The Doctrine of Particular Redemption

Ten Lines of Evidence for the Doctrine of Particular Redemption

Excerpt from A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. by Robert Reymond

The Particularistic Vocabulary of Scripture

The Scriptures themselves particularize who it is for whom Christ died. The beneficiaries of Christ’s cross work are denominated in the following ways: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah,” that is, the church or “true Israel” (Jer. 31:31; Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:15); his “people” (Matt. 1:21); his “friends” (John 15:13); his “sheep” (John 10:11, 15); his “body,” the “church” (Eph. 5:23–26; Acts 20:28); the “elect” (Rom. 8:32–34); the “many” (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45); “us” (Tit. 2:14); and “me” (Gal. 2:20).

It is true, of course, that logically a statement of particularity in itself does not necessarily preclude universality. This may be shown by the principle of subalternation in Aristotelian logic, which states that if all S is P, then it may be inferred that some S is P, but conversely, it cannot be inferred from the fact that some S is P that the remainder of S is not P. A case in point is the “me” of Galatians 2:20: the fact that Christ died for Paul individually does not mean that Christ died only for Paul and for no one else.

But it should also be evident that one of these particularizing terms—the “elect”—clearly carries with it the implication that some are excluded from the saving intention and salvific work of Christ. And certain details in the other passages suggest that the designated people for whom Christ died stand in a divinely distinguished gracious relationship to him different in kind from the relationship in which other people stand to him, because of which relationship he did his cross work for them. For example, Christ declared that he, as the good Shepherd, would lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:11, 15). But how does it come about that one is his sheep? By believing on him? Not at all. Jesus said to the Jews, not (as it is often represented): “You are not my sheep because you do not believe,” but: “You do not believe because [ὅτι, hoti] you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to [believe] my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:26–27).6 From this we may infer that unless one is already in some sense one of his sheep he does not believe, and also that it is because one is already in some sense one of his sheep that he believes on him. But if one is already in some sense one of his sheep prior to faith, on the basis of which prior “shepherd-sheep” relationship Christ does his cross work for the sheep and the sheep in turn believes on him, then that relationship itself can only be the result of distinguishing grace and thus a relationship different from that which the others sustain to him.

Another example is Ephesians 5:25, where Paul teaches, first, that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. From this juxtaposition of these two verbs, it may be inferred both that the church enjoyed a special existence and a standing before Christ such that he “loved” her prior to his “giving” himself for it, and that his love for his church was the motivating power behind his “giving” himself for it. Second, Paul teaches that the husband is to love his wife just as (καθὼς, kathōs) Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. But if Christ does not love his church in a special way, different in kind from the way he loves all other people, and if the husband is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church, then the husband is to love all other women in the same way that he loves his wife—surely a grotesque ethic! For Paul’s comparison to have any meaning for his readers, Christ’s love for his church must be construed as a special particularizing, distinguishing love.

Hence the particularizing terms can and do indicate an exclusive group for whom Christ died, a fact which proponents of a universal atonement can deny only by ignoring details in the contexts in which the particularizing terms occur.

God’s Redemptive Love Not Inclusive of Fallen Angels

It is clear that the Triune God’s redemptive love is not unlimited or universal from the undeniable fact that it does not embrace fallen angels (Heb. 2:16). There are “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21) who clearly were elected on supra-lapsarian grounds since they were not chosen from a mass of angels viewed as fallen, and accordingly there are fallen angels concerning whose redemption no divine efforts have been or will be expended, although they are creatures as much in need of redemption as are fallen men (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). It is freely granted that the fallen angels belong to a different creation order from that of humankind and that God has sovereignly determined to deal with (at least some) fallen people differently from the manner in which he has dealt with fallen angels. But the nonredemptive nature of his dealings with fallen angels raises the possibility at least that God’s redemptive love for fallen humanity may not necessarily be unlimited and universal either.

The Irreversible Condition of Lost Men Already in Hell When Christ Died
Unless one is prepared to say that Christ gave all the dead a second chance to repent (some would say a “first chance”), it is impossible to suppose that Christ died with the intention of saving those whose eternal destiny had already been sealed in death, who were at the time of his death already in hell. He clearly did not die with the intention of saving them. Continue reading

The Meaning of the Cross

In this brief clip from his Ligonier teaching series Hath God Said?, Dr. R.C. Sproul considers the various ways the cross was viewed by people in the New Testament.

Transcript

Notice how the cross was viewed by people in the New Testament. All we know if we’re an observer, a spectator, a member of the press—the Jerusalem Gazette, I’m assigned as a reporter to go out and witness the execution of a man whose been condemned for sedition by Pontius Pilate. And I watch this execution and I may go back to my pressroom and I write up the report in saying, “This afternoon a Jewish, seditious, pretender to the throne was justly executed by the Roman Empire.”

