Ambassador of Reconciliation

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Posted 11/21/15 at 3:33 PM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 7

Now it is Joe’s turn to respond to my thoughts about the treatment of limited atonement by W.G.T. Shedd (Part 5) and Wayne Grudem (Part 6). He proceeds by quoting something I said (in italics) and then commenting on it. We are winding down our discussion now, so rather than write a separate section, I will just insert some comments of my own in brackets.


I spent some time picking a few certain things from Diane’s article that were worth addressing before we write our conclusions. I can’t hit every topic, so I chose some that I thought were worth mentioning. We are obviously still getting caught up on the same issues so I will try to further clear those up in my conclusion. To start, it seems to me that there are a lot of random ideas thrown around by both Shedd and Grudem, but I would like to reroute to scripture again. I have a hard time following people’s thoughts because they are just their conclusions. Reading through their thoughts usually just leaves me lost. I want to always come back to scripture for clarification, and let God do the persuading through scripture. FULL POST

Posted 11/5/15 at 9:38 AM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 6

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

Part 5 of our ongoing dialog about the atonement was a response to W.G.T. Shedd’s discussion of the extent of the atonement in his Dogmatic Theology (first published in 1894). Here in Part 6 we look at Wayne Grudem’s treatment of the same subject in his Systematic Theology, published 100 years after Shedd’s book. Some of the same observations apply to both, but Grudem takes a little different approach. FULL POST

Posted 11/1/15 at 11:23 PM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 5

David Hayward

Knowing that I was engaged in a discussion about the atonement (see the first four parts, starting here), a friend gave me copies of writings on the subject by two Reformed thinkers. William G. T. Shedd was a nineteenth-century Presbyterian theologian, and Wayne A. Grudem is a contemporary evangelical theologian. Grudem was the general editor for the ESV Study Bible, which is the Bible that I use for much of my study. Here I add to our conversation some reflections on the writing of Shedd, and Part 6 will be about Grudem.

Shedd opens his argument for limited atonement (pp. 739 ff) with an approach that I also noted in Joe’s writing (see Part 2)—using semantics to dance around the real problems. Shedd’s 11-page section entitled “The Extent of the Atonement” begins with nearly two pages analyzing the word extent. He notes the two senses of the word in English usage: the “passive meaning” that is equivalent to “value,” and the “active signification” that denotes “the act of extending.” With these definitions, he can say that the atonement is unlimited in value but limited in application: FULL POST

Posted 10/23/15 at 5:24 PM | Diane Castro

“You created my inmost being”

A recurring theme in my life lately is recognizing the value of every single human life. In his sermon two weeks ago, our pastor spoke about “the inestimable worth of every person,” which prompted me to write a post on that subject. Last Sunday both the choir anthem and the offertory hymn were based on Psalm 139, which tells how God forms us in the womb, knows all our thoughts, and guides all the events of our lives. I keep hearing about people whose life stories have touched me in some way, and I think about how each one is known by God and precious to Him.

A few days ago I read the story of George Bell, an old man who died alone in his apartment in New York City, unnoticed until the stench of his corpse revealed his passing. This week I heard for the first time the remarkable story of Emma Rowena Gatewood, who in 1955 at the age of 67 hiked the entire 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She did it again at age 72, and then again in sections at age 75. Another incredible story is that of Minka Disbrow, who at age 16 was assaulted and raped. She became pregnant and gave up the baby girl for adoption, but always longed to know her daughter. God remembered her, heard her prayer, and granted her request before she died. FULL POST

Posted 10/21/15 at 4:12 PM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 4

Joe Lindberg and I are continuing our discussion about the extent of the atonement, which started with Parts 1, 2, and 3. Here he responds to an article I wrote, and then I will follow with some thoughts.

In response to Diane’s article. “Jesus Loves Me! This I Know”, it seems like we are going to finally get into some of theology that will really help us understand what the scripture says. We will hopefully be able to answer the question, “does God love everyone”, and be able to answer some questions on the topic of atonement. Once we understand God’s love, we can understand the grace He has given us through Christ Jesus.

I agree with Diane that we must ask, who is the “world”, who are “you”, and who are “us”? Each one of the verses that she posted has a huge impact on how we understand scripture. Let’s jump into some of these verses that Diane mentioned really quick and see what we find. FULL POST

Posted 10/15/15 at 8:35 AM | Diane Castro

"The Inestimable Worth of Every Person"

The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

In a recent sermon, our pastor spoke of “the inestimable worth of every person.” Because each and every human being is created in the image of God, we all have infinite value in His eyes. As David so eloquently put it:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
(Ps. 139:13-16)*

