirit opens their eyes, and unless they repent and believe, they will not see. If God opens their eyes, they will believe. Yes, they remain among the perishing until God saves them.

Consider this: How can Paul say that Satan, the God of this world, has blinded the minds of those who are unbelievers? Aren’t they already blind because they are spiritually dead?

Blessings to you!

David

    wingedfooted1

    David,

    Luke 8:11-12 (NIV)….

    “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

    I was thinking……If man is totally depraved he can’t believe anyway. Also, isn’t the gift of faith only for a select few?

    It appears our Lord needs to brush up on His calvinism.

    Peace.

David L. Allen

Randall,

You asked: “Would it be accurate to say that both of these men contended that Christ’s atonement procured a sort of “stay of execution” for those who ultimately reject Christ…but accomplished a full satisfaction of the wrath of God against those whom Scripture identify as the ‘elect?’”

I think that is essentially correct, as long as we understand that Christ’s death actually atoned for their sins in the sense of satisfying the legal obstacles in such a way that God can be said to be objectively reconciled and thus prepared to apply the atonement upon the condition of their repentance and faith, which would be subjective reconciliation. No one is ever saved apart from both.

David

David L. Allen

Debbie,

I appreciate your kind affirmation. With respect to the Calvin quote on 1 John 2:2,
Let me offer this for your consideration. Notice that Calvin is arguing against those fanatics who extend the atonement to all the reprobate “and therefore to Satan himself.” He calls this a monstrous idea and an absurdity. I agree with Calvin because what he is inveighing against are those who say that the atonement covered not only men, but the fallen angels, even Satan himself. He then quotes the Lombardian formula “sufficient for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect.” Notice Calvin then says he allows that this statement is true – meaning he does not deny that Christ died for the world of people (but he does deny, and rightly so, that Christ died for the fallen angels and Satan). He then proceeds to say that in his exegetical opinion, this formula does not apply to 1 John 2:2 and that John’s intent in the statement was “no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church.” With that understanding, Calvin thinks John is not talking about reprobate people as a whole, i.e., all unbelievers at the time of his writing. In other words, Calvin is taking a limited reading of 1 John 2:2, following Augustine. Here I want to pick up with a quote from my chapter in “Whosoever Will” on this issue: “Some may think that Calvin and others taught that Christ only suffered for the sins of the elect because they interpret the “world” in 1 John 2:2 as limited to the church, following Augustine. However, Jerome Zanchi and Jacob Kimedoncius interpret the passage the same way, and yet Richard Muller acknowledges that these two men held to a form of universal redemption, just like Heinrich Bullinger [who took an unlimited reading of 1 John 2:2] (see footnote 19). It is therefore important to note that, while there may be agreement in principle among classical Calvinists [my word for 4-point Calvinists] on universal redemption, there may be practical differences in terms of their exegesis.” [Some take a limited reading of some of the extent passages in the New Testament.] (pp. 82-83)

BTW, am I correct that you reside in Oklahoma? As a disappointed Mavs fan, I’ll be cheering “Go Thunder!”

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    You said: “It is therefore important to note that, while there may be agreement in principle among classical Calvinists [my word for 4-point Calvinists] on universal redemption, there may be practical differences in terms of their exegesis.” [Some take a limited reading of some of the extent passages in the New Testament.]”

    You conceded earlier that Edward’s (and possibly Calvin) was essentially contending that Christ’s death accomplished a universal but temporary “stay of execution” for all mankind. You seemed to further agree that they viewed the atonement of Christ to have accomplished a full satisfaction of the wrath of God against those whom Scripture identify as the “elect.” (Keep in mind here that I am saying that was essentially what Calvin and Edwards [not you] were contending.)

    If this is the case, wouldn’t that explain how they could view Christ’s death as having universally “redemptive” (though I have difficulty with that term–“stay of execution” does not equal redemption, at least not in the classical sense) consequences, while at the same time viewing some of the “extent passages” as stating a limited atonement?

    And, if so, is that not consistent with the concept of Christ’s sacrifice being that of a *substitute*–He made atonement for our sins by suffering in our stead the full extent of God’s wrath against us?

    Soli Deo Gloria

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    “As a disappointed Mavs fan, I’ll be cheering “Go Thunder!”

    Really? I would have taken you to be a “King James” man…. ;-)

    Debbie Kaufman

    Yes Dr. Allen, I am from Oklahoma and we are very devoted and proud Thunder fans. Most of us got blow by blows even if we were not able to watch the game. I had to work that night and still got blow by blows from customers, co-workers and people who normally would not watch a basketball game. :)

    The subject of hell is difficult for both views. We both want all or many to be saved and no one in hell. Death is final. No more chances to come to Christ and escape the worst punishment ever. I hate the thought that there is a hell to be quite honest, but scripture dictates to both of us and we must succumb to the fact there is a hell, but we are also comforted in that there is a heaven.

    In the use of the word world in scripture, you are correct in that I believe it to be people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Scripture interpreting scripture I come to this by Revelation 5:9.

    God is God is God. All the attributes in scripture don’t even give the entire picture of who God and the Godhead are. God does not hide any of us His attributes and He is good all the time, not evil. He does not make mistakes and there is nothing He can not do. He is active in everything including salvation. I believe that it is much more than foreknowledge that God uses because there is so much more to God. Therefore I believe in the Doctrine of election and that Christ’s death accomplished everything and as Christ said “It is finished.” This death and resurrection accomplished much more than salvation and if it were for every single person in the world, that would not have failed to have every single person in heaven. Truth is not all are in heaven, sad as I am to say this.

    There is scripture I read to back up Limited Atonement, scripture I am sure you have heard before. And remember it does not take a degree to interpret scripture, we each have the Holy Spirit. It says what it says plainly. The cross purchased our faith.

    John 6:39, Matthew 20:28, John 17:12, Matthew 1:21, John 10:15, John 15:13, Acts 20:28, Ephesians 5:25 .

