Universal Atonement: Strengths And Weaknesses

Atonement

Classical Dutch Arminians understand the work of Christ Jesus as a penalty for the sin of every mankind. God’s love and desire to save everyone made salvation possible to any one who will call upon and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savor.

James Arminius1 (1560–1609) accepted that humans are born dead in sins but God in his fairness and justice has restored to every mankind “without any difference of the elect and the reprobate2(Arminius 1853: 497) the power to believe in Christ Jesus.

Following Arminian position, Donald G. Bloesch argued, “Christ has reconciled and justified the whole human race but in principle (de jure), not in fact (de facto) except for those who believe.”(Bloesch 1997: 169)  He pointed that every single person is an heir to the kingdom of God but only those who accept Christ Jesus becomes the members of the church.

Bloesch3 concluded that”[t]he atonement of Christ is universal in its intention and outreach but conditional in the way its efficacy is realized in the lives of God’s people. (ibid 169). Bloesch as all orthodox Christians hold to some form of limited atonement. The dispute is over whether it’s God or human that limits it. Reformed argued that atonement is limited in intention namely God limits it to his chosen, while Arminian, as Bloesch, limits atonement in its efficacy namely Christ’s atoning work is a potential atonement that man has to actualize.

Strengths of Universal Atonement

The strongest verses, I believe, that support universal atonement could be established along Paul’s reasoning that God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (1 Tim. 4:10) and John’s maintaining that Christ Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) 4

Paul’s reasoning entails that God is the Savior of both nonbelievers and believers but specifically believers, while John’s leads to Christ’ universal atoning work.

Passages that stressed that Christ died for his sheep, viz., his bride, the Church (e.g. John 10:11-18) does not necessary negate 1 Timothy 4:10 and 1 John 2:2 because they do not assert that He died only for his sheep.

Weakness of Universal Atonement

Universal atonement necessarily leads to universal salvation, namely universalism5. If we consider that Christ’s atoning work propitiated the wrath of God for the sins of every single person, then it follows logically that every single person is saved from the coming wrath of God (Col. 3:6) .

John Owen correctly argued:

If […] we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world… then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? Yon will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins.(Owen 1862: 173-4)

Using Bloesch’s claim, viz., “[t]he gates of the prison in which we find ourselves are now open, but only those who rise up and walk through these gates to freedom are truly free.” (Bloesch 1997, 169), Owen’s reasoning would lead us to a position that if a prisoner is free, she is free indeed even though she chooses to remain in her prison’s cell. The warden cannot limit her freedom of staying or leaving.  She is not either falsely free or truly free but free or not free.

Wayne Grudem properly pointed out that if “Christ’s death actually paid for the sins of every person who ever lived, then there is no penalty left for anyone to pay, and it necessarily follows that all people will be saved, without exception.”(Grudem 1994: 594) It would be unjust and unloving for God to demand payment for a debt that was already paid by the work of Christ Jesus, regardless of the debtor knowledge that her debt is paid or accepts that her debt is paid.

Bloesch does not explain how “[u]niversal atonement does not necessarily mean universal salvation, but it does imply that all people are the beneficiaries of God’s grace in some way or to some degree”(ibid 168) because, as Robert L. Reymond explained, that Bloesch’s position “requires that we conclude that Christ did not savingly die for everyone—since neither Scripture, history, nor Christian experience will tolerate the conclusion that everyone has been, is being, or shall be saved—but for some people only, even those whom the Father had given to him.”(Reymond 1998: 681)

How universal atonement does not lead to universal salvation, I believe, is a fatal problem in this understanding of atoning work of Christ Jesus.

Question To Arminian Theologians: How do you answer John Owen logical case against universal atonement?



