14 June 2012

Particular redemption: some opening thoughts

Prefatoriness: in lieu of a "roast," Frank has given Phil the perfect toast. I am working on my own (by contrast) droning, heavy-handed, somber encomium. But in the interim, while it's being readied, and interrupting my series on marriage... two posts on particular redemption, of which this is the first.

And so, without further eloquence:

Predictable but necessary clarifications
Absolutely 100% terrific brothers and sisters would not (yet) agree with what I'm about to explain. To me, that is zero barrier to fellowship or love. I am going to try to explain why I think this is an important doctrine, but it isn't an all-important doctrine. It has far-reaching implications, but not so as to define Christianity to the exclusion of all who don't agree. At our church, particular redemption not spelled out in the statement of faith, and it is not required either that members or leaders precisely think as I do about it — nor would I ever want that to change.

Talking about the doctrine
This isn't really my main post on the subject, but the main post will need this one to come first. That doesn't mean this one doesn't count!

"Limited? Ew." To those unfamiliar with the concept, "particular redemption" is more commonly known as Limited atonement, being the "L" of the acronym "TULIP." I think almost no adherent really likes the term much, because everyone's first and most natural reaction would be indignantly to burst out with "What?! — limit Christ's atonement? I don't think so!" However, any change would alter the neat little acronym (— TUPIP? TUDIP?).

However, on cooler reflection one soon realizes that every Christian necessarily limits Christ's atonement in some manner. Only universalists do not, and it's debatable whether they should be regarded as Christian.

Think about it. Every Christian believes that some people — at least Judas (Jn. 17:12), and the Beast and the False Prophet (Rev. 19:20), will suffer the wrath of God for their sins, unforgiven and "unatoned," for all eternity. So then, every Christian would "limit" the atonement of Christ by saying that it will not save those who go to Hell. Their sins are still on them; Christ has not removed them. Otherwise we're left with the universe-obliterating absurdity of sinless people forever suffering God's wrath for no reason whatever.

The usual rejoinder is that oh yes, Christ paid for absolutely every last sin, but the beneficiaries have to believe, have to accept Him. But isn't unbelief a sin (cf. Rom. 14:23)? Isn't repentant faith a command (1 Jn. 3:23), and isn't refusal to believe a sin? So doesn't this position "limit" the atonement by saying, in effect, "Yeah, but not those sins"? And doesn't that add the conceivably-worse necessary corollary that I then must save myself by adding the one element that makes all the difference between Heaven and Hell for me, an element not provided by Christ's work on the Cross?

The question, then, isn't whether Christians "limit" Christ's atonement. All Christians do. The question is how it should be "limited," Biblically.

Rounding up. I commonly say that I am a 4.95-4.97 point Calvinist. When I say that, I mean that I think that anyone who believes in the Bible either affirms T, U, I and P, or he's fudging on core Biblical doctrine for some other reason. Those doctrines are not merely reasonable conclusions of what Scripture teaches — they simply are what Scripture teaches, straight-up and in so many words.

The point on which I measure .95-.97 is, of course, L. Now you'll observe correctly that 4.95 "rounds up" very nicely to 5, and so I'll sign on as a 5-point Calvinist without blushing. But the reason for the .03-.05 variation is simply that, unlike the other four points, there is no single verse that straight-up lays the doctrine down in so many words, and there are a couple of challenging verses.

However, the reason why the variation is only .03-.05 is because I think that the cumulative Biblical case for "L" is overwhelming, the "challenging" verses are at least equally challenging for other positions, and every alternative explanation I've ever heard very soon comes to very serious Biblical grief.

Talking the doctrine
What this position means is that I believe the Biblical teaching that the plan of redemption is an eternal plan that was laid and finalized before the first second ticked on the cosmos (cf. Eph. 1:4ff.; 3:11). I believe the Biblical teaching that, in that plan, the Father saw mankind as fallen, guilty, dead and hopeless — and of that mass He selected a subset for salvation (Eph. 1:4ff.), giving them to the Son that the Son should give them eternal life (Jn. 17:2). This number, while a subset, is nonetheless a vast and humanly-innumerable international crowd (Rev. 7:9).

