A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 2. The Evangelistic Question

1. The Historical Question

a. In Regards to Martin Luther

b. In Regards to Jonathan Edwards

[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:

  1. 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].
  2. 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)].
  3. 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]:

1 Corinthians 15[:3] might imply what Dr. Allen says, but it also might not. The burden of proof is on him to prove that it must imply what he says. I think Dr. Allen’s exegesis stretches the bounds of good and necessary inference. What 1 Corinthians 15[:3] actually says is that Paul taught the Corinthians that Christ died for “our sins.” This is patently different than saying that Christ died for their sins. That Christ died for our sins preached to unbelievers might mean at least couple of things consistent with particular redemption.

First, it might mean that Christ died for our (the church’s–believers’) sins and that if they believed that death would be for them as well.

Second, it might mean that Christ died for our (generally the human race’s) sins and that, if they believed, it would be for them in particular. Particular redemptionists teach that Christ died for all men without distinction, but not all men without exception. It would be appropriate to say this to a group of unbelievers without intending the individualizing application that Christ died for everyone of them in particular.

As to the interesting passage that Allen cites in Luke 22:20-[22, in regards to the Last Supper], here it is in its entirety.
Luke 22:20-22 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. 21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. 22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” [NASB]

Let me make several comments which I think undermine Dr. Allen’s claims.

First, Jesus says that His blood is the New Covenant. Does Dr. Allen think that Judas had a part in the New Covenant? Only true disciples who know the Lord and whos sins are permanently forgiven have such a part. Only if Judas was such a disciple could he have a part in Christ’s blood.

Second, can we not apply to Jesus’ general statements the comment he makes in the parallel passage in John 13? John 13:17-18 17 “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ [NASB]

Jesus here makes clear that the things he is saying at this point are for His genuine disciples and not necessarily individually true of all at the table including Judas. So when Jesus says this is my blood shed for you, it is quite possible he meant to exclude Judas and was thinking only of those who genuinely loved Him. Note the qualifying phrase especially, “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.”

Third, those 12 gathered at the table were at the moment the visible church. I think it true to say that Christ died for the church and thus for the visible church. This does not mean that everyone who is ever part of the visible church was died for by Christ any more than that everyone in the visible church is truly Christ’s disciple.

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.

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18 Comments on “A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 2. The Evangelistic Question”

  1. Darrin Says:

    Much appreciated post, and contribution from Dr. Waldron.
    Regarding the dogma, “telling the individual non-Christian ‘Christ died for you’ is an essential part of our gospel witness”: So apparently this is becoming (or has become) the litmus test for success in much of the SBC? This ‘standard’ appears even now to be coming down from some high places in the leadership.
    I would think that evangelism can be effective AND biblical at the same time.


  2. [...] Strange BaptistFire A Closer Look at the Doctrines of Grace in the SBC « A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 2. The Evangelistic&nb… [...]

  3. Dave Says:

    A question – has does unlimited atonement square with closed communion especially in light of his exegesis of Jesus in the Upper Room? Dr Allen would hold to both these doctrines

  4. kangaroodort Says:

    I left a few comments at the next post on Packer’s article relating to 1 Cor. 15:3 and was asked to comment here on Dr. Waldon’s “exegesis”.

    To be quite frank, I don’t think there is much exegesis going on here. To exegete a passage means to allow the text to speak for itself, to draw meaning from it, and that is hardly what Waldon appears to be doing. He strains logic and language to get the passage to say something other than it appears to say.

    For example,

    What 1 Corinthians 15[:3] actually says is that Paul taught the Corinthians that Christ died for “our sins.” This is patently different than saying that Christ died for their sins.

    This is really weak IMO. If Paul spoke to unbelievers and told them that Christ died for “our” sins, then that would naturally include “their” sins as well. To suggest that “our” could mean the church is a real stretch to try to avoid the implications of the text and not exegesis.

    If Paul meant to say that he preached to them that Christ died for the “church” or the “elect” meaning that only Paul was really included among the elect as “ours” rather than Paul including those he preached to as “ours”, he sure went about expressing that in a strange and unguarded manner. It is a very unnatural way to read and understand Paul’s statement and so I think the burden of proof still resided with Dr. Waldon to prove Paul does not mean just what he appears to plainly say. To say, “well, it could mean something else” while that something else is far from a natural reading, is not “exegesis” but mere speculation, IMO.

    Second, it might mean that Christ died for our (generally the human race’s) sins and that, if they believed, it would be for them in particular.

    Again, this is a real stretch. So Paul meant, “Christ died for our sins [and by "our" I mean the human race in general, but not you and me in particular, really I just mean that Christ died for the sins of some elect among all tribes, classes, and races of people- that is all I meant by "our"].

