By Ken Hamrick
John Murray’s treatment of sanctification, particularly his essay, “The Agency in Definitive Sanctification,” makes some surprising inroads toward grasping the believer’s retroactive, realistic identification with Christ. He does not go as far as to acknowledge that the reality of the spiritual union of Christ in the believer brings a title to all that Christ accomplished just as if the believer had accomplished it. Instead, he prefers to call it a mysterious “divine constitution.” But he does recognize the “tension” between the historical objectivity of Christ dying and rising again, and the fact of the believer subjectively dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ—and that the two are often spoken of in the New Testament as if they were one and the same events. The believer did not die to sin until coming to Christ in faith; and yet, the power of that dying to sin is firmly grounded in the once-and-for-all quality of Christ’s death—as if the historically objective death of Christ somehow became an historically objective fact of the believer’s life once he came to Christ […]
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It is, by far, the most contested of the Five Points. And confusion over the term makes it all the trickier.
“Limited Atonement” is the middle letter in TULIP, but as author and pastor Douglas Wilson explains, that name might give the wrong impression.
“The problem with ‘limited atonement’ is that it makes everybody think ‘tiny atonement.’” And, of course, no good Christian wants to cast the cross-work of Christ as diminutive.
The better term, says Wilson, with a growing number of voices, is “Definite Atonement.” Same doctrine, better name. This way of putting it emphasizes the extent of Jesus’s accomplishment, rather than its restriction.
Dr. David L. Allen | Dean of the School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Definite Atonement & the Free Offer of the Gospel.
Piper asserts his belief that the free offer of the gospel to all people is one of the “benefits” or “intentions” of God in the atonement (657-664). Scripture teaches the “free offer” of the gospel to all. But this is not something that the atonement itself “accomplished,” especially on Piper’s view of things. In fact, this is one of the key problems with definite atonement and is one of two main reasons why so many in the Reformed tradition like Bruce Ware (see Part 1) reject it (the other being the exegetical evidence is clearly against limited atonement).
Piper correctly states that Shultz argues one cannot preach the gospel sincerely to all people on the platform of definite atonement: “If Christ did not pay for the sins of the non-elect, then it is impossible to genuinely offer salvation to the non-elect, since there is no salvation available to offer them” (658). Piper takes strong umbrage at this claim. We need to note that this claim articulated by Shultz has been made by many in the Reformed tradition since the days of the ascendency of limited atonement in the late 16th century.
Piper, quoting Roger Nicole, totally misses the point of Shultz’s argument: “if the terms of the offer be observed, that which is offered be actually granted” (658-59). Continue reading →
Dr. David L. Allen | Dean of the School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
The final chapter in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her covers the subject of preaching and definite atonement. John Piper does the honors. This chapter is a fitting conclusion to the book as Piper attempts to show that preaching definite atonement redounds to the glory of God.
Piper asserts three things as foundational for his chapter:
- The glory of God is the heart of the gospel and the end for which God created the world.
- The central task of ministry and preaching is the magnifying of the glory of God. Every sermon should be expository according to Piper, to which I utter a hearty “Amen!”
- The cross is the climax of the glory of God’s grace.
No qualms here.
Definite Atonement is a Significant Part of the Glory of God’s Grace (637-639).
Piper thinks that the wording of Ephesians1:4-6 and Revelation 5:9 point to definite atonement. Continue reading →
Jesus is both the Lord of all, and the Savior of all who believe. He is not just Lord of those who believe, but he is Lord of all those who do not believe. Understanding His role as Lord as we proclaim the Gospel can help us better understand the Gospel and help make us more appreciative of our roles as His witnesses.
And His witnesses we are to be for he told His disciples that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Now as His witnesses, we are to witness to Him as He is, both to us, and to those we are witnessing to. Taking our cue from both Peter in Acts 2 and Paul in Romans 1, we see how to do this, first Peter in Acts 2:
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
To the religious Jew, the Lord was Jehovah. Peter had already directly referred to God as Lord in verse 20 where he spoke of the great and glorious day of the Lord in quoting the Old Testament. Also in verse 21, where he again quoted the OT and declared that all who call upon the Lord will be saved. And then again Peter quoted from the Scriptures in the above quoted passage, where a little part of the mystery of the Trinity is revealed. The point is that Peter used the same word to describe both Jehovah and Jesus. Continue reading
by Ken Hamrick
What you will find below is neither an argument for the Calvinist view nor one for the Traditionalist view of atonement. Both ends of the spectrum have been asking the wrong questions, and the best perspective transcends that old debate. By emphasizing that Christ stood in our place, the debate has perpetually turned on the question of whose place Christ stood in—all or only some? But what has been missed by such an emphasis is that Christ stands in us—and until He stands within a sinner through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, nothing that He did is considered to have been in that sinner’s place. Christ’s death was not an immediate transaction of atonement regarding the sins of those for whom His death was intended to atone, but is instead a universally suitable, one-for-one substitution that must be applied through spiritual union with Him by faith. Continue reading
I owed it ALL. ALL of His blood was needed to wash away my sin alone. I cannot look to His cross and say that only one stripe on His back or only one drop of His blood was for me—He suffered my penalty and all of it was for me. So how is there any left over to save you? Continue reading
There is much room for agreement on atonement… and misunderstandings to avoid on all sides. Libertarians (both Traditionalists and Arminians) can find unexpected common ground even with a Reformed theologian, such as Charles Hodge Continue reading
There is a popular misconception, taught authoritatively in pulpits across this land. It is the idea that sins do not send anyone to hell, but rather, unbelief (or, rejecting Christ) alone sends one to hell. Continue reading
I just finished reading a sermon about “Reformed Theology” by a “great Southern Baptist Preacher.” I must confess I was amazed to see how theologically ignorant one of the most revered pastors in the Convention could be. Continue reading
Has the Gospel been presented to all? I don’t think so,
Have many died without hearing it? Yes.
Does every moral agent know and violate the law of God? yes.
We then see a difference between the law and the gospel. Continue reading
- The chart is intended to represent the spectrum, with those doctrines that are least likely to be held by Calvinists at the top, and those least likely to be held by Traditionalists at the bottom, but with incremental steps toward the middle mapped out. Continue reading
An expanded and improved form of this chart, which includes Traditionalists, can be found HERE.
There are certain boundaries in the idea of atonement on which all Southern Baptists can find agreement. Continue reading
Calvinists see the truth of the fact that it is, ultimately, God in eternity past who decides by His planning who will be saved. This in itself is a hard truth, with which I agree. But many Calvinists have arived at a false conclusion about the nature of God and the way He made His choices. Continue reading
Heb. 9:22b, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” “No forgiveness”—none. The concept of substitutionary sacrifice for the purpose of propitiating God’s wrath against sin runs like blood throughout the body of Scripture. Continue reading
Founders Ministries put together several theological worthies to write its latest apology for strict Calvinism, Whomever He Wills >>>
Names include seasoned professors–Tom Nettles, Bruce Ware, Thomas Schriner, and Stephen Wellum–professors all at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the majority of the contributors are affiliated with Southern). The author of the chapter on Limited Atonement, David Schrock, is presently a PhD candidate at the same seminary as well as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Seymour, Indiana. Read the rest of this entry from SBC Tomorrow»
The term atonement is an Old Testament term, kaphar, which literally means to cover, as with pitch (or, tar). Continue reading