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

The Calvinist contends regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation. These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience. The rest of mankind is condemned to everlasting punishment. This brutal plan somehow allows God to glorify Himself as He rejoices in its execution. To keep this theology afloat, however, the Calvinist must twist Scripture, including the text around the following verses, like Third Reich clergy twisted the Cross into a Swastika.

•For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
•He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
•Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)
•They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Mark 12:14)
•This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4:9-10)
•This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
•The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
•Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:23)
•Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezek 18:25)
•Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek 33:11)
•For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:33)
•For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
•Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” (2 Chron 19:7)
•Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’ who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19)
•For God does not show favoritism. (Rom 2:11)
•And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6:9)

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. McLaughlin,

    I read the section of your site on Calvinism.

    Observation: Beautiful logic equations in which every conceivable premise consists of a caricature of Calvinism does not = A Valid Conclusion in which Logic Disproves Calvinism.

    Stated more succinctly: Junk In = Junk Out

    You said: “To keep this theology afloat, however, the Calvinist must twist Scripture, including the text around the following verses, like Third Reich clergy twisted the Cross into a Swastika.”

    Gee whiz, man. Do you think you might be a little over-vested in this debate?

    Peace

    Darryl Hill

    Dr. McLaughlin,
    I was reading your response above but couldn’t get past this sentence…

    “To keep this theology afloat, however, the Calvinist must twist Scripture, including the text around the following verses, like Third Reich clergy twisted the Cross into a Swastika.”

    I hope you recognize what you’ve done here, comparing someone who holds to the Doctrines of Grace to a Nazi. I guess I’m wondering if you really believe someone who agrees with predestination and election is just as evil as Hitler and also I wonder if you expect this approach at discussion to be fruitful in any way- i.e. do you really have an interest in dialogue or do you merely have an interest in denouncing all who disagree with you?

      Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

      I suggest using Google to find information connecting the cultures of historic Calvinism to cultures of the Nazi party, fascists, Boers, etc.

        Darryl Hill

        So calvinists are evil, homicidal madmen because they believe God controls salvation rather than man? Are you interested in dialogue or attack? I would suggest to you that your comparison does not foster dialogue in any way.

        I wonder if the writers of these articles of Baptist soteriology would like for you to represent them in a good will discussion with those who believe in the doctrines of grace? I have some serious doubts.

        Do you think it’s possible that a person could weigh the evidence, study the Scripture, and come to a conclusion that is different from yours WITHOUT being like an evil Nazi? Have you ever heard of demonizing your opponent and have you ever witnessed how that destroys any chance of influencing someone to consider your point of view?

        Wow! That’s about all I can say.

David L. Allen

Debbie,

You wrote: “It his certain that Jonathan Edwards taught Limited atonement. To summarize his teaching using his own words: there is “a particularity and limitation of redemption… something particular in the design of his death, with respect to… a certain number only.”

Are you certain you want to say it is “certain” that Edwards taught Limited Atonement? Note in this quotation, Edwards uses the word “design,” a synonym for “intent.” It is quite true, that with respect to “design” or “intent,” all Calvinists, moderate or high, believe that the atonement was designed to be limited in its application via unconditional election. This is the point I have tried to make in both the chapter in “Whosoever Will” and in my article above.

Here is the Edwards’ quotation which James White used in his post to which you linked: “This is certain, that God did not intend to save those by the death of Christ, that he certainly knew from all eternity he should not save by his death. Wherefore, it is certain that if he intended to save any by the death of Christ, he intended to save those whom he certainly knew he should save by his death. This is all that was ever pleaded for. (Works of JE, Vol 13, Yale UP, 1994, 211).”

Notice again how Edwards thrice uses the word “intend.” James White is correct, the quotation to which he refers is a statement about purpose or intent. I agree completely. It does not follow, however, that such implicates Edwards as committed to limited atonement. This is the classic error of failing to distinguish between “intent” and “extent” as I mentioned in my article above. This in no way refutes the fact that moderate Calvinists like Edwards also believed that Christ’s death, in terms of its extent, satisfied for the sins of all people. In my opinion, high-Calvinists have a huge blind spot here. They seem to be laboring under the false notion that if they grant that Christ died for the sins of all people, they are succumbing to the “Arminian error.” That is not the case because Arminians and most non-Calvinists believe that Jesus died with equal intent to save all people, and no Calvinist believes that, moderate, hyper or high! Where moderate Calvinists agree with Arminians and non-Calvinists is on the issue of the “extent” of the atonement, not the “intent” of the atonement.

Debbie, you also wrote: “I do not see how you can read Universal atonement and not limited atonement in any of Jonathan Edward’s writing. And how you can say he is a moderate Calvinist is way beyond my scope of understanding. None and I do mean none of Jonathan Edwards writings would give this impression.” Actually the quotations I have referenced in “Whosoever Will” would, at the very least, allow us to infer that Edwards did not hold to limited atonement. In fact, I think we can go further than that and state the Edwards was clearly moderate on the extent of the atonement.

Let me close with this final quotation from Edwards which he himself places under the heading “Universal Redemption”: “Christ did die for all in this sense, that all by his death have an opportunity of being [saved]; and he had that design in dying, that they should have that opportunity by it. For it was certainly a thing that God designed, that all men should have such an opportunity, or else they would not have it; and they have it by the death of Christ.” Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies, p. 478, entry # 424.

The only way that “all by his death have an opportunity of being [saved]” is if Christ died for the sins of all people, elect and non-elect. Thus, Edwards held to unlimited atonement.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Dr. Allen: It seems I will have to get your book to read. :)

    All men do have the opportunity. I don’t know of a Calvinist that would disagree with that statement. We do not know who the elect are, and because God is God and since Satan has been defeated by Christ’s life, death and resurrection, God has already won to the extent that a greater number will be in heaven than in hell. We do not even know on either view, who is currently in heaven for certain. I believe people we would never think to be there will in fact be there having embraced Christ as their Savior.