    And we are to believe that this is “exegesis” on the part of Dr. Waldon? You are welcomed to think that but I understand the meaning of exegesis a little differently I guess. To me it seems obvious that Dr. Waldon is reading his convictions to “L” into the text, and that is more properly called eisegesis.

    Much more could be said but I am out of time for now. I might check back again tomorrow. I think it is rather clear that any suggestion that we should not tell others that Christ died for them when preaching the gospel is in contradiction to Paul’s words in this passage, and the burden of proof rests with those (like Packer) to demonstrate otherwise (since he makes such claims that Scripture never teaches such a thing).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. strangebaptistfire Says:

    Ben,

    Even in light of 1 Corinthians 15:3, we still have no example of any evangelistic encounter in which an unbeliever or group of unbelievers is told “Christ died for your sins.” You say, “Well, ‘your’ is included in ‘our,’ but I think that we must take the God-inspired pronoun seriously enough not to substitute our own word in our witness. So that even if you are evangelizing from a general atonement perspective you should say “Christ died for our sins” rather than “Christ died for your sins.” I see no reason from the text why we could not agree on this methodological point, even if we are not in total agreement on the full import of the statement, “Christ died for our sins.”

    As to Dr. Waldron’s exegesis: You refer to the points he makes as a “real stretch,” but you do not show why they are a stretch either linguistically or from the context. There is an ambiguity in the text in that Paul, in the present, is recounting what he spoke to the Corinthians when he first preached to them. So when he says “our” is he quoting from his previous statement or is he paraphrasing based on the current circumstances. There is no reason why it is “really weak” to think that Paul might have first preached that Christ gave himself up for the church- as he explicitly writes in Ephesians 5:25- and then later, when recounting this message to a church to paraphrase himself as saying, “Christ died for our sins.” You have asserted that this line of reasoning is “really weak,” but aside from your own opinion ["IMO"] you have offered no proof.

    You accuse Dr. Waldron of reading convictions into the text. This is only eisegesis if these convictions are grounded in something other than Scripture. If, instead, his belief in particular redemption is formed by exploration of the scriptural text (see, for example, his exegesis of Revelation 5:9-10, found elsewhere on this blog), then it is not eisegesis to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

    Sola gratia,
    -Andrew

  6. kangaroodort Says:

    sbs,

    The reason I said that Waldron’s assertions were not exegesis is because they were not contextual and went against the natural reading of the text. You seem to admit that “yours” is included in “ours” and that it would be proper to tell someone that “Christ died for our sins”. Yet I doubt that you would ever do such a thing without qualifying “our” to the point that it didn’t mean what the person you evagenlized would naturally assume it meant (mine as well as yours). And that is the point. Dr. Waldron is not allowing the text to speak for itself, but inserting his commitment to “L” into the passage.

    Now you can say that he is just interpreting Scripture by Scripture but I would contend that he has misunderstood those other passages as well. And the point that really must be pressed here is that you have essentially shown that the “L” in TULIP can never be falsified since whenever someone points to a passage which states that Christ died for all, etc. you will never accept that testimony based on some other Scripture that you feel conforms to TULIP. So you say, “Show me, the burden of proof lies with you”, and then when you are shown you say, “Well, it can’t mean that because of such and such a passage.” And this leads me to my next point and some more passages for you or Dr. Waldron to “exegete”.

    Really, contrary to what Dr. Waldron said (and I know it was in the context of the claims regarding 1 Cor. 15:3), the burden of proof always rests with the Calvinist with regards to limiting the atonement. This is because the Bible so plainly speaks of Christ dying for the world or all or every man, or desiring all to be saved.

    Now I know that Calvinist have tried to find ways to limit the scope of these passages, but the fact remains that the Bible says Christ died for all (i.e uses that specific language) and that God commands all men everywhere to repent. This call to repentance is grounded in the atonement since repentance can avail no one outside of the application of Christ’s blood.

    So in addition to 1 Cor. 15:3 we can add all of those passage which speak of universal atonement and the command to preach the gospel to all as well as the truth that God commands all men everywhere to repent (which repentance must have reference to atonement).

    Two more specific passages could be added which I think, along with 1 Cor. 15, ruin any contention that it is unbiblical to tell people that Christ died for them while evangelizing. The first is in Peter’s sermon found in Acts chapter 3:12-19. Notice especially the language being used in verses 18, 19, and 26. In verse 18 Peter speaks of Christ suffering death according to prophecy, and in verse 19 he says, “”Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” So repentance is directly tied to Christ’s death. So if God commands all men everywhere to repent, then Christ must have died for all as noted above. But more than that we see in verse 26 that Peter tells these Jews that Christ was raised that everyone of [them] would be turned from their wicked ways (another way of describing repentance). So it looks like this,

    18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
    19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; . . .
    26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (NAS)

    Forgiveness is provided for all through the death and resurrection of Christ, but only those who repent receive that forgiveness. That is the Arminian position and that gives us solid Biblical grounds for telling people Christ died for them whenever we call them to repentance (I am indebted to an Arminian NT scholar for pointing out these implications of Peter’s sermon).

