Limited/Unlimited Atonement – Just Who Did Jesus Die For?

As regular readers will know, this week I am swiftly working through the glorious doctrines of grace—the so-called “TULIP.” Today we reach the Limited Atonement item which is, in my opinion, the most misunderstood, and the item with possibly the most nuances needed in our understanding of it. As such, it will get the largest number of quotes so far.

I found a couple of interesting quotes in a post and comment section that asked, What does Mark Driscoll mean by limited/unlimited atonement?. The first came from D. A. Carson in The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000, pp. 73-79).

“I argue, then, that both Arminians and Calvinists should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting, commanding, and desiring the salvation of all, out of love . . . Further, all Christians ought also to confess that, in a slightly different sense, Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect . . . “

—D. A. Carson

The second can be found in a pdf about Limited Atonement by Bruce Ware in which he outlines an alternative to what is usually seen as classical Calvinism and classical Arminianism on this point:

“God’s intentions in the death of Christ are complex, not simple; multiple, not single:
  1. Christ died for the purpose of securing the sure and certain salvation of his own, his elect.

  2. Christ died for the purpose of paying the penalty for the sin of all people, making it possible for all who believe to be saved.
  3. Christ died for the purpose of securing the bone fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere.
  4. Christ died for the purpose of providing an additional basis for condemnation for those who hear and reject the gospel that has been genuinely offered to them.
  5. Christ died for the purpose of reconciling all things to the Father.”

I thought I would finish this post by linking to a page on Mars Hill Church’s website where Mark Driscoll and others can be heard explaining their take on limited/unlimited atonement, which is either what all true Calvinists basically believed all along or an Arminian heresy, dependent on your perspective!

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About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, a writer, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he serves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.


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