[1] Arminius, the father of Arminianism, reacted to Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza, teaching that was described as of less of grace and goes beyond Calvin’s own teachings, namely  “[t]he decrees of election and reprobation are said to be logically prior to the decrees of creation, fall and redemption.”(Culver 2005: 547)
[2] Emphasis original

[3] Bloesch goes even further to claim that ” [e]ven though incorrigible sinners may find themselves in hell, outside the holy city, they are not outside the compass of God’s love and protection.”(ibid 169)

[4] I did not include Christ’s died for ”all” passages (e.g. John 12:32; Rom. 3:22–24; 5:18; 8:32; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:14–15; 1 Tim. 2:5–6; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9, Rom. 11:32; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) nor ”the world”(e.g. John 3:16, 2 Cor. 5:19) because the term ”all” and ”world” are not used in strict sense (see Matt. 10:22 and John 17:16)

[5] a view that all humans either may or will be saved through atoning work of Christ Jesus.


Bibliography:

Arminius, James (1853). The Works of Arminius ii, trans. James Nichols (Auburn & Buffalo: Derby, Miller & Orion, recently repr. 1853), art. xvii.

Bloesch, D. G. (1997). Jesus Christ : Savior & Lord. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Reymond, R. L. (1998). A new systematic theology of the Christian faith. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Owen, J. Vol. 10: The works of John Owen(1862). (W. H. Goold, Ed.). Edinburg: T&T Clark.

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About Prayson Daniel

Prayson Daniel is a Tanzanian, married to Lea and a father to Eloise. Reformed theology, philosophy of religion, apologetics and church history are areas he enjoy reading, pondering and sharing with a motto "when love comes first, disagreement follows at its right and proper place".

23 comments

  1. Hey there,

    You say: [cut cut]

    I think Hodge is close to Owen when he expounded:

    “We accordingly find numerous passages in which the design of Christ’s death is declared to be, to save his people from their sins. He did not come merely to render their salvation possible, but actually to deliver them from the curse of the law, and from the power of sin. This is included in all the Scriptural representations of the nature and design of his work. No man pays a ransom without the certainty of the deliverance of those for whom it is paid. It is not a ransom unless it actually redeems. And an offering is no sacrifice unless it actually expiates and propitiates. The effect of a ransom and sacrifice may indeed be conditional, but the occurrence of the condition will be rendered certain before the costly sacrifice is offered.”(ST 2. 550-1)

    David: Sure, but thats the design of the satisfaction. If you asked C Hodge, “For whom was Christ’s death designed to save?” He would answer the elect alone. However, if you ask him, “For whose sins was the death of Christ applicable to and made for?” He would say the sin of every man, and so by extension all men. For C Hodge, the nature of the satisfaction has no limitation. And here he says he heartily agrees with the Lutherans. Where he and the Lutherans disagree is with regard to the intended special design to apply. Needless to say, Owen had no common grounds with Lutherans at any point in all this.

    But either way, and that is all quite beside the point. The simple point I was making was that Owen’s double payment argument is wrong. It is invalid. Owen presents a claim: “It is impossible for God to punish 2 persons for the same sin.” This is the backbone assumption behind the double payment argument, and without it, the D-P argument falls apart. With it as an assumption, then the reductio and or logical argument, if Christ died for all men, then all must be saved..

    The argument more formally works like this:

    1) If Christ dies for a man, that man cannot fail to be saved.
    2) John fails to be saved.
    3) Therefore Christ did not die for John.

    As a reductio, it would look like this:

    1) If Christ dies for a man, that man cannot fail to be saved.
    2) Christ died for all men.
    3) Therefore all men must finally be saved.

    The problem is, the arguments are unsound. The first premise only works on the assertion that God cannot punish 2 men for the same sin. Dabney’s point defeats that assertion because the living unbelieving elect are being punished in life for their sin, even tho Christ sustained a satisfaction for all their sins. That being so, the major premise is false.

    It is just false and will always be false. The only way to counter Dabney’s defeater is to buy into some form of hypercalvinism and deny that the living unbelieving elect are ever under wrath and punishment in life, before they repent. And of course, some sort of pre-faith justification would have to follow from this: as from birth the could not be even a cause of offense before God, as the grounds of all their offensiveness has been paid for.

    Owen and C Hodge and Dabney agreed on the special design of the satisfaction, but not on the nature of the satisfaction. And because they saw the nature of the satisfaction as unlimited, the double payment argument has no place in their systems, and beside that, they both rightly spotted why it is invalid.

