Friday, May 09, 2008

Who did Jesus die for?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. -John 3:16-17

Who did Jesus die for? Did he die for everyone as Arminians believe (Universal Atomenent), or did he die for the elect as Calvinists believe (Limited Atonement)?

There is overwhelming evidence in scripture that Jesus died for everyone, And there is little to no evidence in the Bible to support the Limited Atonement view. Out of the five points of TULIP, L is the weakest link. It is a point that consistent Calvinists must argue out of philosophical necessity without the affirmation of scripture. This is no doubt why there are many 4-point Calvinists - people who love the logic and elegance of Monergism, but can't bring themselves to advocate a view that is so contradictory to what the Bible teaches about the extent of Jesus' sacrifice for humanity.

The Bible is clear: Jesus died for everyone. It is a simple truth. Scripture is so clear on the universality of the atonement that it amazes me that anyone who reads the whole Bible can attempt to limit the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

There are no verses in the Bible that specifically state that Jesus died only for the elect. Limited Atonement proponents instead refer to passages that speak of Jesus dying for "His sheep" (John 10:27) or for "His Church" (Eph 5:25). Calvinists argue that if Jesus died for a specific group, that precludes the possibility that He died for everyone. This is a weak argument because it comes from the necessity of the Calvinist system, and ignores the many passages that clearly do state that Jesus died for everyone. The Bible is full of verses that say Jesus died for all (John 1:29, John 3:16, John 4:42, Romans 5:15-18, Col 1:19-20, 1 Tim 2:5-6, 1 Tim. 4:10, Heb. 2:9, 2 Pet 2:1, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:14).

We need to look at scripture in context, without imposing an unsupported philosophical system upon it. If we look at the big picture, it becomes absurd to attempt to limit Jesus sacrifice based on the misreading of a verse that mentions a specific entity for whom Jesus died. For an example let's apply the Calvinist's limiting logic to Galatians 2:20 (bold mine):

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If we look at the small picture here in this passage, Paul says specifically that "[Jesus] loved me and gave himself for me." Without referring to the overall context of the Bible, one might legitimately argue that Jesus only gave himself to Paul. However, when we look at the big picture we know that this is a false limitation imposed on the verse. Jesus died for more than just Paul, because other verses say he did.

This same truth applies to any verse that states Jesus died for a specific entity. It is necessary to look at the big picture to fully appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made. It is not adequate to look at one passage that says Jesus died for "Paul" or for "sheep", when other passages clarify and enlarge the context, and clearly state that Jesus did indeed die for all.

We know that Jesus died for the whole world, because the Bible says so. That is an assurance we can build on.

9 comments:

The Seeking Disciple said...

Amen! Well said my friend.

Pizza Man said...

Thanks Roy...

Robert said...

Hello Pizza Man,

I liked your post a very succinct clear and true presentation of unlimited atonement.

A key that convinces me of the falsity of calvinism and “limited atonement” is the bible references to **world** in the New Testament. The bible says that God so loved the world that Jesus was given for that world. The same apostle in his letter writes that Jesus died for believers and the world (1 Jn. 2:2). So if you determine the meaning of world, you then know for whom Christ died. If you do a word study of world in the New Testament you fine different meanings, but the key one that concerns us in the atonement discussion is that it refers to the part of humanity that is hostile to God.

Now here is the question: of the people that make up this group (i.e. the world) are all of them going to come to Christ and be saved or not? If not, then that group consists of two smaller groups of persons: (1) the part of the world that will eventually be saved, become Christians; and (2) the part of the world that consists of people who will never become believers, never be saved.

Now if “world” really consists of those two smaller groups of people, and if Jesus died for that world in its entirety, then Jesus died for **some who will never come to him in faith**. And if Jesus died for some who will never become believers then the limited atonement doctrine is necessarily false (as it claims that he **only** died for believers). In addition to this logical analysis, the calvinistic attempts to reinterpret world so that it refers only to the elect are completely unpersuasive, weak, and false. So the case for the unlimited atonement view is very clear and convincing.

It is so persuasive in fact that some calvinists (e.g., Bruce Ware) cannot bring themselves to adopting the limited atonement view of people like James White.

Most people who adopt this false view do so not base upon scripture but based upon the logic of the calvinistic system which leads to limited atonement. The bible does not teach it, only calvinism does so. And if the choice is between the bible versus calvinism, the choice is clear.

Robert

Pizza Man said...

Thanks Robert, good points as usual.

Robert said...

