Particular Atonement: Strengths And Weaknesses

Dexter

Classical Reformed theologians hold that:

“[I]t was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.”( Second Head Of Doctrine, Article 9) [1]

This Reformed view of the extent of the atoning work of Christ Jesus reverberates with Christ Jesus’ proclamation that “[a]ll that the Father gives [him] will come to [him], and whoever comes to [him He] will never cast out”(John 6:37) and that He will “lose nothing of all that [the Father] has given Him, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

Holding a Reformed position, J. I. Packer correctly summarized Reformed doctrine of particular atonement, when he defined definite redemption as the finished work of Christ that “ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect and ensured that they would be brought to faith through regeneration and kept in faith for glory, and that this is what it was intended to achieve.”(Packer 1995: n.p)

Strengths of Particular Atonement

Particular atonement makes sense of Christ Jesus’ exclusively John 17’s prayer, namely He prayed not for the world, but for those whom God the Father gave Him, for they belong to the Father.

Charles Hodge noted that “[t]he high-priest interceded for all those for whom he offered sacrifice. The one service did not extend beyond the other.”(Hodge 1997: 553). He argued as high-priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his breast when representing them as he offered sacrifices for their sins on the day of atonement, Christ Jesus bore the names of those whom God the Father gave Him.

Moreover, particular atonement is the only view that would lead, I believe, to Romans 9:14 reaction, namely “Is there injustice on God’s part?” and that of Romans 9:16b: “Why does he[God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” position. God showing mercy on whom He shows mercy and our inability to come to Christ Jesus unless the Father particularly show us mercy by drawing us to his Son and the Son will raise all whom the Father gave up on the last day (John 6:44 cf Roman 9:16) does prima facie sound injustice on God’s part.

Particular atonement explains why the cross of Christ is still a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, as Paul explained to the Corinthians, but to those whom the Father particularly called and draw to His Son, “both Jews and Greeks, Christ [crucified is] the power of God and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor. 1:24) On the Soul, 1, Tertullian awesomely observed: “For, who can know truth without the help of God? Who can know God without Christ? Who has ever discovered Christ without the Holy Spirit? And who has ever received the Holy Spirit without the gift of faith?” It is those whom faith is given as a gift who see the power of God and the wisdom of God displayed at the Cross.

Reflecting on this view, William G. T. Shedd brilliantly resolve that “[t]he tenet of limited redemption rests upon the tenet of election, and the tenet of election rests upon the tenet of the sinner’s bondage and inability.”(Shedd 2003: 744)

Concurring with Shedd, Wayne Grudem concluded that all whom the Father had, according to the purpose of his will and praise of his glorious grace, already destined before the creation of the world, to become the children of God “are the same people for whom Christ also came to die, and to those same people the Holy Spirit will certainly apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, even awakening their faith (John 1:12; Phil. 1:29; cf. Eph. 2:2) and calling them to trust in him.”(Grudem 1994: 595)

Weakness of Particular atonement

One of the weaknesses of the doctrine of Particular atonement is that it stands or fall by the truthfulness of the doctrine of Radical depravity viz., fallen creatures are spiritually dead, hostile to God and have no ability to come to Christ Jesus because the things of Spirit are foolish to them, the doctrine Unconditional election viz., those whom the Father gave to His Son, Effectual grace viz., the awaking of a spiritual dead person by the saving work of the Holy Spirit to see the power and beauty of cross, and Eternal assurance viz., those whom the Father gave to His Son are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of [their] inheritance until [they] acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”(Eph. 1:13-14)

Particular atonement necessarily requires a particular assembly of people from all nations, all tribes, all tongues, who were hostile to God, drawn by the Father to His Son with a power that awakes unquenchable delight and joy to the things of Spirit and are forever kept, never to perish because “no one can snatch them out of [Christ Jesus] hand”(John 10:28).

Question To Reformed Theologians: Am I correct in viewing particular atonement as solely dependent on the truthfulness of radical depravity, effectual call, unconditional election and assurance of salvation to the elect?


[1] Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997 (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.


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

Packer, J. I. (1995). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

Shedd, W. G. T., & Gomes, A. W. (2003). Dogmatic theology (3rd ed.). Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub.

35 thoughts on “Particular Atonement: Strengths And Weaknesses

  1. Hey Prayson,

    You say:

    Well David, John 3:36 state that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on Him.” and Paul contended that those who rejected the Son ” storing up wrath for [themselves] on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”(Romans 2:5-6) and those who accept Christ are “now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”(Romans 5:9).

    David: Sure, the wrath of God remains on the one who does not believe.

    J3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

    If a man is in a state of unbelief, he is subject to present wrath.

    You say: Jesus paid for ” the coming wrath”(Luke 3:7) and removed God’s wrath, and “God put forward [Christ Jesus] as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”(Rom 3:23-25 ESV)

    David: Luke there probably refers to the judgement of 70AD. But that aside, one cannot say that Christ made satisfaction only for the wrath administered in the eternal state. You really cant mean to imply that? For that would mean that my sins-receiving-wrath in life have no satisfaction for them. The death of Christ could only satisfy for my sins when I am dead, or something like that.

    You say: For 41 years God, in his forbearance, passed over Smith former sins, for He put forward Christ Jesus as propitiation by his blood Smith’s transgression.