    Because of our love for Christ and our gratefulness, overwhelming gladness at what He did for us, we give all people the good news. We can’t help it because we are so overflowing with love and gratitude to want all to know. We may not always see the fruit of our giving this news. It may not occur in a person till much later in life, and out of our knowledge. I think it will be a greater number that God has chosen than we know. Satan will not win later, but he has not won now either, all though to hear some Christians you would think God is the loser until Christ comes and Satan the winner, that is not true in my reading of scripture. I believe Jonathan Edwards thinking the same way.

    Yes, I am sure Jonathan Edwards believed in Limited Atonement.

    http://www.apuritansmind.com/puritan-favorites/jonathan-edwards/miscellaneous-writings/atonement/

    http://www.apuritansmind.com/puritan-favorites/jonathan-edwards/miscellaneous-writings/atonement/

    D.R. Randle

    Dr. Allen,

    I think you are sorely mistaken about Edwards. And I find it interesting that you chose a very short portion of his writing in “The Miscellanies” and said it was under the heading of “Universal Redemption”, which seems to suggest that Edwards embraced it and this was how. Such is misleading when you quote more of the actual passage, which I do below (my emphasis highlighted):

    Universal redemption must be denied in the very sense of Calvinists themselves, whether predestination is acknowledged or no, if we acknowledge that Christ knows all things. For if Christ certainly knows all things to come, he certainly knew, when he died, that there were such and such men that would never be the better for his death. And therefore, it was impossible that he should die with an intent to make them (particular persons) happy. For it is a right-down contradiction [to say that] he died with an intent to make them happy, when at the same time he knew they would not be happy-Predestination or no predestination, it is all one for that. This is all that Calvinists mean when they say that Christ did not die for all, that he did not die intending and designing that such and such particular persons should be the better for it; and that is evident to a demonstration. Now Arminians, when [they] say that Christ died for all, cannot mean, with any sense, that he died for all any otherwise than to give all an opportunity to be saved; and that, Calvinists themselves never denied. He did die for all in this sense; ’tis past all contradiction.
    -Jonathan Edwards [1722], The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. a–z, aa–zz, 1–500) (WJE Online Vol. 13) , Ed. Harry S. Stout, page 1 74

    Edwards in the full quote says that Christ did not die “intending or designing” – this would speak both to intent and DESIGN, which does indeed speak to “extent”. If it is not designed to pay the penalty for all, then it naturally flows that Edwards believed that the extent of the atonement was limited as well.

Josh

I have to say this whole pointless argument make me tired and sad. No one is going to be persuaded to change his or her stance on the issue. The argument does not edify the body of Christ so what is the point. There are bigger fish to fry than to worry about rather I believe in Reformed theology or not. Salvation is the work of God and I say that we let Him to do His work and we just continue to be faithful in doing what He has called us to do, to reach a lost and dying world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

D.R. Randle

Dr. Allen,

I don’t know if it has been addressed or not in the comments (I tried to read through most of them, but I could have missed one or two), but I take huge issue with this comment you make:

“That being said, and for the reasons stated above, I am arguing the case that a belief in limited atonement necessarily entails a hindrance to preaching and evangelism.”

First, this doesn’t seem to square with reality – the vast majority of Calvinists (esp. 5-pointers) throughout history have indeed been Evangelists by nature. Just a simple survey shows this – Whitfield, Edwards, Brainerd, Carey, Judson, Luther Rice, Spurgeon, Fuller, Bunyan, etc – from previous centuries. Today we have guys like Chandler, Washer, Baucham, Platt and a host of others who are Church planting and doing Int’l missions. And personally I could speak of many I know who are 5 point Calvinists who are Evangelists. I just made a friend recently in my community who is a Reformed street preacher and he told me that he personally knew of over 100 other Reformed Evangelists and street preachers who are currently scattered over the U.S. working full-time in their ministries.

So, this is an untrue statement. Perhaps in your own mind limited atonement necessitates a hindrance to Evangelism and preaching, but this is certainly not true in the Calvinist’s mind. The 5 point Calvinist may have a different motivation than you, but it is no less motivating (and sometimes even more so). Perhaps you are unfamiliar with David Platt’s sermon at this year’s T4G where he gave an argument for why Particular Redemption fuels and demands Evangelism and missions. Here is the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDJigOyNFGY

I suggest you listen to him. There were men in tears all throughout that gathering of 8000+ after his sermon (how often have you seen that happen at the SBC Pastors’ Conference?). And ironically, the entire conference was on the Gospel and the need to articulate it to our culture. Wow – 8000 men and women gathered to talk about the need to proclaim the Gospel. That sounds to me like Limited Atonement most certainly isn’t a hindrance to Evangelism and missions.

Finally, you might be able to form a reasonable argument from 1 Cor. 15 that Paul told the Corinthians prior to their conversion that Christ died for them, but you cannot prove that such a thing is clear from that text. It is only conjecture at best. What we do have in the book of Acts are actual sermons preached, such as Peter’s at Pentecost. And no where in his entire Gospel presentation does he say, “Christ died for you”. Instead he says what any good 5 point Calvinist could say, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

And so based on your statement above, this sermon preached by Peter at Pentecost, through which 3000 were saved, begs the question:

“If proclaiming that ‘Christ died for you’ is such ‘a crucial aspect of the gospel’, why then does Peter not proclaim this at Pentecost?”

