Limited Atonement

In his book Our Sovereign Savior, Roger Nicole explains the main teachings of the Reformed Faith. Chapter 5 of the book concerns the subject of “Particular Redemption.”

Here are a few of the good points he makes:

* When it comes to the debate surrounding “limited atonement” the value of the death of Christ is not in question. There are no limits to the value of Christ’s death: it is sufficient to save anyone and everyone who trusts in Christ.

* The death of Christ blesses everyone in human history and creation at large. There is no limit to the extent of these blessings which are often referred to as “common grace.”

* If a person doesn’t believe that the atonement of Christ is limited only to effectually saving the elect then a that person is only left with one theological option: universal salvation of all people.

* The real issue is the design or intent of the Father when he sent his Son to die on the cross and purchase redemption for sinners.

* Since all sinners do not get saved then there is either a limit in the effectiveness of the atonement or a limit in its intent. Was God doing something to save all sinners and failed? Or was God purchasing the salvation of the elect and succeeded? Historical, orthodox Christianity teaches that God had a limited intent designed for the atonement of Christ: Christ was to die for and purchase and secure the salvation of the elect. The Cross was absolutely successful in accomplishing the particular intent for which it was designed.

* Lorraine Boettner compared this matter to two bridges: (1) one is a narrow bridge that goes all the way across the water, and (2) the other is a very wide bridge that doesn’t go all the way across the water. What good is the second bridge? It is as good as a theology that teaches the atonement was for all sinners but didn’t actually save any.

* The term “redemption” refers to the payment of the full price to purchase a sinners salvation. If the atonement didn’t actually pay the full price and didn’t actually redeem sinners then what good is it?

* The term “propitiation” refers to the atonements satisfying effects upon God’s wrath. If the death of Christ was a propitiation for all sinners then why is God still angry with sinners?

* The term “reconciliation” refers to the healing of a relationship. Since sinners are still considered enemies of God then what good was the atonement?

* The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ died as a substitute for sinners upon the cross, suffering the wrath of God on their behalf. Biblical theology refers to this as the “penal, substitutionary atonement” and “federal headship.” Federal headship refers to the fact that Christ lived and died as our representative before God.

* The doctrine of “universal atonement” teaches that the death of Christ was for all everyone but didn’t actually save anyone. Therefore “universal atonement” completely undermines the biblical definitions of redemption, propitiation, reconciliation, substitution, and federal representation.

* Universal Atonement proponents are forced to defend the concept of the Father electing some sinners; but Jesus wanted to die for all sinners; but the Holy Spirit sides with the Father and against the Son and only saves some sinners.

* May no one ever think that definite atonement prevents anybody from coming, harms anyone or takes from anybody anything that belongs to him or her. On the contrary, definite atonement is a doctrine which shows a finished, accomplished salvation.

HT: Jason Robertson