    We can add to this 1 John 5:10-13 where John says that believers are those who accept the witness (or testimony) of God concerning His Son and unbelievers are those who reject that witness. And what is that witness?

    “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son.”

    So the testimony that unbelievers reject is the testimony that eternal life has been provided in Christ (which certainly is grounded in the atonement). By rejecting this testimony (that God has provided life for them in Christ), they have “made [God] a liar”. This can only be true if the testimony concerning provision of life in Christ is true for them.

    They have made God out to be a liar by rejecting this testimony of God’s provision in Christ (this is the same thing being expressed in John 3:16-18, 36). But if Christ did not die for them nor provide eternal life for them then they have not rejected that provision and God is not made out to be a liar since the testimony would not, then, apply to them, but would in fact be a false testimony.

    So again, I think when we consider passages like these it is absurd to suggest that the burden of proof rests with those who deny limited atonement and believe it is proper and normal to tell people that Christ died for them when evangelizing and calling unbelievers to repentance and faith in Christ. The burden of proof rests with the ones who want to deny Christ’s provision for all, and always has, and Calvinists have always and continue to fail in meeting that burden.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. strangebaptistfire Says:

    Ben,

    The “natural reading of the text” must be determined from the text within its context in light of the entire text of Scripture. This is true for this text, as well as for the “world” and “all” texts, and even the singular “every man” text (Heb 2:9). I did not necessarily admit that “yours” is included in “ours”- in this I was alluding to your position. I would qualify “our” in the statement that Christ died for our sins in the same I way would qualify the statement that Christ is the Saviour of all men to preclude our culture’s presumption of universalism.

    Notice that you still have not shown Dr. Waldron’s exegesis to be impossible or implausible from the language of 1 Corinthians 15:3, or from its immediate context, in reference to this verse, your hermeneutic seems to be an appeal to common sense, which is an uncertain guide.

    You do (as we all must) turn to other scriptural passages to support your position. Your argument is that Dr. Waldron’s position on 1 Corinthians 15:3 is implausible (and I think you would say impossible) based on the teachings of these other passages. You are correct in linking repentance and eternal life to Christ’s work, (God’s gifts of repentance and eternal life are granted the sinner on the basis of Christ’s work), but incorrect in your conclusion, “and that gives us solid Biblical grounds for telling people Christ died for them whenever we call them to repentance.” Peter himself speaks of Christ’s sufferings and calls his hearers to repentance, but does not say, ‘Christ died for you.’

    Christ’s death is certainly sufficient to atone for the sins of all, the argument is that there is also a specific design in the atonement to grant certain benefits to a particular foreknown and predestined people (see Romans 8:29-32).

    Again, let’s not overlook Packer’s point, as he is quoted in the next post on this blog- people are called to faith in Christ Himself, not to faith in any view of the extent of the atonement.

    -Andrew

  8. kangaroodort Says:

    Andrew,

    You wrote:

    The “natural reading of the text” must be determined from the text within its context in light of the entire text of Scripture. This is true for this text, as well as for the “world” and “all” texts, and even the singular “every man” text (Heb 2:9).

    I agree. And that is why the Arminian position is so strong. When a text uses universal language we have no need to read the text any other way unless there are strong contextual reasons for doing so. This is not the case in any of the passages that speak of Christ dying for the world, all men, etc. Again, I know that Calvinists try to overturn the explicit language by appeals to contextual considerations, but the context alone cannot be made to dictate any such limitation. And appeals to “all men without distinction” fit nicely within “all men without exception”, so appealing to “all men without distinction” really doesn’t help the Calvinist case. What the Calvinist really means is “some men among all men without distinction”, but when it is stated that way the eisegesis becomes quite obvious. The texts never say this nor suggest it.

    I did not necessarily admit that “yours” is included in “ours”- in this I was alluding to your position.

    Fair enough, that is why I said you “seem” to admit it. But do you admit that this would be the natural way that such language would be understood if you were sharing the gospel and said, “Christ died for our sins”? The person you were speaking to would naturally understand that you were saying that Christ died for his sins as well as yours, would he not? And there is no reason to believe that the Corinthians, likewise, would not understand Paul to mean the same thing.

    I would qualify “our” in the statement that Christ died for our sins in the same I way would qualify the statement that Christ is the Saviour of all men to preclude our culture’s presumption of universalism.

    Our cultures presumption of universalism? In both cases, whether we say that Christ is the Savior of all men, or that He died for all men, the statements are equally true in that they teach that Christ provides salvation for all. The only qualification give in Scripture is that only believers receive the application of that provision (1 Tim. 4:10).

    Notice that you still have not shown Dr. Waldron’s exegesis to be impossible or implausible from the language of 1 Corinthians 15:3, or from its immediate context, in reference to this verse, your hermeneutic seems to be an appeal to common sense, which is an uncertain guide.