    David: Now we come to the question. Are the living unbelieving elect subject to wrath in life, before their conversion, yes or no? Eph 2:3?

    For sure, the living unbelieving elect receive a mixed dispensation of grace and wrath in life. Grace in that God does not administer the full force of wrath and that he gives them many temporal blessings etc. But nonetheless, in life, they are subject to punishment for their sin. Here is the rub that you must obliterate ;-) in order to salvage Owen’s dilemma.

    You say: At t0 to t41 Smith is not being punished, but passed over. So I think if Dabney’s case hold to a notion of “the living unbelieving elect”, it simply fails.

    David: So the living unbelieving elect are not subject to wrath, even as the rest are (Eph 2:3)? The elect are what? Born justified? Or are they not justified, but not under wrath either? Which one is it?

    What does Eph 2:3 and Romans 1:18 mean then? The Reformed confessional view is clear enough here, Prayson. Check this out for example: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=9100

    Not that I agree with everything every Reformed confession says, but on this point, just about all the best confessions affirm the same point.

    It is a really big ask to say that the living unbelieving elect are not subject to wrath while in life, and before their conversion. That has to be so counter-intuitive to human experience and the biblical data.

    Thanks,
    David

    • Hej David,

      The more I look in on Dabney’s case, if you presented it correct, I see it not only as not persuasive, but false. I do not think Eph. 2:3 say that elects are paying for the sin that they have committed. Like non-elects/unbelievers, all have sin, and all deserved God’s punishment. All have sin, thus all are by nature children of wrath. But being a children of wrath does not mean that one is paying for the sin committed because as Hebrews 9:27-28 “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”(ESV)

      David, being subject to wrath does not mean one is paying for his sin, but that the wrath of God remain on all those who are not in Christ Jesus. God wrath is coming (Ep 3:6) and elects are delivered by Christ Jesus “from the wrath to come.”(1 Thes 1:10). Non-elects will call “to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”(Rev 6:15-17)

      Remember David, faith and continue believing in Christ, is not the cause of salvation, but it’s effect. Faith comes when God opened an elect heart to pay attention to the Gospel (Acts 16:14). Luke recorded that “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.”(Acts 13:48 emp. mine ESV)

      But what I think is a fatal flaw with Dabney’s case, as you presented it, Romans 3:23-25 clearly state that God in his divine forbearance He had passed over former sins, thus if true, Dabney’s case is false. Even though the elect were also the children of wrath, God passed over their sin, because He chose them in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and blameless before Him.

      If it is true that God passed over an elect former sins, then it is true that an elect in this time is still by nature Children of wrath but it is false that an elect pays for his sins since if that is true, then God did not pass over his former sins. It is here were I think Dabney’s case, as you presented it, fails.

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

  2. You say: Sound interesting David. I have send a Facebook request :)

    David: There is also a Th.M written by a grad student of Reformed Theological Seminary. It presents an academically orientated exegetical analysis and critique of Owen’s Death of Death. I can send you a download link to it. He really should have upgraded it to a Ph.D as its very good. Chambers bypasses all the normal stuff that gets readers and theologians bogged down.

    At the bottom of my “about page” I list my name and email address: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=6

    Let me know if you want to read it.
    David.

  3. Hey there Prayson,

    You say: If Dabney’s case hold to a notion of “the living unbelieving elect”, then I think, I do not find it persuasive because an elect is a person who is chose in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God. A person who, in love, God predestined for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to God’s will and grace.(Eph. 1:4-6)

    David: Normally people read that verse as God chose the elect *to* *be* holy and blameless. The elect are chosen out of the corrupt mass of humanity according to all infralapsarians and mainstream Calvinists.

    You say: Unbelieving elect seams to be a contradiction because even thought at t0, elect A is not believing in Christ Jesus, at tx, A would necessarily believe in Christ. When I talk about elect, I talk about A at tx.

    David: I don’t know what’s contradictory about it. Let’s say Smith has been elected to salvation. At age 42 he is regenerated and converted. From years 1-41 he was both elect and unsaved (unregenerated). And in years 1-41 he was subject to divine punishment for his sins (Eph 2:3 and Romans 1:18). So what is the problem?

    For 41 years he was being punished for the same sins for which Christ had made a satisfaction for. This itself refutes Owen’s assertion that God cannot punish the sin in two persons.

    The double-payment argument is defeated on that point alone. Its just invalid to assert that God CANNOT punish the same sin in two different persons.

    Thanks,
    David

    • Well David, John 3:36 state that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on Him.” and Paul contended that those who rejected the Son ” storing up wrath for [themselves] on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”(Romans 2:5-6) and those who accept Christ are “now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”(Romans 5:9).

      Jesus paid for ” the coming wrath”(Luke 3:7) and removed God’s wrath, and “God put forward [Christ Jesus] as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”(Rom 3:23-25 ESV)

      For 41 years God, in his forbearance, passed over Smith former sins, for He put forward Christ Jesus as propitiation by his blood Smith’s transgression.

      At t0 to t41 Smith is not being punished, but passed over. So I think if Dabney’s case hold to a notion of “the living unbelieving elect”, it simply fails.

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

  4. Hey Prayson,

    Hej David. I believe I agree with you 98%, but the 2%, I think that Christ atonement was definite to secure the salvation of God’s elect. I try as much as possible to avoid tags- TULIP for I believe, they are misleading. I try to give names that are close to what was articulated in the Canon of Dordt.

