Ambassador of Reconciliation
9/19/15 at 03:48 PM 52 Comments

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

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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.

Pink’s argument in his quote goes far beyond just the question, “who will be saved”, but deeper into the topic of the sovereignty of God. We have to be honest with the scriptures and put our hearts and feelings aside so that we can interpret the scriptures fully, and properly. Let’s look at the following views and summarize them carefully. These positions consist of Arminians, Universalists, and Reformed theology.

The views:
Arminians in short believe that God leaves salvation open to anyone who would choose to accept Christ. They believe that man is sinful, but not completely and truly dead in Spirit. Not all Arminians hold to this view, but I am writing what I believe to be their main view from the experience that I have had witnessing.

Reformed theology realizes that God is the one that grants us everything that we have including our faith and our repentance. We realize that through Adam, sin made us spiritually dead, and it makes us unable to come to God on our own. Without God, it is impossible to be saved, and He has to intervene or else we would all die in sin.

Universalists, from my experience, have held to a few different views. The two main views that I have seen have fallen fairly close to the Arminian or Reformed view, but that ALL people who ever lived will eventually be reconciled to God before or after death at some point. This grace received after death would be through repentance and faith.

All of these views are subjective to my experience, and not ALL people will agree to these exactly, so asking questions to each individual person is necessary to avoid unnecessary conflict.

The problems:
Now this is where I have to be careful. To talk about the nature of God and deny a position saying that is wrong is one thing, but to attack it and be wrong could be seriously destructive. It can bring on God’s judgment and is something we should all be careful of.

The main problem stems from whom God made atonement available to. Did God give a full atonement for everyone who ever lived, a limited atonement to a group of people that He died specifically for, or just an open invitation for everyone who ever lived to believe if they wish?

Did Jesus really cancel our debt or did He base the cancellation on something in us? Who should this be important to? Who really cares? All of us of course!! We need to fight for the faith, we need to fight heresy, we need to love God with all we have. Everyone that truly believes in the living God should want to bring Him that glory.

Why do I hold to my view?:
I hold to the view of reformed theology because I believe it brings God the upmost glory and honor. I believe that God’s grace is so complete that all redemptive work was in Christ Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. I believe He loved us, chose us, sanctified us, and will glorify us with Love. He alone has the power to save, He alone receives all the glory, honor, and worship.

Is God Sovereign?:
Is God Sovereign over His creation or is He merely just a spectator in hope that people would choose Him? From a reformed understanding I would have to say God is completely sovereign. Who are we to complain to our great God and Savior if things don’t feel fair to us? In God’s sovereignty He has complete control over all creation, all redemption, and EVERYTHING is according to His will, not ours. God is either sovereign or He isn’t. There is no middle ground. Nothing can be done without God commanding or permitting it to happen.

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Don Bell (I’m sure he’d be quick to say no relation to Rob) asks this rhetorical question:

Which exalts Christ more and demonstrates more the value and efficacy of Christ’s atonement: That which effectually secures the actual salvation of every one for whom it was made OR that which ends in the great majority of those for whom He shed His precious blood being eternally punished in hell? (

I believe he would say the first exalts Christ more. (I took the hint from the banner on Michael Jeshurun’s website: “Smashing Arminian Lies and Everything Else That Opposes the Absolute Sovereignty of the Mighty Jehovah.”)

I would pose a rhetorical question for Don and Michael. Actually, it’s not a rhetorical question, because I would really like an answer.

Which exalts Christ more and demonstrates more the value and efficacy of Christ’s atonement: That which effectually secures the actual salvation of a small fraction of humanity OR that which effectually secures the actual salvation of all of humanity?

By any reasonable measure the most sensible answer is “the second.” No matter how you count, 100% of 100% is greater than 100% of anything less.1 And if God is glorified by the salvation of one, it stands to reason that He will not be less glorified by the salvation of two, but rather more glorified.

Don and Michael will tell me that you can’t use ordinary logic here: “You have to just believe God’s Word, which teaches that not all will be saved.” I would contend that logic confirms what the Scriptures themselves teach: that God will be maximally glorified by the complete redemption of His entire creation, which is, in fact, exactly what He has purposed to do. In subsequent posts I will try to show from Scripture that God intended all along to completely defeat sin and death and to restore His whole creation, and that He will fully accomplish His will, to His own glory and our good.


1For those who are mathematically inclined, let x be the percentage of the saved out of all humanity. Calvinists say that God saves 100% of a fraction of humanity (the “elect”): 100% × x% = x%. Arminians say He saves a fraction of all humanity: x% × 100% = x%. Not so different really. If x < 100, then God falls short of full redemption in either the Calvinist equation or the Arminian equation.

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