Or I can go to the palace of Caiaphas and say, “Caiaphas, what was the significance of that out there today? Was that simply the execution of a political zealot?” Caiaphas would say, “No, I see that as a historical expedient. It was necessary for the good of this nation that one man die.” That was Caiaphas’ observation.

And maybe then I go and interview the Centurion at the foot of the cross and he says to me, “I don’t know. Something strange happened here this afternoon. That man was different from any man we’ve ever executed; I think He’s the Son of God.”

Then you go and you read the letters of the Apostle Paul. And Paul tells us that what happened on the cross was an event of cosmic importance. That an atonement took place here by which those who receive Christ, among the human race, are reconciled to their Creator.

That this is the lamb of God who was slain. This was the sacrifice offered to satisfy the demands of God’s justice.

Four Things That Might Hinder You from Embracing Definite Atonement

Original source here.

Jonathan Gibson (PhD, Cambridge University) is associate minister at Cambridge Presbyterian Church and assistant professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of historical and biblical articles in Themelios and Journal of Biblical Literature and regularly speaks at conferences in Australia and South Africa. Jonathan and his wife, Jackie, have two children.

4 Things That Might Hinder You from Embracing Definite Atonement from Crossway on Vimeo.

There are four things that put people off the doctrine of atonement:

1. It is defined incorrectly.

J.C. Ryle said that the absence of accurate definitions is the very life of religious controversy. Often people reject definite atonement because they haven’t heard it properly defined, they don’t understand it, or they think if they believe in it then they have to reject a whole bunch of other doctrines like God’s common grace, his love for the nonelect, and his salvific stance to the world. So if the doctrine is accurately defined, then people won’t be as put off by it.

2. Unfortunate terminology is used.

Historically, definite atonement has been known as limited atonement, and I think the adjective limited is particularly unfortunate. It is unfortunate because, in redemptive history, we’ve been waiting for an atonement for Jew and Gentile, and here it is in the death of Christ, and now we’re trying to limit it? That’s why I prefer the term definite atonement.

3. It is not seen as a biblical-systematic doctrine.

Some people feel that there are too many biblical texts that seem to speak against definite atonement.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

So, people think that a single biblical text knocks the doctrine over, or does away with it. But if you understand the doctrine as a biblical-systematic doctrine, then you see that no one text proves it, and no one text disproves it.

4. It is believed to stifle evangelism.

The final reason people are put off by definite atonement is they feel it becomes a deterrent to evangelism and mission—if Christ didn’t die for everyone, then how can they go and evangelize and preach the gospel indiscriminately to everyone?

Those are reasons why people are put off by it, but if we accurately define definite atonement, give it it’s proper terminology, see it as a biblical-systematic doctrine, and see that definite atonement doesn’t hinder evangelism, but motivates us to evangelism, then more people will be encouraged to embrace this important doctrine.

Related Article: 10 Things You Should Know about Definite Atonement

1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death.

The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite in its nature—his death really does atone for sin.

2. Definite atonement has courted controversy in the Christian church.

For some, definite atonement is a ‘grim doctrine’ (Karl Barth), containing ‘horrible blasphemies’ (John Wesley); for others, it is a ‘textless doctrine’ (Broughton Knox), arrived at by logic rather than by a straightforward reading of the Scriptures (RT Kendall). Pastorally, definite atonement is viewed as the Achilles’ heel of the Reformed faith, quenching a zeal for evangelism and inviting despair rather than assurance for the believer. With such a checkered history, one may well ask why we should even discuss the doctrine, never mind believe it. But just because a doctrine is controversial does not mean it should not be discussed, defended or embraced. Were that the case, we would not be Trinitarian Christians who hold to justification by faith alone! Continue reading

“Definite Atonement” Rather Than “Limited Atonement”

Dr. Roger Nicole (December 10, 1915 – December 11, 2010[1]) was a native Swiss Reformed Baptist theologian. He was an associate editor for the New Geneva Study Bible, assisted in the translation of the New International Version, and was a founding member of both the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy and the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of the latter in 1956.

The following excerpt is a transcript from a teaching he conducted decades ago entitled “The Five Points of Calvinism”:

Then comes the third point which is sometimes called Limited Atonement. And here I wax warm because I think that is a complete misnomer. The others I am willing to live with. “Limited Atonement” I cannot live with because that is a total misrepresentation of what we mean to say.