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

Does the theology you adopt on this issue have any consequences for your daily Christian walk? When the eyes of your heart look toward the Holy Spirit, you are looking through a lens which has been shaped by of some form of Calvinism or Traditional Baptist belief. The face of the person you see looking back is focused by that lens. The Calvinist sees the face of a God who condemned the greater part of mankind to eternal damnation before the universe was formed. The Traditional Bapitst sees a God who desires all to receive the great gift of salvation. However, the greatest havoc created by the “blueprint” theology of Augustine, Calvin and their theological progeny may be a distortion of the purpose of prayer. The Calvinist believes God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. If, before the universe was formed, God unchangeably ordained everything, then your prayers can change the outcome of nothing. In contrast, the Traditional Baptist believes God always responds. Prayer always makes a difference. But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being. Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been.

    Darryl Hill

    You are incorrect Dr. Bruce. Calvinists do not view God as having “condemned the greater part of mankind to eternal damnation before the universe was formed.” Calvinists see man as responsible for his own condemnation and the Scripture bears us witness. Calvinists see God as graciously offering mercy to men who are a part of a race which, in its entirety, justly deserves death. We also view God as THE central character in the story of redemption, not man. All glory to God!

      Eric Simmons

      Darryl,

      You can’t have it both ways. If a person is not the “elect” then they are damned for eternity. God’s invitation to humankind has an RSVP attached to it. And there is a subsequent change in them. Those that respond are written in the book of life. God’s will is that all men will accept the gift, does God know who that will be? Of course. Does God grieve those that never accept the gift? Of course.

        Darryl Hill

        I agree that God desires for all to come to repentance. I agree that He grieves when they don’t. But it’s clear that it is not God’s decree that all men come to repentance. So, while you can say it’s His will that they repent, it’s clear this doesn’t mean they all will be saved. He does not rejoice over the death of the wicked, but He rejoices in justice being done.

        I think even you would have agree that, according to the definition of “elect” in Scripture, anyone who is not elect is going to die in his sin. But who is responsible for this? Did God force them to sin? No. They chose it themselves and enjoyed it. God gave them a conscience, but they violated it throughout their lives by choice.

        Now, the Apostle Paul anticipated your question in Romans 9, where he says, ” 14What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 9You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

        I think it begins with your view of man. If you view man as basically good and deserving of grace, then you will accuse God of injustice for saving some but not all. But if you see man as guilty and deserving of death, then you will praise God for saving ANYONE. Paul takes the second option. He offers that one possible reason to bear with the vessels of wrath is because of His love for the vessels of mercy. Those are Paul’s words, not mine.

        But I can have it both ways because Scripture does. If any man is saved, it’s by the grace of God fully. If any man is lost, it’s because of his own sin and choice of destruction. He goes there willingly, as all of us do, apart from God’s intervention.

David L. Allen

Debbie,

Thanks again for your comments. In fact, I agree with most of them. Here are my demurrals. 1) You said: “This death and resurrection accomplished much more than salvation and if it were for every single person in the world, that would not have failed to have every single person in heaven.” Again, I think this confuses “intent” with “extent” and fails to take into consideration that even the elect have to believe in Christ in order to receive the benefits of the atonement. Until they do, they are still under the wrath of God a la Ephesians 2:1-3.

2) You said: “The cross purchased our faith.” Actually, the cross purchased salvation for all who believe; it did not purchase our faith. That is the mistake John Owen makes in his “Death of Death in the Death of Christ.” He argues that both salvation and the means of salvation were purchased by Christ’s death on the cross for the elect. This is the error of viewing the atonement as a commercial transaction rather than a legal transaction. Owen adheres to the commercial theory of the atonement and it is the lynch pin of his whole argument. Owen argues that Jesus pays the ransom to God for the elect only, hence by justice, the elect only are owed salvation based on Christ’s purchase. In fact, Owen talks about God’s “obligation” to remit the benefits of the atonement to the elect because of the purchase made. Notice how the very passage you reference, Revelation 5:9 says Christ purchased people (not faith) and that he purchased them for God and not from God, as Owen maintained. Charles Hodge and Robert Dabney both strongly critiqued Owen’s approach of confusing commercial debt with legal debt. In Scripture you will never find that Christians are ransomed “from God” as Owen teaches, but rather they are ransomed “for God” as Revelation 5:9 teaches. Furthermore, Scripture never speaks of “faith” being purchased, only people.

3) You indicate, I think, that Revelation 5:9 teaches limited atonement on the basis that you believe “world” does not mean all without exception but all without distinction. Revelation 5:9 does not teach limited atonement. Many have inferred from it limited atonement. The text says that Jesus has redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. It says nothing as to whether Jesus did or did not die for all people in every tribe, tongue and nation.

Ron Hale

Dr. Allen,
Here is Dr. Criswell preaching in 1973, we were young men in our prime! This is found on http://www.wacriswell.org

This is the introduction of his message:

WHEN THE SAINTS SIN

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 John 2:1-2

4-08-73 10:50 a.m.

On the radio and on television, you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled If Any One Sin. Actually, it refers to the saints who sin; maybe that is what we ought to call it. In the Bible, “If any one sin,” it is addressed to the saints, so maybe we can say, When the Saints Sin, When God’s Children Sin. In our preaching through the Book of [1] John, the first epistle of John, the text is [1] John chapter 2 verses 1 and 2; and the context is this:

And the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. But if any one sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

And He is the propitiation—the hilasmos—the atoning sacrifice.

The hilast?rion is translated in Hebrews 9, verse 5, as “the Mercy Seat.” On the Ark of the Covenant, with the cherubim looking full down upon it, was the golden lid that covered the ark; and that was called the hilast?rion, the Mercy Seat. And when a sacrificial animal was killed the blood was taken inside the Holy of Holies; and there once a year the high priest would sprinkle the blood, atoning blood, on the Mercy Seat. Now the sacrificial victim is called an hilasmos—hilasmos, an atoning sacrifice—and the blood was sprinkled upon a hilast?rion, the Mercy Seat. And so Jesus is the hilasmos. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, “And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

I’ve never been able to understand how the Calvinists, some of them, believe in a limited atonement—that is, the sacrifice of Christ applied only to those who are the elect but there is no sacrifice of Christ for the whole world—when John expressly says He is the sacrifice, the atoning, dedicated gift of God in our lives for the whole world. And it is just according to whether we accept it or not as to whether the life of our Lord is efficacious for us in His atoning death.

