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.