The topic of limited atonement is one that has enticed many Christians into prolonged debate. In many cases it is a topic that has dragged many a Church through difficult times. The easiest thing to do would be to let the doctrine go; just don’t talk about it! The problem is that one way or the other the Bible addresses the issue, and that makes it our duty to understand it. This means that we are faced with the difficult task of tackling the doctrine of limited atonement. In doing this I know that I am opening up a can of worms, and so I would like to be transparent about a few things from the outset.1. We all need to address this issue with humility seeking to honor our Savior in what we say and believe.
2. We need to seek to build up the church by understanding what the Bible teaches about the extent of the atonement.
3. We need to look beyond the buzz words and seek to understand if these doctrines match up with scripture.
4. I accept the doctrine historically known as limited atonement, but think that the term limited atonement has caused confusion as to the meaning of the doctrine (I would prefer definite atonement or even specific atonement.).
5. This is only a cursory look at the doctrine. Due to the nature of blogging, and my time constraints it is impossible to cover this issue as extensively as is possible.
Upon some honest assessment we would have to agree that all views of the atonement are limited in some way. The Calvinistic (or traditional reformed) view of the atonement limits the atonement in scope. That is to say, Christ died for the elect guaranteeing their salvation. An Arminian (Or even in part those “Four point Calvinist”) view of the atonement limits the atonement in efficacy. That is to say, Christ died for everybody, but since everybody is not saved His death does not guarantee salvation for anybody. In the Calvinistic view Christ’s death saves the elect. In the Arminian view Christ’s death does not actually save anyone; rather Christ’s death makes it possible for God to save all those who freely believe.
Both of these views of the atonement are limited, or to put it a different way, defined to a specific group. There really is no way to accept an unlimited view of the atonement unless you are willing to accept universal salvation. If there are human beings who are not atoned for by the blood of Christ then the atonement is limited. At this point you may be “saying well I am still not willing to go all the way and accept limited atonement; all that I am willing to say is that Christ death is sufficient for all and effective only for the elect.” I am sorry to tell you this, but that is exactly what limited (or as I prefer definite) atonement is. Look back at how this view defines the atonement. Christ died for the elect, and guaranteed their salvation! Christ death was effective in the lives of the elect because God has called them. This doctrine does not teach that Christ death is not sufficient. As I covered in the last post, Christ is the infinitely good substitute that atones for our sin against an infinitely good God.Romans 5:10
For if while we were enemies we wre reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
I think that is enough for today. I hope to continue this conversation in the days to come. Your input is welcome as I formulate my thoughts.