The purpose of using that expression is that the atonement is not universal in the sense that Christ died for every member of the race, in the same sense in which He died for those who will be redeemed. Therefore the purpose of the atonement is restricted to the elect and not spread to the universality of mankind. This is what is meant by “Limited”.

But the problem is that anyone who does not hold that Christ will in fact save everybody has a “limited atonement”. Anyone who says there will be some people saved and other people lost, has to say the atonement does not function for the universality of mankind.

Now some of the people limit it in breadth; that is, they say, the Lord Jesus Christ died for the redeemed and He sees to it that the redeemed are therefore saved. So that there is a certain group of mankind, a particular group, which is the special object of the redemptive love and substitutionary work of Jesus Christ and toward this group then, Christ sees to it that His work is effective and brings about their salvation. And while the remainder of mankind may gain some benefits from the work of Christ, they are however, not encompassed in the same way in His design, as were those whom the Father gave Him. This is one way of limiting it, you may limit it in breadth, if I may put it that way.

The other people who say “Christ died for everybody in the same way”, have to recognize that some people for whom Christ died, at the end are lost, so that the death of Christ does not ensure the salvation of those for whom He died. The effect is therefore that they limit the atonement in depth. The atonement is ineffective. It does not secure the salvation of the people for whom it is intended. And so in some way, the will of God and the redemptive love of Jesus Christ are frustrated by the resistance and the wicked will of men who resist Him and do not accept His grace. So that salvation really consists on the work of Christ plus acceptance or non-resistance or some ingredient of one kind or another that some people add. And it is this ingredient which really constitutes the difference between being saved and being lost.

No one who says “at the end there will be some people saved and other people lost” can really in honesty speak of an “Unlimited Atonement”, and therefore I for one am not happy to go under the banner of “Limited Atonement” as if Calvinists and myself were the ones who wickedly emasculate and mutilate the great scope and beauty of the love and redemption of Jesus Christ.

This is not really a question of limit. This is a question of purpose.

And so we ought to talk about “Definite Atonement.” There is a definite purpose of Christ in offering Himself. Substitution that is not a ‘blanket’ substitution; but a substitution that is oriented specifically to the purpose for which He came into this world, which is to save and redeem those whom the Father has given Him.

Another term that is appropriate, although perhaps less precise is the term “Particular Redemption”, for the redemption of Christ is a particular one, which accomplishes what it purposes. The alternative is that Christ redeemed no one in particular.

Now if we change that language I think we put ourselves away from the very unpleasant onus of being the one who seems to be in the business of restricting the scope of the love of Christ.

If I am ready to say my position is that of “Limited Atonement”, my opponent will come and say, “You believe in Limited Atonement but I believe in Unlimited Atonement” – he seems to be the one who exalts the grace of God.

Now use my words and see what happens.

I say, “I believe in Definite Atonement”. What can my opponent say?

He says, “Well I believe in Indefinite Atonement.”

Now if they want to use the language, I have no opportunity to do anything but to protest. But if I have the choice to use a language to represent my position I certainly do not want to put myself at the psychological disadvantage from the start. And the term “Definite Atonement” you will find in very fine writers like John Owen and William Cunningham of Scotland, and Warfield and others, is a much more accurate representation of precisely what the Reformed position holds. Let us abandon that expression “Limited Atonement” which disfigures the Calvinistic doctrine of grace in the work of Christ. I feel rather strongly on that, as you know.

The Father’s Bargain with the Son

by John Flavel

Father: My son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls?

Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, (for so indeed it did, 2 Cor. 8: 9. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”) yet I am content to undertake it.

Flavel: Blush, ungrateful believers, O let shame cover your faces; judge in yourselves now, has Christ deserved that you should stand with him for trifles, that you should shrink at a few petty difficulties, and complain, this is hard, and that is harsh? O if you knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in this his wonderful condescension for you, you could not do it.

A Teaching Resource on the Cross

Mike Riccardi has served on staff at Grace Community Church since 2010. He currently serves as the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries, which includes overseeing Fundamentals of the Faith classes, six foreign language outreach Bible studies, and evangelism in nearby jails, rehab centers, and in the local neighborhood. Mike earned his B.A. in Italian and his M.Ed. in Foreign Language from Rutgers University, and his M.Div. and Th.M. from The Master’s Seminary. He also has the privilege of serving alongside Phil Johnson as co-pastor of GraceLife, a Sunday morning adult fellowship group at Grace Church.

(1) What Really Happened on the Cross? Part 1 (mp3) here.

(2) What Really Happened on the Cross? Part 2 ((mp3) here.

(3) Invincible Atonement, mp3 teaching and includes a pdf resource file at this link.

