You’re Wrong; Limited Atonement is Beautiful

In a recent post, by a fellow Patheos blogger, titled “Did Jesus Die Only To Save His Favorite? (The Calvinist Heresy of Limited Atonement),” Benjamin Corey argues the calvinistic doctrine of Limited Atonement is unbiblical. He doesn’t stop there, he adds words like “insane” and “heresy” to his list of eye-brow raising descriptions. His argument is underwhelming and mostly unsupported (citing only 2 verses and satirical children’s poem).

The title of the article alone, specifically the use of the word “favorites,” leaves me wondering if he really understands calvinism at all. The idea that God saves someone because they are His “favorites” is a gross misrepresentation of what every reformer ever taught. Not to mention, the ease by which he tosses around substantial terms like “heresy” is concerning. It’s one thing to represent an idea or doctrine accurately and then contend against it (I think Dr. Roger Olsen does this well), it’s another to misrepresent and overstate for shock value and social media attention. This is not terminology one should toss around like darts, especially when you miss the mark by so much.

In my response, I will attempt to be as brief as possible, but I think that will prove difficult. The atonement of Christ is not a doctrine you can sum up or refute in a couple verses. Like most things in Scripture, it’s both simple and complex. It requires contemplation, thoughtfulness, and prayer.  A single blog post will likely come across as recondite and lacking. Yet, my hope is it will point some in the right direction and generate some helpful thinking for future study, contemplation, and dialogue.

From the outset, let me say it plainly, as this statement is often missing from discussions on Limited Atonement: Limited Atonement is stunningly beautiful. It is a large jewel in the crown of historic Christian doctrines. For generations, men have reverentially marveled over the implications of a Limited Atonement. And (while abrasive at first), when rightly understood, it throws open a door to a deep river of grace that you may swim your entire life.

If this a topic new to you, or something you are oppose to, I ask you to try and set aside your presuppositions and look at this topic with fresh eyes.


What is Limited Atonement? The term limited atonement is a poor descriptive. It suggests to some that God was limited or restrained in His atonement efforts. Which is not the case! If I am honest, I think the term better describes the Arminian point of view. A preferable term would be Definite Atonement or Particular Atonement. Meaning, God the Father, in His infinite wisdom, designed that although the death of Jesus Christ is sufficient to atone for the sins of the entire world, the atonement of Christ’s death would work itself out fully in the elect only, thereby bringing them to salvation without fail.

“Arminians pretend, very speciously, that Christ died for all men, yet, in effect, they make him die for no one man at all.” ― John OwenThe Death of Christ

Is Limited Atonement (Definite Atonement) Scriptural? Yes, it is. While you might not agree with the interpretation, the concept was not created out of thin air. Below is an extensive list of verses often used to support the idea that Christ died effectually for a particular group of people, His church, and that God is sovereign over salvation/men’s will.

There are probably more listed here than needed, but the point is to establish that not only is the concept of a Definite Atonement present in the Bible, but it is prevalent throughout all of Scripture. Verses are presented in the ESV (English Standard Version). Emphasis added is mine.

  • Deuteronomy 29:4 – “But to this day, the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”
  • Joshua 11:20 – “For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy, just as the LORD commanded Moses.”
  • Isiah 53:12b – “yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercessions for the transgressors.”
  • Matthew 13:10-11 – “Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
  • Matthew 1:21 – “She will bear a son, and you shall his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  • Matthew 20:28 – “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Matthew 22:14 – “For many are called, but few are chosen
  • Luke 13:23-24 – “And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
  • John 1:12-13 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God”
  • John 5:21 – “…so also the Son gives life to whom he wills”
  • John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives to me will come to me. And whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
  • John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him”
  • John 6:65 – “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
  • John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
  • John 10:15 – “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay my life down for the sheep”
  • John 10:26-27 – “But you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
  • John 12:39-40 – “Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart…’”
  • John 13:1 – “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world…”
  • John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
  • John 17:9 – “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
  • Acts 13:48 – “And when the gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
  • Romans 9:15 – “For he says Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So, then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.”
  • Galatians 1:4 – “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of the Father.”
  • Ephesians 1:4 – “Even as he chose us in his before the foundation of the world”
  • Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
  • Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:11 – “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false”
  • Titus 2:14 – “[Chris], who gave himself for us to reed us from all lawlessness…”
  • Hebrews 9:28 – “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many…”
  • Revelation 17:8 – The beast that you sawwas, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.”