    Again, I haven’t seen any exegesis on Waldron’s part, only speculation and alternative suggestions based not on context or specific language, but on the need to dismiss the passage as irrelevant in order to preserve “L”. My hermeneutic is to allow Paul to speak for himself and to try to understand him in the way that his audience would have. That is not what Dr. Waldron is doing. He is trying to understand Paul’s words as his Calvinism dictates he must.

    You do (as we all must) turn to other scriptural passages to support your position. Your argument is that Dr. Waldron’s position on 1 Corinthians 15:3 is implausible (and I think you would say impossible) based on the teachings of these other passages.

    Actually, I am suggesting that his position is not correct based on the specific language and context being used in this particular passage. As far as the teaching of “other” universal passages, I believe them to teach universal provisional atonement for the exact same reasons- context and specific and deliberate use of language.

    You are correct in linking repentance and eternal life to Christ’s work, (God’s gifts of repentance and eternal life are granted the sinner on the basis of Christ’s work), but incorrect in your conclusion, “and that gives us solid Biblical grounds for telling people Christ died for them whenever we call them to repentance.” Peter himself speaks of Christ’s sufferings and calls his hearers to repentance, but does not say, ‘Christ died for you.’

    But he does, though he does not use that exact phrase. Did you read what I wrote concerning Acts 3:18-26 in my last post? I hope you are not suggesting that we can only ever teach or preach with the exact language the Bible uses? Have you ever explained to someone the Trinity, that God is one eternal being existing in three persons? Where do you find that specific language in Scripture? You don’t. But based on comparing numerous passages you feel comfortable saying something in language that the Bible never uses.

    Haven’t you asserted that “all” in numerous universal passages means only “some men among all men without distinction?” Where do you find that specific language in Scripture? If you want to stick to strict Scriptural language, then you should be telling people that Christ died for the world, and for “all men” and “every man” and that He desires all men to be saved, without the “some unconditionally elect men among all men without distinction” qualifier. But you don’t do that do you? Yet you seem to think the Arminian can’t say “Christ died for you” unless the Bible uses that exact same language down to the last syllable.

    Christ’s death is certainly sufficient to atone for the sins of all, the argument is that there is also a specific design in the atonement to grant certain benefits to a particular foreknown and predestined people (see Romans 8:29-32).

    But this just sounds like double talk. If the atonement is sufficient for the reprobate then the atonement should be able to save him. If it was not provided for him nor intended for him, and cannot possibly save him, then it is not sufficient for him either.

    Simply ask yourself “can the blood of Christ save the reprobate?” Your answer must be “no” if you are going to hold to limited atonement. Atonement wasn’t made for him; it is limited to the elect. Christ’s blood wasn’t shed for him; it was shed only for the elect. So the atonement is obviously not “sufficient” for those it was not made for. That is not sufficiency in any meaningful sense and certainly not sufficiency as it would normally be understood in the context of this debate.

    Again, let’s not overlook Packer’s point, as he is quoted in the next post on this blog- people are called to faith in Christ Himself, not to faith in any view of the extent of the atonement.

    But the atoning blood of Christ is how we are saved. Yes, we are to trust in Christ but Christ can only save because of the shed blood (Rom. 3:25). It is ridiculous to say we just need to trust in Christ without any reference to the reason why we are to trust in Him. I explained this with regards to 1 John 5:10-13 above. We must believe the testimony concerning Christ and His atoning blood is part of that testimony. But one cannot put faith in His atoning work if His blood was not shed for that person. In order for the testimony to be valid, Christ’s blood and the life that results from it must be provided for all. Otherwise, God has provided a false testimony for most of humanity, and then condemns them for rejecting that false testimony.

    God Bless,
    Ben


  9. A clarification and a question about your comment for now (and I do hope to return to this conversation either later today or tomorrow):

    First, re: Haven’t you asserted that “all” in numerous universal passages means only “some men among all men without distinction?”-

    Actually, I’m asserting that “all” in normal conversation NEVER means what the Arminian presumes it to mean: that is, “every person ever to live.” We always understand the term to be more restricted to this according to the context. One must work hard to create exceptions to this rule (perhaps, for instance, one may say that all persons have DNA or something, but otherwise there is always at least one exception).

    Second, re: Simply ask yourself “can the blood of Christ save the reprobate?”-

    This is the same as if I asked you, “can the blood of Christ save the one who dies while rejecting Christ in unbelief?” The answer (I think you would agree) could be considered “yes” in a hypothetical sense, but it is “no” in the sense that God has not ordained universalism.

    Blessings in Christ,
    -Andrew

  10. kangaroodort Says:

    Andrew,

    Just noticed your comments and I will be responding as soon as I have the opportunity.