Also, Pastor Mike taught a detailed study at this year’s Shepherd’s Conference on the theme of “He Emptied Himself: A Study of the Kenosis of Christ.” (found here)

Did The Father Turn His Face Away?

Article by Dr. Jared Hood – (original source here): Lecturer in OT, WCF and Reformation History at the Presbyterian Theological College, Melbourne and Editor of Reformed Theological Review, Australia’s leading evangelical journal.

10 Reasons The Father Didn’t Turn His Face Away At The Cross

Christ took the penalty for our sin upon Himself; does this mean that the Father turned his face from the Son on the cross?

Psalm 22:1 is a key verse for the rejection theory. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?’ (Ps 22:1). What does it mean? Two things. First, context is clear. Look at the parallel verse: ‘why are you so far from helping me?’ This is the issue: ‘no help’. The sufferer is asking why God doesn’t save him from his oppressors. I.e. ‘Why do you let my oppressors torment me?’ The Father gives the Son over to suffering. Psalm 22:1 is the equivalent of Isaiah’s statement, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise Him’. In fact, the Psalm later says it: ‘You have brought me to the dust of death’ (v. 15).

Christ took the penalty for our sin upon Himself. Our penalty was eternal separation from God. Therefore, the Son must have suffered separation from God—mustn’t He? What would that mean? Is this the severing of the Triune union between the Father and Son? Is this relational, being ‘cut off from…sweet fellowship with his heavenly Father’, such that Christ was ‘abandoned by his heavenly Father’ (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 574)? What does Townend mean, saying there was ‘searing loss’ when ‘The Father turns His face away’? The Father’s anger was upon the Son, who had ‘become sin for us’, so the Father had no choice but to reject and banish the Son from His presence.

Here are 10 reasons why I don’t believe it.

The Father was never more pleased with the Son than at the Cross.

The Cross was Jesus’ ultimate act of obedience: obedience—even to the point of the Cross (Phil 2:8). If ever the Father could say, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’, it was at the Cross. The OT sacrifices were a ‘sweet smelling aroma’; how much more was Christ’s sacrifice a delight to God? ‘Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma’ (Eph 5:2).

The Cross was the Father’s plan.

Jesus was ‘delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God’ (Acts 2:23). ‘It was the will of the Lord to crush Him’ (Isa 53:9, ESV). And the Lord takes pleasure in His will. In fact, the word for ‘will’ in Isaiah 53 is chaphets, pleasure, delight. ‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him’ (NKJV). Which takes us back to point one.

The Triune union cannot be severed.

That really should be an obvious point. Father, Son and Spirit each fully and together possess the divine being or substance. They cannot turn on each other. The problem here is that some misunderstand the Trinity. The Trinity is three guys who get along really well with each other. But they’re independent enough to turn on each other, as well. This social model has made deep inroads in evangelicalism’s Trinitarian thinking, but it’s not the Bible’s God. That’s playing with tritheism.

If the Father turned away from the Son, the Son turned away from Himself.

The Father fully possesses the divine attribute of justice. The Son fully possesses the divine attribute of justice. If justice demands the Father turn away from the Son, then precisely the same justice demands that the Son turn away from the Son. Moltmann was wrong: this would not be Father against Son, God against God. This would be Son against Himself, separating Himself from Himself (or the Son’s divine nature rejecting the human nature). Of course, the perfect Son was repulsed to be treated as a criminal—it was a heavy burden to bear—but this is another matter.

The rejection theory is well meant, but it doesn’t make sense. Moltmann wanted a God who felt pain, but it only humanises Him, which leaves us all in a desperate muddle.

Was Jesus banished from God’s presence all through His earthly life?

Jesus wasn’t just ‘made sin’ at the Cross, but all through His earthly life. He was ‘born under the [curse of the] law’ (Gal 4:4). Did the Father ‘turn His face away’ from Jesus through all His earthly life?

Psalm 22:1 doesn’t say the Father rejected the Son.

Psalm 22:1 is a key verse for the rejection theory. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?’ (Ps 22:1). What does it mean? Two things. First, context is clear. Look at the parallel verse: ‘why are you so far from helping me?’ This is the issue: ‘no help’. The sufferer is asking why God doesn’t save him from his oppressors. I.e. ‘Why do you let my oppressors torment me?’ The Father gives the Son over to suffering. Psalm 22:1 is the equivalent of Isaiah’s statement, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise Him’. In fact, the Psalm later says it: ‘You have brought me to the dust of death’ (v. 15).

Secondly, it’s a rhetorical question. The sufferer knows full well why God does this. What’s the point of asking it, then? To express his distress. This is real suffering. He really doesn’t want to go through it. He would rather God saved Him instantly out of it. ‘If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But not my will…’ (Matt 26:39).

