Is Limited Atonement that hard?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by CIT, Nov 21, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. CIT

    CIT Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Is limited atonement really the biggest hick up with most non or partial Calvinists?

    I ask because for me and my wife, limited atonement was the first aspect of Calvinism we believed. We saw it as this. If Christ paid the debt for everyone's sin then no one can be punished for those sins which means no one goes to Hell. Well this is not true so either......

    A) God chose from the foundations of the world who would go to Heaven and Christ only paid for their sins


    B) God looked down the corridor of time and saw who would ultimately choose to follow Him and thus Christ paid for their sins.

    I really cannot see it any other way.

    PS Thankfully God showed me that "A" was the correct answer.
  2. Kim G

    Kim G Puritan Board Junior

    It was the hardest one for me to understand because, although it is logical, I didn't think it was biblical. I could see in the Bible that man was depraved (T). I could see in the Bible that the Lord elected men to salvation (U). I could see in the Bible that God would "sweetly force us in"to His kingdom through grace(I). And I could see that what the Lord started in us He would bring to completion(P). But I would point to the verses that say "Christ died for all" or "Christ died for the world" and would say, "therefore, limited atonement cannot be right, even if it is logical."

    Now I know different. But it was not easy to accept (L).
  3. Glosi

    Glosi Puritan Board Freshman

    When I heard about the idea that God has chosen some people to salvation, I was shocked. I thought it's a ridiculous heresy. I started a thread at Polish forum with a question: "What Calvinism has in common with Christianity?" I was even more disturbed when I discovered that my pastor reads reformed books. But when he showed me the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians, I decided to study this subject. After a short period of time I was completely convinced that I sought for Him because He was the Author of my faith.
  4. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    I think the word "limited" is uncomfortable for many people. They don't like thinking of Christ's atonement as limited in any way.

    Of course, both theologies limit the atonement. As Calvinists, we limit those who are atoned. The other side limits the actual effectiveness of Christ's work on the cross as they don't believe that His death actually atoned but only opened a possibility for atonement.
  5. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    When I first studied TULIP I found, surprisingly, that I fell right in step with what I was reading. I simply had never had it systemetized for me. There was a sense in which it was liberating because I gained a fuller understanding of God's sovereignty.
    I think limited atonement is a struggle for four reasons. One, men want conrol. If we cannot have control then we try to find a way to get it. Limited atonement reminds us that control is illusory. People, especially in the west, are control freaks. Two, as has been stated, many verses appear to state that Jesus died for the world. There are many theological implications involved here that have been hashed and rehashed on the forum. Three, if the number of people is set, they why bother evangelizing - it negates the Great Commission. Four, there is a confusion between effective and sufficient.
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's really no harder than the others. I think that when people state they believe the other four they actually do not. I agree with others that state that Limited Atonement is the most obvious if you accept that we contribute nothing to our justification. Either Christ's Blood atones for all fully or some fully. What is not acceptable is that Christ's Blood atones for all partially and then we perfect the sacrifice.
  7. Kim G

    Kim G Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think it's fair to say this when many people, myself included, say that it was harder than others. Maybe not for you, but for many it was.
    Again, I don't think it's fair to say that you can see what people "actually believe" when they tell you they believe the other four points. It may not make sense to the Calvinist system, but it makes sense to the one who believes (yes, really believes) the four points.

    But I wasn't concerned about logic. People could spout the "logic" of Limited Atonement all day and night, but until I could see it said IN SCRIPTURE, I wasn't going to believe it.
  8. biggandyy

    biggandyy Puritan Board Freshman

    I have always boiled it down thusly (it may or may not be a completely accurate summary), Christ's Atonement atones for every sin of every man everywhere. In fact, if the Lord were to apply the Atonement of Jesus to a slab of concrete that slab of concrete would be saved. BUT... it is God the Father who decides to whom He will apply the Atonement.

    If Jesus, being an infinite sacrifice, has made atonement, then that atonement is infinitely strong and efficacious to save. But the Atonement must go hand in hand with the Will of the Father to apply the Atonement to whom He wishes.