“Rather we say that in the cross, God had in view the actual, effective redemption of his children from all that would destroy them, including their own unbelief. And we affirm that when Christ died particularly for his bride, he did not simply create a possibility or an opportunity for salvation, but really purchased and infallibly secured for them all that is necessary to get them saved, including the grace of regeneration and the gift of faith.” – John Piper, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace


Why does a definite atonement matter? It matters because it means Jesus accomplished what Jesus meant to accomplish. At the heart of this debate is the question, what was accomplished on the cross? In other words, did Jesus accomplish His mission fully or is the act only mostly complete?

The calvinist argues that when Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross, He meant it.  He secured a salvation for those for whom He died. Therefore, Paul says that nothing can separate us (Christians) from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38), because the work that has been done by God, cannot be undone. I am reminded of Isaiah 43:13, “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand, No one can undo what I have done.”

You may argue (as Mr. Corey does) that Jesus’ death on the cross simply made salvation available for all. But, consider some implications about what you are saying. That would mean that no one was saved on the cross; The work of salvation was not finished and we must complete the act of salvation by exerting our wills. Jesus did 99% of the work, but we must do something to make up the 1% that’s missing and complete the act of salvation. You may borrow the analogy of Jesus opening a door that we might walk through, but scripture is clear we are saved by grace apart from works (Ephesians 2:1-10).

To dig a little deeper on the significance of the cross, reflect for a moment on the events that took place shortly after Jesus died on the cross. If you recall, we see cosmic things taking place. We have earthquakes, eclipses, and curtains in the temple torn from top to bottom. We even have dead rising!

Scripture is clear that these events are happening because death is being defeated and the wall that divided man from God is falling. In His death, Christ bridged the chasm that once separated us from a holy God. It’s done; He accomplished that! He didn’t just extend an invitation and hope some would respond. He secured it. The cross of Christ is arguably the most crucial and central point in all human history, and the grandeur of the events surrounding it indicate that Jesus didn’t just open a door, He tore down a wall of hostility and eternally secured for Himself a people.

The other side to this coin is that if Jesus died for the world and some never will come to faith, it could be argued that Jesus’ blood was spilled in vain; this, my friends, is a limited atonement. It’s a view of the atonement that is weak and lacks effectiveness.

The cross happened exactly as “God’s set plan and foreknowledge” intended (Acts 2:23) it to happen. This is great news! If our souls were left in our own hands and doors were simply opened, no one would walk through. Our hearts are too easily charmed by the world to distinguish the beauty of the cross set before us. God must save or no one will come.


Here is a concise exegetical defense of “particular redemption” in the book of John. Please follow the train of thought to the end. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37) – From this text we understand that all that the Father gives to the Son will believe in him. It does not read “some” of those given by the Father will believe but reads “all” of those the Father has given the Son will believe. Note that it also teaches that the giving to the Son precedes their believing in Him. Let’s make some other connections here …. Please notice how this text relates directly to a passage by the same author in John 17, the High Priestly prayer. Jesus uses the same language of “those the Father has given me” when he says “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9) So he makes a clear distinction of those He prays for and those He does not before going to the cross for them …. and of these same people in verse 19 Jesus prays “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” That is incredible … He sanctifies Himself so those the Father has given him will also be sanctified … and in verse 34 he establishes that he further is speaking not only of the immediate disciples but of others who the father has “given him” who hear their word. This exegetically demonstrates the truth of particular redemption, especially since Jesus is praying for all those the Father has given him just prior to going to the cross to sanctify them. – John Hendryx


Why is a definite atonement beautiful? I do not deny there is an offense to the doctrine of particular atonement; but let’s not forget that the gospel is offensive. If your doctrine of salvation has no offense to it at all, I suggest you look to see if it’s the gospel you are preaching.

A definite atonement is offensive because it reminds us that we are nothing and we contribute nothing to our salvation.  Its offensive because, without proper understanding, it makes God’s seem unfair and unjust. To borrow from Mr. Corey’s title, it could seem as if God has “favorites”. However, as I contented earlier, this is simply not true and caricature of what calvinism and reformed theology teaches. I will respond more to this later.