David L. Allen

D. R.,

Thank you for interacting. Let me apologize up front and beg your indulgence for responding with such a lengthy comment. I will point out several things. First, your comment is based on my statements in my comment to Debbie. Second, in my comment to Debbie, I made use of two different quotes from Jonathan Edwards.

Third, your quotation of Edwards in your comment above and the statement you make that it is a truncated quote with respect to context which renders my use of the quote “misleading” once the fuller context is seen, which you then provide, is totally confusing to me. The reason for my confusion is: the second quotation of Edwards I gave at the end of my comment to Debbie has no other context with it in the original source! It is statement #424 of the “Miscellanies” and I gave the quotation in full. The preceding statement #423 deals with Election and the following statement #425 deals with Hell and Eternal Death. Your quotation above is from an entirely different part of the Miscellanies. Notice my quote comes from page 478, while yours comes from page 174. There is nothing of my quote found in your quote. They are two different quotes!

Fourth, let’s go ahead and address your quotation and what Edwards means by it.
Here is the quotation as you gave it with your highlighted emphases:

Universal redemption must be denied in the very sense of Calvinists themselves, whether predestination is acknowledged or no, if we acknowledge that Christ knows all things. For if Christ certainly knows all things to come, he certainly knew, when he died, that there were such and such men that would never be the better for his death. And therefore, it was impossible that he should die with an intent to make them (particular persons) happy. For it is a right-down contradiction [to say that] he died with an intent to make them happy, when at the same time he knew they would not be happy-Predestination or no predestination, it is all one for that. This is all that Calvinists mean when they say that Christ did not die for all, that he did not die intending and designing that such and such particular persons should be the better for it; and that is evident to a demonstration. Now Arminians, when [they] say that Christ died for all, cannot mean, with any sense, that he died for all any otherwise than to give all an opportunity to be saved; and that, Calvinists themselves never denied. He did die for all in this sense; ’tis past all contradiction. -Jonathan Edwards [1722], The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. a–z, aa–zz, 1–500) (WJE Online Vol. 13) , Ed. Harry S. Stout, page 1 74.

Now here is the point I want to make: Even in the quotation above which you cite from Edwards, he is affirming unlimited atonement with respect to extent! What Edwards is denying is that Jesus died with an intent to actually save all people. Notice in the part you emphasized that Edwards acknowledges that many will never be saved, i.e., they will never partake of the benefits of the atonement. Edwards says “it is impossible that he [Christ] should die with an intent to make them happy.” Furthermore, Edwards says it is a “contradiction [to say that] he died with an intent to make them happy” when Jesus in fact knew they would never be saved. Edwards then says “this is all that Calvinists mean when they say that Christ did not die for all, that he did not die intending and designing that such and such particular persons should be the better for it.”

Notice then Edwards turns to state what the Arminians mean by the extent of Christ’s death: “they cannot mean, with any sense, that he died for all any otherwise than to give all an opportunity to be saved.” In other words, Edwards correctly affirms what Arminians believe: that Christ died to make salvation possible for all, and that no Arminian believes Christ died with the design or intent to save any particular person, which of course is exactly what Edwards and all Calvinists do in fact believe – that Christ did indeed die with the intent or design to save the elect. Then comes the money quote from Edwards: the statement that Arminians believe Christ did die for all to give all an opportunity to be saved, “that, Calvinists themselves never denied. He did die for all in this sense; ‘tis past all contradiction.” This is a clear statement that Edwards believed Calvinists and Arminians agreed that Christ died for all people with respect to the “extent” of the atonement, but that Calvinists and Arminians differed with respect to the “intent” of the atonement.

You then make this final statement: “Edwards in the full quote says that Christ did not die ‘intending or designing’ – this would speak both to intent and DESIGN, which does indeed speak to ‘extent’. If it is not designed to pay the penalty for all, then it naturally flows that Edwards believed that the extent of the atonement was limited as well.”

I think you are making four errors in this final statement. First, you are confusing “intent” with “extent” by conflating the two. Again, this is the key error of all five-point Calvinists. You are assuming that by “design” Edwards means “design to send Christ to die for any man,” when Edwards means design in the sense “to apply the atonement to any man.” Second, you are assuming what you are trying to prove, namely, that the atonement was not designed to pay the penalty for all [your assumption], hence Edwards believed in limited atonement [what you are trying to prove]. Third, Edwards does in fact agree with the Arminians that Christ did die to give all people an opportunity to be saved. Therefore, one should draw the opposite conclusion from what you state: Edwards believed that the extent of the atonement was universal, so that all people would have the opportunity to be saved; but he also believed, as a good Calvinist, that the intent of the atonement was limited only to the elect such that it would be applied only to them according to unconditional election. Fourth, as one committed to limited atonement, for you the salvation of the non-elect is not possible, even if they were to believe. Notice Edwards asserted it is possible, because he believed Christ died for the sins of all. Logic dictates that even though Calvinists affirm by virtue of a penal relationship with the elect alone, thereby only making their salvation possible, it is still possible for the non-elect to be saved, if they were to believe. The death of Christ for sins is a necessary precondition for anyone’s salvation, whether they believe or not. Without this precondition, even if they were to believe, they could not be saved because no atonement exists for their sins according to limited atonement. This is why, among other reasons, I have argued that limited atonement is not only theologically flawed, but logically flawed.

David L. Allen

D. R.,

I will try to address the two major issues you raise in your comment concerning 1) my statement that limited atonement of necessity entails a hindrance to preaching and evangelism, and 2) your statement about 1 Corinthians 15:3 and its relationship to the extent of the atonement and preaching.