    In the "free gift" vein, I can purchase a gift for every person on the face of the earth. That does them zero good until that gift is delivered, until then they are all crammed here in my tiny little office ;). But in this analogy God is not having a gift taken from Him passively, He is actively delivering it right to your account. PAID IN FULL.
  9. Kim G

    Kim G Puritan Board Junior

    This is not limited atonement. This is what I believed before I became reformed. If Christ actually atoned for every sin, then every man is going to heaven. God cannot lie, and he will not send to hell anyone whose sins have been atoned for.

    Christ didn't die for the sins of those who had already died and gone to hell before His death. He didn't die for the sins of those who would go to hell after His death. Christ died for His people. He shed His blood for His people. He actually redeemed His people.
  10. biggandyy

    biggandyy Puritan Board Freshman

    That's why I said it may not be completely accurate. Thanks for setting me straight.
  11. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    The simple fact of the matter is, if Christ's atonement is unlimited then it's all encompassing and everyone is saved. Pretty simple, if one is confronted with the reality of it. Anyone who thinks that not everyone will be saved believes in limited atonement, to one degree or another. They have to in order to have any consistency whatsoever.
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    Whether you believe it is "fair" or not, I am convinced that those that claim to hold to the other four points really don't fully apprehend the four points because the points overlap one another. For example, what part did you believe Christ's High Priestly work played in your perseverance?

    It really is a simple matter of inducing the plain meaning of Scripture - especially the Book of Hebrews, which leaves no doubt as to the perfection of Christ's atonement.

    This is not to say that where Scripture is plain that men do not earnestly misapprehend something. I never implied evil intentions to you or others but I simply do not believe the concept is very difficult to apprehend.

    Does Christ's sacrifice fully propitiate the wrath of God for sin?

    The answer to that question determines whether or not the person believes they contribute to justification or not. They might not articulate that but, if you peel back the onion enough then either (like you) they will eventually acknowledge that Christ's atonement really is limited to those for Whom He died or they will inject some work of man into the equation.

    In other words, the issue is simple but the path to getting others to understand it often is not. I'm not certain why it is that any of us need to be concerned that their integrity is being questioned because we come in to spiritual light. I once did not understand the simplicity of the Gospel, though I would have sworn to you that I thought I understood it. I wouldn't question somebody's "fairness" in pointing out how simple the Gospel is to adduce simply because I was blind to its content for a couple of decades.
  13. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    If full apprehension is the measure of true belief, then none of us is a true believer, since none of us has exhaustive apprehension of any doctrine. I think that those people, including many pastors and seminary professors I know, do believe the other four points. They understand them well enough to articulate them to others. They simply aren't logically consistent.
  14. AThornquist

    AThornquist Puritan Board Doctor

    Sounds like unlimited limited atonement. Mark Driscoll and Bruce Ware believe this, for example.
  15. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    People grow up being taught particular views and understandings and it is hard to accept orthodox teaching, especially in America, because the majority of American Christianity is a sycretic blend of a multitude of different influences - especially philosophical and unitarian.

    Limited Atonement was difficult for me, I found the key in orthodox Trinitarianism. I found that while I was nominally Trinitarian, I really didn't understand it and was practically a Modalist, based upon how the doctrine of the Trinity was taught to me.

    Ultimately, I concluded that Arminianism is confusion and denial of orthodox Trinitarianism - although it may nominally affirm it. In essence, what Arminianism does is confuse the offices of Christ whereby Christ as King is limited and an unlimited Priesthood is posited. Ultimately, then, there is disagreement in the Godhead. In contrast, Calvinism affirms a limited atonement, or Priesthood, and an unlimited Lordship. It is the confusion over the scope of these two offices of Priest and King that causes the problem, the biggest expression of this confusion is in American politics over Church and State as well and their proper jurisdictions.

    I think one of the big problems is that Calvinists generally have taken time to figure out what they believe and why and presume the average Arminian has as well - and that just isn't the case most of the time. As a result, I don't particularly care for the TULIP because it presumes that people know what they believe and why. I always start with teaching on orthodox Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology - if these are true and correct interpretations of Scripture, then, Limited Atonement is the only possible correct soteriological interpretation.

    I think if more Calvinists took more time teaching on the revealed nature of God and Chalcedonian orthodoxy that Limited Atonement wouldn't be so hard to understand or accept for a great many Arminian believers.
  16. asc

    asc Puritan Board Sophomore

    Limited atonement was the last of TULIP to make real sense.

