Friday, May 09, 2014

Limited Atonement or Unlimited Atonement? Calvin Was Right About the Extent Of the Atonement – everyone ought to agree with him on it

The middle point of the TULIP of Calvinism is “Limited Atonement,” usually represented as the affirmation that only the sins of the elect were laid on Christ, while the sins of the rest of the human race were not.  The Bible is very clear on this question—see my article on it here. What, however, did Calvin teach? Consider the following quotation from his commentary on Romans 5:18:

18. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. . . . . He does not say the righteousness — dikaiosunen, but the justification — dikaioma, of Christ, in order to remind us that he was not as an individual just for himself, but that the righteousness with which he was endued reached farther, in order that, by conferring this gift, he might enrich the faithful. He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.

Similarly, commenting on Galatians 5:12, Calvin wrote:

“[I]t is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exceptionas Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world.”

Commenting on Mark 14:24, Calvin wrote: 

"The word many does not mean a part of the world only, but the whole human race."

Calvin preached that those for whom Christ died could be lost:

 "It is no small matter to have the souls perish who were bought by the blood of Christ." (Sermon 6, 2 Tim 2:19, pg.  83, A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons of John Calvin, John Calvin)

In the words of the P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and renowned Reformed scholar Richard Muller:

As to the specific issues usually gathered together under the vague language of “limited atonement” . . . there is also a body of material, including statements made by Calvin, most notably in commentaries and sermons, that points toward several non-speculative forms of hypothetical universalism, notably as found in the thought of Davenant and DuMoulin, as argued within the bounds of the traditional formula, sufficienter pro omnibus, efficienter pro electis, [sufficient for all, efficient for the elect.] . . . He . . . prefer[ed] to speak of the valor and virtus of Christ’s work as extending to all sin or to the redemption of the world, undergirding the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel and the promise that all who believe will be saved. . . . Calvin taught that the value, virtue, or merit of Christ’s work served as sufficient payment for the sins of all human beings, and provided the basis for the divine promise that all who believe will be saved, assuming that believers are recipients of God’s grace and that unbelievers are “left without excuse[.]” . . .  On the other hand, Calvin assumed that Christ’s work, albeit sufficient payment for the sins of the world and for securing the salvation of all human beings in even a thousand worlds, is by divine intention effective for the elect only[.] . . . In the case of the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction for sin, since Christ paid the price of all sin and accomplished a redemption capable of saving the whole world, his benefits are clearly placed before, proffered, or offered to all who hear . . . Calvin’s approach to the value, merit, or sufficiency of Christ’s work assumed that it was unlimited and could therefore undergird the universality of the promise and the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel[.] (pgs. 104-106, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation, Richard A. Muller. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012).

Calvin was exactly right when he taught that Christ's death was a payment for the sins of all men, not for the elect alone.  Calvinists everywhere should give heed to what John Calvin said and recognize that the sins of every individual of the human race were placed on Christ, who suffered for them all, since God so loved the world—not the elect only—that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all (Jn 3:16; 1 Tim 2:6).

No comments: