More on Limited Atonement

My doctrine class at college has reminded me of the limited atonement issue that I started but never finished discussing at the start of the year.

So when it comes to the atonement it can be said that generally unless you are a universalist or Pelagian you hold a limited view of the atonement. The atonement is still limited in who it ends up saving, if some are still left unsaved.

It seems in my understanding that at the Council or Dort (where they essentially put forward the 5 points of Calvinism), that point 3: Limited Atonement stipulated that Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of the world was sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect. This is how I have always understood this and seems to line up with Unlimited Limited atonement put forward by men such as Driscoll and Ware.

I cant see how limited atonement understood as only sufficient for elect is either logical or biblical. In addition unlimited atonement is actually limited, I cant see how when they propose only those who have faith will salvation be applied is greatly different to the view that the atonement is only efficient for the elect.

I’m still thinking this through and so your thoughts and corrections would be great.

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7 Responses to More on Limited Atonement

  1. Mark Earngey says:

    Bro, there’s a ripper of a section on definite atonement in the Pierced for our Transgressions book. And there’s also a great (and detailed!) write up by R. Scott Clark (of Westminster Seminary in the US) here:

    Oh, and Benny Adamo’s been thinking about it too lately – hit him up for a yarn. He’s got some great thoughts! 🙂

  2. a helmet says:

    How do you interpret 1 Timothy 4,10?

    -a helmet

  3. Mark Earngey says:

    In the same way as Calvin, Spurgeon and Turretin etc. That Saviour here refers to God’s being the ‘preserver’ of all of humanity, but particularly the saviour of the elect.

    I’m not really up for the debate mate (as per your site name: “” If you’re genuinely interested in the reformed position on this, check out some reformed commentaries.


  4. Seumas says:

    Always good to be thinking about this.

    here’s two thoughts:
    1. christ’s death is of infinite value.
    2. there’s no real sense in which the suffering for sins is a matter of accounting: if less people repented, would Christ have suffered less himself?

  5. Duke says:

    Thanks all for your comments.

    I am keen to read ‘Pierced for our Transgressions’. Mark Thompson mentioned it and I will check it out when I find a spare day. I still need to work out how ‘narrow’ the limited position is in regards to the sufficiency question.

    Helmut: As with Mark I agree with Calvin, Spurgeon, etc. And I too am not up for the debate. I may disagree with you on the view of the atonement, but I still wish to love you as a brother in Christ. This issue has caused much division within the church, and there is validity to it. Aberrations in both directions can lead to dangerous conclusions regarding the nature of God and the work of Christ on the cross. My encouragement is to love your Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Thanks for your contribution, it is good to be reminded of the infinite value of Christ’s death. And yes Christ’s suffering is the same no matter the number of those who repent and trust in it for forgiveness of sin. It is this point that leads me to understanding Christ’s death as sufficient for all, i.e. if God elected all to be saved it would suffice for all people.

  6. a helmet says:


    Thanks for your replies. I think the interpretation that God’s salvation of all men in 1 Timothy 4,10 refers to providence, entails some problems.

    John Piper said something like this:
    “If God is the savior of all men in the sense of eternal salvation, why are not all eternally saved? — Hence the salvation of all men at 1 Timothy 4,10 must refer to temporal salvation only.”

    So this temporal salvation, according to the calvinistic interpretation of 1 Tim 4,10 refers to earthly blessings during our temporal life.

    As examples of God’s providence, Piper mentions rain and sunshine among other things. But what good are rain and sunshine for the non-elect? Isn’t weed nourished by rain and sunshine to grow and become only worse and be cut off in the end? Aren’t rain and sunshine causing bad trees to mature so that they produce much bad fruit? So what good is rain and sunshine for the non-elect in the calvinstic worldview?

    But it gets worse: The problem with Piper’s, Calvin’s, Spurgeon’s and Turretin’s interpretation is (among other things) that obviously the will of God for all men to be blessed with warmth, food, water, health, peace, good fortune etc. is actually not fulfilled in the world. In other words, it oftentimes seems that God fails to accomplish His role as a “savior” in this sense in our world. In the third world millions are starving to death, are afflicted by droughts or floods and all kinds of calamity, lack clean drinking water, are destitute of medical care or suffer from crop losses. In other words, “all men” are not “saved” in the meaning Piper wants us to embrace.

    So if God’s will to save all men eternally is thwarted and not fulfilled,….well God’s will to save all men with temporal blessings doesn’t seem to be fulfilled either. Obviously a sovereign provider of earthly blessings would not be hindered by earthquakes and hurricanes that place themselves as obstacles against physical well-being. A sovereign savior from physical afflictions doesn’t seem to be at work in our world in the sense that Piper’s interpretation would imply, rather the bible is very clear that physical afflictions of all kinds are part of our fallen world and there is in fact no such “salvation from physical afflictions” that would be subsumed under the temporal salvation spoke of in 1 Tim 4,10.

    In fact there is ample biblical evidence, that God doesn’t promises anyone physical well-being in this life.

    So if God’s role as a provider of blessings and sustainer of the world isn’t met either, are we to conclude that God’s sovereignty is thwarted again?….Or could it be that just the calvinistic interpretation of 1 Timothy 4,10 is fallacious? I rather guess it’s the latter.

    -a helmet

  7. Pingback: 4 Years Old « A Salty Life

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