Perhaps it also means, ‘It feels like you have abandoned me’ (Calvin), or ‘It’s really hard in my present circumstances to feel your closeness’ (which is a very real human reaction, isn’t it, as the extent of physical pain clouds over our spiritual senses). See Lucas Sharley, ‘Calvin and Turretin’s views of the Trinity in the dereliction’, RTR 75, no. 1, 2016.

Psalm 22 affirms that the Father sustained the Son on the Cross.
Reading the whole of Psalm 22, it strongly affirms that God sustained the sufferer. I’m particularly drawn to the participles of v. 9. ‘You are the one bringing me up, from the time of my birth, and you are the one making me trust from the time I was breastfeed onwards’. The verbs are not just about the time of being born. These are ongoing realities. See also Isa 50:7, of Jesus at crucifixion, ‘The Lord God helps me’.

The Psalm heads to the great turning point in v. 21: ‘You have answered Me’. No hint of relational abandonment in that. Put v. 24 in large letters: ‘He has not hidden His face from Him’.

Rejection would have been unjust.

Jesus became sin for us, but He was still the perfect Son of God. ‘Truly, this was a righteous man’ (Matt 23:47). The implications of this need to be honoured. To personalise this, if you were a judge, and your own innocent son valiantly stepped forward at a trial to take a criminal’s punishment upon himself, would you be angry with him and reject him?

The value of the Cross doesn’t need bolstering with a ‘rejection by God’ theory.

Christ paid our debt. Our debt was eternal death, so where is there eternal death at the Cross? It’s not enough that Christ merely physically died, is it? We are due physical and spiritual death. Therefore, we need to bolster the cost of the Cross. We need to find spiritual death at the Cross. Continue reading

By Design

At the very center of the God’s work of atonement is One called the Lamb of God, who took the place of sinners as the sin-bearing Substitute, absorbing the very real wrath we deserved from a Holy God. And all of this was by design; God saving us from Himself by means of the Redeemer.

Isaiah 53:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Calvin’s View on the Atonement

What did John Calvin believe concerning limited Atonement? Many say that Calvin did not. Dr. Nicole addresses this question with great care.

This topic has received considerable attention in the recent past, perhaps in view of R. T. Kendall’s very controversial book Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649.1 An effort is made here to summarize the debate and to provide a brief evaluation.
It is often stated—and with considerable propriety—that Calvin did not write an explicit treatment concerning the extent of the atonement, in fact did not deal with this precise issue in the terms to which Reformed theology has been accustomed. It must be owned, of course, that the question had received some attention before Calvin. Notably Gottschalk in the ninth century had given express support to definite atonement2 and the scholastics had discussed the topic and advanced a partial resolution in asserting that Christ’s death was “sufficient for all men and efficient for the elect.” 3 Calvin alludes to and endorses this distinction but views it as insufficient for a proper analysis of 1 John 2:2. 4 Nevertheless a full discussion of the scope of the atonement is not found in Calvin’s writings, and the assessment of his position in this area has been varied.

Certain other Reformed theologians, contemporaries of Calvin or flourishing in the late sixteenth or the beginning of the seventeenth century, expressed a clear endorsement of definite atonement: e.g. Peter Martyr, H. Zanchius, T. Beza, J. Piscator, W. Ames, R. Abbot. 5 As far as we know, they did not assert that they were conscious of differing with Calvin on this score, nor did Calvin take issue in writing with any of those who formulated the view during his life-time.

One of the earliest writers to claim that Calvin espoused universal atonement was Moyse Amyraut (1596–1664) who in his Eschantillon de la doctrine de Calvin touchant la predestination6 quoted certain passages from Calvin’s commentaries in support of his own position on universal atonement. Amyraut’s friend and supporter Jean Daillé (1594–1670) later published some 43 pages of excerpts from Calvin’s works which he deemed in line with universal grace. 7 A number of these excerpts relate to the design of the atonement, but it is really amazing to observe how most of these quotations are lacking in cogency with respect to the precise status questionis. Some, indeed, appear actually counterproductive, especially if replaced in their original context. 8 Amyraut’s opponents, notably Pierre DuMoulin (1568–1658), 9 André Rivet (1573–1651), 10 and Frederic Spanheim (1600–1649) 11 did not fail to respond with explanations of Calvin’s texts which showed them to be compatible with particularism. Furthermore they quoted other texts of Calvin, especially from his Traité de la predestination,12 in which the design of the atonement and God’s elective purpose are seen as inextricably related. Continue reading