    David: Okay, but what does “definite” mean? Today if you ask any 5 point Calvinist they will say definite denotes exclusivity, not simply “specialness.”

    So as I said, the root is “for whose sins was Christ punished?” Answer that, and one gives meaning to the word “definite.”

    Like this. We can split the question into two sub-ideas, extent and intent.

    If we ask the Arminian, was the extent of the satisfaction for all or the elect alone, he will say for all. If we ask him, for whom was the satisfaction “intended” to save, he will say it was intended to so save all men, and so for no one specially or exclusively.

    Extent speaks to the nature of the satisfaction and imputation of sin. Extent speaks to the question of whether or not the sins of the elect alone were imputed (charged) to Christ, or whether or not the sins of all men were imputed (charged) to Christ.

    Evangelical Arminians: Extent: unlimited; intent: unlimited.
    5 Point Calvinists: Extent: limited; intent: limited.
    Moderate Calvinists: Extent: unlimited; intent; limited.

    If by the terms “definite” or “particular” you want only to speak to the limited intent to apply, that is one thing, but any argument that limits the extent, then you speak to something more.

    You say: David, I did invoke the double-payment argument, John Owen did, and I find it persuasive. What I contended was that Christ died to pay for those whom God elected.

    And that it seems that if Christ died to pay for those whom God elected, and those whom God did not elect, then it would follow that both elects and non.elects sins are paid for, thus I do not see how God would require another payment for their sins.

    David: Yeah, there it is. The double-payment argument with its assumption that God cannot punish two persons for the same sin. God cannot punish sin X, in Christ, and then punish sin X in the person for whom Christ was punished.

    Clear? But as Dabney says, this refuted by the fact that in life, the living unbelieving elect are punished for sins, the very sins for which Christ was punished. You have to decide, then, are the living unbelieving elect, in life, punished for their sins, along with the rest of the wicked (Eph 2:3, etc). Answer that, and you can begin to solve Owen’s riddle. One can begin to see that the riddle itself is just wrong.

    The second reason why Owen’s argument is wrong because it only works by seeing the satisfaction of Christ as working like a money payment. Some of the material here may help you sort out the difference between a criminal satisfaction and a money satisfaction: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7331

    You say: You could persuade me otherwise by showing how non-elects paid sin would not lead to universal salvation.

    David: There is a condition attached namely “faith.” God says, the satisfaction of Christ for you will be applied to you, if and only if you have faith. If you do not have faith, then you will pay in your own person for your own sins.

    Owen’s problem is that he wants an atonement for belief. But that confuses criminal and money satisfaction.

    You say: The case I am trying to make is that those whom God elected will believe in Christ, thus they are believers. And it is this group that Christ died for. The Bible makes it clear that we believe(and keep believing) because we are elected before the foundation of the world.

    David: There are a number of things I can say to this. Simplest: No where in Scripture does it say that if Christ dies for a man, that man will not fail to be saved. Christ can die for a man, and yet that man fail to be saved.

    2 Peter 2:1
    Heb 10:26
    Heb 10:29

    These verses speak against the above assumption. Show me where it says that if Christ dies for a man, he cannot fail to be saved? Or that he must be saved? Make sense?

    Why I ask this statement-question is to show you that your question is wrong on its head: “You could persuade me otherwise by showing how non-elects paid sin would not lead to universal salvation.”

    Your statement-question is already moving in the wrong direction. For it already assumes that if Christ dies for a man, that man cannot fail to be saved. It is this assumption that you really need to prove.

    But now, you cant prove it by resorting to a monetary satisfaction model, because there is a difference between penal and commercial (civil) satisfactions. Do you understand this distinction? It is no shame if you do not.

    Thanks for your time,
    David

    • Thank you David.

      If Dabney’s case hold to a notion of “the living unbelieving elect”, then I think, I do not find it persuasive because an elect is a person who is chose in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God. A person who, in love, God predestined for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to God’s will and grace.(Eph. 1:4-6)

      Unbelieving elect seams to be a contradiction because even thought at t0, elect A is not believing in Christ Jesus, at tx, A would necessarily believe in Christ. When I talk about elect, I talk about A at tx.

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

  5. Hey Prayson,

    You say: You are totally right David, but I did not claim they held limited atonement, but particular/definite atonement. I know that, e.g. Calvin contended for universal reconciliation, God reconciling with the whole world, though he held particular atonement.

    David: I think you are just trading on the ambiguity again. “Atonement” originally meant reconciliation in early English writings. Later, about the middle to later 17thC you begin to see hints of it being used as a synonym for satisfaction. Where folk used Latin for their theological discourse, satisfaction was the word of choice, along with expiation and propitiation. In England, and with English writers, “atonement” became the dominant term, especially by the 18thC. So Calvin could not have held to particular “atonement” (as opposed to limited atonement??). For Calvin the satisfaction or expiation or propitiation was for all sinners. There is no evidence that Calvin, himself, believed in a limited satisfaction. Dont say “atonement” here cos Calvin never used that word. :-) Atonement is a purely English word, and theologically it came to correspond exactly to the Latin words satisfactio, expiatio, and propitiatio. By the 18thC, all these words came to be summed up by the word “atonement” even tho they were still used in parallel to “atonement” in English theological writing.