I believe the Biblical teaching that the Son made absolutely full satisfaction for every one of those thus selected by the Father, laying down His life for them, satisfying God's justice and wrath for them, saving them, and guaranteeing their conversion, preservation and resurrection (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Jn. 6:37, 44-45; 10:11, 15, 26-30; Rom 3:24-25; Eph. 5:25f.). He came into the world to save sinners (Mt. 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:15), not to try to save them, or to give them an opportunity to save themselves. He prays for them (Jn. 17); He does not even pray for the world (Jn. 17:9). All of the blessings He achieved for any one of them are given to every one of them (Rom. 8:29-39). If Christ died for you, you will surely be saved. It cannot be otherwise — unless you imagine that He can fail in achieving the eternal purpose of the God who succeeds in accomplishing all He sets out to accomplish (Ps. 115:3; Eph. 1:11).

This is why, as one sees in reading the small selection of Scriptures above, the Bible characteristically speaks of the atonement in particular terms. Christ dies for the sheep, for His friends, for the church, for us (believers), for you (believers). It is also why Scripture characteristically speaks of His saving design as effectual. That is, He redeems, He saves, He reconciles, He propitiates; He does not try to redeem, try to save, try to reconcile, try to propitiate; He does not characteristically make redemption available, make salvation available, make reconciliation available, make propitiation available.

The practical upshot
What difference does it make for me that I see this doctrine in Scripture? I'll be candid and specific. (Readers: No! Really?)

Credit. It means that I give literally every last atom of credit and glory for my salvation to the Triune God, and I trace every bit of it to the eternal counsels of God ultimately accomplished in Christ's work on the Cross. I contribute absolutely nothing to my salvation. (The reader may be recalling at this point that I did write a book along these lines, explaining at much greater length — though not at all dwelling on "L.")

Responsibility. "But didn't you have to hear the Gospel, repent and believe?" a newcomer asks. Absolutely (see that selfsame book, at great length). But the point is that even this repentance and faith was assured to me by Christ's work on the Cross (Rom. 8:29-39; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29).

Evangelism. It also does affect the way I evangelize.

Now, it has no negative effect on whom I evangelize. The assumption that affirming the Biblical doctrine of election makes evangelism pointless is and always has been off-base. I have no way of knowing that anyone I talk to is not elect. Though there are many reprobate, Scripture only certainly identifies three individuals that I can think of: Judas, the Beast, and the False Prophet. If I am not talking to one of them, I have no reason for assuming that (s)he is not elect, and will not come to saving faith through my giving the Gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16).

So believing in particular redemption has zero limiting effect on whom I evangelize.

It does, however, have an effect on what I tell them. Now, many "L-people" have no problem saying "Christ died for your sins" to unsaved people. For my part, I do have a problem with that. First, I notice that the apostles never found it necessary to say, in their evangelism of the unsaved. Not once. Second, to me, saying "Christ died for your sins" is exactly the same thing as saying "You are saved, redeemed, reconciled, and assured of Heaven." Unless and until they trust Christ savingly, I have no assurance that this is true of them. So I don't say it until I have warrant.

Instead, I say that Christ died for sinners just like me and just like them. I say that Christ calls them to Himself, invites them to come. I say that, if they come, they will find their sins forgiven, for He is able to save to the uttermost all who draw near to the Father through Him.

After all, what does an unbeliever need to know? Does he need to know whether Christ died for him individually? Or does he need to know whether, if he comes to Christ in repentant faith, He will find Christ willing and ready to receive him and forgive Him?

Remember, this is the point at which all Christians agree: if someone does not come to Christ in repentant faith, the death of Christ will do him no good. That is, his sins will not be forgiven, and he will suffer God's wrath for eternity. So why is it essential to do what the apostles never did, and tell him that Christ died for him? If Christ died for all his sins, then how is sin still a problem? Isn't that the same as telling him he has nothing to worry about, since "Jesus paid it all"? If He "paid it all," then I'm set! 

By the way, I'm not being merely theoretical. My memory from my pagan days, decades ago, is that I listened with contempt to any Christian who tried to tell me I needed to believe in Jesus to be saved from my sins. I didn't believe what they were saying. But I thought, "Anyway, if you're right, sounds like Jesus took care of my 'sin'-problem anyway, so it should work out."

Okey-doke, are we all on the same page now – at least insofar as we understand what we’re talking about?