    Hope that helps,
    David

  2. Hey there,

    You say: You are very correct David. I believe as far as you go, namely atonement remove sin, then it would follow that the wrath of God, which is a righteous reaction toward sin, is removed by the atoning work of Christ.

    David: But that’s the point. If there is a condition attached, say faith, then it would not just follow that a person for whom Christ suffered must be saved. The “condition” is not something the satisfaction “atones” for.

    Here are C Hodge’s words: It [a pecuniary satisfaction] ipso facto liberates. The moment the debt is paid the debtor is free; and that without any condition. Nothing of this is true in the case of judicial satisfaction. If a substitute be provided and accepted it is a matter of grace. His satisfaction does not ipso facto liberate. It may accrue to the benefit of those for whom it is made at once or at a remote period; completely or gradually; on conditions or unconditionally; or it may never benefit them at all unless the condition on which its application is suspended be performed. These facts are universally admitted by those who hold that the work of Christ was a true and perfect satisfaction to divine justice. The application of its benefits is determined by the covenant between the Father and the Son. Those for whom it was specially rendered are not justified from eternity; they are not born in a justified state; they are by nature, or birth, the children of wrath even as others. To be the children of wrath is to be justly exposed to divine wrath. They remain in this state of exposure until they believe, and should they die (unless in infancy) before they believe they would inevitably perish notwithstanding the satisfaction made for their sins.

    David: If someone does not meet the condition, they would perish, “notwithstanding that a satisfaction for sin has been made for them.”

    That is the biggie for Owen’s double payment argument. The other argument is that living unbelieving elect are under divine wrath in life.

    You say: Owen would ask if disbelief is sin? Is denying Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior sin? If so, Jesus died for that sin too.

    David: Sure unbelief is a sin. But that’s exactly the point. Belief is not a sin, and expiatory sacrifice has to do with sin and sins. An expiatory satisfaction as a penal satisfaction does not work like a pecuniary satisfaction, as it does not acquire things.

    You think that if the basis of offense is removed, justification must necessarily follow. Or like, to remove the basis of offense, is like removing a cup of its water, such that it must be filled by something else. The satisfaction of Christ, by itself, does not save. The sacrifice of expiation allows God to pardon, but itself does not secure pardon, because it deals with sin, not righteousness.

    You say: David we should not confuse justification with sanctification. Christ did not only substitutionary atone for past sin, but of present and future. Thus if He died and pay for the sin of every single person, then I think it is difficult to deal with Owen’s argument.

    David: But on two grounds Owen’s double payment is falsified. Firstly it is not true because the living unbelieving elect are under wrath and punishment in life before they repent. Hence God can and does punish 2 persons for the same sin(s). On this basis alone, the double-payment argument must be acknowledge as an argument that does not capture the biblical truth accurately: something is wrong it. So what is wrong with it? As Hodge says, what is wrong with it is that it can only work on pecuniary grounds. It falls apart in terms of proper penal satisfactions.

    In a proper penal satisfaction, a condition may be added. This condition is itself not the direct object of the penal satisfaction, as it is not a “satisfactio” it at all.

    May be this will be help. Dabney gives a good example of two brothers. Both poor. One gets himself in debt with a rich farmer. He cannot pay. The other brother agrees with the farmer to “pay” off his brother’s debt by working as a mechanic on the farm for an acceptable period of time. This brother and the farmer come to an agreement. We can add to this that suppose the farmer adds a condition, such that the indebted brother must promise never to get in such a debt every again. All parties agree. That is what C Hodge is getting at. Suppose the indebted brother reneges on his agreement, then the farmer will rightly insist that he pay the full original debt in his own person.

    This is a very different satisfaction model to that of Owen’s commercial atonement.

    Hope that clarifies,
    David
    http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7323

  3. Prayson says:

    John Owen would probably agree with much you said, but he will ask, is it a sin to have no faith in Jesus and reject to repent. If it is a sin to deny Jesus as Lord, then Jesus died for that sin on the cross too, thus everyone, if universal atonement is true, will be saved, even those who sin by rejecting Him and keep refusing to repent.