    You say: I would have to go back to the giants, read them again and possibly post an article showing if, or if not they taught definite atonement. For now I need to hold my judgement :)

    David: You want find it in the main Reformers. The earliest hint of a limited satisfaction is in the writings of one minor English Reformer. The major English Reformers, Cranmer, Hooper, Ridley, and Latimer, all held to an unlimited reading.

    Again, all the relevant documentation is posted here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7147

    If you have an email address I can send along a pdf copy of the part one of the published article Ive just written.

    Thanks,
    David

  6. G’day Prayson,

    You say: As I showed in the strength of Universe Atonement, you are correct in claiming that when Jesus said he gave his life to the sheep, does not necessary limit it only to the elect. This though does not negate the case that Jesus died particularly for the sheep. From those passage, it seems that Jesus came to redeem those whom the Father draws to Him.

    David: I think the word “particularly” is an ambiguous word. It can mean “exclusively” or it can be used to mean “especially”. It’s actually not a good word. In the 18thC when it became popular among the English Baptists it clearly meant the sense of exclusively. Grab a good dictionary and you should see the range of meanings.

    One needs to define particular or limited atonement in a way that is completely unambiguous. Here is the best definition I can think of, of which all sides clearly understand and can give categorical and unambiguous answers to:

    “For whose sins was Christ punished?”

    If you say “For the elect alone,” then you are in the limited camp, no matter what label one wants to tag it with. If you say “For the sins of all men,” then you are in the unlimited camp, no matter what label one wants to tag it with.

    An equivalent question would be: “Whose sins were imputed or charged to Christ?” The limited satisfaction/atonement or classic particular redemption advocate would say, “The sins of the elect alone.” These two questions get to the heart of the debate and subject like no other. Everyone understands them and their implications. And so here we can totally leave aside all the various and/or ambiguous tags and labels.

    So here are the issues as I see them.

    1) At any point one enlists the double-payment argument one is arguing for an exclusive and limited satisfaction for the sins of the elect. The double payment argument, by definition, pre-determines the question: “For whose sins was Christ punished?” The double-payment argument insists the answer can only be “For the sins of the elect exclusively.”

    2) At any time those verses are used to prove a (limited) satisfaction for the sins of the elect alone, then one is committing the fallacy of inferring a universal negative from a simple positive, and that is always invalid. It is never good to attempt to ground a doctrine in invalid inferences. Rather, all simple positives can do is press “emphasis” as Dabney says. When Bill say to his wife, “I love you” he is making a point, to emphasize something. But never would his wife infer exclusivity from that statement.

    3) The position I hold to is classic-moderate Calvinism. This original form of Calvinism affirms all the classic Predestinarian distinctives, but denies the idea of a limited satisfaction or limited imputation of sin. When one abandons limited satisfaction, one does not have to abandon predestination and other related biblical doctrines.

    Classic-moderate Calvinism holds that while Christ died for the sins of all men (was punished in behalf of the sins of all) as to the sufficiency of the satisfaction, he suffered and died for the elect alone as to the efficiency (of application) of the satisfaction. This is the classic Lombard formula. Christ died for all men, generally, but for the elect especially.

    You say: Remember I do not use limited atonement because I think both Arminians and Reformed theologians limits the atonement in one way or another to avoid universal salvation.

    David: Sure, but the moment you use or subscribe to the double-payment argument you categorically affirm a limitation in the satisfaction. Like this, 10 men are in jail for crimes all deserving the same punishment, namely death. On Owen’s double payment view, the crimes of only 4 men were “imputed” or “charged” to Christ.

    The very nature of the satisfaction is limited by the fact that the imputation of sins is limited, quantifiable, finite and fixed. In this analogy, the satisfaction of Christ is only applicable and sufficient for all. All Owen can say is that Christ could have had more sin imputed to him, and then his satisfaction would have been sufficient for more also.

    And so, as Christ only suffered for the sins of the 4 men in this analogy, they must be saved, for they cannot be punished in their own person for their own sins (says Owen).

    This quantitative view of imputation of sin is the heart of the double-payment argument and all modern day arguments for limited satisfaction or particular redemption (as defined in the mainstream literature) or limited atonement.

    The issue of how Arminians “limit” the atonement (satisfaction) or redemption (as not all are finally redeemed anyway) is beside the point. Right? You can see that? The issue regards the limitation of imputed sin to Christ, which entails a limited satisfaction (if you like, penal payment).

    The problem is, nowhere in Scripture can such a limitation of imputed sin and a limited satisfaction be established by way of valid logical and exegetical inferences.

    You say: I think an elect is a believer and a believer is an elect, thus I fail to see the case in logical fallacy two. :D

    David: While all believers are elect, not all elect are believers. You should be able to see this, Prayson. Paul was an elect person, even while he was ordering the stoning of believers. But yet he was not a believer.

    And when Paul in Ephesians says Christ gave himself up for the Church, SO THAT HE MIGHT PRESENT them to the Father, any and every Arminian would totally agree. Here Church means, first and foremost, the body of believers. There is just no grounds in that verse for a limited imputation of sin to Christ or limited satisfaction. The most one can infer is a special intention to save and glorify the Church, which by another inference is the Elect. That is fine, but the verse in no way proves a limited imputation of sin to Christ. Does that make sense now?

    You say: David, I did not contend for limited satisfaction, but particular atonement, namely Christ came to save those whom the Father draw to Him. Those whom God called, justified, predestine and glorified.