Terrific. Then, Lord willing, I’ll make my actual point in the next post.


Zachary Bartels said...

"First!" wouldn't be as appropriate as "Elect!"

corinthian said...

Very well said, so what is your .03% reservation? I think to fully make this case, one must also deal with the more difficult passages that seem to contradict (in our limited human minds, not in God's eternal Truth). I have been back and forth on this doctrine for years and would love to hear " the rest of the story". thanks for your ministry.

DJP said...

Don't I state my reason for the .03 in the article?

Since every Biblical doctrine, virtually without exception, has what some would say are "difficult passages that seem to contradict," do you think that they have to accompany every explanation of every doctrine on every occasion?

Just think what it would be like if we felt like we had to do that with everything. "Honey, here's a movie I'd like to see. Want to go? But first, here's what the critics who hate it said..." "Our special today is the filet mignon. Customers who did not like it felt that..." "Welcome to our house. Some people think the paint is tacky." "I'd like you to meet my son, Buford. Some people think he's really obnoxious and a bit dim."

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

Batman agrees with you:


You'll have to excuse the blog plug but it's the easiest way I have to upload pictures and I thought you would find this enjoyable.

DJP said...

Jeremiah, I think that may be the most unusual affirmative response I've ever received.


Unknown said...

Thanks for going into this. I've always (read: since I've come to affirm the Doctrines of Grace) thought one definitive from Scripture is the statement "...He will/shall save His people from their sins."

I may be taking a shortcut but it seems to me the definitive WILL/SHALL save and the qualifying 'His people' kind of drives the 'L' home for me.

I can think of some other cases my simpleton method takes this approach, but I like this example best.

Of course I have many 4-point friends (my pastor is a 4-pointer) and I agree it's not an issue to bleed over... but I think we should think seriously about it and the issue of Sanctification can never be left out.


DJP said...

Les, aren't you grateful that Matt. 1:21 says "He Himself shall save His people from their sins," and not "He Himself shall try to save His people from their sins" or "He Himself shall give His people the opportunity to save themselves from their sins, if they want to badly enough"?

Unknown said...

Dan, man I can't express just HOW grateful I am for that. I'd be forever lost! So thankful he saves.

DJP said...

Amen, brother; amen.

Unknown said...

Between Hitler and Batman, this blog proves that theological discussions are far from dull!

Kerry James Allen said...

We just got past Hitler on Pyro. Prediction: This will raise more ire than Hitler. Can't wait to read more.
Dissenting church member to me: "Pastor, you are limiting the atonement."
Me: "Does the atonement do any good for someone who refuses to believe?"
Member: "No."
Me: "You just limited the atonement."
Member: "But, but, but..."

DJP said...

Not here, anyway, DebbieLynne!


Bobby Grow said...

However, on cooler reflection one soon realizes that every Christian necessarily limits Christ's atonement in some manner. Only universalists do not, and it's debatable whether they should be regarded as Christian.

But not necessarily in a logical-causal way as this sentiment is suggesting. In other words, there might be an existential limiting to the atonement, but not an ontological actual limiting to the atonement. Here is what I mean; since Jesus became a real human, and came to deal with the real human problem (sin, in its depths), then in order for him to do that he could only assume a real humanity, all of it. If he assumed just part of humanity, some kind of hybrid "elect humanity" (in the logical-causal terms it is being assumed in this post), then what does this say about being human? If he only represented part (elect) of humanity who is made in his image, then how can it be said that he assumed a real humanity? It can't. The theo-logic of the incarnation necessitates that Jesus assumed all of humanity (think of the Patristic concepts of an/enhypostasis); for as Gregory of Nazanzius stated: the unassumed is the unhealed.

In the end, I also 'limit' atonement; but I limit that (as I must) to the humanity of Jesus Christ for us. Jesus, as supreme over ALL of creation, the 'firstborn from the dead', the resurrection and recreation of God, the image of God (whose image humanity has been recreated in Col. 1.15ff); is the one the atonement is limited to, as representative (think 'Priestly') humanity for all of humanity (not some hybrided part of humanity which is a speculative counter-factual belief posited in order to affirm a certain kind of metaphysic [substance & Stoic determinism] imposed on Scripture), the only kind of humanity available for Jesus to assume in the incarnation & atonement.

