Calvinism's TULIP pt. 8
By way of review, the doctrinal assertion Limited Atonement states that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the elect and that the extent of His atoning work ends there – His blood was not spilled for the sins of those who reject Him.
The other side of the argument would state that Christ’s death upon the cross was designed to include all mankind, whether or not they believe. To those who come to saving faith (belief in Christ as their Savior) the blood of Christ is redemptively applied and to those who do not believe, it is not.
Let me begin this segment of our consideration by pointing out that most of historical Christianity seems to have held this latter view prior to the time it became an issue – around the time of the Reformation. Looking for writings by the ancient church fathers on this topic will leave you disappointed. Augustine alone seems to have sounded a bit of a ‘limited atonement’ chord, but even that is disagreed upon. It is during the 16th century that we first see this debate in Christian history.
Let me further concede that a huge hurdle for those holding to a view of limited atonement is the common understanding of words – the Bible says that Jesus died for all. How many ways can you define ‘all’? For my thinking, you understand ‘all’ to mean ‘all’ unless you have a compelling reason to narrow its definition – to say ‘all the football players’ or ‘all the people who eat pizza’, for instance. (*I use those examples because we will be eating pizza and playing football in heaven as the elect, I have no doubt… in fact Audio Adrenaline wrote a song about it a decade ago!)
Take a look at Isaiah 53:6, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 4:10, and Hebrews 2:4. Can you make sense out of narrowing the scope of those statements? Do a quick word search (those of you with nifty Jesus Freak software) on the word ‘world’ in John’s gospel. Do you find even one place where its scope is narrowed to refer to a select group or people?
(Darinism Alert) Here’s my take: People on both sides of the argument are trying to preserve an important distinction.
Calvinists touting Limited Atonement are striving to uphold the assuredness of salvation and God’s particular will in saving (revisit Unconditional Election). Thus, salvation really does become the volitional work of God – there will be none lost for whom He had shed blood, due say, to the church’s ineptitude in communicating the gospel or reaching the ends of the earth.
Those who hold a General Atonement view are also striving to protect what is vitally important – the integrity of the Word of God, when we’re told that Christ died for the sins of mankind, and that the gospel is to be offered to ‘every creature’ on earth.
So, what do you think? How, if at all, does either view affect your heart or effect your manner of following Christ? I’m interested to hear from you.