Saturday, November 15, 2008

BPNews John 3:16 Conference Part 3 Atonement

Under the section of Limited Atonement, John Beehler quotes David Allen's presentation.
Allen named a long list of Calvinists, including John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, who did not hold to limited atonement. Martin Luther and the early English reformers held to universal atonement, which means Christ bore the punishment due for the sins of all humanity.
It is my understanding that Calvin didn't address the subject. So I am not certain how one gets Calvin to support either side. It seems to me that many confuse the universal language of the Reformers in the universal proclamation and free offer to all as being the same as substitutionary Atonement. This is typical of the non-Calvinists to equivocate terms. My friend James Swan over at Beggars All Blog has explained some of the problems with this kind of argumentation in a very thorough manner. Read here.

The other claim that says Luther held to universal atonement could be misleading. Timmy Brister at Strange Baptist Fire has also found an interesting quote from Luther.
“God will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and he gave his Son for us men, and he created man for the sake of eternal life. And likewise: Everything is there for man’s sake and he is there for God’s sake in order that he may enjoy him, etc. But this objection [to God's sovereignty in salvation] and others like it can just as easily be refuted as the first one: because all these sayings must be understood only with respect to the elect [emphasis in original], as the apostle says in 2 Timothy 2:10, “All for the elect.” Christ did not die for absolutely all, for he says: “This is my blood which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20) and “for many” (Mark 14:24)- he did not say: for all- “to the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). [Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, translated and edited by Wilhelm Pauck (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1961), 252.]
So again, I think the problem arises when we see universal language and impose the language of a debate that has come about after their time. We then read our modern debate back into their words. We should allow the Reformers to say what they meant in their own context.

Allen is also quoted as saying,
"The debate is very much about the sufficiency of the atonement," Allen said. "In the high Calvinist position on limited atonement, Christ is only sufficient to save those for whom He suffered ... the non-elect according to that position are not savable, and the reason they are not savable is because Jesus didn't die for them ... they are left without a remedy for their sins."
Again keep your eye on the ball. The last sentence has an assumption that Calvinists do not share. The assumption is that there is this entire group of people that we want to share the Gospel with but can't be saved because they are not of the elect. I don't know of any Calvinists as defined historically that thinks this way. The free offer of the Gospel is to be made to all without distinction.

But there is another more heinous assumption in the last statement. It assumes that there is this entire group of people that want to be saved but cannot be saved because Jesus did not die for them. This is just ridiculous. Again, straw-men are easy to burn.

Allen said,
If "world" means the "elect" in John 3:16, "whosoever believes shall not perish leaves open the possibility that some of the elect might perish," Allen said. "That's a problem."
To this moment I am sitting here wondering how anybody can say this silliness. Is it referring to the word "might" as meaning maybe? If so, this is simply wrong. This is not exegesis. I expect more from a pastor. I would simply refer the reader to Owen's Death of Death that deals with John 3:16.

Allen said,
"Limited atonement is built on a faulty exegetical foundation," Allen said, citing verses such as 2 Corinthians 5:15 and Romans 5:18. "... There is no statement in Scripture that says Jesus died only for the elect."
Again, to cite Romans 5:18 as proof for universal atonement is to ignore the text. Exegesis would show the contrast between Adam's sin being imputed to all men and Christ's righteousness to all men. According to Allen's logic, if one is true, then so is the other. Therefore, all men will be saved since all men have the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

The "all" of the text is defined by their head. The head of the fallen human race is Adam. Christ is the head of the church. Therefore, just as there is a difference between Adam and Christ, there is a difference between the "all".

Allen again,
In his concluding remarks, Allen expressed concern about the effect of five-point Calvinism on preaching and evangelism. "Anything that makes the preacher hesitant to make the bold proclamation [of the Gospel] to all people is wrong," he said.
This has not been my observation at all. In fact, I find Calvinists more willing to witness to those who appear to be reprobate because we do not believe the power is in us or our presentation style, but in God who uses the proclamation to change hearts. In other words, it is the Gospel with the power of the Spirit that raises the dead.

"Calvinism is not the Gospel," he said. "Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward five-point Calvinism, such a move would be away from, and not toward, the Gospel."
When Allen learns what Calvinism is verses what he thinks it is, maybe he'll make a better judgment. Actually, when Allen learns to exegete the text without being blinded by his own Traditions being read into the text, maybe we'll get somewhere.

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