    From my experience, I think it had to do with the mish-mash of teaching that I learned at the church where I first became a Christian. I assume it's typical of many fundy / evangelical baptist churches where (at least in the past) sin is mentioned regularly (T), grace is mentioned regularly (but not fully understood), perservenance is agreed upon. Election is simply not mentioned but the word is clearly mentioned in the Bible, so people may come that doctrine more neutrally. Atonement, however, was always proclaimed to be universal and gospel invitations to unbelievers were often framed with: Jesus died on the cross for all your sins, so receive him into your heart...

    So to me the initial idea of limited atonement was something of a shock and puzzle.
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I never stated that full apprehension is required for saving faith. I believe you need to read more carefully.

    I think your example of Professors and others who teach this is a poor one. Is the fact that false doctrine is taught a measure of spiritual understanding? Erasmus is probably the most brilliant scholar of the 16th Century but Luther and Calvin decried his teachings on the free will of man even while they benefited from his Greek and Hebrew expertise.

    What I think some of you are missing is that this is not a function of IQ. Spiritual truth is not something that is apprehended by the force of the will. Spiritual blindness will cause a man to lack fruition in the things of God. Hence, as you note, there are plenty of Pastors and Theologians who claim to uphold the four points. In fact, you downplay their intelligence in a way that I do not. They use logic in their defense of their doctrine but they import un-Biblical premises into their formulas and arrive at a false conclusion. What is required is not more intelligence or human toil but it will be the work of the Spirit, through the Word, that will guide to Truth.

    Let me remind all what I actually said in my first reply:
    In other words, I didn't speak to the relative difficulty of the other points and whether or not each of them was easy to apprehend to begin with.

    My point to this is that we need to throw off any pretense of pride here. The fact is that all the five points are pretty straightforward but they are all impossible to rest in if you are spiritually blind to them. Praise goes not to man for understanding and having fruition in the Scriptures but to the Holy Spirit alone. Instead of being concerned that I'm dissing 4-pointers as being stupid, we all need to repent of intellectual pride that assumes that any spiritual truth is "easy" apart from the illumination of God's Word.

    Incidentally, below is the second main point of doctrine from the Canons of Dordt that condemn the Remonstrants. It's where we get the L in TULIP, which came a few centuries later as a way to conveniently remember the major points that the Reformed Church condemns.

    What I want you to notice about it is:

    1. The error that the Remonstrants were propagating is much like today.
    2. The error is sophisticated: the Remonstrants were not drooling idiots, nor have I claimed those that hold to this are.
    3. The truth that is set forward is not difficult to follow given a certain vocabulary level and reading comprehension. Likewise, the condemnation of errors is equally straightforward.

    In other words, the issue is not difficult but will require the abandonment of one set of commitments and the embracing of another.

  18. JDKetterman

    JDKetterman Puritan Board Freshman

    It took me awhile to believe in limited atonement. For awhile, I had the classical Lutheran view when it came to the atonement. One of the reasons why it was tough for me was because most of my Calvinist friends would try to argue this through mere logic. My view was that the atonement was available for all people, yet the reason why people do not come is because of unbelief.

    At the same time, I held to unconditional election and total depravity, yet I believed Grace was universal and resistable. I read Calvin's exegesis of John 6, and then I became convinced of the Reformed position. This is where I believe the strength of the Reformed position is.
  19. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    For me personally, I didn't have a difficult time accepting it, but then I didn't study TULIP like a lot of people do. I never looked at it as to whether it was limited or unlimited, it was merely Christ atoned for the sins of some people but not..I understood that through understanding some go to hell and others don't..

    I believed it even before I knew what TULIP stood for, I had folks calling me a Calvinist, before I ever knew what that meant, and I'd say "NO, I'm a Christian, not a Calvinist! I follow Christ NOT Calvin".

    It's in part how I came across this forum, There were various things I was talking about on other forums, from divorce, and remarriage, to Calvinism and soforth, I'd do a search on those topics and this forum would pop up in my I started investigating it more..

    And when I understood what Calvin taught, I was like "well, Praise God, John Calvin taught the same thing I believe."

    But there are many who do struggle with their understanding about God..'Their God wouldn't cast some in to hell merely because they don't believe in Christ; Their God isn't that mean." But if we really look at those comments, what's being said is more "Their God isn't Holy; He isn't Just, He doesn't really hate sin."