Hello Pizza Man,

I want to share an example of a “conversion” of someone who went from the unlimited atonement view which is scriptural and clear, to the false “limited atonement” view of calvinism. Note carefully that it was NOT SCRIPTURE WHICH CHANGED HIS MIND, it was a calvinist argument which caused his change in thinking. The example is James White who prides himself on the claim that he holds his views based upon exegesis. Well according to his own words it was not further exegesis of the bible verses which led him to the calvinist view, it was an argument given by a calvinist that persuaded him to change his mind. He starts out by saying he originally held the biblical view:

“There was a time when I called myself a "four-point Calvinist." There are a lot of people who use that term, and, almost all the time, the one point of the five that they reject is the terrible, horrible, "L". Limited atonement. There is just something about the term that doesn't sound right. How can Christ's atonement be limited? And that is exactly what I said until I began to seriously think about the whole issue.”

He then gives some calvinistic spin that people who reject limited atonement just don’t have the right view of God’s sovereignty and the depravity of man and unconditional election (i.e., they don’t hold to calvinism so they miss the “right” view of the atonement that calvinists hold):

“It is my experience that most of those who reject the specific, or limited atonement of Christ, do not *really* believe in the complete sovereignty of God, or the total depravity of man, or the unconditional election of God.”

He also says people reject the calvinistic view because they have problems with the other four points of TULIP. But he held the four points at one time while not holding to limited atonement (which presumably he rejected the limited atonement view based upon what the bible says about universal atonement):

“Most objections that are lodged against the doctrine are actually objections to one of the preceding points, not against limited atonement itself.”

Now look carefully at his “conversion” experience, how he switched from the truth to the false calvinistic view. Note it was not scripture or exegesis that led to his change of thinking, it was a CALVINISTIC ARGUMENT that did it:

“The "break" in my thinking came from reading Edwin Palmer's book, The Five Points of Calvinism. [Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980) pp. 41-55.] In doing a radio program on the truth of God's electing grace, I was challenged by a caller in regards to the death of Christ. "Why would Christ die for the whole world if God did not intend to save everyone?" I looked at my co-host, and he looked at me, and I made a mental note to do more study into that particular question. I grabbed Palmer's book as soon as I returned home, and began to read the chapter on the atoning work of Christ.

I became a full "five-pointer" upon reading the following section:

The question that needs a precise answer is this: Did He or didn't He? Did Christ actually make a substitutionary sacrifice for sins or didn't He? If He did, then it was not for all the world, for then all the world would be saved. (Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p. 47.)”

Notice that he “became a full ‘five pointer’ when he read the section in Palmer (who is a staunch calvinist and was arguing for the calvinistic view in his book)NOT SCRIPTURE OR EXEGESIS OF SCRIPTURE!!

He then further explains how these questions provided by Palmer caused his “conversion”:

“I was faced with a decision. If I maintained a "universal" atonement, that is, if I said that Christ died substitutionarily in the place of every single man and woman in all the world, then I was forced to either say that 1) everyone will be saved, or 2) the death of Christ is insufficient to save without additional works. I knew that I was not willing to believe that Christ's death could not save outside of human actions. So I had to understand that Christ's death was made in behalf of God's elect, and that it does accomplish its intention, it does save those for whom it is made.”

White makes a logical error (the fallacy of false dilemma where a person thinks the truth is one or the other of two propositions when in fact the truth may be a third possibility not considered) in his thinking which he describes here. Clearly (1) everyone will be saved, is false according to other scriptures which teach the reality of hell. But look carefully at how the second point is framed: the death of Christ if it is accompanied by any “additional works” is insufficient to save. A third possibility which is 3) the death of Christ is provided for all, but only applied to those who have faith, is left out of consideration. The bible teaches that Jesus is provided for the world (the provisional aspect of the atonement, sometimes describes as Jesus is “sufficient to save all people”) AND that that provided atonement must be applied to an individual person (the applicational aspect of the atonement, sometimes describes as “efficient only for those who believe). Because the atonement includes both of these elements, the provision of the atonement alone does not save (cf. we were not saved the moment Jesus died, but we are saved nearly two thousand years later when the atonement of Christ is applied to us individually if we have faith). By framing the second point in this way, and leaving out any other possibilities including the third one mentioned here, it mistakenly suggests that the provided for atonement alone saves individuals apart from faith/apart from application of the atonement when it is applied to a person who has faith. This subtle error leads to the conclusion that the atonement alone saves a believer WITHOUT FAITH. The bible teaches that we are saved by faith not merely the provision of the atonement. The atonement is provided for all, but not all will be saved. So who is saved? Those to whom the atonement of Christ is applied. And to whom will that occur? Those who trust in the Lord, who have faith (both in the Old and New Testaments).

Calvinists attempt to develop and present arguments to “prove” their false limited atonement doctrine. Arguments such as the one given by Palmer that converted White. Owen is famous for engaging in this kind of thing and many modern calvinists parrot these same **arguments**. (note = For very clear and valid refutations of these kinds of arguments see Dan’s website: ARMINIAN CHRONICLES where he directly refuted many of Owen’s arguments on this theme).

