Best Defense of UNlimited Atonement

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Theoretical, Jan 23, 2007.

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  1. Gloria

    Gloria Puritan Board Sophomore

    Agreed. The argument would come in who is doing the limiting. I think an arminian would argue that man does it when he doesn't choose God, while a calvinist would argue that God does it because he only chose some.
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    This book is not a defence of unlimited atonement, it is a defence of the unlimited use of reason in matters of faith. John Goodwin was no Puritan. Richard Resbury, a true Puritan, calls him a "Lightless Star" in the title of his reply to John Goodwin's preface.
  3. reformedman

    reformedman Puritan Board Freshman

    The strongest defense for Unlimited Atonement as far as I know is [ame=""]Chosen But Free[/ame] by [ame=""]Norman Geisler[/ame]. It's full of holes, arguments are weak, and childlike argumentations.

    [ame=""]Potter's Freedom[/ame] was written to refute this book by James White, step by step.

    The audio tapes on the refutation goes further into detail concerning the deceptiveness of the book.
  4. Skeuos Eleos

    Skeuos Eleos Puritan Board Freshman

    I admit its not entirely clear but I don't read him as saying that satisfaction is suspended as you seem to. I think he says elsewhere that satisfaction takes place at the cross. Rather I read him as saying that the 'benefits' of that satisfaction are what are suspended. Does that resolve your reservations?

    I'm afraid I don't know enough about voluntarism / necessitarianism to comment but I don't see how it would change anything anyway.

    As for the rest of what you say that is going beyond what Dabney says so I'm not sure why you felt the need to say those things? But from the point of view of the logic, they just don't work. Neither of your conclusions follow from their premises.

    Grace and peace,
  5. caddy

    caddy Puritan Board Senior


    White Demolishes's Geisler in "PF". It is one of the BEST books on Calvinism I have read! :up:

  6. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Have you guys talked with Arminians that claim Hunt won his written debate with White, or Geisler's work is more logical and bliblical?

    I have... :p

    I just don't get it, as I'm typing this I'm embarrassed for them.


  7. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    Back to the original question of what is the best defense of Unlimited Atonement, no one has mentioned Norman F. Douty, Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? A Treatise on the Extent of Christ's Atonement, ISBN-10: 1579101356.

    I have been told it is one of the strongest arguments available.
  8. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    I googled the title and found:

  9. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    It's important when refuting positions that you disagree with that you do not put words in their mouth or make assumptions about where their logic goes.

    "First of all, Erickson's view leads to the conclusion that our faith is what makes Christ's atonement efficacious. If our faith makes Christ's atonement efficacious, then our faith is a work that adds to the merit of Christ."

    The first statement is correct, but I think the second is a stretch. An Amyraldian or Arminian would hold the first, but I don't think any would affirm the second statement.

    For example, the Reformed view is that faith itself credited as righteousness. Does that make the faith itself righteous, and thus making faith a work? No Reformer would say this.

    In the same way, I don't think it is consistent to say that the Amyraldian/Arminian view of the atonement is that faith is a work that adds to the merit of Christ because a) the proponents of that view don't believe it, and b) the same type of logic would make the Reformers believe that faith is a work as well.

    I'd appreciate it if others would continue to try to critique Erickson on this, because as of this moment I'm not convinced either for or against Erickson's position at this time.
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    As you do not know enough about voluntarism and necessitarianism you are not in a position to know whether my conclusions follow from their premises. To help you a little -- a voluntarist holds that the atonement is only necessary for salvation because God willed it. As God willed the faith of those who would be partakers of the atonement, it follows that atonement and faith are intricately tied together in the counsel of God, so that where there is no faith there is no atonement. Dabney's concession to voluntarism effectively allows these conclusions so that his comments about "suspension" are null and void.
  11. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    But wouldn't an Arminian view justification happening at the same time as regeneration since an Arminian would believe that regeneration follows faith instead of preceding it? So in that sense faith is a meritorious work, whether or not the Arminians "believe" it, that is, admit it. So saying that faith is a work for the Arminian doesn't necessitate the same accusation toward the Reformed.
  12. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Would the following be a better response to Erickson's view?