1) For the benefit of other readers, my statement in the article with which you take issue, along with its context, is as follows:

“Let me be clear. We all agree that doctrine matters. Doctrine informs praxis. This is not an issue of whether someone is committed to preaching and evangelism. This is not a question of whether one is passionate about preaching and evangelism. I take it for granted that Calvinists as well as Traditionalists desire to obey the Great Commission. That being said, and for the reasons stated above, I am arguing the case that a belief in limited atonement necessarily entails a hindrance to preaching and evangelism. Paul said the content of the gospel he preached included the fact that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). This is what he preached pre-conversion, not post conversion. Limited atonement denies and distorts a crucial aspect of the gospel: that Christ died for the sins of the world.”

You suggest this does not “square with reality” and that the “vast majority” of Calvinists, especially five pointers, throughout history have been evangelists by nature. You cite nine names from history, four names of current men who are Calvinists doing church planting and missions, along with others. First, you will note I said in the quotation from the article above that the issue is not whether Calvinists believe in or practice preaching and evangelism. I acknowledge that all believe in these things and I take it for granted that most of them are doing it. Second, at least five of those nine historical names were moderate Calvinists who did not believe in limited atonement. Third, have you forgotten that probably the largest anti-missionary movement in the history of the church was Calvinist? Fuller and Carey had to extricate themselves from the stifling influence of 18th century hyper-Calvinism and its debilitating effects on preaching, evangelism and missions. Fuller himself was heavily influenced by both Bunyan and Edwards (whom you name among your list of nine) and both these men were moderate on the question of the extent of the atonement. Recall Spurgeon’s ongoing battle with the hyper-Calvinists of his day, chronicled so brilliantly in Iain Murray’s book “Spurgeon and Hyper-Calvinism.” Notice the sub-title of Murray’s book is “The Battle for Gospel Preaching.” Fourth, you mention the many Calvinists you know personally who are committed to evangelism. Well and good. I know many Calvinists personally who are committed to evangelism . . . and I know some who are not! I am not the only one who has argued that limited atonement hinders preaching and evangelism. Many moderate Calvinists have argued this since the Reformation, some of whom are chronicled in my chapter on the extent of the atonement in the book “Whosoever Will.” Fifth, I grant that my statement is not considered to be true “in the Calvinist’s mind.” I’m sure all Calvinists who are committed to limited atonement don’t think it is true. Many Calvinists, however, who reject limited atonement, think that it is true.

I have listened to and am familiar with my friend David Platt’s sermon at T4G. Dr. Platt is a wonderful example of passion in his preaching. His argument was not that particular redemption fuels and demands evangelism and missions, but that God’s sovereignty does so. He mentions the issue of particularity only briefly and one cannot tell from his sermon whether he himself is speaking only of God’s intent here with respect to the purpose of the atonement, which at the very least he certainly is speaking of this, and which all of us who are not Calvinists can agree with by the way, or whether he intends by his statements to indicate his belief that Christ only died for the sins of the elect, in which case he would be speaking also of the extent of the atonement. I might also add that neither the size of the crowd in attendance nor the excellent theme of the conference has anything to do with whether belief in limited atonement entails a hindrance to preaching and evangelism.

2) With respect to your statements concerning 1 Corinthians 15:3, you say that my argument that this passage indicates Paul preached that Christ died for our sins to the Corinthians before they were converted is “only conjecture at best.” You then don’t support this assertion, you merely evade my point by moving to Acts and arguing that since there is no direct statement in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost that “Christ died for your sins,” thus he did not preach such to them. Before getting to Acts, let’s stay with 1 Corinthians 15 for the moment. The entire pericope, 1 Cor 15:3-11, should be kept in mind. Notice how Paul comes back around to what he had said in verse 3 when he gets to verse 11: “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” The aorist tense in Greek for “believed” seals the deal. Paul refers to a past point in time when they believed. What did Paul preach to them? He preached the gospel, which included “Christ died for our sins.” And so they believed.

With respect to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2, how do you know that “nowhere in his entire Gospel presentation does he say, ‘Christ died for you’”? All of the sermons in Acts are condensations of the actual sermons given. Just because there is no direct statement Peter said this in Acts is no argument he did not say it, nor is it a valid argument that he did not believe it. That would be an argument from silence. How else could Peter tell his hearers to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” if he did not somehow connect the death of Christ on the cross as accomplishing the means for their salvation? Are we to think that Peter’s hearers did not understand that what Peter was saying in essence was that since Christ died for their sins, the door is opened for them to repent and believe? Furthermore, if Peter believed in limited atonement, how could he say “every one of you”? For any of the non-elect present in his audience, there was no atonement for them, so it would be impossible for them to repent and believe, even if they wanted to. It would also be disingenuous on Peter’s part to give anyone such false hope.

Again, let me reiterate, I am not questioning anyone’s passion, commitment or practice in preaching, evangelism, or missions. I am simply arguing that I believe the concept of limited atonement hinders preaching, evangelism and missions for the reasons stated in my response article above.

    Alan Davis

    Dr. Allen,

    I believe that there are many hindrances to the gospel work of missions, and evangelism. It should be painfully obvious to all Southern Baptists that neither the Traditionalist nor the Calvinists have anything to brag about in our labors when the latest stats I have seen suggest it takes 100 church members to win 5 people to Christ and according to the framers of this document the majority of these people believe as the traditionalists. Their “traditionalist” views doesn’t seem to have helped them in their evangelism now does it? We seem to be arguing over how to read the instructions and the project is going unfinished. I really don’t think either side is in any shape to tell the others how to do it since all are doing it rather poorly. I for one am not going to brag nor act like “we” know what we are doing when it takes 100 church members to get 5 kids at VBS to pray the sinners prayer. Those very souls are very important but the stats show a real lack of knowledge and “true belief” because true belief results in actions. It would appear that Traditionalists and Calvinists are not really believing, only espousing.

