Response to Driscoll’s Presentation of Un/Limited Atonement: “Reconciliation”

In Death by Love Mark Driscoll writes, “…Jesus died for all people in general so that they obtain some general benefits, and for the elect Christians in particular so that they would enjoy additional specific benefits regarding salvation.” Considered on its own, there is nothing objectionable about this quote, and “5-point Calvinists” have made similar statements. (For example, Charles Spurgeon has been quoted as saying, “We believe that by His atoning sacrifice, Christ bought some good things for all men and all good things for some men.”) What makes Driscoll’s view objectionable, however, is the content of what “general benefits” he understands to be purchased for “all people” through the death of Christ. For whereas when Spurgeon speaks of “good things” “bought… for all men,” he is referring to common grace- the goodness, love, and patience to sinners extended universally, without distinction [I refer readers to the explanation of this issue found in Phil Johnson's "The Nature of the Atonement: Why and For Whom Did Christ Die?"]- Driscoll goes beyond this, to say that one of the “general benefits” purchased for “all people” (and certainly applied to “all people,” without exception) is reconciliation with God. In Driscoll’s view, even those who suffer in hell are reconciled to God: he writes, “all those in hell will stand reconciled to God,” and, “In hell unrepentant and unforgiven sinners are no longer rebels, and their sinful disregard for God has been crushed and ended.”

The idea that “those is hell will stand reconciled to God” seems to be fundamentally at odds with the biblical presentation of what it means to be “reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (NIV). When we implore people on Christ’s behalf to “be reconciled to God,” we are not telling anyone to go to hell- we are trying to warn them away from hell; being “reconciled to God” is fundamentally antithetical to being sent to hell. I direct readers’ attention to the biblical definition of “reconciliation” as explored in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology; Baker’s points out, “[Reconciliation] assumes there has been a breakdown in the relationship, but now there has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of harmony and fellowship.” Those who are in hell are not in a relationship of “harmony and fellowship” with God.

Driscoll writes that in hell, “sinners are no longer rebels.” While I would agree that they are no longer engaged in rebellion, sinners in hell yet remain rebellious in their attitude toward God. If this is not the case, then when does their change in attitude take place? For the elect, our attitude is changed in regeneration; we are born again by the Holy Spirit: our rebellious hearts are replaced with hearts of worship as we are made new creatures in Christ due to His work on the Cross on our behalf. If those in hell are reconciled (according to Driscoll’s view) are we also to say that they are regenerated? In affirming such things, we would make gospel terms virtually meaningless.

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4 Comments on “Response to Driscoll’s Presentation of Un/Limited Atonement: “Reconciliation””

  1. Dan Says:

    I’m so confused and slightly disappointed when I can hear in person Driscoll preach a “repent or you’re going to Hell” (word for word) and then see him do this “thing” with ‘reconciling people in Hell’.

    I’m tempted to think they just have a very different (albeit wrong) definition/understanding of “reconciliation”. But the word “Reconciliation” means virtually nothing if one used the “un-limited-limited theory” of Driscoll/Ware.


  2. Dan,

    My thoughts exactly!

    -Andrew

  3. thomastwitchell Says:

    From the V Rejection of Error; Second Head of Doctrine of the Canons of Dort:

    “Who teach that all people have been received into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one on account of original sin is liable to condemnation, or is to be condemned, but that all are free from the guilt of this sin.

    For this opinion conflicts with Scripture which asserts that we are by nature children of wrath.”

    The idea of reconcilliation being made universal denies the doctrine of original sin in that by this erroneous concept of reconcilliation the imputed guilt of Adam is denied.

    It does no good then to argue for total depravity for in the area of guilt, the individual is pure and therefore sinless. Instead of a baptism (the sprinkling of the blood of Christ which now saves) which cleanses the conscience of guilt, there is no need for it. And if no need for that regenerated reality, then no need for repentance for there is no sin for which one needs to repent.

    The idea of universal reconcilliation then pulls the supports out from under the entirety of the doctrines of grace.

  4. strangebaptistfire Says:

    Good points (as usual!) Thomas.

    -Andrew


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