    God Bles,
    Ben

  11. kangaroodort Says:

    Andrew,

    you wrote:

    Actually, I’m asserting that “all” in normal conversation NEVER means what the Arminian presumes it to mean: that is, “every person ever to live.”

    Well, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with you here. I am fairly confident that if I went to ten unsaved people who were not familiar with the A/C debate in the least and said to them, “Christ died for all (or “the world” or “everyone”), so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life”, all ten of them would understand that to mean that Christ died for all without exception and the provision of that death is appropriated by faith. If I just quoted John 3:16, they would come to the exact same conclusion.

    I did a post a while ago on a Presbyterian church sign which read, “God’s love is meant for all”. I thought that was a rather strange sign coming from a church that is traditionally Calvinistic. Now that statement, by itself, would seem to communicate to anyone who read it that God’s love is meant for everyone on the planet (including the person reading the sign). I simply cannot imagine anyone getting “some among all” or any other limitation out of that statement.

    So “all” when used in the context of this debate does indeed lead to exactly the Arminian conclusion. If you are speaking of “all” in other contexts, then you may have a case. But that is exactly the point. The contexts of the disputed passages never limit “all”, “every”, “world”, or “whole world” and the natural reading is indeed universal.

    That is why “L” is so hard to accept even for new Calvinists, and why many scholarly Calvinists who have no problem with the T U I P of TULIP still adamantly reject “L”.

    This is the same as if I asked you, “can the blood of Christ save the one who dies while rejecting Christ in unbelief?” The answer (I think you would agree) could be considered “yes” in a hypothetical sense, but it is “no” in the sense that God has not ordained universalism.

    I don’t think it is the same. The blood cannot save the unbeliever while He remains in unbelief because it was not intended to be applied to unbelievers. But the provision was made for the unbeliever so that if he turns to Christ in faith, the blood certainly will save him. But if the blood was not shed for him nor intended for him, and if God has made it impossible for him to respond in faith, then that blood is not sufficient for him in any sense. Big difference.

    God Bless and thank you for the gracious interaction.

    Ben

  12. strangebaptistfire Says:

    Ben,

    If confronted with the statement, “Christ died for our sins,” I propose that there are four possible reactions the non-Christian may have:
    1. He or she could believe this statement, trusting on Christ, and thus find this statement true for him- or herself.
    2. He or she could relativize this statement and say, “That’s true for you, but not for me!” I would grant the possibility that he or she may be correct in this regard, but you would not.
    3. He or she could simply disbelieve this statement. If he or she continued in this disbelief until death, then I would say that this demonstrates (among other things) that the atonement was not intended for him or her- that he or she was not among the elect. You would say that whereas the atonement was intended for him or her, he or she would not benefit from the atonement due to unbelief.
    4. He or she could give mere intellectual assent to this statement and think, “If Jesus died to pay for my sins, I have nothing to worry about,” and lacking true faith, he or she would remain under the condemnation of sin.

    You say: “But if the blood was not shed for him nor intended for him, and if God has made it impossible for him to respond in faith, then that blood is not sufficient for him in any sense.”

    But I deny that GOD has made it impossible for sinners to respond to Him in faith. Sinners find it impossible to respond in faith due to their own sinful nature- sinners love sin. It is God who must overcome this impossibility, which impossibility is erected by sinners. (But with God all things are possible.) This is why Jesus in John 6 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

    I still want to raise the question of whether it is possible for a Calvinist and an Arminian to practice evangelism together. (I hope that it is possible.) Do you say that telling an individual, “Christ died specifically and particularly for you,” is so fundamental to evangelism that you could not work with a Calvinist in personal evangelism? Or would you be willing to say, “Christ died for sinners, you are a sinner, you must repent and trust in Him,” without going into specifics concerning the extent of the atonement?

    In Christ,
    -Andrew

  13. kangaroodort Says:

    Andrew,

    You wrote:

    If confronted with the statement, “Christ died for our sins,” I propose that there are four possible reactions the non-Christian may have:
    1. He or she could believe this statement, trusting on Christ, and thus find this statement true for him- or herself.

    True (though I would say that it is true for them whether they believe or not). But one cannot believe in this statement without first believing that it is true for them (the way I have defined “our” as opposed to how you defined it). Now I understand that you believe that one cannot believe this statement until God first irresistibly regenerates them, but even if that were true it would not resolve the difficulty of the integrity of the statement to reprobates, for example.

    2. He or she could relativize this statement and say, “That’s true for you, but not for me!” I would grant the possibility that he or she may be correct in this regard, but you would not.

    I am curious how you would respond to someone who said this. Would you assume there is no hope for that person? You can’t assure him that Christ did indeed die for his sins, so what would you say?

    3. He or she could simply disbelieve this statement. If he or she continued in this disbelief until death, then I would say that this demonstrates (among other things) that the atonement was not intended for him or her- that he or she was not among the elect.