    David: Okay, but keep in mind you cannot have your cake and eat it to. You cannot invoke the double-payment argument and then deny that the satisfaction is limited to the sins of the elect alone. If one wants to argue for a special reference to the satisfaction (as to its intended application) that is fine; but if an exclusive reference of the satisfaction and imputed sin, then that’s beyond the range of what Scripture implies.

    If you have to figure what is the exact line of theological demarcation and distinction you wish to argue for. If you only want to argue for special intention, alongside a general intention in Christ’s “dying for” the sins of all men, that is one thing and well and good. However, if one wants to claim that Christ died only for the sins of the elect, then that is another issue. As I read you, you seem to want to use a broader category (eg., Christ died especially for the elect) but you want to sustain that by way of “exclusive” theological premises and arguments. Does that make sense? Think about it anyway. Relatively speaking, there is all the time in the world, so there is no need to rush.

    Thanks for your time and patience,
    David

    • Hej David. I believe I agree with you 98%, but the 2%, I think that Christ atonement was definite to secure the salvation of God’s elect. I try as much as possible to avoid tags- TULIP for I believe, they are misleading. I try to give names that are close to what was articulated in the Canon of Dordt.

      David, I did invoke the double-payment argument, John Owen did, and I find it persuasive. What I contended was that Christ died to pay for those whom God elected. And that it seems that if Chrst died to pay for those whom God elected, and those whom God did not elect, then it would follow that both elects and non.elects sins are paid for, thus I do not see how God would require another payment for their sins. You could persuade me otherwise by showing how non-elects paid sin would not lead to universal salvation.

      The case I am trying to make is that those whom God elected will believe in Christ, thus they are believers. And it is this group that Christ died for. The Bible makes it clear that we believe(and keep believing) because we are elected before the foundation of the world.

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

  7. Here is another problem with the standard arguments for limited satisfaction. Prayson, you say:
    “There is a list of text one could bring about to show that Christ died particularly for his sheep, namely the Church. John 10:11,15, Acts 20:28, Rom. 8:32-3, Eph. 5:25, John 6:37–39, John 17:20, Rom. 5:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:7, Gal. 3:13.”

    David: There are actually two logical fallacies being tacitly invoked here.

    Assuming that particularly is equivalent to “only” as it does in standard TULIP literature.

    1) The negative inference fallacy.

    If John says to Mary, “I love you” it would be wrong to infer that he only loved Mary. The rule is one cannot infer universal negatives from simple positives. Examples of simple positives could be, “when you come to dinner, be sure to bring the bottle of wine.” Here one is not saying only the wine.

    Similarly, John says to Mary: “I would die for you!” does not mean, “only for you.” Suppose John is both husband and father, that he would die for his children as well. Or son, that he would die for his parents.

    All the verses you cite speak to Christ dying for his people, the church. They do not preclude hm dying or others not his church. Like this: Peter says has given chocolate to Sue, Buddy, Linda, and Andrew. This would be a true statement even tho he has given chocolate to Kyle, Betty, Morris, and Nigel.

    2) The problem is ambiguity of terms. For example in Eph 5, Christ gives himself up for the church. The church here is the body of believers. The body of believers, we can call a class or set, is not identical to the class or set “elect.” Proving that Christ gave himself up for the Church–even Arminians could agree with this–does not prove that he gave himself up only for the elect.

    The same with Sheep. In the Bible, “sheep” is a metaphor for the faithful. Christ simply says he lays down hsi life for the faithful, and so the contrast is not for whom he did or did not die for, but that he lays his life down for them, whereas the hireling runs away. John 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. Jesus’ actual point is that he is the good and true shepherd who lays his like down for the sheep, whereas the Pharisees and co., are comparable to the hireling.

    Dabney nails the problem here: In proof of the general correctness of this theory of the extent of the Atonement, we should attach but partial force to some of the arguments advanced by Symington and others, or even by Turrettin, e.g., That Christ says, He died “for His sheep,” for “His Church,” for “His friends,” is not of itself conclusive. The proof of a proposition does not disprove its converse. All the force which we could properly attach to this class of passages is the probability arising from the frequent and emphatic repetition of this affirmative statement as to a definite object. Dabney, Lectures, p., 521.

    David: If limited satisfaction can only be sustained by use of invalid inferences then its in big trouble. :-)

    Hope that helps,
    David

    • Thank you David for a robust comment. There is so much truth from what you said David. I find your case plausible( the two logical fallacies) but not convincing for me to change my view on particular atonement yet.

      As I showed in the strength of Universe Atonement, you are correct in claiming that when Jesus said he gave his life to the sheep, does not necessary limit it only to the elect. This though does not negate the case that Jesus died particularly for the sheep. From those passage, it seems that Jesus came to redeem those whom the Father draws to Him.

      Remember I do not use limited atonement because I think both Arminians and Reformed theologians limits the atonement in one way or another to avoid universal salvation.

      I think an elect is a believer and a believer is an elect, thus I fail to see the case in logical fallacy two. :D

      David, I did not contend for limited satisfaction, but particular atonement, namely Christ came to save those whom the Father draw to Him. Those whom God called, justified, predestine and glorified.