So why then would a definite atonement be beautiful? One could write volumes answering this question. But, let me give one anecdote from the Apostle Paul. In his book of Ephesians, Paul uses the marriage illustration to help communicate to us the love that Christ has for the church. In chapter 5, he teaches that “Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church” (Eph. 5:25). Reflect for a moment on this analogy and unique love that exists between husbands and wives.

As a married person, do we expect our spouse to love our neighbors the same way they love us? Certainly not! It would be terrible thing if a spouse loved someone else the same way they are called to love their spouse. Yet, people everywhere claim that Christ loves the entire world the same way He loves the church. I am not denying a general benevolence and grace towards mankind as whole; God does love the world. But, this is not the same love that flows out into and towards the Church by means of the Holy Spirit! His love for His sheep is special, unique, and effectual. It calls us from death to life and sustains us.

To think that I am just one person in the billions of people that Christ died for is underwhelming. But to consider that Christ was “numbered with the transgressors” and on that day, Christ personally died for every one of my sins is awe-inspiring. He loves me differently, perfectly and uniquely. Not because I am one of His favorite but because it pleases Him (consider, Isaiah 43:25, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”). God knows the depths of heart intimately and because of this, He intercedes for me personally and effectively. My salvation is tied to Christ’s work and hope is anchored on the other side. That is a beauty that I will spend eternity trying to wrap my head around.

Another point worth making is that if Christ did secure salvation for His people on the cross, it gives us hope for missions. If a man’s salvation purely rests on us convincing them that the bible is true, we have little hope of reaching those in the worst of place (North Korea, Iran, etc.…), if any at all. But if we go to those places knowing that some of Christ’s sheep are there and they will respond to the call, it can give us the courage and boldness needed to preach light into the darkest of places. It’s a miracle, in and of itself, that God would even want to use us to preach His gospel; “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” (Isaiah 52:7).

The sin of Adam did not make the condemnation of all men merely possible; it was the ground of their actual condemnation. So the righteousness of Christ did not make the salvation of men merely possible, it secured the actual salvation of those for whom He wrought.” – Charles Hodge


What about verses that seems to say Christ died for the world? For this last section I will respond directly to the verses Mr. Corey chose to build his strawman argument. In his article, he presents 2 verses to make the case that Definite Atonement is unbiblical and heresy. Those verses are:

  • 1 John 2:2 – “(Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world”
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-6 – ““This is good, and pleases God our Savior,who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

Let’s start with 1 John 2:2. This can be a problematic verse for some, because at-a-glance it seems like it directly contradicts many of the verses above. But, a brief study of context and authorship clears things up rather easily.

For some reason, when we read the bible it can be easy to forget that the person who wrote the book (while inspired by God) still has personality, trends, traits, and uniqueness that comes through in their writings. You can read a letter written by Paul and find phrasing and wording like that of other letters he has authored. With this in mind, let’s look at some of other places where John addresses atonement.

In Revelation 5:9, he says that Jesus “redeemed people for God out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.” Here he makes the point that salvation was no longer just for the Jews, but for all types of peoples. (Side note: take notice that John speaks of the atonement as a completed event. Jesus has already done this).

Perhaps a better example comes out of the gospel of John. Here we find a parallel of what is described in the 1 John verse. John 11:51-52 reads, “he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” The same pattern of wording, from the same author.

John is not saying in 1 John that Jesus provided atonement for every person in the world. But rather, His atonement was not just for the sins of the Jews, but for the sins of people all over the world. If Jesus did provide atonement for everyone in the world, that would mean that no one (past, present, future) would be punished for their sins. How could Jesus be punished and then they also be punished for the same sins? This would be unjust and makes sense. The same man who wrote the 1 John 2:2 verse, also wrote, “Whoever believes in the Son eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36).

Now, let’s briefly look at the 1 Timothy verse. As you might expect, the same reasoning used on our 1 John verse applies here. Seeing this is rather easy if you back up and read the few verses surrounding it. It reads, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Right away, it’s easy to see what Paul means here. He is urging that supplications, prayers, and intercessions be for “all people” and then goes to elaborate on different classes of people, naming kings. These things of God are not reserved for one type of person, but for all types and classes of people.


In closing, while often ridiculed and reviled the doctrine of limited atonement, or definite atonement, remains one of the pillars of the Christian theology. It is a doctrine of rich beauty and sweetness to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. One blog post could not cover all aspects or questions, but I do pray this can be a conversation starter.