    And here is one of the big problems for limited atonement as I described in an earlier post with regards to 1 John 5:10-13. If she disbelieves that Christ died for her sins (assuming that is how she would naturally understand “our” sins), and she turns out to be a reprobate that God never made nor intended any atonement for, then she has only rejected what is for her a lie. Christ didn’t die for her sins so why should she be called on to believe what is nothing less than a lie for her and then be punished for refusing to believe false testimony? Shouldn’t she rather be commended for refusing to believe lies? This really gets to the heart of the matter, the integrity of the offer, and it is a problem that Calvinists have never been able to successfully deal with in my opinion.

    You would say that whereas the atonement was intended for him or her, he or she would not benefit from the atonement due to unbelief.

    Yes I would. And I think this comports well with all of the Biblical data. And it upholds God’s justice in that the one who rejects Christ’s provision is rightly condemned. But if no provision was made for the person and the atonement was not intended for him, then it is hard to see how God can possibly be just in condemning that person for rejecting something that was not provided for him nor intended for him. In fact, it cannot truly even be called “rejection” since there was never a genuine offer made (cf. John 3:36). Again, the best we could say is that the person refused to believe a lie, and God then condemned him for it.

    4. He or she could give mere intellectual assent to this statement and think, “If Jesus died to pay for my sins, I have nothing to worry about,” and lacking true faith, he or she would remain under the condemnation of sin.

    Agreed. I am not suggesting that we limit our evangelizing only to this specific phrase. I am only pointing out that it is proper to tell someone Christ died for their sins according to the Biblical testimony. More than that should be said, but the “more” should not essentially render what was just said meaningless or false.

    You say: “But if the blood was not shed for him nor intended for him, and if God has made it impossible for him to respond in faith, then that blood is not sufficient for him in any sense.”

    But I deny that GOD has made it impossible for sinners to respond to Him in faith.

    How can sinners rightly believe in an atonement that was neither provided for them nor intended for them?

    Sinners find it impossible to respond in faith due to their own sinful nature- sinners love sin. It is God who must overcome this impossibility, which impossibility is erected by sinners.

    There is a lot to deal with here. First, I agree that the sinner is incapable of responding without divine enablement. But if God calls on the sinner to repent and believe in a gospel that is not intended for him nor provided for him and does not enable a response, then it is not just for God to condemn that person for rejecting the gospel. For that person there is no gospel. No good news to receive. So how is God just in condemning the person for refusing to believe a lie?

    But I think it is not quite accurate to say that the blame is entirely the sinners when the other doctrinal points of Calvinism are considered (particularly exhaustive determinism). If every action of the sinner has been decreed from eternity and the sinner cannot possibly resist that decree, then it is really God that determined the condition of the sinner and rendered the sinner incapable of response in the first place (but that is opening up another can of worms).

    (But with God all things are possible.) This is why Jesus in John 6 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

    No disagreement here.

    I still want to raise the question of whether it is possible for a Calvinist and an Arminian to practice evangelism together. (I hope that it is possible.) Do you say that telling an individual, “Christ died specifically and particularly for you,” is so fundamental to evangelism that you could not work with a Calvinist in personal evangelism?

    Not necessarily, though I think it makes evangelism unnecessarily challenging for the Calvinist. Now on the other side, would you contend that the Arminian should have the freedom to say, “Christ died for your sins” when evangelizing with a Calvinist?

    Or would you be willing to say, “Christ died for sinners, you are a sinner, you must repent and trust in Him,” without going into specifics concerning the extent of the atonement?

    But I think this does get into specifics concerning the extent of the atonement. When you connect “Christ died for sinners” with “you are a sinner” you are giving the impression that Christ died specifically for that person. Now if the Calvinist really means Christ died for some sinners and since you are a sinner you might be one of those sinners Christ died for, then I think the Calvinist is being rather deceptive in his language. So I say that when we are evangelizing, integrity of the message is important. We should say what we mean and mean what we say.

    It seems rather obvious that when you connect “Christ died for sinners” with “you are a sinner” that the person would draw the conclusion that Christ died for him. But this is exactly what the Calvinist insists should never be said in evangelism. So I would hope that the Calvinist would either tell the sinner that Christ might have died for him (in harmony with his convictions) or tell the person that Christ died for him (which is what “Christ died for sinners, you are a sinner” suggests). Otherwise deception is lying underneath the gospel message, and I would hope that the Calvinist would be uncomfortable with that.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. strangebaptistfire Says:

    Ben,

    Re: “It seems rather obvious that when you connect ‘Christ died for sinners’ with ‘you are a sinner’ that the person would draw the conclusion that Christ died for him.”

    -Not necessarily! That was my entire point in bringing up the four possible responses. As each of these responses is possible, as some hearing the message “Christ died for sinners” will believe on Christ and by faith find Christ their perfect Redeemer, and as we have no idea who the reprobate are, I don’t think that the Calvinist is being deceptive in saying “Christ died for sinners.”