    Erickson's view leads to the conclusion that our faith is what makes Christ's atonement efficacious. If our faith makes Christ's atonement efficacious, then Christ merely came to make man savable or to make salvation possible.

    The Bible does not teach that Christ came merely to make man savable or to give man the potential to be saved. Christ came to secure the salvation of His people. Matthew 1:21 teaches that Christ came to save His people from their sins. It does not say that Christ came to give man the potential to be saved. Acts 20:28 teaches that Christ purchased the church of God with His own blood. It does not say that the blood of Christ made the church savable. Luke 19:10 teaches that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. Christ did not come to make salvation possible. Hebrews 9:12 teaches that the blood of Christ obtained our redemption. It does not say that the blood of Christ makes redemption possible.
  13. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Another argument that unlimited atonement proponents use is the following:

    Isaiah 53:6 says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
    to fall on Him." According to this verse, everyone has gone astray and everyone's sins were placed on Jesus.
  14. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Actually, I've always viewed justification as happening after we have faith even though I hold that regeneration precedes faith. Justification means to be "declared righteous," and I don't think I was viewed by God as righteous until I was saved and had the faith that was credited to me as righteousness.

    Curt -- yes, good response to Erickson.

    I think salvation is a process involving the entire trinity. God sends Christ to die for the sins, the Spirit regenerates the sinner, and God views the faith that the Spirit works into the sinner as righteousness based on the merit of Christ.

    From an Arminian perspective, yes, Christ came to make man savable, and man has to choose to do the next step to make salvation complete.

    But if you hold unconditional election, and that God WILL sent his Spirit upon the elect and regenerate them, then Christ does make salvation secure because he both pays for the sins and sends his Spirit to regenerate His people.

    I don't think that those verses are conclusive. I can say that I went to the store to buy food to feed my family, even though they won't be fed until they eat it (and you can even assume an "irresistible grace" in that I can make my family eat it!). So you could say that, though, "I went to the store to feed my family," it is also true that I went to the store to make them feedable, and then I fed them. So I don't see a necessary contradiction.

    The best argument I've heard for the strictly limited atonement position is that it would be inconsistent and unfair with God's character to pay for the sins of some people on the cross and then not save them; that the unity of the trinity is disrupted if Jesus died for some and the Holy Spirit failed to regenerate them and bring them to faith. It's a good argument, but I'm uncomfortable with it because I feel like it's imposing our own logical framework and consistency on the nature of God. I am wary of this because this type of logic can lead to hyper-Calvinism.

    So I am still relatively uncertain on this point of doctrine.

    This verse has also made me lean towards Amyraldism. It seems clear from context that this verse is teaching total depravity of all humanity (and even some Reformed commentaries agree), and naturally that would mean that the verse is teaching that Christ took upon himself the sins of all humanity.
  15. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    From an Arminian perspective, Christ only came to make man savable. Christ's atonement in and of itself never secures anyone's salvation. From a Calvinist perspective, Christ's atonement does a lot more than to make man savable; Christ's atonement secures the salvation of the elect.
  16. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    I would agree with you about justification coming after we profess faith. I was just trying to say that, the way I see it, the charge the "faith is a work" can't be leveled at Calvinists the way it can at Arminians purely because we believe that regeneration precedes faith, without even taking justification into consideration.
  17. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Okay, I see what you're saying. Faith is not a "work" in a monergistic model because it is caused by God, but it is in a synergistic model since the person chooses.

    I think the original argument was that if faith is needed in addition to the atonement, then faith is a work added to the atonement. It was phrased, "If our faith makes Christ's atonement efficacious, then our faith is a work that adds to the merit of Christ."

    I would argue that faith is necessary for the elect to be justified in the eyes of God (standard Reformed view as well as Amyraldian/Arminian), and I would conclude based on this premise that faith is needed to make the atonement efficacious since the atonement does not effect the justification, although it is the basis for justification.

    The argument about what particular events in the salvation process "secures" a person's salvation confuses me. Maybe I'm not sure what you mean by "secure." Since the elect were chosen unto salvation from the foundation of the world, was out salvation not secure then? God has always promised to save his people, so was there ever a time that our salvation wasn't secure?