I have a book coming out on this too; entitled: Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church (available in 10 days).

DJP said...

So you agree. Terrif.

Bobby Grow said...

No, Dan, read very carefully.

You have qualified 'limited' in a very, shall we say, particular way. If you read my comment very carefully it becomes quickly clear that I avoid your qualification.

DJP said...

Then you think Christ's death saves everyone?

Kerry James Allen said...

Dan, will you be dealing with the Amyraldian "dodge" also?

Bobby Grow said...

Only if I am committed to a logical-causal (Stoic) conception of reality, but I'm not. And so, no, I don't think Christ's death ultimately saves everyone. I don't see reality connected in an interlocking causal way (which your questioning presupposes). I see creation connected in a relational (Triune) dynamic way, such that we don't have to, of necessity, think in terms of relationships in calculations of mathematical certitude (which we don't do that with our spouses if we are married, for example). I definitely think Jesus died for all of humanity, his priestly humanity and the image of God theology requires us to think such. Which needs to be dealt with further by your view, Dan.

So you think Jesus died for an 'elect group of humanity'? In what way are these people real humans, relative to what it means to be a real human then?

Bobby Grow said...


There is no "dodge" going on, if your comment was prompted by my comments.

In order for someone to deal with anything they need to deal with the logic of the opposing perspective; if the logic is not dealt with, then this is the real "dodge".

Kerry James Allen said...

Bobby, my question to Dan had nothing to do with any of your comments, it was only directed to Dan. And given the fact that most of us here don't speak Klingon, please eschew obfuscation.

Bobby Grow said...

Here is a quote from Thomas F. Torrance on the range of the atonement, and with this I will bow out:

. . . Several comments on this understanding of Christ's sacrifice may be in place. While traditional forensic language is used, the atoning sacrifice is not to be understood as fulfilled by Christ merely as man (which would imply a Nestorian Christology), but of Christ as the one Mediator between God and man who is himself God and man in one Person. This means that 'the joyful atonement made between God and man by Christ Jesus, by his death, resurrection and ascension', is not to be understood in any sense as the act of the man Jesus placating God the Father, but as a propitiatory sacrifice in which God himself through the death of his dear Son draws near to man and draws man near to himself. It is along these lines also that we must interpret the statement of the Scots Confession that Christ 'suffered in body and soul to make the full satisfication for the sins of the people', for in the Cross God accepts the sacrifice made by Christ, whom he did not spare but delievered him up for us all, as satisfication, thereby acknowledging his own bearing of the world's sin guilt and judgment as the atonement. As Calvin pointed out in a very important passage, God does not love us because of what Christ has done, but it is because he first loved us that he came in Christ in order through atoning sacrifice in which God himself does not hold himself aloof but suffers in and with Christ to reconcile us to himself. Nor is there any suggestion that this atoning sacrifice was offered only for some people and not for all, for that would imply that he who became incarnate was not God the Creator in whom all men and women live and move and have their being, and that Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour was not God and man in the one Person, but only an instrument in the hands of the Father for the salvation of a chosen few. In other words, a notion of limited atonement implies a Nestorian heresy in which Jesus Christ is not really God and man united in one Person. It must be added that the perfect response offered by Jesus Christ in life and death to God in our place and on our behalf, contains and is the pledge of our response. Just as the union of God and man in Christ holds good in spite of all the contradiction of our sin under divine judgment, so his vicarious response holds good for us in spite of our unworthiness: 'not I but Christ'. . . . [Thomas F. Torrance: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell," 18-19]

There is another way to think about all of this, and a way that works from within a Calvinist framework (and its not Amyrauldianism, its what we are calling Evangelical Calvinism). It would behoove people of the truth to do their homework and try to understand how Calvinism and the theology of the TULIP developed. Christians aren't parrots, they are called to love the LORD their God with all their mind, heart and strength. So think.

Bobby Grow said...

Yes, Kerry,

I understand that most people are comfortable with being lazy and unwilling to deal with terminology that is highly Christian (in its history) in orientation (conceptually). But you're free to "dodge" the simple implications of your affirmation of the 5 points.


Unknown said...

I think a more appropriate sign-off would have been: Roj... but hey, I like to stir the pot.

Brendan said...

