Thursday, February 2, 2017

Limited vs. Universal Atonement




I came across the above video in which RC Sproul interviews DA Carson (two heavyweights of Reformed and Evangelical theology) on the subject of biblical exegesis. At 13:34 minutes into the video the following conversation takes place between the two. RC begins with the following remarks:

“Almost anytime I am engaged in a discussion for example about the doctrine of election, and people struggling with it, and particularly the Reformed understanding of election, people invariably come back to me and say, But the Bible says, “Whosoever will ...,” you know, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Begotten Son …” “Whosoever will ...,” and so on. And they give me the “whosoever will” passages, and I say, now, what does that text say about who will believe? And they look at me with a blank face, and I say, nothing!”

Actually he is wrong about that. The passage does indicate “who will believe.” Inherent in the phrase “Whosoever will …,” is whoever WILLS! The implication is that whoever wills to, or chooses to, or decides to, or exercises his volition to. That is the meaning of “whosoever will”. The implication is that people have a choice. They are not predestined. The choice, the decision, the option is theirs. And the implication of having a choice is the ability to exercise it. There is no real “choice” without the ability to exercise that choice. That is the most obvious meaning of “whosoever will”. To suggest that they have the choice, but they are not able to exercise that choice until God makes them to, is a logical absurdity and a contradiction. If Jesus wanted to say what the Reformed theologians want us to believe that he was saying, he should have said it like this: “For God so loved the predestined, that he gave his only begotten Son, that all the elect who are predestined to believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Whosoever” is a very strange kind of substitute for the “predestined”. RC then continues as follows:

“What it does say is that whoever does A, will not have B, but will have C; and we can’t infer from that universal election or anything like that, or that everybody has the ability to come to Christ unaided by God …”

He is complicating it unnecessarily. The argument is about the scope of the Atonement, not about our ability or inability to come to Christ, or the meaning of election. Is the Atonement limited, or is it unlimited and universal? Did Jesus atone for everybody’s sins, or just for the sins of the “predestined? The biblical answer is that he atoned for everybody’s sins. The scope of the Atonement was unlimited. It afforded everyone the opportunity to be saved, not just the “elect”. If some are not, that is their choice, not God’s. There are lots of scriptures that affirm this. Here are some:

John 1:

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

This does not mean universal salvation. It doesn’t mean that everybody will be saved. It means that the Atonement was universal. It means that everyone has the opportunity to saved if they choose to. The Atonement was made for everybody’s sins, not just for the sins of the “elect,” or of the “predestined”.

John 3:

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The meaning is obvious. You would have to do an awful lot of twisting around to read into it what Reformed theologians want to read into it. “Whosoever” means anybody who wants to, or chooses to, or decides to—the implication being that everyone is able to make that choice. The condemnation for unbelief only makes sense if there is a real choice.

Romans 5:

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.

This again does not mean that everyone is saved. It does not mean universal salvation. But it does mean an unlimited Atonement. It means that everyone can be saved if they choose to—the implication being that everyone could choose to. God has not predestined them one way or another.

Romans 14:

15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 8:

11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

These verses suggest the possibility of someone “for whom Christ died” (i.e. whose sins were atoned for), to “perish,” be “destroyed,” or be damned.

2 Corinthians 5:

14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

Again, the implication is that the Atonement is universal. It is for all, not just for some. The fact that only some live does not alter the fact that the redemption was for all. I am sure they will now say that it means “all the elect!” But there is nothing in there to imply that, as other examples continue to demonstrate:

1 Timothy 2:

3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

The redemption is for all men, not some men. How can “all men” mean the same thing as “some men”?

Hebrews 2:

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Every man means every man. How can these verses be construed to mean anything other than what they actually say?

2 Peter 2:

1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them [the heretics], and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

This is the most revealing scripture of all! In this verse Peter expressly teaches that the heretics, those who are damned, and bring upon themselves swift destruction, were bought by the Lord, meaning their sins were atoned for by Jesus Christ. Jesus not only atoned for the sins of the saved, but also for the sins of the damned. That is the obvious meaning of that scripture. There is no way of getting round it. If anything completely destroys the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement, it is this verse. The next verse just adds an extra large nail to its coffin:

2 Peter 3:

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise [of his second coming], as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

This verse speaks of the unbelievers in the last days who will mock the faithful for their belief in the Second Coming of the Lord, and of the judgement to come. The “any” and “all” relates to all of mankind, not just to the “elect” or the “predestined,” as the “Reformed” theologians would have us believe. And if that verse puts a large nail in its coffin, this one finally buries it:

1 John 2:

2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

If that doesn’t completely bury it, I don’t know what else it does. (See also Titus 2:11; 1 John 4:10.) RC then continues his conversation as follows:

“... where the same author [John] of the same book speaks of the same Jesus say explicitly, “No man can come to me unless it is given him of the Father,” and so on. But a universal ability is deduced from John 3:16 which is not there.”

He is referring to the following verses in John chapter 6:

John 6:

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
•  •  •
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

These verses are RC Sproul’s trump card! He thinks that they make his theology unassailable! Unfortunately they don’t. That scripture is not as watertight as he likes to think it is. Those verses are taken out of context. Verse 45 is omitted. RC Sproul whenever he quotes the above verses in support of his theology, he always leaves out verse 45, which changes everything. Here are the same verses, but with verse 45 included:

John 6:

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
•  •  •
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Verse 45 clarifies the meaning of verses 44 and 65. It explains how the Father “draws” people to Christ. They first come to the Father, and learn of the Father; and then the Father draws them to Christ. They take the first step of coming to the Father, and learning from the Father; and then the Father in turn leads them to Christ. They take the initiative; they make the first move; and the Father leads them accordingly. John in the first chapter gives us a clue as to how that happens:

John 1:

9 That [Jesus] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

And in the book of Doctrine and Covenants the Lord has clarified it further as follows:

D&C 84:

46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.

That knocks the wind out of the sail of the “Reformed” theology of predestination, unconditional election, and limited atonement. At this point in the discussion DA Carson enters the fray, and adds the following comment to what RC Sproul had said (emphasis added):

“And that is the logic problem, but also in John 3:16 there is often a kind of biblical theological leap that is a mistake too … it is assumed that “world” means a very big place that sort of includes everybody. God’s love must be very big because the world is very big, but as John uses the word “world,” he really means the entire human moral order in massive anarchic rebellion against God. So in John 3:16 God’s love is admired not because the world is so big, but because the world is so bad. And that sort of thing you learn by actually reading John’s Gospel again and again, and seeing how he uses the word “world.””

That makes absolutely no sense. The word “world” occurs around 60 times in the Gospel of John, and nowhere does it mean something like that. It means what everybody else thinks it means. The first chapter of John is enough to give us a clue:

John 1:

9 That [Jesus] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

The “world” in that scripture means what everybody else thinks it means. It means the place where we all live, plus everybody else who is in it. “Every man” means what it says. It doesn’t mean “some men”. If DA Carson’s definition of the “world” was correct, substituting his definition into it the above scripture would make it read something like this:

John 1:

9 That [Jesus] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the [entire human moral order in massive anarchic rebellion against God].
10 He was in the [entire human moral order in massive anarchic rebellion against God], and the [entire human moral order in massive anarchic rebellion against God] was made by him, and the [entire human moral order in massive anarchic rebellion against God] knew him not.

LOL! How would that make any sense to anybody? Are Reformed theologians really that unintelligent, or are they just pretending to be? Or maybe they think that everybody else is except them! The Reformed doctrine of limited atonement, predestination, and unconditional election is shot through. It is rank heresy. There is nothing in the Bible that supports it.

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