The “clearest Gospel presentation”?

In my recent posts here at SBF, I have been responding to the October 8, 2006 sermon of Dr. Jerry Vines given at First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA. I have been specifically focused on the Dr. Vines’ remarks against the doctrine of “Limited atonement,” or “particular redemption”- the teaching that by His death on the Cross, Jesus secured specific benefits (forgiveness of sins and a renewed heart) that would certainly be applied to a specific people. The last few posts have been dedicated to demonstrating that particular redemption is a doctrine based on careful exegesis of the biblical text.

In this post, I would like to indicate a practical outcome of denying the doctrine of particular redemption.

During the “announcements” time of the October 8, 2006 FBCW worship service before Dr. Vines preached his sermon, Johnny Hunt, the pastor of FBCW, encouraged his flock to go and see the movie, Facing the Giants. He encouraged them to use this movie as an evangelistic opportunity with these words,

“It’s the clearest Gospel presentation… it gives the presentation of the Gospel… It’s not just that He died, was buried, and rose again, but it tells what you need to do.”

Now, I’m glad that Hunt wanted his congregants to use a trip to the movies as a chance to present the Gospel- if Christians go to the movies at all, we should use this activity along with all our other activities for a Gospel witness. But when Hunt says that this movie gives a clear Gospel presentation, he is clearly in error. As I pointed out in my review of that movie, the objective facts of the Gospel are absent from FtG.

Hunt is correct in that Gospel proclamation is more than the objective facts that Jesus died on the Cross, was buried, and rose again, but Gospel proclamation is certainly not less than these facts, which are absent from the movie altogether. (See I Corinthians 15:1-4).

So, how could Hunt have missed the fact that the Gospel is absent to the point of even declaring this movie to be “the clearest Gospel presentation”?

In a word, it is because he, like Dr. Vines and the other leaders at FBCW, denies particular redemption.

You see, if Jesus did not die to secure specific benefits that would certainly be applied to a specific people, but He only died to make people generally savable, then the work of Jesus becomes background information, less important than it should be from a biblical perspective. The focus is subtly (and, sometimes, not-so-subtly) shifted from what Jesus has done on behalf of sinners to, as Hunt said, “what you need to do.”

And so, I hope that the readers of SBF see, when we write concerning particular redemption, we do so not to focus on doctrine for the sake of getting puffed up with knowledge, but our focus is on the Gospel- the work that Jesus has done to accomplish the actual salvation of sinners.

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6 Comments on “The “clearest Gospel presentation”?”

  1. Gomarus Says:

    You are right on, in my opinion. It also relates to the other doctrines of grace. If Christ died for all alike — or, if God does no more for any man than he does for every man (rank Arminianism) — then it is obvious those who are saved are saved because of something they have done or something they have added to God’s grace and the work of Christ.


  2. Gomarus:
    re: “It also relates to the other doctrines of grace.”
    I agree, and I have seen that the more I study through the biblical evidence, the more the connection between these doctrines becomes apparent. For many who say they hold to some of the doctrines of grace want to reject “limited atonement”, but do not realize that if God is truly the author and finisher of our faith- if salvation is from Him alone- then, just as no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (and all who are drawn to the Jesus certainly come to Him), just as no one has faith unless he is given that faith as a gift (and all who are given the gift of faith, believing in Christ, shall certainly never die), no one has forgiveness of sins unless that forgiveness has been effected by the payment of Christ for those sins on the Cross (and all for whom this payment was made will certainly benefit from this payment). The focus thus remains firmly on God through faith in Christ- who He is and what He has done in His most perfect sacrifice for sinners.