Dan, thank you for the post. I've been wrestling with this issue for quite some time. I just haven't been able to give this doctrine, as it is explained by most Calvinists, my full support due to some of those "problem passages" you mention.

One issue I have with most people who support the "L", is that they speak of people who do not as if they do not believe in the "U" and the "I" and the "P". You say that not believing in Particular Redemption the way that you describe it means that we believe that Jesus only "tried" to save us but is waiting for us to "accept it" I don't believe that at all. That sounds rather Arminian to me.

If God, somehow, in one way or another, died for the entire world in some sense as some passages seem to say, that does not cancel out the fact that He "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." Therefore, God still has his elect group whom He WILL save, not just try to save.

However, the entire salvation process was not completed on the Cross. Though my sins were atoned for there, I was not justified until I put my faith in Christ. My sanctification did not start until after I was saved, and my glorification will not take place until the resurrection. NONE of that would happen unless God had chosen me. I guess it just seems to me like some people, when explaining the "L", limit salvation to a work that was completely done on the Cross, when the Bible seems to say that parts of the process happen at different times.

I hope I'm making some sense? My posts sometimes tend to turn into incoherent ramblings rather than intelligent input. Lemme know if I need to clarify anything I said further.

Thank you so much for your posts Dan, I have been blessed your work.

Aaron said...

Bobby, you are clearly a very knowledgeable individual. In all honesty though, your posts always seem to me to be expertly filled with jargon while failing to make a coherent point.

While I think Arminianism is totally indefensible, at least it is coherent and consistent. The four point view is neither, being anti-trinitarian. In the four point view, God doesn't just forsee that not all people will not be saved, He is the one who ordained it as so. Not only that, but He brings the elect to saving faith through regeneration by his Holy Spirit. He is in control of all things, He knows it, and He acts accordingly. Then the wheels fall of the wagon with respect to Christ's work, where God suddenly acts as though he had not ordained what he did in fact ordain, and is not in control of what he does in fact control. It is as though God forgot that he was God. So here you have the three persons of the Trinity who are one in essence, acting totally out of sync with one another. What? And under a four point system (that accepts the other elements of TULIP) why is there this sudden interruption of God's superintendence of all events? Apparently for no reason. At least Arminianism requires Jesus' death in order to maintain free will, but a four pointer has no such belief. And again, the four pointer comes back to the same question as the Arminian (in fact, this question is more embarrasing for a four pointer), Did Christ actually save when he died or did he merely make salvation possible?

DJP said...

Amyraldianism will, as a matter of fact, be decimated in the next post.

Insofar as I succeed in my design.

...and without so much as a particle of Klingon.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Bobby, what of Jesus' death being called the propitiation for our sin in 1 John?

Tom Chantry said...

I've known a number of Amyrauldians. Most of them don't seem as angry as Bobby.

And Dan, I've been telling my wife for years every spring that I think the tudips in her garden are beautiful. She is unamused.

DJP said...

Wives - no sensa yooma. What's up with that?

Michael Coughlin said...

Jeremiah - That was GREAT!

Kerry James Allen said...

Bobby, I don't think anybody here is dodging anything, but I keep hearing talk about "logic" and don't see much "Scripture." "Always stand to it that your creed must bend to the Bible, and not the Bible to your creed." Spurgeon

Stephen said...

"I understand that most people are comfortable with being lazy and unwilling to deal with terminology that is highly Christian (in its history) in orientation (conceptually)."

Respectfully, Bobby, it's not the way you select individual words (per se), it's the way you arrange them into sentences (grammatically) and attempt to make many subtle points en route to a larger one (stylistically). I (personally) don't think I can even reduplicate it well.

You might make more headway if you slowed down and explained yourself rather than trying to hustle through a paragraph. That's not to say readers here are dumber than you are, it's just the way a good writer writes. It's (partly) why Dan is so excellent. That's advice I give myself every day and still fail.

Bill said...

Dan, good post (I am getting set for the time when the Dan video with maybe Stalin instead of Hitler is made and I'm in the "it's not your fault number"). Anyhow, RC Jr had a good quote in Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism." My recollection of the quote: "Both Arminans and Calvinists limit the atonement. One limits its power and one limits it scope." Kinda what you said but this has stuck with me for 5+ years.

olan strickland said...