I have been pondering this truth and thinking about the ramifications of it, both in terms of how we believe God views and treats people and in terms of how we ourselves view and treat other people. It seems to me that if God imprints His own image on a person, He will love and value that person as a treasured daughter or son.** Since His capacity to love is limitless, every individual can be the recipient of His boundless love. No one—from the tiniest baby lost in the womb to the most powerful kings of the earth—is insignificant to Him. Not a single human being will be forgotten or neglected by Him. Not a single soul is expendable to Him. FULL POST

Posted 10/8/15 at 10:44 PM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 3

Joe Lindberg and I have been discussing the extent of the atonement, which seems to be the primary point of disagreement between Calvinists and Universalists, from which our divergent conclusions about the fate of mankind stem. (It would be a different conversation with an Arminian.) In his comments on Part 2 Joe said,

What I am trying to understand and I will try to include in my thoughts for the blog. Why is it that God’s love “isn’t” complete unless He saves everyone?? From a UR standpoint, why does God have to save anyone to still be the definition of love? I also want to see from a UR standpoint what that definition from scripture of love is. Hopefully these questions will be answered. FULL POST

Posted 9/26/15 at 3:54 PM | Diane Castro

Ambassador of Reconciliation: The First Four Years

Today marks four years since I started my blog. As has become my anniversary custom, I am providing a chronological list of all my posts and looking back over the themes of the past year. I hope it will be a helpful reference for readers to find topics that may interest them, and for me it is a record of what God has been teaching me.

Grace is a theme that underlies many of my essays. Two of this year’s posts are specifically about grace: “A Googolplex of Grace” (99) and “Irresistible Grace” (100). Another theme is love. A post from last year, “Does God Love Everybody?” prompted a two-part series entitled “Should We Love Everybody?” (103, 104). Practical suggestions for love in marriage are found in “Husbands, Love/Wives, Submit” (97). I wrote about two funerals—of my brother-in-law Bill (105) and of missionary and Christian author Elisabeth Elliot (108). “Let Us Run with Perseverance” (102) tells uplifting stories from this year’s Boston Marathon, and “Unbroken” (96) is a review of Laura Hillenbrand’s book, which tells the gruesome but inspiring story of Louie Zamperini, a World War II hero. Going to my high school class reunion led me to write “Class Reunion Coming Up? Just Do It” (109). Speaking with friends who have been unable to have children prompted “He makes the barren woman a joyful mother of children” (110). FULL POST

Posted 9/24/15 at 12:10 AM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 2

This post is Part 2 of a series about whether the atonement is limited or unlimited. Joe Lindberg and I are writing essays and responses, and we invite everyone to join the dialog by writing comments. The only ground rules are that 1) you stick to the topic at hand, and 2) you be respectful toward other writers.

In Part 1 we laid out the issue in broad terms. Here in Part 2, Joe responds to my original post, “Real men read Pink,” which in turn was prompted by an A.W. Pink quote he had posted. Joe’s response is first, followed by some brief comments from me and a reprint of the original article for reference.

In response to the opening statement from Diane I found a few areas that I would like to address.

In Diane’s article she says, “The real problem here is that both Calvinists and Arminians believe that God’s salvation is limited. Calvinists believe that His atoning work is limited to the elect.” I have to disagree to this statement only because of wording. While in reformed theology we look at the cup as “half full”, I believe this wording makes the cup “half empty”. We see the fullness of God’s love and atonement through the scriptures and we believe that this atoning sacrifice was a completion of a work that God already decided from eternity’s past. God in His wisdom chose people for salvation because the sin nature that we would receive through Adam, the federal head, kept anyone from coming to Him. Even if He saved one sinner, He would have accomplished all that He set out to accomplish and it doesn’t limit the atoning work. This atonement was fully accomplished by God and was meant for those that He wants for His bride. God isn’t obligated to save us, but out of His loving character He saved those He chose. FULL POST

Posted 9/19/15 at 3:48 PM | Diane Castro

Conversation about the Atonement: Is It Limited or Unlimited? Part 1

Last week I wrote an essay entitled “Real men read Pink” in response to a quote from A. W. Pink on Facebook. The Pink meme was originally posted by my Facebook friend Joe Lindberg, and we exchanged a few comments about whether or not “the majority of men” are lost. We wanted to explore this idea more in depth than is possible with Facebook comments (which eventually go off into a black hole of cyberspace anyway), so we decided to write essays to be posted on my blog. This way, our conversation will stay in one place, where anyone can access it and share their comments.

Here is Joe’s first post, in which he presents the Pink quote and then lays out the dilemma and some cautions.

To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent (A. W. Pink).

Three main views stem out of this quote that demand an answer. Each one of these views, if wrong, change the nature of who we call God drastically. Being honest, in case I was wrong on my view, I have to be very careful the way that I attack each position. Even with certainty that I hold the correct position, it would be improper of me to say things that could end up being blasphemous or insulting. FULL POST

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