    Why is it the atonement that secures salvation, and not election? Or regeneration? Or faith? Or the act of persevering? All of these things, I believe, are essential to salvation. Therefore, I don't see how any one of these events can be seen as the act that secures salvation.
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Atonement is by nature efficacious. There is no such thing as atonability.
  19. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Efficacious for what? Is atonement efficacious for justification? If so, why are sinners not justified before God without faith?
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is efficacious to remove the wrath of God and reconcile sinners, which is what an atonement purports to do. Atonement is efficacious for justification through faith, as Rom. 3:25 teaches. Sinners are not justified before God without faith because God has purposed propitiation is through faith in the death of Christ.

    What people do not reckon with when discussing the death of Christ is that the death of Christ avails nothing apart from God's purpose to make it the efficacious cause of salvation.
  21. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    So what you're saying is that the atonement is efficacious for through faith, and propitiatory through faith. Thus, without faith and without God's purpose in election, the death of Christ is not efficacious.
  22. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Rev Winzer was teaching me on a different thread that the Greek of Rom 3:25 states that the propitiation is 'set forth' through faith. Apart from faith, there is no 'setting forth' of the propitiation. This truth is somewhat lost in the newer translations because of the commas that are added. I hope I got that right.
  23. Skeuos Eleos

    Skeuos Eleos Puritan Board Freshman

    You offer this quote without explanation but, given that you made it immediately following another Calvin quotation in which Calvin clearly speaks of Christ suffering for "the sins of the whole world", one can only imagine that you somehow think this one quote negates the previous one (and no doubt the many others like it)? Even the self-contradictory high Calvinist William Cunningham, after mistakenly claiming this verse as supporting limited atonement in Calvin, admitted that this one quote 'stands alone - so far as we know – in Calvin's writings, and for this reason we do not found much upon it’. For a better understanding of this SINGLE instance in Calvin's writings which, when considered alone, apart from its context and the context of the discussion with which it is concerned, appears to support limited atonement see the following extracts from Curt Daniel's PhD thesis and G. Michael Thomas' Extent of the Atonement.

  24. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member


    1) Thank's for bumping my Calvin quote. Pretty good one, isn't it.

    2) If a "quote" stands in the place of an "argument" in the prior case, on what basis do you offer your "critique" of my reply with another "quote"? It seems as though you are doing plenty of "reading into" any argument I might have, since I didn't state one. But, apparently, if quotes are "dropped in" without explanation that seem to support your position, they don't earn your critical analysis. Your double standard is fine with me. Hey, run with it if that suits you.

    3) I wasn't interested in doing anything other than offering a broader perspective on Calvin's own words than that found solely in the prior quote alone, let the readers and debaters make of it what they would. I have a busy schedule, and hot-and-heavy debating on every issue just doesn't fit. But you are welcome to "just imagine" about what my argument might have been. Have a nice day.

    4) Of the two quotes offered, personally I find the second contains the least ambiguity. It's a simple logical blunder to just compare lists of citations, and then declare a "winner" based on whose list is longer. And you can't find me trying to do that, regardless of your accusations. You admit you have no idea which, how many, or if any other quotes I would try to "negate" by presenting this one quote.

    But, I think the "self-contradictory high Calvinist William Cunningham" (perhaps you might like to start a thread devoted to defending both of those denominatives?) was smart enough not to rest a case on a single statement. Right here, you could deconstruct his L.A. analysis of this text, instead of merely slighting it by asserting that he was "mistaken".

    5) People can read the discussions you suggest. I recommend also reading Cunningham's own discussion, and contemporary theologian Roger Nicole and the various authors he discusses, given his acquaintance with the relevant literature past and present. Smarter men than I are defending a traditional L.A. position in this thread without my "help" (so-called).