      Hope that clarifies.
      Prayson

  8. Hey there, if I may say, one more comment from me:

    You say: The more I understood, the more I began to know why Christians giants like Augustin, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin held this view

    David: The thing is, none of those men held to limited satisfaction or “limited atonement” as defined by the modern TULIP or “Five-Points of Calvinism. The reason why so many think they did hold to it is all based on secondary source works. The primary source evidence, tho, paints a very different picture. Again, if you like, you can see all the documentation here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7147

    All you have to do is click that link, pick an author have a read. If you disagree with any of the documentation, let me know and we can talk about it if you wish.

    Ive recently had part 1 of my article on Calvin and the extent of the satisfaction published in Southwestern Journal of Theology 55 (2012): 139-159, where I present a case for the Reformed doctrine of unlimited satisfaction.

    • You are totally right David, but I did not claim they held limited atonement, but particular/definite atonement. I know that, e.g. Calvin contended for universal reconciliation, God reconciling with the whole world, though he held particular atonement.

      I would have to go back to the giants, read them again and possibly post an article showing if, or if not they taught definite atonement. For now I need to hold my judgement :)

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

  9. Hey there again,

    If I may interject some comments again.

    1) You should keep in mind that there is no “one” Reformed position on the extent of the satisfaction. Calvin, Luther, Bullinger, Musculus and many first and second generation Reformers held that Christ suffered for the sins of all men. This is pretty easy to document. 2) By the 19thC there were at least two understandings among American Presbyterians regarding atonement and redemption. Many of the New Schoolers said that the atonement (or expiation; Dabney) was unlimited, while redemption is limited. In this group we have such men as Dabney, Shedd, Henry B. Smith, Woods, and others. Thus when you read Shedd up there in your main piece, thats not accurate for Shedd.

    Shedd for example: VOL. II., p. 441. The expiation of sin is distinguishable from the pardon of it. The former, conceivably, might take place and the latter not. When Christ died on Calvary, the whole mass, so to speak, human sin was expiated merely by that death; but the whole mass was not pardoned merely by that death. The claims of law and justice for the sins of the whole world were satisfied by the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10); but the sins of every individual man were not forgiven and “blotted out” by this transaction. Still another transaction was requisite in order to this: namely, the work of the Holy Spirit…. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3:418.

    It does not mean that Christ’s vicarious atonement naturally and necessarily saves every man; because the relation of Christ’s atonement to divine justice is one thing, but the relation of a particular person to Christ’s atonement is a very different thing. Christ’s death as related to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly. It is an infinite “propitiation for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2. But the relation of an impenitent person to this atonement, is that of unbelief and rejection of it. Consequently, what the atonement has effected objectively in reference to the attribute of divine justice, is not effected subjectively in the conscience of the individual. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:437.

    For Shedd: Since redemption implies the application of Christ’s atonement, universal or unlimited redemption cannot logically be affirmed by any who hold that faith is wholly the gift of God, and that saving grace is bestowed solely by election. The use of the term “redemption,” consequently, is attended with less ambiguity than that of “atonement,” and it is the term most commonly employed in controversial theology. Atonement is unlimited, and redemption is limited. This statement includes all the Scripture texts: those which assert that Christ died for all men, and those which assert that he died for his people. He who asserts unlimited atonement, and limited redemption, cannot well be misconceived. He is understood to hold that the sacrifice of Christ is unlimited in its value, sufficiency, and publication, but limited in its effectual application. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:470. Cross reference Dabney, Lectures, p., 528. This distinction between atonement and redemption has been lost today by Reformed historians, yet it was so prevalent in the 19thC that it is amazing that it has been forgotten. You can see more here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7341

    3) Theologically, the argument that the intercession is co-extensive with the satisfaction or expiation is problematic to say the least. In simple terms, the argument says, all died-for are effectually pray-for. Then the argument goes that as Christ does not effectually pray for all men, he, therefore, did not die for all men. The problem is, there is no evidence for the assertion that Christ effectually prays for all those for whom he died. John 17:9 and the chapter, says nothing about the extent of the satisfaction. And the “world” there is contrasted to the 11 disciples (from the context). The “world” is not the world of the non-elect, but the world of unbelief. Later in 17:21ff he actually does pray for this world in some sense. In Hebrews, the prayer of intercession is always limited to “those who come to him.” As an example: Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

    As a strict TULIP proponent to show you a verse or valid and sound inference that Christ effectually prays for all those for whom he died? You will never get any answer. All they can do is cite verses which speak to Christ praying for all those who come to him, or who have believed (compare Heb 10:14 with v10).

    Thanks for your time,
    David

  10. I know this isn’t a new idea and that it has it’s problems in the minds of some, but I have no problem with the position that atonement was obtained for all, but only the elect will receive Christ and His atonement. To me, its not unlike the Father not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; yet, only a “few” will actually receive the gift of salvation, whereas it is available for all who are willing. The key is how did the few get to the point of being willing to receive Jesus, salvation, eternal life and atonement. And, of course, the answer is that God intends to do whatever it takes to save only His elect by making them willing, and that’s what He does.

  11. Hi there,

    I think that the degree to which particular atonement is dependent upon the other reformed points varies. For instance, I think that its mostly heavily tied to election, but is less so tied to effectual grace, and even less so to radical depravity. I think it’s fair to say that it is certainly tied, but more fair to say those ties come in degrees. You may have the latter in mind, anyways.