    David says: 1) Have a read of Charles Hodge on this, because conditions can be attached to a properly penal satisfaction, tho not to a pecuniary one: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=66.

    2) Your comment confuses the nature of a penal satisfaction, or expiatory satisfaction. Atonement is an atonement for sin, not for righteousness. Atonement deals only with deficit and transgression not obedience and fidelity. Stated another way, the atonement does not *atone* for belief. Your argument treats the satisfaction as it currency which purchases things, or that if the deficit is removed, the positive most automatically follow. But in terms of criminal law, this does not automatically follow.

    3) The atonement itself does not save. Satisfaction only sustains the grounds whereby God may forgive and save a sinner in a way that comports with his law and justice.

    There are so many unstated assumptions in Owen’s argument and in that of limited satisfaction doctrine.

    Thanks,
    David

    • You are very correct David. I believe as far as you go, namely atonement remove sin, then it would follow that the wrath of God, which is a righteous reaction toward sin, is removed by the atoning work of Christ.

      Owen would ask if disbelief is sin? Is denying Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior sin? If so, Jesus died for that sin too.

      David we should not confuse justification with sanctification. Christ did not only substitutionary atone for past sin, but of present and future. Thus if He died and pay for the sin of every single person, then I think it is difficult to deal with Owen’s argument.

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

  4. Hey there,

    Owen’s argument is not that hard to deal with. 1) It is refuted by the counter-factual that the living unbelieving elect are subject to divine punishment, even as the rest are (Rom 1:18 and Eph 2:3).

    This is Dabney’s critique and its correct.

    2) The double payment argument only works on a pecuniary model of satisfaction; as you yourself describe.

    If Smith owes Jones $50, and Brown pays Jones the $50, Jones cant demand a second payment from Smith.

    If Smith owes the judge $50, and Brown pays it, the judge cant demand another payment from Smith.

    That is the nature of all pecuniary satisfactions whether debt or fine payments.

    3) Thus Owen’s double payment dilemma confuses penal satisfaction with pecuniary satisfaction. This is Charles Hodge’s criticism of the double payment argument.

    4) Double payment along pecuniary lines must entail an automatic release, an ipso facto release. As soon as the debt or fine is paid, the obligation is discharged immediately. It cannot be delayed. This is a real problem for Owen, which he did not properly answer. Its simply not credible to say that even tho the fine is paid, the judge can decide to delay release from the obligation (and say continue to hold smith in Jail).

    You imply this when you say the captive has no say. Exactly. With pecuniary satisfaction, my disposition toward the judge or creditor or to the crime or to the debt is completely irrelevant.

    5) The double payment argument only works on the assumption that Christ suffered the exact idem of the law’s demand against a given sinner and not an equivalent suffering. Vicarious satisfaction is not simply that Christ as an equivalent person stands in our place, but that he suffers an equivalent suffering for sin. Owen held to the idem idea which just about everybody else has rejected.

    You can read Dabney’s, Hodge’s, and others rejection of the double payment argument here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7323

    If you click the main index tab at the you can see more.

    As to “obtained eternal redemption(Hebrews 9:12b)” that is interesting. It probably means having obtained the right or means to apply it, and then its application, by extension.

    Thanks for your time,
    David

    • Thank you for a brilliant input. So much welcome and needed.

