Mar 9, 2009

Limited Atonement Objections

My pastor friend, brother Bruce Oyen, recently left me a comment on my entry on "Limited Atonement" in which he asked me some provocative questions pertaining to the "limited atonement" view. I wish now to respond to his questions.

Brother Bruce wrote:

"I agree with the following statements from George Zeller of Middletwon Bible Church:

If Christ did not die for all, then we don't have good news for all, and Mark 16:15 becomes meaningless ("Preach the gospel to every creature.")

But this objection assumes that the message that says - "salvation is available to all" and "Christ died to redeem every sinner who believes in Christ," is not "good news."

Also, "died for" can be variously defined. Christ did not die as a divine substitute for any who go to Hell.

How is it "good news" to say to the sinner - "God loves you and Christ died for you, but this is not enough to save you"?

"Perhaps Christ died for you."

But, this assumes that those who believe in particular redemption cannot justly say to all sinners - "Christ died for you." Again, it would depend on how we define Christ dying "for" a person. Why is it not good news to say to sinners - "Christ died and redeemed you if you believe"? Why is such a question different from one that says - "Christ is your Savior if you believe"?

"Maybe God so loved you."

We don't preach this way as believers in particular atonement. We believe God loves all men generally, but the elect particularly and specially. We do not believe that God loves all men equally. We believe in distinguishing grace, in unconditional election. We believe he makes salvation available through the gospel to every sinner who hears it.

"Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated" is as much the inspired word of God as is John 3:16. "God hates all workers of iniquity" is also inspired truth.

"Christ shed His blood for you, perhaps."

Why would anyone find any great objection to this being a statement of truth? Even the most devout Arminian? Do Arminians not believe in God's foreknowledge of free will acts of the creature? Why would it be an evil thing for Christ to foresee who would believe and then die for them only? Suppose Christ had died at the end of time instead of in the middle? Why would he need to die for those who rejected him? The general atonement theory makes it absurd for Christ to be dying for Pharoah, Esau, and Judas.

"Salvation has been provided for you, maybe."

But, those who believe in limited atonement believe in a universal provision of some kind. "Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect."

But even those who believe in general atonement are not exempt from their own argumentation for they also have a system that says "salvation has been provided for you, maybe (if) you hear the gospel."

Tell me about those sinners who died in heathen darkness without the least knowledge of Israel's God and Messiah. Did God love them with an everlasting love? Did he decree their salvation? Did Christ die for them? If so, why did they die without the essential means of grace? Was salvation "provided" for them in atonement by Christ, but not provided actually by the Spirit's making the gospel available to them?

"Possibly God commendeth His love toward you."

Perhaps he did, in that he blessed you to hear the saving gospel of Christ. Perhaps he didn't in that he suffered you to be born into and remain in heathen ignorance without hope of salvation. What good news is it to tell sinners that they are damned in spite of God and omnipotence commending love towards them?

"Hopefully He’s the propitiation for your sins."

But, do those of the general atonement view not say this about actual applied propitiation? Do you not say to lost sinners, "he will become your actual propitiation hopefully? If you believe and repent?"

"There is a possibility that Christ died as your Substitute."

What good news is it to tell sinners that Christ died for them as their Substitute but that he is not really their Substitute? If Christ is in fact the Substitute of all men, then believing in Christ cannot be a means or condition for it to be so. To say Christ is in fact the Substitute for all men is to preach universal salvation. If one means, by the above statement, that Christ is the potential Substitute for all sinners, then the believer in universal atonement also must agree with the above statement.

"I bring you good news, maybe."

Well, do not believers in universal atonement say the same thing, in a sense? Is it actually good news for those who reject it? Or is it bad news for such?

"It’s possible that Christ died for you. If you get saved then we know that He did die for you, but if you continue to reject Him then He did not die for you."

Is this not scriptural? How else are we to know who is elected if it is not by actual conversion? How does it degrade the good news by saying Christ foresaw all who would believe and died for them? Does it not protect the death of Christ from the charge of failure?

"Christ died for you only if you believe that Christ died for you (thus proving you are elect), but if you do not believe this and if you continue in your unbelief until the day you die, then Christ did not die for you."

This is basically a repeat of the previous protest. Why is this decried as being unscriptural and absurd?

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