Atonement: Limited or Universal?

I made a comment on a video by Dr. John Piper found here:

“he Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1John 2:2 “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world” John 1:29 I was a Calvinist pastor for over 10 years. I finally realized that Calvinism ignores or distorts the plain meaning of such verses. We should not force passages to harmonize with our systematic theologies – even if the latter are built on other scriptures. I finally came to believe in a God who genuinely loves “all” – and desires all to be saved.

A response to my comment:

“The book of Hebrews says Jesus is high priest. The high priest only made sacrifice for the sins of the people of Israel; thus Jesus as high priest made atonement for the sins of his people. As far as 1 John 2:2 is concerned: the definition of propitiation is appeasing God; it’s the removal of Gods wrath. So to say that God is the propitiation for the whole world would mean that the whole world is no longer under Gods wrath, which we know isn’t true. So your understanding of that verse is wrong. There isn’t one verse that one could use to consistently support a universal atonement. You also overlooked verses like John 10:11 which says Jesus lays his life down for his sheep. Hebrews 9:28 which says Christ was offered a once to bear the sins of many. So when you understand what Hebrews says about Christs role as high priest and read the other passages that speak of Christ’s death in light of what is described and in Hebrews it fits perfectly with what is taught in limited atonement.”

My Response:

One thing we should be able to easily agree about: very rational, well educated and well intentioned people disagree deeply about this issue (as well as the other “points” of Calvinism). I have an M.Div from Reformed Theological Seminary. I am quite familiar with what Calvinist believe – and, I think, understand WHY (the reasonings) they believe the things they do….

Appealing to consistency, as you do, assumes you already understand all the relevant issues (like the definitive meaning and full implications of “propitiation”). As for me, I “see through a glass darkly”. But things that are “simply put” – I simply try to accept – like, “God is love” –  NOT “God is love, BUT….”

Do you not see that I could just as easily say, “There isn’t one verse that one could use to consistently support a LIMITED atonement.”. Such a proposition is circular and already assumes the conclusion. You’ve already determined the magisterial “TRUTH” to which all Scripture must conform.

Your objection (again) is based on the assumption that it CANNOT be true that God’s wrath with respect to the “whole world” has been satisfied*. One could argue that atonement has been “provisioned” but still must be “accepted” by faith for it to have effect (not that that is my position, but, to me, a reasonable possibility – like Amyraldism). But that runs against the entire infrastructure of Calvin’s logic (e.g. Total Depravity > therefore the inability for “dead men” to believe)- so it MUST be “wrong”…

You fail to see that specific atonement does not contradict with universal atonement whatsoever.

A great example is 1 Timothy 4:10:

“for this we both labour and are reproached, because we hope on the living God, who is Savior of all men — especially of those believing.”

Calvinist want to be “consistent” (with their own presuppositions – not the remainder of Scripture that run contrary to their notions) and therefore are forced to interpret “especially of those who believe” to mean, “specifically”. But they ignore the fact that Paul has used the Greek word, “málista” in seven other places where they ALL mean something like, “in the greatest degree” or “chiefly, most of all” – or, as it plainly says, “especially”.

Not one verse? I gave one – very plainly: 1 John 2:2, and it CAN be interpreted “consistently” with other passages that emphasize the “particular” aspect of atonement – what God has done for ALL He also has done specifically for a “few” – the greater includes the lesser.

You sound like your mind is completely made up. If that is the case – then I am not smart enough change it.

I am dogmatic about one thing when it comes to the Bible: There are few things about which we can or should be dogmatic – maybe those things best summed up in the Apostles Creed.

But when a doctrine inclines toward narrowing the Goodness and Love of God – I find such very doubtful, if not blasphemous.

Now I will conclude with something that will allow you to  just write me off completely and we can forget this conversation:

I have come to believe – or, more accurately, to have a “hope” that not only universal atonement is true – but the hope of Universal Salvation (one could argue I am a 4 point “Calvinist” – because if you really believe that God is SOVEREIGN LOVE – and that atonement is unlimited, you will become hopeful of a salvation and a Gospel that is commensurate with the unlimited GOODNESS of God!).

This is the profound hope that seems to run beneath so much of what (especially) Paul says (as well as John and Peter):

For instance, Romans 5:18:

“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” Jesus is the “last” and “second” Adam – He was sent to reverse what the damage the “first” had done. Will He do less? Will not Grace abound much more where sin has abounded? Did Jesus NOT come to “reconcile ALL things”?

(also see Romans 11: 32, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:28, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 1 Timothy 4:10)

It’s mind blowing – but it’s the thing most simply commensurate with the infinite GOODNESS of God, who has “consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” THAT is the real conclusion of Romans 9-11! THAT is why Paul immediately breaks out into such rapturous praise!

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen!”

For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things…. think about it!

(If you should be truly elect [but who really knows?] 🙂 I recommend this book published by Eerdmans, written by a Dutch Calvinist pastor: The One Purpose of God by the late Jan Bonda).

I hope I haven’t been too acerbic in my reply. I wish you all the best, Jon: God bless your richly and beyond all measure!

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