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  • Excellent scriptural defense of a biblical doctrine!

    • Jack Lee

      Thank you!

  • MatthewSchwarz

    Great post! We need to see more like it on Patheos

    • Jack Lee

      Thanks, Matthew

  • Matt Moore


    Enjoyed it!

    • Jack Lee

      Thanks for reading, Matt

  • A. Provencal

    What about persons who are born with medical conditions that limit their ability to comprehend belief in God, such as lower-functioning autism? Or even people who haven’t had any formal introduction to Christ and suddenly have an injury that renders them into a vegetative state for the rest of their lives? How does limited atonement apply here?

    • Jack Lee

      Another beauty in the reformed understanding of election is that God saves apart from human will. The human response is a result of a work God has already begun. For those unable to “respond” there is still a great hope because of that person were counted among the elect, their salvation is secure.

      Personally, I think God has extended special grace for most in a special state of being, or infants that die young. If your theology says is man must complete the work of salvation by choosing to believe, these would be without hope. But if it depends on God, as scripture says, we have a great reason to pray and hope!

      Praise be to God for His glorious grace!

      • Ed

        The Arminian is not exempt from answering this question. Under that view, the same disabled would be damned because of their inability to respond for the very same reasons given above.

        Hope for the afflicted is only found in God’s sovereign grace.

  • David Price

    God Loves all of God’s Creation! The man-made limited vision of the selected Bible texts reflects yet .again that the Bible is a human product. Humans who want to feel special, cling to this out dated doctrinal vision.

    • Rudy Schellekens

      Hm, interesting contradiction you have here. “God loves all of His creation” is a paraphrase of John 3:16 – which comes from the Bible. So if the bible is, as you say, a human product, than the value of your statement is…?
      On the other hand, your statement about “man-made limited vision of the selected Biblical texts…” I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.
      In the above defense of Limited Atonement, the author has along list of passages from the OT, written about a nation which indeed was selected especially by God – but which was not limited by God to add others! He Himself used some of those from other nations, and placed them in the line of the Christ… Rahab and Ruth. And there were many others along the way…
      A selective reading of the Bible is never healthy – but don’t blame the Bible for that!

    • ctroop

      Mr. Price … If you really believe the Scriptures are simply a human product, then why, pray tell, should it matter a whit to you what anyone believes or does not believe?

  • Bill Scudder

    Calvinist limited atonement contradicts itself. Calvinists makes their god the author of sin. A Calvinist can never know if they have born again.

  • Tim Ellison

    Is it aprils fools today? What a horrible view of Jesus.

  • John J. Flanagan

    The doctrines of limited atonement and double predestination have always been difficult for me to understand. Biblical verses, however, suggest both are the correct understanding of Scripture. As a Lutheran from the LCMS, and a former Orthodox Presbyterian in the past, it seems logical that whomever God did not elect to salvation in Christ would have to belong to the unsaved and lost. I know the Lutherans under Luther’s doctrines believe in predestination, but not double predestination, while Calvinists totally accept only double predestination and the TULIP idea. I suppose I may always struggle with these doctrines.

    • Delwyn Campbell

      REmember, John, Objective vs Subjective Atonement. OBJECTIVE atonement is “extra nos” – outside of us. It is what God in Christ did FOR YOU. SUBJECTIVE atonement is your response to what Christ did – your holding fast and clinging by the power which God supplies, TO those exceeding great and precious promises. As long as you don’t reject them, they are FOR YOU. When you do, however, you need to repent and remember your baptism, by which those gifts were given TO YOU.

  • Marshall

    we are nothing and we contribute nothing to our salvation

    If nihilism isn’t a sin, it should be. Put it next to despair.

  • Richard Treptow

    How presumptuous to write, “-the doctrine of limited atonement, or definite atonement, remains one of the pillars of the Christian theology.” There are two views that have co-existed for 500 years. Why assume your interpretation is the pillar of Christian theology and the other counts for nothing. The simple truth is that the Atonement is a pillar and there are two interpretations of atonement.

    • ctroop

      Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

      • Richard Treptow

        I have made mine, and I think everyone needs to. I don’t see this is a fence that can be straddled.

