Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect

Limited Atonement: Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect

As defended by Dr. Curt Daniels  

Curt Daniels points out that “most of the popular books on Calvinism paint the issue (at hand) as an ‘either-or’ choice.  That is they say either that ‘Christ died equally for all men’ or ‘Christ died only for the elect.’”  Dr. Daniels than makes this important statement, “But when more serious research is done into the Scriptures and Reformed theology, it is more of a ‘both-and’ balance with clarifications on both sides.”  In Freedom of the Will Jonathan Edwards writes, “From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby.”  A. A. Hodge went a little further in his theology textbook.  He wrote, “That he (Christ) removed all legal obstacles from the salvation of any and every man, that he thereby removed all legal obstacles from the salvation of any and every man, and that his satisfaction may be applied to one man as well as to another if God so wills it.”  If we permit for a moment the reality that Christ did in fact die for all men, then it is their rejection of that atonement that ultimately damns them; (from a Divine standpoint we know that Christ’s atonement is only applied to those whom God chose).  His election was unconditional and for that matter it was totally undeserved when we understand the implications of total depravity (none of us would ever have chosen God had God not intervened on our behalf).

R.B. Kuiper summarizes this debate in this fashion, “It can be shown without the slightest difficulty that certain benefits of the atonement, other than the salvation of individuals, are universal…Therefore the statement, so often heard from Reformed pulpits, that Christ died only for the elect must be rated a careless one…The particular design of the atonement and its universal design in no way contradict each other.  Nor do they merely complement each other.  They support and strengthen each other.  In final analysis they stand and fall together.”

Daniels believes that the “dual aspects of the atonement helps to match the dual aspects of the grace of God.”  He goes onto to argue that the general, universal love of God for all men is best reflected in the universal aspect(s) of the atonement.  In saying this it does not take away from the fact that God has a special covenant love for His bride.  Dr. Daniels sites 1Timothy 4:10 as a strong proof text to support his SFA viewpoint.  According to R.B. Kuiper, Christ’s death was especially for the elect rather than only for the elect. 

Both the more limited view of atonement proponents and SFA proponents would agree with Spurgeon’s statement that Christ bought some things for all men and all good things for some men.  In other words, common grace finds its roots in the atonement of Jesus.  The fact that God’s judgment is delayed is nothing more than divine grace.  Many Calvinists would also ground the universal free offer of the gospel in the death of Christ.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on September 3, 2011 at 8:27 am

    John MacArthur on particular redemption: If Christ died for all in general, then He died for no one in particular.

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