    So it's not that they struggle with understanding limited atonement, they struggle believing God and who He IS and who God says He is; against their own imaginations of who they want and think God to be--

    I've even heard people say God has changed from the times of the Old Testament to the times of the New Testament..He is no longer a God of wrath, like He was in the Old Testament, they do not grasp God has not changed..
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2008
  20. natewood3

    natewood3 Puritan Board Freshman

    Shouldn't Arminians believe in limited atonement as well? If you are an Arminian, you could simply say that Christ died to actually effect the salvation of all those whom God foreseen would believe in him. After I actually affirmed limited atonement, I wondered why I struggled with it so much, but it was definitely the last point I came to accept. Some of the hardest texts to deal with, in my opinion, are those that seem to contradict a limited atonement view. I think the other points are fairly easy to show from Scripture. I also think limited atonement is somewhat easy to show from Scripture, but there seems to be more texts that you have to explain in order to hold to limited atonement. I suppose there are more exegetical arguments that one must deal with, whereas the other four points (with the possible except of Perseverance) normally have philosophical objections, but not many exegetical objections.

    Just my observation...
  21. TheFleshProfitethNothing

    TheFleshProfitethNothing Puritan Board Freshman

    Interesting...I was called a 5 point Calvinist, before I had a clue what one was...when explained to me I could see plainly how if God UNCONDITIONALLY Elected before the foundation of the world, that said election can only mean He intended to save SOME. Limited Atonenment was easily determined from this alone.

    I almost hate to say it...but, ALL the Points were impossible for me to grasp, until I was saved and truly understood the FIRST. Understanding the first led to a supernatural progression in my understanding of the others. And as I mentioned, I didn't know what the 5 points were at the time I understood Scripture.

    If one is wrong about the "T", then they aren't going to understand U, L (especially), I (which should be as difficult as L), and P which I can't see how they understand if they if they don't have the understanding of "T".

    For the NATURAL man, L is completely incoherent. The natural man CANNOT understand the things of the Spirit of God, NEITHER can he KNOW them, for they are spiritually discerned. If one is shown Scripturally, from the inspired Word of God, the Truth of God's work in salvation, and doesn't see it, doesn't like it, fights tooth and nail against it...there is something amiss. It is only simple and "easy" to the one with eyes to see and ears to hear.
  22. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Don't hate to say it. This is an important fact to remember.

    I was musing over this thread today and realized that the Reformed faith has a reputation for being intellectual or rationalistic. Some of this inevitably stems from a head-heart dichotomy that has become prevalent in Evangelicalism since Schleiermacher and Revivalism. We need not abandon the Biblical use of the mind and our desire to labor at understanding the things of God and taking all thoughts captive to the Word of God.

    Yet, and this is important, we need to realize that our apprehension compared to our neighbors who yet neglect some key spiritual truths has little to do with our comparative intelligence. In other words, I think what has emerged in this thread is the idea that the doctrines of grace are something we naturally have the capacity to apprehend. Thus, when I pointed out that this particular doctrine was no less difficult to apprehend than others I've been met by objections that I'm somehow denigrating others' ability to reason properly.

    It's also been argued that what was really missing was the proper use of reason. I'm not saying this to pick on people in general but to try to drive home that these doctrines are not merely a matter of mental capacity but that our minds must be illumined by the grace of God. I'm glad this point was made.

    Apart from the Spirit there is not a single point ithat is "easy" for the unaided mind to understand.
  23. TheFleshProfitethNothing

    TheFleshProfitethNothing Puritan Board Freshman

    And those that ARE regenerate will understand them, with but, no difficulty...It is as you say, not in the natural man to "grasp" them.