Great post Phil - lips! Sorry Dan, it was irresistible. You are right, brother, all Christians believe in limited atonement in some form or fashion. Check out this summary of views by Phil Johnson.

Tom said...

"So here you have the three persons of the Trinity who are one in essence, acting totally out of sync with one another."

This brings to my mind John 17:20: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."

One of the big issues I see with L is the separation it implies between the purpose of the evangelist and the purpose of the Holy Spirit. When someone presents the gospel, (hopefully) his intention is that "[the non-believer] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing [he] may have life in His name." (John 20:31). If limited atonement is true, then no such purpose exists in the mind of God toward the non-elect, because belief is impossible--no atonement was ever made for that person.

olan strickland said...


Here you go.

Mike Westfall said...

Christs sacrifice: Infinitely intensive, but nor infinitely extensive.

Mike Westfall said...

Oops. I'm not so good with apostrophe's.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

Well, elsewhere in that paragraph "world" refers to the world system. I don't pray for that either (in the sense of having any hope that it will be redeemed). So it seems to be saying that Christ's work is through the disciples (and the church as a whole), and not through the world systems.

I think this passage would argue against dominion theology and postmillennialism. I never saw that before now.

David said...

Thanks for an interesting post. Some of your comments reminded me of this article: www.baptisttwentyone.com/2012/06/dr-danny-akins-article-on-calvinism/

My one concern is that talking 'particular redemption' requires particular verses. What do you think about Acts 2:21? Does this not state that salvation is "unlimited" i.e. available to all? This is my definition of "unlimited"- offered and available to all but not appropriated or granted to all. I accept as true that God has chosen us and that we have chosen His salvation. If salvation is offered to all, then it would be a false offer if only the Elect could receive it. I think the Bible teaches both Election and a universal offer of salvation. The logic and mechanics I leave with God.

Best wishes in Christ, and thanks for a great blog.


DJP said...

Sounds as if you completely missed the content of this post, David. Maybe the next one.

olan strickland said...


“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:6-9 ESV)

You do realize that if Christ prayed for all men to be saved and not just His elect that all men would be saved? Since God elected whom to save; Christ made atonement for their salvation; and the Holy Spirit applies that atonement to the elect, there is no contradiction in the Trinity.

David said...

OK Let me ask you this:
If you say to an unbeliever "Jesus died for sinners just like you and me", do you expect them to understand that you didn't mean "Jesus died for you"? Doesn't that sound a wee bit disingenuous?

Best wishes


Aaron said...

Did you even read the post. He addresses that in next paragraph.

I look forward to the next part. This was a well written summary and argument for particular redemption.

Zachary Bartels said...

A wild Shai Linne appears to weigh in. ...annnnd DISAPPEARS.

Anonymous said...

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord,Lord",will enter the kingdom of heaven...
Matthew 13:36-43 ...the tares are the sons of the evil one...and will throw them into the furnace of fire...
Luke 16:23 "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment...

Jesus clearly stated that not all are to be saved. L is pretty much confirmed.

Anonymous said...

Linking you up to my blog with one of your points in a quote. Very informative article. And lengthy. Many great and illuminating thoughts!

Marty Summers said...

I consider myself a 5-pointer so don't jump to the wrong conclusion by my post. I am a computer engineer who tends to theologize in computereze..please don't hold that against me. I view Divine Soteriology as consisting of a requirement spec (which is not limited in any way) and a design spec (which is specific and therefore limited). Theologically that would be sufficiency vs efficiency. I use Boaz in Ruth 4:9-10 to explain how God (Boaz) "bought" all humanity on the corss (the whole field -- all that was Elimelech's as well as Chilion's and Mahlon's -- unlimited sufficiency) for the specific purpose of "purchasing" a specific bride (Ruth not Orpah or Naomi -- limited efficiency). In this context look at 2Pe 2:1 and Eph 1:14. Note also the language of James 2:9-11 where we find breaking just one law renders one a transgressor guilty of breaking the whole law. Thus, to be consistent, if Christ died for "sin" then His death should cover all "sins." I know this sounds like Potential Atonement but I deny that on the grounds that a triune God is involved in the Redemption of mankind. Had the Father not elected a bride and given her to the Son then Christ would never have hung on the cross to atone for her sin and had Christ not atoned for her sin then, of course, the Holy Spirit would not go to her and efficaciously draw her to Christ. I'm trying to keep this short so I'll end here unless someone wants to pursue the line of reasoning further.