  • fromoverhere

    Richard, it is because they think that theology started with Calvin. The pillars came from him and Augustine. Too bad

  • fromoverhere

    If you think that the sin of perfect (image of God) Adam has made it impossible for all persons for all times to see the grace of God and accept it, then you need Limited Atonement and the whole TULIP. If however you take Christ words “when I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself,” then you understand that God draws, calls, and shows grace to all men….but just like 2000 times in the OT —-He calls and chooses them, but they have to believe in personal faith.

    That doesnt lessen God. It’s just the way He chose to set it up.

    We have so many biblical examples of “the chosen” in the OT becoming “unchosen” or the pagan coming into the chosen by faith (Rahab, Ruth, many others).

    You can choose to believe in the man-made doctrine of Limited Atonement…after all, you have free will. But (according to deterministic Calvinism) many others of us have been sovereignly determined to believe in free will (since there is no free will). Stated differently, I am Arminian because God determined me to be.

  • rtgmath

    Christ died for all people. Limited atonement creates an arbitrary god whose primary quality is wrath and his primary creation nothing more than trash to burn. Limited atonement allows you to look at people created in god’s image and do despicable things to them, like torture, since you believe they are predestined to go to hell.

    If God predestines some to be saved, he predestines the rest to be damned. He creates the conditions that do not allow the unsaved to believe and repent and be saved, yet holds them accountable for that unbelief. It makes God Unjust. It makes God a Monster. It puts the lie to the Scripture that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It puts the lie to Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, where He said He would have gathered and protected them, but it was their decision not to come to Him. It puts the lie to the Scripture that the witness of the believing spouse might help bring the unbelieving spouse to faith.

    Limited atonement speaks bad things about God. It speaks bad things about those who believe it. There is no beauty in it, other than that of a harsh, unbending, unapproachable God who robs all his creation of hope or choice or import.

  • While I may not agree with the interpretation you put to the verses you post, I HEARTILY AGREE with the sense of embarrassment/disgust with people who argue so flamboyantly tossing out words like heresy without any care or respect and then positing a straw man to attack. My book, Revisiting Scripture, tries to bring out all the verses to support either position and invite the reader to decide where the weight of evidence falls.

  • Jason Douglas Greene

    While I have great respect for many of my fervent Calvinist friends, I think that Calvinism often sets itself up against a straw man version of those who profess to be Arminians or Wesleyans. I am an evangelical, a Wesleyan, and a Methodist. Methodism does not teach “free will.”

    Article VIII — Of Free Will (25 Articles of Religion)- Methodist…

    “The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.”

    What we teach is that we are totally and completely incapable of coming to God on our own. We are infected with Adam’s sin, we are lost, undone, unprepared, without strength, without faith, powerless, and broken. In a word, we are spiritually dead. God awakens our dead heart, opens our blinded eyes, creates within us an ability to hear, believe, and choose the good news of Jesus Christ. In this awakening, God also allows us to reject this good news as well. God’s greatest desire is that we respond to his calling, knowing that that this response is itself a gift that he has given us, and it is wholly of grace. What it is not is this: It is neither an inescapable, predetermined fate, that we cannot resist, nor is it an act of sheer will, innate goodness, or our ability to come to God on our terms, by our own will, power, strength, and ability.

    God does predestine us, but God does so, based on God’s knowing what will be the be the outcome of our response, that response that is only made possible by his first reaching out to us, and offering us his love. At the end of the day, we are neither robots; pre-programmed to do only what we are wired to do. Nor are we super heroes, able save ourselves and everyone else.

    • ctroop

      Jason … Very well said. We are ALL (including the greatest of all the theologians … past, present and future) a bunch of blind men, each grabbing hold of just a part of the body of an elephant … each one thinking that he has the ONLY complete knowledge and understanding of the elephant! Thank God the elephant doesn’t give every one of them the squishing he deserves. I sometimes wonder how many “mansions” will be full of people in Heaven … rejoycing with joy unspeakable and full of glory … only because they’ll be thinking they are the only ones there. Hello! Excuse me! Has anyone seen Alexander Campbell around here? John Calvin? Jacob Arminius?

  • David Matthew

    Dubious proof-texting all round, I think. One issue that doesn’t come up is the assumption, on both sides, that death is the cut-off point for deciding whether someone turns out to be elect or not. What are the grounds for such a belief? I can find no solid scriptural case. If God is, by nature, love, what’s to say that his love doesn’t reach out to sinners the other side of death?

