Luther, Calvin, Arminius and I: Universality and Particularity of Atonement

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Mini

The shed blood of Christ Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” wrote the author the first epistle of John (1 John 2:2 NIV). This article presents a universality and particularity of atonement and showed that Martin Luther, John Calvin and Jacob Arminius held a similar understanding of the nature and extent of atonement.

I have studied and reflected 1 John 2:2 for the last 5 months. I have come to a conclusion that Christ shed his blood for all, post-Christ’s death and resurrection, without exception. This is the universality of the atoning work of Christ Jesus. The story, nonetheless, does not end here. The shed blood of Christ is, however, not extended to all without exception but to all without distinction. This is the particularity of the atoning work of Christ Jesus.

The shed blood of Christ extends or is applied particularly to believers, the elected or the called, whom in God’s proper time are also given the gift of regeneration that spring forth faith to receive it (Acts 13:48). Through the shedding of His blood, Christ’s righteousness is thus given to all without distinction.  Christ’s righteousness is given to whomever believe (Rom. 3:22) in the person and work of Christ Jesus. Continue reading

John Owen’s Argument Against Unlimited Atonement

Atonement Nails

When limited atonement is discussed, John Owen’s argument in The Death of Death (see Owen’s argument and  Prayson’s treatment of the argument) is often evoked. The argument shortly stated is that if Christ died for the sins of all people (unlimited atonement), what about the sin of unbelief? Doesn’t this make God unjust because Christ Jesus can’t pay the penalty for unbelief and yet let unbelievers pay it again in hell? And since universalism (Christ died effectually for all people securing their salvation) is unacceptable, this leads many to say that atonement has to be definite and limited in scope in order for it to be effectual. Christ dies and pays the penalty for the sins of the elect.

There are plenty of exegetical discussions on the relevant texts (e.g 1.Tim 2:4, 2. Peter 2:1, 1.John 2:2 etc.), so I will rehearse here.  I do, though, want to present a principled objection that John Owen’s argument proves to much (Jordan Cooper, a Lutheran minister makes this point in the podcast “limited atonement part 5”, which I am here summarizing). If unbelief is a sin which Christ atoned for, for the elect, then that sin was also paid for before the elect was regenerate. This means that the elect had atonement for the sin of unbelief which would make faith unnecessary, which leads to the view called eternal justification. Some hyper-Calvinist would bit the bullet argue for this but most Calvinist would still maintain that justification happens in time by faith. The elect appropriate the benefits of the atonement by faith they would say. But in making this step Owen’s argument collapses because this this is exactly what the Lutheran and the Arminian would say, that the atonement is only applied by faith. So Owen’s argument proves to much.

About Guest Contributor

SorenSøren D. Øhrstrøm is 24 years, lives in Aalborg, Denmark. He hold B.A. in Social Sciences from Aalborg University with Study of Religion as a supplementary subject from Aarhus University. He is currently enjoying life at a Bible school in Israel with his wonderful girlfriend Miriam.