      Hodge contended that “Christ’s work was of the nature of a satisfaction, because it met and answered all the demands of God’s law and justice against the sinner. The law no longer condemns the sinner who believes in Christ.” and I believe he lean towards Augustinians view that stated”Augustinians to say that Christ died “suffcienter proomnibus, efficaciter tantum pro electis:” sufficiently for all, efficaciously only for the elect. There is a sense, therefore, in which He died for all, and there is a sense in which He died for the elect alone”

      I think Hodge is close to Owen when he expounded:

      “We accordingly find numerous passages in which the design of Christ’s death is declared to be, to save his people from their sins. He did not come merely to render their salvation possible, but actually to deliver them from the curse of the law, and from the power of sin. This is included in all the Scriptural representations of the nature and design of his work. No man pays a ransom without the certainty of the deliverance of those for whom it is paid. It is not a ransom unless it actually redeems. And an offering is no sacrifice unless it actually expiates and propitiates. The effect of a ransom and sacrifice may indeed be conditional, but the occurrence of the condition will be rendered certain before the costly sacrifice is offered.”(ST 2. 550-1)

      I am not an expert of Hodge’s theology but I believe he echoes Owen’s. I might be wrong. :)

      Let me know your thoughts.

  5. What if the real issue is the actual atonement?

    All of the above statements by theologians are based on the idea that Jesus died to save people from God’s wrath. What if this is not true? What if Jesus’ death was about OUR wrath and violence? The idea of what we are saved from would necessarily change.

    According to Paul we have been saved from slavery to sin (specifically from the captivity to evil forces like satan). If that is so, then the ransom was not paid to God it was paid to the devil and we have been set free from Him. One of the verses that has convinced me of this is in Corinthians “God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” (my paraphrase) If Jesus was dying to pay off God the Father’s wrath, then the Father was not “in Christ” doing that. I believe this idea of the atonement divides God against Himself.

    What if our law-based understanding (thanks to Constantine) of the atonement is faulty at its core? That changes everything!

    • Thank so much for your comment. I value sincere wrestling to understand God’s words.

      A brilliant theologian N. T. Wright looked at each model of atonement, including the one which you mentioned which was held by many early thinkers, and noticed that each has its point to make. “But important though” is the model of Jesus “’representing’ his people, and through them the whole world” since it is “not only in the gospels but in Paul and elsewhere, it will scarcely carry all the weight required”. He went on:

      There is too, third [first being exemplary, second representing], a massive sense in which Jesus’ death is penal. Jesus has announced God’s imminent judgment on his rebel people, a judgment that would consist of devastation at the hands of Rome. He then goes ahead of his people to take precisely that judgment, literally, physically and historically upon himself, ‘ Not only in theological truth, but in historic fact, the one bore the sins of the many’ This is both penal and substitutionary, but it is far bigger and less open to objection than some other expressions of that theory. Once you put it together with the previous model (Jesus as Messiah representing Israel and hence the world), you draw the sting of the main objections that have been advanced against it. (Wright 2011: 181)

      I believe Wright is very correct. Begin with Passover Lamb of Exodus 12, sacrificial system of Leviticus 14 – 16, and the suffering Servant of Isaiah 52- 53 to show that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22 ), “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Matt 20:28 ESV emp. added) and that “Christ Jesus’ blood of the covenant,[…] is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”(26:28 ESV). It is Biblical to hold that Jesus died to remove the wrath of God.

      I have written a series of articles on different view of atonement in my blog. I hope we can learn from one another.

      In Christ,
      Prayson

      Example: John 3:36 ESV

      Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

      • The points you bring up are interesting. I have been reading “Stricken By God?” that looks at the aspects (and verses) regarding penal substitutionary atonement closely. This would be a great book for you to read! Then, maybe we could discuss some of these points. :)

        Bottom line for me is that I do not believe the god who needs a blood sacrifice is the God of the Bible, but a pagan rendition. Maybe God’s point in taking Abaraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah was to show Abraham that He is NOT like all the other gods (considering child sacrifice to appease the gods was common practice in those days). Something to think about. God bless!

      • Thank you. I have not read “Stricken By God?”, but I have read quite a bit when I wrote a university thesis on Theories of Atonement. I am writing are series at a moment which I hope it will add a little to the on going dialogue on this important work of Christ Jesus.

        Penal Substitution: In My Place He Stood
        Penal Substitution: Nothing But The Blood
        Atonement: Establishing Borders
        Atonement: Dancing With Theories
        Extent Of Atonement: Worldviews In Collision

        There are short articles I am doing, as I bring my university thesis to a popular lever for everyone in hope that I will contribute a little into the Kingdom of God.