    My question concerning particular atonement is this: it seems to be a logical necessity concerning the truths of scripture, but is there much scriptural basis? That is, when you take the texts for and against the view and lay them side by side, they seem to even out. I’m inclined to think that I’m missing something and it is taught clearly somewhere, but I haven’t found that.

    And what do you all think of the “Unlimited Limited Atonement” type view, though poorly named. What distinguishes Christ’s dying for the whole world and His dying for the elect and, in particular, what does a sinner gain from Christ’s death if not salvation?

    • Christ’s sacrifice through his death burial and resurrection serves as an invitation to all of humanity who choose to believe to spend eternity in paradise and perfection through and in God. This is loudly proclaimed for ALL (the whole world). His sacrifice becomes grace for those that accept his invitation therefore becoming the elect or the “church” which is synonymous.

    • Thank you Devon and Tim. I totally agree. there is a degree to which it aligns with other elements in doctrines of grace.

      There is a list of text one could bring about to show that Christ died particularly for his sheep, namely the Church. John 10:11,15, Acts 20:28, Rom. 8:32-3, Eph. 5:25, John 6:37–39, John 17:20, Rom. 5:8-10, 2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:7, Gal. 3:13 (were Paul talks about the “us” the Church) but at the same time a case could be given for universal atonement John 1:29, John 6:51, 2 Cor. 5:19, 1 John 2:2, 1 Tim. 2:6, Heb. 2:9 and 2 Peter 2:1; cf. Heb. 10:29.

      Since I think the case cannot be decided by proof-texting, for there are good passages for both particular and universal aspect of the atoning work of Christ Jesus. It is only logically that I am persuaded towards particular atonement because I do not see how universal atonement avoid universal salvation, which is totally unbiblical. I think one could combine the two view and contend that there is a sense in which atonement is universe, namely God reconciling the whole world to Himself, and particular, God drawing some, the elect, to His Son.

      What I believe I would sweetly disagree, Tim, is that one does not become an elect when she accept Jesus, but the Bible shows that it is the other way around, namely that one accept Jesus because she is an elect.(Re: Acts 13:48 and Eph. 1:3-11)

      I wrote a similar article Universal Atonement: Strengths and Weaknesses. I hope I help a little Devon.
      Prayson

      • Prayson

        Maybe it is possible for both ideas to exist together, I see no reason why one could not accept Jesus because they are elect (if God choses) and one accepts Jesus to become a part of the elect. Paul talks about we are all clay to be used by God however he chooses. So I am entertaining the idea that God perhaps creates certain people as the “elect” purely for his glorification and he may also create an entirely separate being destined to have the decision between eternal life or hell.

        Basically, 13:48 in Acts i think is alluding to a set of people who at that moment were facing decision time (appointed) and they chose to become part of the elect, or its possible they were created by God and set apart for this specific time to glorify him.

        I hope you see what I am trying to say. Look forward to hearing back from you!

        Devon what are your thoughts?

      • Dear Tim. I think both ideas cannot exist together because there are only two groups, the elect and non-elect. Acts 13:48 “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.”(ESV) It does not say that those who were facing decision time became part of the elect, but those who decided decided because they were appointed/elected.

        Tim, Jesus Himself when asked why he spoke in parable, He answered: “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”(Mark 4:11-12 emp. mine).

        I see what you are trying to say Tim, but I think salvation so solely God’s. From beginning to finish. All have sin and well deserve hell, but for God’s grace and mercy, He chose some who deserved hell, and gave them eternal life. That is amazing grace. We are not having eternal life because we decided, but because of God and God alone. I defended this position when I looked at three understanding of Romans 9:14-25.

        Yours in Christ,
        Prayson

  12. I’m not sure I would answer yes to that question. It seems to me that you could be an arminian-molinist and say that God before creation knew who would if they were given the genuinely free opportunity, say yes to God’s prevenient grace and be saved. And therefore knowing on that basis who would come to him, only die for them.

    • Hej Søren. It is a pleasure to have your input. I believe one could press that view with asking if God’s foreknowledge independent from God’s fore-ordination? Does God foreknow because He fore-ordained, or does He fore-ordained because He foreknew, or both?

      • In answer to the question, I would say (along side Craig) that God’s foreordination is based on his natural knowledge and his middle knowledge. This should be distingished from his free knowledge (understood as God’s knowledge of the created word) which is what I presume you mean by foreknowledge. God isn’t foreknowing on the basis of his foreordination, which i take as the reformed perspective. Neither is
        God foreordaning on the basis of his forknowledge (of the created world ). This would be what Craig calls simple-arminianism where foreordination/predestination is a “fifth wheel”. It is however on the basis of his natural knowledge and his middle knowledge that his foreordination is based. So I opt for somewhat of the second option you give, with the qualification that foreknowledge isn’t just looking through the corridors of time ahead, and foreordaning that what will happend, will happend.
        How do you think the question challenges the compatibility of limited atonement with molinism?

        In the meantime I have had second thougts. Maybe you after all have to belief in unlimited atonement to be arminian-molinist. You have to belief that salvation is geniunly possible for all people which isn’t possible given particular atonement as I understand it? So yes to your question about particular atonement being dependent on the rest of the system :)

      • Tusind Tak Søren. It is an honor to have your brilliant mind as we wrestle to understand our awesome God.