Tom said...

I see no problem in Jesus dying especially for the church but also making some people who will never believe "saveable"--Heb 6:4-6 talks about reprobates whose hearts were once enlightened.

Plus, as Marty pointed out, a strictly limited atonement obscures the typology in Ruth.

Mt 13:44: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Verse 38 establishes that the field is the world. Who besides Christ can purchase the world? This parable implies that Christ buys the whole world to obtain His church.

mikeb said...

Danny boy, we must work to get you to a perfect 5.00! It is commonly said that there are no verses to directly support Limited Atonement, yet I think there is. John 10:11 certainly is a good one. Also if you exegete 2 Cor. 5-:19 correctly you will see that is can only be a particular redemption there, as Sinclair Ferguson shows in one of his sermons. Also Steve Lawson's series call 10 Reasons Why I Believe in Definite Atonement will shows tons of supportive verses, as does his Foundations of Grace book.

A 4 pointer is an Amryaldian, no? I find most 4 pointers just don't like the idea of the L because it goes against what they have been taught. They havent really worked out a good argument for there case and do not like to use the name of Amyraut (most 4 pointers have not heard of him either. But how can the Father elect from eternity past a specific group of people, and the Spirit will regenerate, seal and sanctify that group, but the Son goes rebel and propitiates for all?

Sonja said...

"Les, aren't you grateful that Matt. 1:21 says "He Himself shall save His people from their sins," and not "He Himself shall try to save His people from their sins" or "He Himself shall give His people the opportunity to save themselves from their sins, if they want to badly enough"?

The money post so early in the thread! I cannot picture Jesus sitting at the right hand of His Father asking Him why He didn't do enough. Wringing His hands while at the same time knowing that at the End of Days there will be those blaspheming God. He died for all sinners and all their sins. Some couldn't care less.

Therein lies their problem, not His.

Chris Dean said...

Pastor Dan, I cannot wait to see your next post! I have been a committed five-pointer ever since my conversion (thanks to Spurgeon) but one of the most logical defenses of the 'L' comes from here:


The gist of the article has already been touched on by a few others here in the combox - that if God the Father elects only and precisely those to be saved, and the Spirit converts only and precisely those that are saved, would Jesus then in accomplishing His salvific work (Who BTW only does the will of the Father) have a different scope of people than the other Two in the Trinity? I think not.

God bless you for your work Pastor Dan. I eagerly await your more substantial thoughts on this subject. May your faithfulness and fruitfulness greatly increase for His matchless Name's sake!

Thomas Louw said...

I really had a good question and a comment to boot.

Bobby Grow just totally made my head implode; does anyone know what he was trying to get at? In English or Greek will even be ok.

Great post nicely explained and totally understandable

Marty Summers said...

There are valid reasons for my perspective. First let me say there is nothing "iffy" in God's plan of salvation. Do I believe in Limited Atonement? Yes in the design of the cross but no in the requirements of the cross. Like I alluded to a good engineer will write a requirement spec such that there are no limits. Would God tie His own hands with such an important aspect of His plan? Let me throw a coule more things for you to consider. I often say "our prayer won't change what will be but what will be was most assuredly affected by our prayer." I am arguing against the age-old robbot accusation from a sovereign grace perspective. What about Unconditional Election? Do I believe in it? Yes. However I believe the election is unconditional for the one being elected. That does not make their election unconditional upon anything else. The one being chosen had absolutely nothing to do with influencing God to choose him but that doesn't mean those around him who are already quickened didn't. See 2Chr 7:14 among others. God is factoring in the free moral agency of His quickened children in all ages into His plan. Furthermore because Christ bought all mankind then I don't have to lie to anyone for whom Christ did not die when I tell tem they can be saved. Whereas if I tell someone for whom Christ did not die that they "can" then I've lied so I'd have to be very careful how I phrase my evangelistic message. With my view I don't run that risk.

DJP said...

Tom: I see no problem in Jesus dying especially for the church but also making some people who will never believe "saveable"

Someday, I'll write a post that makes and explains the Biblical case as to why that makes absolutely no sense whatever and is completely untenable nonsense.