        Thank you so much for your comment. I am so honored to have your voice on this issue.

        Yours in Christ,
        Prayson

  6. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. I actually think salvation is not that complicated. Here are some passages that may bring some light:

    Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5: 18)

    Jesus act of righteousness (his death on the cross) brings life for all men. This tells us that the possibility of salvation is open to every person in this world.
    Through His obedience many will be made righteous. Yet, the author of Romans uses the word many for telling us that only some actually will accept the gift of salvation. Why not everyone?

    Faith in Jesus and repentance are vital for salvation according to John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8; John 1:12, Luke 5:32, 2 Cor 7:10; Mark 1:4; Mark 1:15; Luke 3:3 and others. Besides, without faith is impossible to please God.

    Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert for all to see it, Jesus’ work of redemption is available to everyone. In the desert every one of them could look at the serpent and save their lives, but some chose not to look at it and they died. Jesus died on the cross so every one of us could be justified before God, yet some will refuse to believe in Him and will die in their sins.

    • John Owen would probably agree with much you said, but he will ask, is it a sin to have no faith in Jesus and reject to repent. If it is a sin to deny Jesus as Lord, then Jesus died for that sin on the cross too, thus everyone, if universal atonement is true, will be saved, even those who sin by rejecting Him and keep refusing to repent.

      • We need to remember two things here:
        Salvation is God’s plan, not our plan. Therefore is like a contract in which the rules are set by God. In order to receive salvation from our sins we need to repent and trust in Jesus. If we do not repent and trust in Jesus as our Savior means we decided not to sign the contract, therefore we remain unsaved. The Work of Salvation through Jesus is much more than a formula. There is much to it than what I am going to explain and should be analyzed spiritually.
        I would say what we call “lack of faith” is an excuse used by unbelievers when they want to remain living a sinful life, and it is a decision to trust in themselves instead of trusting in the Savior.
        In the case of Christians distrusting God is a sin.
        When a child of God doesn’t trust God (knowing who He is), is telling Him,” I don’t believe in what you say, I think you are a liar.” This is a sin. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. (1 John 5:10)
        In the case of unbelievers, see this passage:
        “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
        It is exactly like in a courtroom. We can represent ourselves or we can accept to have a lawyer who represents us. We can present our good deeds as a proof that we are not guilty or we can ask Jesus to present his sacrifice in our behalf. Remember that according to the Bible, the only sacrifice acceptable before God is Jesus’ sacrifice. If we present by ourselves we will be condemned because we are sinners. If we present Jesus’ sacrifice to God we will be declare justified.
        People go to hell because they represented themselves before God and are declared guilty. They decided not to accept Jesus sacrifice on their behalf. This is what Jesus refers when He says: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” People go to hell because they present before God trusting in themselves (they have faith in themselves) instead of present Jesus before God (having faith in Jesus)
        In a way, faith is only the decision we make to let Christ represent us in God’s courtroom. Jesus didn’t pay for our lack of faith. When we first come to Jesus, faith is a decision to trust in His sacrifice.

  7. Question: you refer to universalism (the saving of every human being who ever existed) as a weakness (whether you mean a weakness in your personal view or a weakness in the argument for universal atonement). Do you mean a weakness in biblical terms or a weakness as even an idea? In other words, is it weak because it doesn’t fit with the Bible, or is it weak because it would be unfortunate for all to be saved? I’d love to interact with you on these thought; just need clarification. I’ve thought a lot about this topic. I’ve also read The Death of Death by Owens, which has a very good introduction by J. I. Packer.

  8. nietzschesdownfall

    I think Owen’s argument is flawed in his presumption not that the warden can’t prevent freedom, but that the captive can’t reject it. I assume Owen operates within the TULIP framework, meaning he affirms irresistible grace. If we are to presume that such grace is indeed irresistible, then Owen’s argument is indeed logical. However, if one presumes that grace is resistible, then Bloesch’s argument is valid, as the prisoner could then choose to remain locked up, and the warden could (and would) grant her that wish. As long as either man operates within their own context (Calvinist or Arminian), then there will only be a stalemate here.