I share James White’s “testimony” of his “conversion” because it shows that it was not scripture that changed his mind, it was calvinistic arguments that did so. This is common as just reading the bible itself usually does not lead a person to calvinism. It is only after a person is exposed to calvinistic arguments, indoctrinated if you will, that they end up **converting** to calvinism.

Robert

Pizza Man said...

Interesting, I had not heard that about White.

Dawn said...

Great post, Kevin!

Robert, you said, "A third possibility which is 3) the death of Christ is provided for all, but only applied to those who have faith, is left out of consideration. The bible teaches that Jesus is provided for the world (the provisional aspect of the atonement, sometimes describes as Jesus is “sufficient to save all people”) AND that that provided atonement must be applied to an individual person (the applicational aspect of the atonement, sometimes describes as “efficient only for those who believe). Because the atonement includes both of these elements, the provision of the atonement alone does not save (cf. we were not saved the moment Jesus died, but we are saved nearly two thousand years later when the atonement of Christ is applied to us individually if we have faith). By framing the second point in this way, and leaving out any other possibilities including the third one mentioned here, it mistakenly suggests that the provided for atonement alone saves individuals apart from faith/apart from application of the atonement when it is applied to a person who has faith. This subtle error leads to the conclusion that the atonement alone saves a believer WITHOUT FAITH. The bible teaches that we are saved by faith not merely the provision of the atonement. The atonement is provided for all, but not all will be saved. So who is saved? Those to whom the atonement of Christ is applied. And to whom will that occur? Those who trust in the Lord, who have faith (both in the Old and New Testaments)."

Amen, Robert! This is the biblical answer.

Robert, you said, "I share James White’s “testimony” of his “conversion” because it shows that it was not scripture that changed his mind, it was calvinistic arguments that did so. This is common as just reading the bible itself usually does not lead a person to calvinism. It is only after a person is exposed to calvinistic arguments, indoctrinated if you will, that they end up **converting** to calvinism."

This is the same conclusion I have come to about Calvinists. I would say 99.9% of them were persuaded by other Calvinists rather than a careful exegesis of the scriptures. The guy I am discussing Calvinism with at my blog now said that it took him 10 YEARS to convert to the DOG. This speaks volumes to me. In my opinion, he CAVED to "scholarship" and "clever philosophical arguments" rather than what the scripture actually teaches.

Dawn said...

P.S. He didn't tell me about the 10 year evolution of his conversion on my blog, rather he wrote about it on his own blog a little over a year ago.

Robert said...

Hello Dawn,

“Amen, Robert! This is the biblical answer.”

I believe so, as long as you keep in mind the distinction between the provision of the atonement and the application of the atonement, you can then avoid the errors of universalism (which falsely believes that the atonement will be applied to everyone) and calvinistic limited atonement (which falsely believes that Jesus died only for the elect, that Jesus did not die for the world, that Jesus does not want to save everyone).

“This is the same conclusion I have come to about Calvinists. I would say 99.9% of them were persuaded by other Calvinists rather than a careful exegesis of the scriptures. The guy I am discussing Calvinism with at my blog now said that it took him 10 YEARS to convert to the DOG. This speaks volumes to me. In my opinion, he CAVED to "scholarship" and "clever philosophical arguments" rather than what the scripture actually teaches.”

I was listening to the Steve Gregg debate with James White and Gregg made a very good and true point: what he called the “default” position, the position of most people who just read the bible is the Arminian view. He is correct, people merely reading the bible alone do not arrive at five point calvinism.

Instead, it has to be taught to you, you have to be indoctrinated in it first. It is similar to cult members who first must be taught the doctrine of the cult which is unbiblical and then once taught they are, also taught how to defend the false doctrines of their cult. Previous to Augustine (and later the reformers) people in the early Christian church did not hold to TULIP or the so-called “doctrines of grace”. Rather they believed in free will, that God desired to save all human persons, that Jesus died for the world, (all which are beliefs that Arminians hold today).

Careful exegesis of the bible leads to the clear and unmistakable conclusions that: God loves the world and desires the salvation of the world; Jesus died for the sins of the world, not just those who will eventually believe; God has free will in the ordinary sense (technically called libertarian free will) and created us in His image with the same capacity; sin has corrupted all aspects of man’s being but has not eliminated his free will or his capacity to respond to the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s work of leading people to Christ; that God’s election of persons is an election of those who respond in faith to the gospel message; that the Spirit of God can be and is resisted by both nonbeliever and believer alike, etc. etc. All of these conclusions are clearly presented in the bible and denied by, or contradicted by, the calvinistic system (just as a cult denies Christian doctrine and then replaces it with the teachings of the founder(s): in the case of calvinism the founders are Augustine and the Reformers).

Robert