When that post comes out, please read it through, think it through carefully, and consider the Scriptures I provide.

I'm thinking of giving it the title "Particular redemption: some opening thoughts."

Watch for it.

DJP said...

Same response to you, Marty, as my last to Tom.

Tom said...

Still, I see what God is doing in Hebrews 6:4-5 to be the same as 2 Cor 4:6. If that work doesn't render someone "saveable", then I don't know what does.

And if it leads me to believe that Christ's plan for mankind has been thwarted, then my understanding of God's plan is wrong in some area.

Tommy said...

...I see what you did there Dan!

Thank you for a great, incredibly helpful post. I've made the point that the apostles never evangelized by saying, "Christ died for your sins" to my Free Grace father-in-law(who's a pastor), and he had to concede that it's not necessary in the gospel offer(at least I got that much out of him).

This will be a great tool to show my wife, who sees the validity and Biblical nature of the other points, but has a hard time with that darn L.

DJP said...

Tommy: thanks, very grateful if it's of use to you.

Tom: since you're just repeating yourself, I'll just refer you to my previous reply.

Tom said...

You can look at Isaiah 5:1-6, particularly v. 5: "What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?"

trogdor said...

The issue became a lot simpler for me when I stopped trying to answer the rhetorical question of Rom 8:32.

Tom said...

Sorry, the reference is to v. 4.

Off-topic... looks like I just got a prophetic message from Blogger: My word verification is "boonyear 58"

(I'm kidding.)

Bobby Grow said...


I'm not Amyrauldian, I'm an Evangelical Calvinist. And just because I disagree with 5 Point Calvinism doesn't mean I'm "angry," it just means I'm disagreeable with 5 Point Calvinism and those who presume that it is straightforward Gospel Truth. It does frustrate me though when people, like DJP, articulate something as if it's Gospel truth and at the same time does not inform his "students" that there is a history of development to what has become known as 5 Point Calvinism. That is irresponsible, not Christian, and not being a person who traffics in the truth!

Please don't misrepresent who I am by calling me an Amyrauldian, that's presumptuous and again not Christian. And please don't say I am angry when I'm not; I simply disagree. Your framing of things has rhetorical force by pigeonholing me as something that I'm not---Angry & Amyrauldian (ooh sounds like a good book title for an Amyrauldian that is)---but there is no substance to it.

Bobby Grow said...


Well, this is a blog after all (so I must write in soundbytes unfortunately), and a hostile environment at that. I have had comments for my students in the past as well (as far as grammar is concerned). And since we are on the topic of grammar, that's exactly my point; there is an informing theological grammar at play here, and one that your more better writer Dan needs to be more apparent about. What I mean is that there is a history to what Dan is simply asserting as Biblical (i.e. 5 Point Calvinism), and he needs to inform his uninformed readership of this history. That would go along way in trying to communicate the theology he is communicating; it would allow his readership to better adjudicate their affirmation or denial of what he is asserting. When someone collapses a system of interpretation into the Bible and says and makes no distinction between the two; then the situation has been set such that if someone (like me) disagrees with Dan I am no longer just disagreeing with Dan (or his system of interpretation), but now I am disagreeing with the Bible. And you are trying to tell me that Dan's writing is good! Anyone can cross t's and dot i's, but can they employ those letters in words, sentences and paragraphs that provide a more fair and accurate and bigger picture of the deep realities that, in our instance, Dan is trying to communicate?

So please, teacher, don't lecture me ... your insult is duly noted by the way. I'm glad my book editors didn't seem to study grammar where you did. But I understand your cloaked ad hominen, Stephen. Good one.

pastorbrianculver said...

Thank you for this post. Very well written and thoughtfully presented. I agree with you 100% on this as it is a point of conversation with many people. Most of the times, it is with people who do not read their bibles. Thank you for your ministry and your blog! I have been away too long!

Marty Summers said...

I have two questions: 1) how could God justly place the blood of the nonelect on my hands (Eze 33:1-9)holding me responsible for their damnation if I had no part to play in the process, the Father did not elect them, the Son did not die for them, and the H.S. will never go to them and quicken them? 2) Why did God choose the children in Deut 10:15? Was it not because of His love for their fathers? And why did God not choose the children in Matt 23:37? Was it not because their fathers would not?

Nonna said...
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