    I take issue when standpoints such as universal atonement are taken to extremes. In my opinion, it’s a poor way of refuting an argument, because the refuter often “logically” demonstrates the extreme by use of their own presumptions (in this case, irresistible grace). Free will advocates do the same thing to Calvinists by demonstrating that God elects people to go to Hell by use of limited atonement (hypercalvinism). In such a position, what necessity have I to become a believer if I was never predestined to be one in the first place? What need exists for the church to teach anyone about the Gospel if God’s already picked his elect? Such argumentation seems to serve more to demonize the opposing side rather than lend credibility to one’s own viewpoint.

    However, in the interest of answering your question and carrying on good conversation, one need not affirm universalism by affirming universal atonement because one can understand grace to be resistible. Looking at human interaction, when an individual wrongs another party, the offended party can offer forgiveness freely and without condition, but the offending party is in no way required to accept said forgiveness and continue in relationship with the offended party. I would say we interact with God similarly (note: I do not have sources at the ready for this right now; I’m doing this from work). However, if you’re operating with Calvinist presuppositions, then this argument is moot.

    On a different note, and in further defense of Bloesch, if we are to understand God as sustainer of all existence, then His love then does indeed extend to those outside His holy city insofar as their continued existence. Non-being is not possible without the removal of the sustaining power of God’s love, so one can conclude that God’s love is present in all existent modes of being, however depraved they may be. I would love, however, to hear how a Calvinist looks at that.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I think Owen’s argument would not be shaken if the captive reject the offering because atonement is objective and not subjective.

      Example if I owe a bank 1000000 USD and someone pay it for me, the bank cannot demand the payment even if I reject the offering that someone paid. As long as the payment is objectively paid, it does not matter what I subjectively think. Thus , Owen we contended that, if Jesus paid the ransom(1 Timothy 2:5-6, Mark 10:45, Heb. 9:15 ) for everyone, viz., “obtained eternal redemption(Hebrews 9:12b) for everyone, then it does not matter if the captive reject or accept the offering. As long as it is paid, it is paid. The captive has no say.

      Let me know your thoughts. Thanks once again for your comment.

      • nietzschesdownfall

        I see your point, but how does that work in conjunction with Jame’s assertion that faith without works is dead? Even the demons “believe” in Jesus; it seems to imply, then, that the individual’s salvation is also contingent on the individual as well as Jesus’ act of atonement. Even Hebrews’ definition of faith in 11:1 (being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see) indicates personal action.

        Also, how is atonement not subjective? If it’s only allocated to the elect according to God’s choice, then clearly it’s not objectively placed at all. If God is arbitrary in his actions, then is God loving in acting in such a fashion? If He’s choosing the elect for a reason, then He shows favoritism (contrary to Paul’s writing to the Ephesians regarding masters and slaves in 6:9). For God to not show favoritism, or to not be arbitrary, faith must rest then with the individual.

      • Thank you for your response. I treasure your thoughts highly.

        I believe James is talking about sanctification and not justification.

        We subjectively respond, in faith which is a gift from God that leads to repentance and surrender, toward what Christ Jesus’ objectively finished at the cross and resurrection. But our subjective response is not the cause of our justification but an effect of what Christ already objective did. We chose Jesus because God already chose us first before the foundation of the world(Eph 1:3-11).

        The objectiveness of atonement is in what Augustin called “suffcienter proomnibus”(Latin: sufficiently for all,) and I believe you are correct that it is subjected to the elect, as Augustin,tagged (“efficaciter tantum pro electis:”(Latin: efficaciously only for the elect.)

        What I meant by objective though in my article was that Christ Jesus did not “come merely to render their salvation possible, but actually to deliver them from the curse of the law, and from the power of sin.”(Charles Hodge Vol. 2 548)

        I hope I in a small way attempt to clear some of your concern.

        Yours in Christ Jesus,
        Prayson

  9. richesdonotendure

    Reblogged this on Give Me Grace.

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