Alan Davis

“Belief in limited atonement puts the preacher in the difficult position of preaching to all people as if Christ’s death is applicable to them even though they believe all are not capable of salvation. This creates a situation where preachers operate on the basis of something they know to be untrue.”

Don’t know what type of Calvinist this makes me and don’t really care for I have never measured myself in that way. But i do believe in some way of a limited atonement and I also believe that if the gospel is preached biblicly and the preaching of the gospel is used as the invitation (not some emotional altar call) that those who truly repent and turn by faith to Christ come under the atonement. I can make the plea that “if you will truly repent and turn to Christ you will be saved” It would seem that it is true that Christ’s atonement was not applied to many, many of the hearers of the gospel as hell is enlarging every day therefore with this thinking (above) every preacher would have been preaching a falsehood because it would be obvious that one in hell now that heard the gospel preached yesterday on earth has no benefit from the atonement. Maybe we all need to be a little clearer in our preaching on this subject. The Armianian gives leeway to the hearer for he thinks that if Christ did die for me I can come anytime I want and under my terms (decsionism) The hyper Calvinists tells the hearers there is not hope for you if you don’t have (some weird stamp) of the elect on you. Maybe we just need to believe God at His Word and lift Him up and allow Him to draw out the elect which neither the Traditionalist knows nor the Calvinists. If someone truly reponds with God wrought repentance and faith then it would be obvious that Christ did die for them, and to those who will not…it will not matter for they will continue in their unbelief and love their darkness.

James

Dr. Allen,
Related to the second statement in the denial, “We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will.”

How do you reconcile this statement with the fact that some people will live and die without hearing the gospel? Isn’t the atonement limited by the fact that the “free” offer of salvation is withheld?

Thanks.

David L. Allen

James,

Thank you for your question. I’m not sure I understand what you are asking in that I don’t think there is any need to “reconcile” the statement in the denial with the fact that some people live and die without ever hearing the gospel. It seems clear in Scripture that all who die without having believed in Jesus for salvation are eternally lost, whether they have heard the gospel or not. In the case of those who have never heard, what is limited is their opportunity to hear, not the atonement. The atonement is not limited. The statement in the denial applies to those who do hear the gospel. The offer of salvation is not “withheld” in any sense that I can see other than it simply has not been presented to them.

    James

    Dr. Allen,
    Thanks for the quick response. I pose the question because it requires admission that God is limiting the application of the atonement as it relates to people He creates in places where the gospel has not and will not be preached in their lifetime. Your article seems to agree with this statement until the end.

    You write, “We believe that Christ died for the sins of all to provide a genuine offer of salvation to all.”

    So I assume you must mean that God makes a genuine offer possible, but that He does not actually make the offer in some cases. So my question is, doesn’t your view also diminish “God’s universal saving will”? If His desire for the salvation of all necessitates His doing everything necessary for every person’s salvation, hasn’t he failed (under your view) on behalf of the people in remote places? How do you uphold your interpretation of 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 in light of the hopelessness of the unreached?

      Alan Davis

      Would also seem that the claim that limited atonement would “call into the question God’s Character” (which I do not believe) would apply here also James. If God made the atonement applicable for all people including the one never hearing the gospel but didn’t make the means for that one to “hear”; wouldn’t that also “call into question God’s character”? And wouldn’t the atonement then be limited by God by virtue that God knows they will never hear and be able to respond as he has commanded both. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” In the mind of God the atonement seems to be limited because He full well knows many will not be regenerated and He knows the atonement will not be applied to them personally. I make this case but do not believe that a limited atonement would call into question the character of God. As it appears to be limited in both senses or views.

        James

        Alan,
        Exactly. I see the unreached people as the point at which the “logic” of their system doubles back on them. And it does so in a few ways, which is why Romans 9 is so difficult. It defends the character of God, but it doesn’t answer all the questions in ways people would consider “logical.”

        Thanks. Your point is well made.

Eric Simmons

James,

God reveals himself in his creation. We are only one way to reach the lost.

    James

    Eric,
    Thanks for your comment. You are correct and I am assuming those statements based on Romans 1 and 10 respectively.

    My question relates to the implications of these facts on the “Traditional” view of God’s atonement.

David L. Allen

James,

The question of the fate of the unevangelized is a difficult question regardless of one’s theological position As I unpack your argument, along with the implied propositions/assumptions, I understand you to be saying that according to my view:

1. God desires the salvation of all.
2. God does everything necessary for every person’s salvation.
3. [Implied proposition] – Doing everything necessary includes providing the means for the gospel to get to the unevangelized.
4. But the unevangelized have not had the gospel brought to them.
5. Therefore, God has failed in fulfilling his desire for the unevangelized.

I presume you agree with proposition 1 in the sense that God desires this in his revealed will, since it is a part of Reformed theology and is only denied by hyper-Calvinists. Concerning proposition 2, the atonement is not limited regardless of how one answers this question. To suggest it is in the case you present confuses the nature of the atonement with the application of the atonement. No more or less of Christ’s shed blood would be necessary to save one person or the entire world. The application of Christ’s death is indeed limited by a number of issues such as time, circumstances, and God’s condition of faith in Christ upon hearing the gospel. With respect to proposition 3, a number of factors inhibit the gospel coming to the unevangelized, none of which should be laid at God’s feet. Scripture holds the unevangelized accountable for their failure to respond to general revelation a lá Romans 1 and their conscience a lá Romans 2. God has not failed to do all He can do in the provision of the atonement or all He can do in the application of the atonement. Therefore, proposition 3 is false. Proposition 4 is true, regardless of why this is the case. Proposition 5 is therefore false; God has not failed in fulfilling His desire.