        I believe Reformed could respond as follows:

        1. If God’s fore-ordination is based on natural knowledge and his middle knowledge of what person X would response to prevenient grace, then it is because of person X response(will) that God fore-ordained person X destination.
        2. If is not the case that it is because of person x response(will) that God fore-ordained person X destination.
        3. Therefore it is not the case that God’s fore-ordination is based on natural knowledge and his middle knowledge of what person X would response to prevenient grace.

        The reason I think (2) is correct is John recorded that those whom believed in Christ Jesus ” were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”(John 1:12-13), Romans 9:14-25, that where it is absurd for God to claim that He will have mercy on whom He have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He have compassion(v.15), for what He would have meant is He will have mercy and compassion on whom response to prevenient grace. Plus Paul’s: ” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”(v.16) would be, I believe, meaningless.

        The problem I have with response to prevenient grace as the base of fore-ordination, I think, is that God showing mercy and compassion, contrary to Paul, then depends on human will, namely his response toward prevenient grace, and thus depends both on God, who has mercy, and man who responded toward prevenient grace.

        I am looking forward for your thoughts Søren.

        I Kristus,
        Prayson

      • Thank you for your kind words. I really think you have started something important for the course of christ with this blog! To the discussion: You say God’s foreordination can not be based on God’s natural knowledge and his middle knowledge because of john 1:12-13 and romans 9:14-25. I’ll anwer them seperately and in a summury fasion.
        john 1:12-13 isn’t as far as I see concerned with the question of election, but it is of regeneration so im not sure I think it has bearing on whether God’s foreordination is based on his foreknowledge or the other way around. Either way, vers 12 says “all who recieve him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”. Here I think the point is made that we become children of God by faith. This is repeated then in a paralel expression that we are born of God. The referece to “The will of man” just means that it is God who regenerate us, we do not regenerate ourselves.
        Romans 9:14-25 is a hard passage I admitt, I’m still looking for interprtations. I found this helpfull: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5cx2H1rS6E – it contends that rom 9:14-18 is not to be understood as narrowing the scope of election. Rather it is to be understood as God offering the salvation to the gentiles after Israels rebellion and hardening (he is broadening the scope). This is a provocative thought for the jews because they thought they were saved because of there forefarthers, therefore the question in vers 14. Israel’s rebellion will God use (via his middle knowledge) to give gentiles the opportunity of salvation. The pendulum then swings back, and a great number of (national) Israel will again be saved when the full number of gentiles has come in (11:26).
        The mention of Esau and Isaac is not meant to refer to individuals because it is a reference to Mal 1:2-3 where it probably refers to nations (see ESV study bible note). God choose Israel (through Isaac) as a corporate entity over against the Edom (through Esau) which were the enemies of Israel at that time.

      • Hej igen Søren,

        Thank you for a robust comment.

        Before I begin to address your comment, I would say that, even if true, it does not rebut the case I made, but it would only show that the verses I offered are not good to support premise 2, and not that premise 2 is not true. For it not to be true, I believe, one need to give a case against premise 2(showing that it is the case that God’s fore-ordination is based on natural knowledge and his middle knowledge of what person X would response to prevenient grace.).

        I think you are very correct, that John 1:12-13 deals with regeneration and not election. Thus I believe you are very correct that it is not showing the truthfulness of premise two.

        I am aware of the case made in the youtube video, I address it in my three articles on Romans 9:14-25 were I went through different understandings.

        From Paul’s 1 Corinthians 2:14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” and
        Romans 8:7–8 “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” gives doubt that given prevenient grace, natural/fleshy person would choice Christ.

        John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” seems to be false, since those who response to prevenient grace, can come to Jesus.

        Søren,I am not sure there are Bible passages that show that God offered prevenient grace to all, but I might be very wrong :)

        Yours in Christ,
        Prayson

  13. I’d answer your question, but I’m not Reformed. :P All joking aside, I do think you’re right. All five points of TULIP seem to rest on each other for support, and one must presuppose their correctness.

    • Thank you.

      I think you are right.

      I find TULIP acronym a bit misleading. I prefer radical depravity to total depravity, effectual grace to irresistible grace, and particular atonement to limited atonement for they are terms I believe close to what classical Dutch reformed contended :D

      Yours in Christ,
      Prayson

      BTW: What is your name, if I may ask?

      • So is radical depravity the “old”total depravity?

        I’ve know it as total depravity for a long time. The depraved condition of the human soul provides the context on which to consider the work of Christ and it’s value.

      • Yes. I found out, when I were not Reformed, that I was put off by these tags until I started reading Augustin, Luther and Calvin. If you wish to understand the five points which were a response to five points of Arminianism read the Canons of Dordt.

        I prefer radical depravity because I believe we still bare the image of God though radically, but not totally, corrupted. It is the same with effectual grace, a grace that transform a heart of stone to flesh, life from spiritual dead, sight from spiritual blind and ears from spiritual deaf to see the infinite beauty and glory of God. Since we always freely act according to our greatest natural desire, effectual grace makes God our greatest desire thus we freely in joy and delight run towards Him. All classical Reformed agreed that grace is resisted each day.

        Particular atonement is also far better than limitted atonement because both Reformed and Arminians limits the atonement in a way to avoid universal salvation. Arminians believes that man limits it since they need to actualize it, while Reformed believes God limits to the elect.

        The more I understood, the more I began to know why Christians giants like Augustin, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin held this view. :)

        Prayson

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