    As for the Heart/Mind thing...they are the same thing. We don't think with our heart muscle...not that you don't know that:up:
  24. Simply_Nikki

    Simply_Nikki Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not sure I agree with this. While it is impossible for the natural man to understand the things of God, I do not think it follows (if I am correctly interpreting your implcations) that the regenerate man will necessarily understand everything in complete accuracy without any difficulty grasping the truths of God. Paul prays diligently that believers "grow" in the knowledge of God's truth. I think we all grow in this truth, but I don't think this means that at the end of someone's life we can tell if that person was "truly" regenerate by whether or not they've understood everything the bible has to say. We still struggle with sin on this earth and this sin I think will always present itself in the forms of doctrinal errors until our glorification. Now notice I said doctrinal errors and not doctrinal heresy. Yes I do believe a regenerate person will not believe in a damnable heresy unto death (ie Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness, Oneness Pentacostalism, etc).
  25. TheFleshProfitethNothing

    TheFleshProfitethNothing Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi!....I wasn't refering to "everything the bible has to say", I am speaking of milk here, the essentials of TULIP. And if taught rightly, one that is born again, will see the kingdom of God. I have never said anything about understanding everything...but there is a full knowledge of the truth.

    Complete, or infinite knowledge of the Truth is not necessary, but even the apostles taught to look out for those that did not hold or teach the doctrine delivered to them of the apostles.

    Someone else mentioned something to me about people coming in and deliberately bringing in heresies with them...These people who are wolves in sheeps clothing don't all realize that they are bringing in false teaching...fine, straighten them out, but if they don't hold to the doctrine (gospel) the apostles delivered them, they were to have nothing to do with them.

    I think what I am getting at here, is a lot of people want to just accept everyone as saved that names the Name of Christ, and yet, don't equally think of looking out for the devil who lurks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We have such emotional attachments to the flesh, that we seem to not consider that what has been declared as truth, must of necessity be truth, not partial truth...

    You shall KNOW the truth, and truth will set you free. Now we can get into WHAT that "truth" is, and whether it is really all THAT important, or we can just go on believing that those who hate it, are saved...I will test the spirits, and when I am assured of the profession I am hearing I will be more relaxed with the person, and actually fellowship with them.

    One more thing, what damnable heresies are the Mormons, JW's, Oneness, holding to that is any worse than denying LIMITED Atonenment? Why judge other's damned for their "misunderstandings" and not the others??:scratch:
  26. Kim G

    Kim G Puritan Board Junior

    My guess would be because many who "deny" limited atonement contradict themselves and don't really mean what they say.

    Universal atonement is a damnable heresy. But when I used to say that limited atonement was not biblical, I didn't mean that I believed in universal atonement. I thought that Jesus died to make all men able to be redeemed, but only those He called would have the atonement applied to them and actually redeem them. Yes, it's wrong. But it wasn't universal atonement. It was just confusion. Praise God for opening my eyes!
  27. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Duane (et al) So are you saying that Luther and all Lutherans not only are not regenerate, but are also necessarily damned? That's a pretty bold statement.
  28. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I don't know if I'm "al" here but I do believe the Lutherans are holding together an un-Biblical contradiction in their theology and that we both can't be right. One of us is resistant to the clear teaching of the Scripture. I don't believe they would say that it's unclear what the Scriptures teach on this point and neither would we (read Dordt above).

    I don't agree that one is necessarily damned because they doubt or are in darkness with respect to something in the Word. If I understand it properly then I will give glory to God for my sight and not claim more intelligence or piety than the Lutheran. That said, I'm not going to take a post-modern stance and say we're both right so it doesn't really matter. I think this issue has profound theological consequences and leave it up to the Judge of the Living and the Dead whose elect are united to Him by faith.
  29. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Nope. Just meant to open up the question to anyone else who held a similar view to what was expressed.

    Absolutely, we can't both be right. Obviously, we are. Joking of course (but really, I'm pretty sure we are...) We ought always to strive for correct teaching, and to root out incorrect teaching. We should never idly stand by and watch the danger of dirt and grime building up on the beautiful picture which is the gospel; for though certain men might still see the true gospel through the build-up, subsequent followers of their teaching, lacking the original clarity, will surely have a distorted picture.
  30. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    :ditto: Also, no argument there. And I would hope that we should be able to demonstrate that to them. Nevertheless, we believe the same gospel. I categorize such a difference as this as an intellectual difference from attempting to explain how the gospel works which we both proclaim together. Granted, I think this is a big one, but I still place it in that category. I think we should certainly have fellowship with confessional Lutherans. After 500 year of arguing about the supper, about grace, the atonement, etc., I think we're all pretty much set in our ways on certain key points and that we might have to learn to live with those differences; but that's exactly what I think we have to do -- be willing to live with those, because I don't think the differences between us and the Lutherans are enough for us to break off brotherly fellowship with them.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page