    See, Martin, I'm not interested in getting involved in back and forth on this subject. If I was, I would have argued for it 3 months ago when the subject was first broached. There might be good reason to hold the minority-position you champion. Maybe the "truth will out" just hasn't happened for 400+ years. But I'm confident it will. Just keep talking.
  25. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes. That Christ died in the place of any man in order to effect His salvation is entirely dependent upon the free grace of God.
  26. Skeuos Eleos

    Skeuos Eleos Puritan Board Freshman

    This seems a little harsh and unnecessary to me. You immediately take on an adversarial role. The question mark after my first sentence was intended to test my assumption. I see now that it would have been better if my post had said no more than "Bruce, why did you post this?" and then none of this would have happened. I guess I was trying to save time so I'm sorry about that.

    To be honest I don't see how that is much different from my original guess.

    Well, personally I think its the other way around. :) I think a reading of the linked articles will help show why.

    You misunderstand me if you think I am doing that.

    But I'm not accusing you of that! :confused:

    Ok, I guess I can be somewhat prone to a little use of hyperbole. I used those adjectives just to invite questions but my post seems to have resulted in a bad reaction so I will refrain in future.

    My comments were based upon what Clifford says - see here.

    Grace and peace in Christ Jesus,
  27. Skeuos Eleos

    Skeuos Eleos Puritan Board Freshman

    Actually there have been some criticisms of Owen's DoD, see:
    Clifford, A.C., Atonement and Justification: English Evangelical Theology 1640-1790 - An Evaluation, Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1990
    Chambers, N.C., A Critical Examination of John Owen's Argument for Limited Atonement in "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ". 1998, unpublished ThM Thesis available from

    See also this thread, although the whole discussion got clouded there and wasn't able to be concluded.

    Also, whilst I deny unlimited atonement, you may not be aware that there is a long-standing stream within historical Calvinism that has held to what might be described as a more 'dualistic' view of the atonement which distinguishes between the expiation and the application in line with the old formula that Christ's death was "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect". There is a rich vein of writers in this stream who hold, to varying degrees, that there is an objective provision to the reprobate within the expiation without denying an application limited to the elect. This ranges from Dabney and Shedd at one end through to Amyraut at the other. All of them uphold particular redemption but in a way that is different to the more simplistic understanding that many Calvinists seem to have today. Others in this vein include: Musculus, Bullinger, Ursinus, Davenant, Calamy, Baxter, Polhill, Howe, Bunyan, Flavel, Doddridge, Boston, Ryle and many more.

  28. Skeuos Eleos

    Skeuos Eleos Puritan Board Freshman

    Actuallly, as you do not know exactly how much I know about voluntarism and necessitarianism you are not in a position to know whether I am not in a position to know whether your conclusions follow from their premises. ;)

    Frankly none of this makes a difference for it does not alter the fact that you continue to offer conclusions that simply do not automatically follow from the premises as stated. You will not persuade me with your arguments because I do not buy into your presuppositions (ones which it would seem that you are not even aware that you are making in order to think that your logic holds). The only way you would persuade me is if you can show me from Dabney's own writings how something he said renders the quote I supplied "null and void".

  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I grant that Musculus, Davenant, Calamy, Polhill, Baxter, Shedd, and Ryle shared the conviction of an "objective provision" for the reprobate. Ursinus, Howe, Flavel, Boston, and Dabney used language relative to either the intrinsic value of Christ's death or to the conditional provision of salvation, but they nowhere suggest that Christ made an objective provision for any other than the elect. As for Bullinger, Bunyan, or Doddridge, I abstain from commenting on people I have only read fragments of, which would be a wise procedure for others to follow.
  30. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    From the Five Points of Calvinism, opening paragraph on Particular Redemption:

    "Now, people continually mix two ideas when they say atonement: One is, that of the expiation for guilt provided in Christ's sacrifice. The other is, the individual reconciliation of a believer with his God, grounded on that sacrifice made by Christ once for all, but actually effectuated only when the sinner believes and by faith. The last is the true meaning of atonement, and in that sense every, atonement (at-one-ment), reconciliation, must be individual, particular, and limited to this sinner who now believes. There have already been just as many atonements as there are true believers in heaven and earth, each one individual."

    If you are going to quote theologians it would pay you well to become acquainted with their writings as a whole in order to gain some insight into the way they thought. This piecemeal method of presenting their ideas in order to conclude things they never would have permitted is false representation.
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