A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 2. The Evangelistic Question
1. The Historical Question
[I had intended to post on Dr. Allen’s charge of hyper-Calvinism against Dr. James White; I think, however, that I have nothing original to add to that discussion beyond what has already been written- I encourage readers interested in that controversy to view Timmy Brister’s timeline of events found HERE. As Dr. Allen’s charge against Dr. White was intended to discredit Founders Ministries through guilt-by-association, I would especially recommend the post at the Founders Ministries blog found HERE.]
2. The Evangelistic Question
In speaking against the doctrine of Limited atonement, Dr. Allen asserted that any teaching that says Jesus did not die for everyone is unbiblical and should be rejected. In the context of this assertion, Dr. Allen gave a quote from Dr. Sam Waldron, in which Dr. Waldron made the point that the free offer of the gospel does not require us to tell people ‘Christ died for you’ (individually).
This brings up a specific question in regards to how the doctrine of Limited atonement effects evangelism; namely, should we, in proclaiming the gospel to individual non-Christians, tell them, ‘Christ died for you’?
From a Calvinistic perspective, the answer to the above question would be, ‘no,’ for the following three reasons:
- The fact that the New Testament never calls on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him” [see J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 68].
- The fact that the New Testament connects the death of Christ to the benefits secured by His death on behalf of those for whom He died, so that only the group that can actually claim these benefits can claim Christ’s death for their own [see, for example, Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (ESV)].
- The fact that non-Christians who are told, ‘Christ died for you,’ may then receive a false assurance of God’s favor toward them based upon mere intellectual assent, apart from repentance and faith.
From Dr. Allen’s point-of-view, telling the individual non-Christian ‘Christ died for you’ is an essential part of our gospel witness. In his presentation at the John 3:16 Conference, Dr. Allen argued against point 1, listed above (it should be noted that if Dr. Allen’s argument against point 1 is valid, then points 2 and 3 are rendered irrelevant, for if the New Testament does indeed call on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him,” then we must re-interpret other passages that may seem to limit the extent of the atonement; if the New Testament does indeed call on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him,” then point 3 is an invalid objection to telling non-Christians ‘Christ died for you,’ and non-Christians would have to be warned not to make the seemingly rational conclusion that they need not fear God’s judgment irrespective of repentance and faith). Dr. Allen argued against point 1 through a citation of New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3, in which Paul related what he said to the Corinthians as he proclaimed the gospel to them, including, “Christ died for you,” and in Jesus’ statement of the cup at the Last Supper, “This is my blood,” was given while Judas was at the table.
As Dr. Allen had mentioned Dr. Sam Waldron, I contacted Dr. Waldron for a response concerning the New Testament passages cited by Dr. Allen.
Dr. Waldon wrote [the following is from a personal email, reproduced here by Dr. Waldon's permission]:
In reference to his exegesis of the above passages, Dr. Waldron noted:
It is not necessary for me to say the final word about these passages. It is only necessary for me to offer plausible alternatives to Dr. Allen’s claims. The burden of proof is on him to supply us with a clear example of the gospel being preached to unbelievers by telling them Christ died for you. He has not provided such a clear example.
If someone were to attempt a defense of Dr. Allen’s position on how 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Luke 22:20-22 apply to Limited atonement, then he would have to refute Dr. Waldron’s exegesis of these passages, proving Dr. Waldron’s position on these texts to be impossible, or at least implausible. Otherwise, we still have no “clear example of the gospel being preached to unbelievers by telling them Christ died for you.” Again, point 1 (“that the New Testament never calls on any non-Christian ‘to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him’”) stands until an opponent of this point can prove, from these texts or from the teaching of other texts, why Dr. Waldron’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Luke 22:20-22 is impossible, or at least implausible.