All Calvinists believe that God’s so called “revealed will” (over against his “decretal will) is not always effectual. When someone fails to be saved, it is not for 1) lack of provision in the atonement, or 2) lack of desire on God’s part. When someone fails to be saved, whether the unevangelized or not, the ultimate cause is their own sin.
My interpretation of 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 is upheld by taking the verses at face value; assuming they mean God has a genuine desire for all to be saved; and that the reason why all are not saved is because each person has been endowed with genuine free will and each person is responsible to God for the revelation of nature and conscience which they spurn, and because each person is by nature a sinner and deserving of God’s condemnation.

Thus, I don’t think my view diminishes God’s universal saving will.

    James

    Dr. Allen,
    I’m grateful for your response. I feel we’re talking past each other a little bit and I’d love to engage a couple of your points. But this venue does not support extended debates well so my motive remains simply to understand your view. I’ll try to articulate more clearly where I was going and why I was asking the questions.

    Proposition 1 – While God desires to save all, He does not save all people so the atonement is limited. (We both agree here, right?)

    Proposition 2 – The Reformed perspective holds that God limits both the extent and the application of the atonement. (Your article is presenting and contending against these points.)

    Proposition 3 – You charge that the Reformed view “diminishes God’s universal saving will” because it limits the extent of the atonement. (To borrow your term, this is your “implied proposition.”)

    My question – How does your perspective limit the application of the atonement without also “diminishing God’s universal saving will”?

    Your answer (as I understand it) – God doesn’t limit the atonement (neither its extent nor its application). Man (by his rejection and/or by his failure to preach to all nations) limits the application of the atonement. You wrote, “God has not failed to do all He can do in the provision of the atonement or all He can do in the application of the atonement.” This statement is very helpful in understanding the “Traditional” view. You are correct that I made false assumptions because I did not understand your view to hold that the atonement is limited exclusively by man and not by God. This misunderstanding explains why my question must have seemed odd to you.

    I understand you to be making two claims.
    1. The atonement is limited in its application when the gospel is preached because man rejects Christ.
    2. The atonement is limited in its application when the gospel is NOT preached because man rejects general revelation and because believers have failed to preach to the nations.

    In all cases, when the atonement is not applied to an individual, man is solely responsible. Have I accurately represented your views?

    Thanks again and God bless.

David L. Allen

James,

Thank you for the additional clarification and question. Here is my response to your comment statement by statement.

With respect to proposition 1, yes, we both agree.

Concerning proposition 2, no, I don’t agree. The high-Calvinist Reformed perspective holds that God limits both the extent and the application of the atonement. Moderate Calvinists, and all other Christians do not believe that God limits the atonement in its extent. I am contending against the former and affirming the latter. God does indeed limit the atonement in the ways I discussed in the article.

Concerning proposition 3, yes, with respect to limited atonement, I am contending that this view necessarily entails a diminishing of God’s universal saving will.

Here is your next paragraph stating your understanding of my position. I have placed my responses to your statements in double brackets in an attempt to be clear, especially to our other readers:

“Your answer (as I understand it) – God doesn’t limit the atonement (neither its extent nor its application). [[God does not limit the extent but He does indeed limit the application! He will only apply it to those who repent and believe.]] Man (by his rejection and/or by his failure to preach to all nations) limits the application of the atonement. [[Actually, the atonement is not applied by God to those who 1) have not heard the gospel, or 2) to those who do not believe the gospel when they hear it.]] You wrote, “God has not failed to do all He can do in the provision of the atonement or all He can do in the application of the atonement.” This statement is very helpful in understanding the “Traditional” view. You are correct that I made false assumptions because I did not understand your view to hold that the atonement is limited exclusively by man and not by God. [[I do not hold that the atonement is limited exclusively by man and not by God, for the reasons stated above.]] This misunderstanding explains why my question must have seemed odd to you.” [[God has not failed to do all that he can do in the application of the atonement. This must be understood in light of the fact that God has himself decreed the limitation of the application of the atonement only to those who repent and believe.]]

Here is your next paragraph with my responses in brackets:

“I understand you to be making two claims.
1. The atonement is limited in its application when the gospel is preached because man rejects Christ. [[Yes, because God has so ordained that only those who repent and believe will be saved.]]
2. The atonement is limited in its application when the gospel is NOT preached because man rejects general revelation and because believers have failed to preach to the nations. [[Yes, but these are human circumstances that lead to the same consequence: people don’t respond to the gospel in repentance and faith. Until they do, they cannot be saved, regardless of whether they are the unevangelized or not.]]
Here is your final paragraph with my responses in brackets:
“In all cases, when the atonement is not applied to an individual, man is solely responsible. [[Not at all! In all cases, where men do not believe the gospel, for whatever reason and regardless of their circumstances, God does not apply the atonement because He has already declared that it will not be applied to anyone unless they repent and believe. God has clearly declared in Scripture his willingness to apply the gospel to all who repent and believe. ]] Have I accurately represented your views?” [[No.]]

I hope this is helpful and I apologize for my lack of clarity to this point. I teach my preaching students that “clarity must be crafted!”

Eric Simmons

I think there is too much proof texting going on. (Picking and choosing certain scriptures that support your argument, it is done on both sides)
What about stepping back and examining God through the eyes of the model that he provided for us. We have been given a sinless, compassionate, Messiah from which we can mirror behavior and draw conclusions. Furthermore, God created Logic and loaded it in our brains, it exists in every human being, some more than others. Logic does not create a paradox. Somebody in an earlier reply said in reference to a non-Calvinist, “I don’t know why they can’t see it….”

As a Traditional Baptist, I ask myself this question. “Why don’t I see it like the Calvinist see it?” If it is obvious to a Calvinist, why can’t I see it from their side?
But then that begs the question, if I were a Calvinist, why would I want to bring a child into this world if I couldn’t be certain that my child will be the elect?

God created humankind, Jesus paid the sacrifice for humankind, all humankind that believe, repent, and follow Christ will spend eternity with him.

Following Christ means telling others about him, behaving like him, giving like him, praying like him. Each action manifests into a holier believer.

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