    You object that God would be unjust to condemn those for whom He did not make redemption in Christ. But this objection seems to make grace something that God owes the sinner. A person is condemned for breaking God’s law, rebelling against His sovereignty. If God had condemned the entire human race, He would yet be just.

    -Andrew

  15. kangaroodort Says:

    Andrew,

    You wrote,

    As each of these responses is possible, as some hearing the message “Christ died for sinners” will believe on Christ and by faith find Christ their perfect Redeemer, and as we have no idea who the reprobate are, I don’t think that the Calvinist is being deceptive in saying “Christ died for sinners.”

    I would hope that the Calvinist is not being deliberately deceptive while it still seems to me that the message strongly suggests something that the Calvinist denies. Again, the language suggests that Christ died for all sinners, especially when you add, “you are a sinner”. What the Calvinist really means is “Christ died for some sinners, you are a sinner, and so Christ might have died for you.” But that is not what he is saying, nor is it implied in the least by that language (the language, in fact, points in the opposite direction IMO). So it does seem that he is being deceptive in his use of language (even if he does not intend to be). You want to focus on the possible responses, but I am focusing on the integrity of the message and the one delivering that message.

    Now if you want to say that some will believe regardless of the message, then you render the message of the gospel of no avail. The question is, does the message reflect Calvinistic doctrine, or is Calvinistic doctrine being concealed for the sake of evangelizing. If it is being concealed, then that tells us something about the practical implications of Calvinism concerning evangelism. If the Calvinist is not trying to hide anything, then why use language that gives a universal impression to the hearer when the Calvinist is strongly against universal atonement?

    So like I said before,

    “Now if the Calvinist really means Christ died for some sinners and since you are a sinner you might be one of those sinners Christ died for, then I think the Calvinist is being rather deceptive in his language. So I say that when we are evangelizing, integrity of the message is important. We should say what we mean and mean what we say.”

    You object that God would be unjust to condemn those for whom He did not make redemption in Christ.

    Not at all. I object that God would be unjust to condemn those for whom He did not make redemption in Christ on the primary basis of that rejection. And I object that it could even properly be called “rejection” (Jn. 3:16-18, 36; 1 John 5:10-13), if no provision was made nor intended for the sinner.

    But this objection seems to make grace something that God owes the sinner.

    Not at all. If God sovereignly (freely) determined to offer salvation to sinners conditioned on faith, then that determination was entirely gracious, since God was not obligated to offer salvation at all. But once God graciously and freely decided to provide and offer salvation conditioned on faith in Christ, He is perfectly just to hold those accountable who reject that gracious provision. But if there is no provision then they cannot be rightly condemned for rejecting it.

    A person is condemned for breaking God’s law, rebelling against His sovereignty.

    The sinner is indeed condemned for his sins, but only because he has rejected the forgiveness that could have been his. Having rejected that forgiveness he will pay the price for those sins himself since he refused to receive the satisfaction for those sins in Christ. So it is true that the sinner is condemned for his sins and it is also true that he is condemned for unbelief (rejection), but the primary reason for condemnation is in rejecting the way of escape from condemnation that God graciously provided (atonement in Christ’s blood) to the sinner.

    If God had condemned the entire human race, He would yet be just.

    True, if sin were the only issue with regards to condemnation. But the primary issue is unbelief and rejection of the gracious provision and offer of salvation in Christ Jesus,

    “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already (for all of his sins), because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18

    God Bless,
    Ben


  16. Ben,

    I wouldn’t necessarily be against saying, “Christ died for some sinners, you are a sinner, and so Christ might have died for you.” I would want to stress that “and if you trust in Christ, you can be certain that Christ died as your substitute, taking God’s wrath against sin in your place.” To stress limited atonement by just saying “Christ might have died for you” seems to introduce a particular doctrine of election into evangelism, which may be unnecessarily distracting (just as, for instance, I would not usually stress a particular doctrine of ecclesiology or a particular doctrine of eschatology when presenting the gospel).

    As for the other issues you raise: these show how the various doctrines that characterize Calvinism or Arminianism hold together as inseparable. I’ve been trying to keep the discussion on limited atonement, but the issues you raise (appropriately and necessarily) force a consideration of moral in/ability or un/conditional election, which doctrines would be foundational to a proper understanding of the extent of the atonement. For we must answer if God has set up salvation in the way that the Arminian proposes- in which there is the necessity of a libertarian free will decision- or whether such a decision is impossible due to the nature of human sinfulness, and God Himself grants faith as a gift.