  3. Max Snook Says:

    I do get so tired of objections to the limited atonement being stated in terms that no one or at least some people do not agree with. I think the weakness of the argument for the limited atonement is that you have not really dealt with the doctrinal opposition factually. You cannot play the Arminianism card at every objection. I am no friend or Arminean doctrine but there are serious Scriptural reasons why the doctrine of the liminted atonement may not be accurate. If an understanding of a general atonement in someone’s mind makes the death of Christ less important then you do not understand the objections to the limited atonement because the emphasis surely does not end of being an emphasis of “what you need to do.” By the way, the doctrines of grace are not the gospel. The doctrines of grace have the burden to represent the gospel but they are not the gospel. One does not have to agree with the doctrines of grace to be saved.

  4. Gene Says:

    Max, you are correct, General Atonement does not self-select for “Arminianism.” However, a few distinctions that you overlook:

    a. General atonement goes hand in hand with a libertarian view of the freedom of the will. In that event, it is needed as a warrant to believe. The grounds here are not exegetical, they are philosophical.

    b. Unless that is, the atonement is construed in genuninely Amyraldian terms. In which case, it satisifies a hypothetical covenant. The value of this, is, in turn, imputed IN ITS FULLNESS to each elect individual when they are converted. This is not the view of general atonement put forth by Hunt, Vines, Geisler, and others; rather it is more akin to the Lutheran view of objective justification, whereby the elect are subjectively justified when they exercise saving faith.

    c. Rather, what is put forth by Hunt, Vines, et. al. is that the atonement makes men “savable.” Where is the exegetical foundation for this?

    d. Alternatively, unbelief is not considered a sin. Where is the exegetical foundation for this?

    e. The exegetical objections to limited atonement almost all commit the intenstion-extension fallacy, whereby words like “all” and “world,” and “every” are construed without regard to their extensions; rather they are read only for intensional value. The other objections that remain overlook the covenantal language of the texts.

    f. Apropos a, if infallible foreknowledge is a given, even for the libertarian, while I’d dispute his consistency internally, I’d also argue that it makes no sense to appeal to general atonement if God already knows who will believe and who will not. In short, libertarian action theory and general atonement in which the latter is construed as a warrant to believe for the former subjects God the temporal process and introduces propositions that logically make God look foolish. The crucifixion occurred 2000 years ago, if God already knew who would believe and who would not, then why not just have Christ die for them and then command everybody to repent? The libertarian answer gets back to the appeal for G.A. as a warrant to believe. Why does the command to believe require a warrant to believe outside of its own efficacy?

    g. Constructions like “sufficient for all, efficient for a few” say very little. No two people’s sins are the same and thus no to persons suffer the same demerit. The atonement is construed not just as a propitiation of wrath for sin, but a ransom for the individuals for whom Christ died. General atonement, by definition, overlooks this specificity.

    h. In relation to your objection to the term “Arminian,” rather than object to the use of the term, consider that, around here, it is general used to refer to any soteriological scheme that includes libertarian action theory. That’s standard usage you’ll find in many places.

    i. Nobody here has argued that one must believe the doctrines of grace to be saved. In fact, I myself have written in support of evangelical Arminianism proper in opposing the SBC IMB’s new baptism policy, and have also, in multiple fora stated that any one of these statements would allow for a credible profession of faith:

    1. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Christian Religion

    2. The Formula of Concord

    3. The Baptist Faith & Message (any version)(http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp)

    4. The C&MA statement of faith
    (http://www.cmalliance.org/whoweare/doctrine.jsp)

    5. The JFJ statement of faith (http://www.jewsforjesus.org/about/statementoffaith)

    6. The EFCA statement of faith (http://www.efca.org/about/doctrine/)

    7. The Campus Crusade statement of faith (http://www.ccci.org/statement_of_faith.html)

    8. The AG statement of faith (http://www.ag.org/top/beliefs/truths.cfm)

    Not all of them are Reformed/Calvinist.

  5. Scott Says:

    It’s unfortunate that particular redemption is passed on basically as anti-gospel and “Facing the Giants” is proclaimed as the “clear gospel”. Did I miss something?

  6. Seth McBee Says:

    I think this “you” approach also is starting to stem in our worship as well, what have YOU done for Christ lately instead of focusing on what Christ has done for you.


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