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:
- 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]:
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. 18 “I 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. (more…)