    These are issues that define the Calvinist/Arminian debate, and there are many places even on this blog in which such issues have been debated. Without minimizing the importance of such debates (I do think that they can be edifying), I was hoping to dedicate the conversation here to another question: namely, can a convinced Calvinist and a convinced Arminian work together in presenting the gospel to non-Christians? The answer from your perspective seems to be “no,” because you seem to view the Calvinist as (whether willingly or in ignorance) crucially distorting a right understanding of who God is. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

    -Andrew

  17. kangaroodort Says:

    Andrew,

    You wrote:

    I wouldn’t necessarily be against saying, “Christ died for some sinners, you are a sinner, and so Christ might have died for you.” I would want to stress that “and if you trust in Christ, you can be certain that Christ died as your substitute, taking God’s wrath against sin in your place.”

    But this is problematic in my opinion because it assumes that the person has something to trust in. If the atonement might not have been made for him then there is, potentially, nothing for him to trust in. Again, it has to do with the integrity of the “testimony” as described in 1 John. The testimony has reference to God’s provision of life in Christ which is certainly founded on atonement. Our testimony should comport with that testimony. So we should tell them (or at least not be hindered from telling them) that God has provided eternal life for them and this life is in Christ (according to 1 John 5:11). This testimony is true for everyone since the one who rejects this testimony makes God [out to be] a liar (vs. 10).

    So we should present the testimony as true to those we evangelize. If they receive the testimony they will be joined to Christ and share in the life that is in Him (vss. 11 and 12). If they reject the testimony they are condemned for making God a liar concerning the testimony, “because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.” But if they reject the testimony and thereby prove that Christ did not die for them and made no provision of life for them, then they have not made God out to be a liar (according to limited atonement) because there actually was no provision of life in the Son for them. They have therefore rejected only what was in fact not true. They have not rejected a true testimony, in that case, but a false testimony (for there was no life in the Son for them). And I could bring up again that Peter tells the crowd in Acts that Christ’s death and resurrection was for the purpose of “turning everyone of you from your wicked way.”

    So again, I think the Calvinist hinders the message and accessibility of the message in a way that the Bible never does, and even in a way that seems to me to contrary to the Biblical “testimony” concerning Christ.

    To stress limited atonement by just saying “Christ might have died for you” seems to introduce a particular doctrine of election into evangelism, which may be unnecessarily distracting (just as, for instance, I would not usually stress a particular doctrine of ecclesiology or a particular doctrine of eschatology when presenting the gospel).

    I understand what you are saying here but it is actually the doctrine of atonement (which includes its scope and accessibility) that is being introduced. In other words, if limited atonement is true then it is part of the message of Christ’s death and possible atonement for the individual. Is it connected to a view of election? Absolutely, but it is still basic to the nature of atonement itself (even if election were never brought up), and the message should comport with the theology behind it, even if we do not bring that theology to the forefront.

    The answer from your perspective seems to be “no,” because you seem to view the Calvinist as (whether willingly or in ignorance) crucially distorting a right understanding of who God is. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

    Well, that depends. If it is impossible then the fault would fall on the Calvinist in insisting that the Arminian cannot tell those he witnesses to that Christ died for them. I would not be willing to hinder the accessibility of the message for the sake of pleasing someone who disagrees with my theology. I would not have a problem with the Calvinist sharing the message in his own way according to his theology, but I would not forfeit the freedom I believe the Bible plainly affords me in telling others that God desires their salvation and that God has made provision for their salvation through faith in His Son. So if the Calvinist can’t handle that, then I guess we would not be able to work together.

    God Bless,
    Ben


  18. Hey Andrew,

    I am with Kanga on this. As soon as I see repeated comments that ‘such and such might or may mean something,’ I tend to warning bells. But here is one of the arguments.

    The “you” of Luke, and the idea that it could exclude Judas.

    Take a look at this:

    NIV Mark 14:18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me– one who is eating with me.”

    NIV Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

    NIV Luke 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

    NIV Luke 22:21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.

    David: think it would be incredible to suppose that the “you” in the Markan reference excludes Judas. That he is comprehended in the “you” is deductively certain. So then why should one argue that the “you” in Luke now excludes Judas?

    Its special pleading to say that the Lukan “you” excludes Judas, while the Markan “you” includes Judas. What exegetical grounds would suppose such an equivocation?

    Appealing to John is not enough, as that opens the door to any and every “you” (or any pronoun as a matter of fact) from suffering the same alleged ambiguity. And the fact that Jesus in John felt the need to qualify the “you” is telling too. Jesus knew that in order to correct any potential misapprehension, he qualifies himself. But we see no evidence of that at the passover meal. Hence, I do think the prima facie case is on inclusion of Judas, just as Jesus must have realised that in the John example, the prima facie reading was that Judas was included, such that he needed to qualify himself. And the extra fact that in the John example, we have the presence of conditionals: ‘if you do these things….’

    Like Kanga, I would like to see something beyond speculation. As one’s polemic has to be a little more sophisticated than simply resorting to “it might mean…”

    Thanks and take care,
    David


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