    • ctroop

      David … You might try that verse in Hebrews (9:27 I think) about it being appointed unto man once to die and AFTER that, the judgment. Are you a member of the LDS organization refering to baptism for the dead?

      • David Matthew

        No, I’m a middle-of-the-road evangelical, age 76, and enjoying my pilgrimage with the Lord more than ever. Part of that is reviewing many of the ‘givens’ that my tradition passed on to me, including the one I mentioned. I’m not sure that Heb 9:27 is really relevant. It’s clear from the NT at large that the judgment takes place at the Lord’s return, which for the vast majority will not be anything like immediately ‘after death’. In that period between death and the final judgment, therefore, usually called ‘the intermediate state’, who knows whether or not God’s love and grace will continue to make its appeal? I suspect it will, as he doesn’t change, and it is his nature to reach out to his estranged ones.

        • Jack Lee

          David, my fear you are focusing so much on God’s attribute of love and not considering He has other attributes as well. If we focus so much on one that we ignore to deny the others, we create an idol. I am not accusing you of that as much as I am cautioning you.

          One question, how was God being loving when he flooded the earth and killed potentially millions of people? I ask this because you say God doesn’t change and, by your logic, this would also have to be loving. I am asking this to understand your thinking better…

          • David Matthew

            Hi, Jack. God doesn’t change, that’s for sure, but human perceptions of him do, and I see the biblical narrative as a story of the progress of how we humans perceive him. On that basis, the NT trumps the OT in the clarity of its revelation of him, and Jesus himself, specifically, is the ‘exact representation’ of the Father. He loved his enemies, urged us to do the same, and said that if we do so we will be like our heavenly Father. Maybe, therefore, some of the OT events are written from the perspective of ancient Israelites who *perceived* God to be destroying his enemies.
            I take the NT statement by John that ‘God IS love’ as saying that love is his fundamental attribute, like the hub of a wheel, from which the others extend like the spokes. Righteousness and justice are clearly in the picture there, and we trust his wisdom in doing what is right at the judgment (Gen 18:25).
            These things are not as clear-cut as many of us would like, alas! The main thing is that we, as God’s people, make room for each other, different views and all, and thus find our way forward together.

          • Jack Lee

            Thanks for the thoughtful reply to my question. This is a perspective that I have not heard worded quite this way. I am not sure I am comfortable putting any one attribitue at the center of a “hub” for fear of misrepresentation and idol making. However, it seems to be Holiness would be there if anything, not love.

            I am reminded of the pictures we have of the throne room in scripture. But in the OT and NT (Isaiah and Revelation) we are given descriptions of creatures flying around saying “Holy Holy Holy” not “Love Love Love”

        • ctroop

          I not only see your point, but I actually hope you are correct. I do not want anyone to be cast into that lake of fire (no matter what it is). However, I must confess that based on my understanding of the entire counsel of Scripture (I tend to be a Bible literalist, except for the obvious symbolisms, like, Jesus is not a literal lamb, etc.) I don’t see anything that would indicate such. Would you be hoping for some sort of a purgetory option in the intermediate state?
          We can see by the last and final judgment in Revelation … after all the dead have been raised and are standing before the Great White Throne … that there will be some who obviously did not (or will not) take advantage of this “after death” opportunity. I am also a Christian, just turned 75 this last March. I don’t know about the “middle of the road” part, but I no longer claim any denominational (or non-denominational) affilitation, preferring to identify myself simply as a “Biblical Christian.” I got rid of my collection of commentaries years and years ago … when I realized that all those equally intelligent and equally educated “experts” did not agree with each other concerning their interpretations and opinions of the meanings of various Scripture verses. So I have been on my own (in that area) for about 25 years of my 40 plus years as a Christian. It IS a great, great journey isn’t it?

          • David Matthew

            Good to hear from you brother! It seems that we both have reached a point where, still loving God and his Word, we have realised that, in many departments of the faith, there are more questions than answers. I have written some thoughts on this, and its implications, in my free e-book, A Poke In The Faith, which you can find here if you’re interested:
            Every blessing to you and yours.

          • ctroop

            And thank you too my brother! I read your “teaser” on The Poke in the Faith, and it looks like just the kind of thing I enjoy delving into, so I just now downloaded it into my “theology” library … which is nothing more than a kind of subject-matter journal of my own struggles and frustrations with academic theologians and their tendency to “fill in the blanks” concerning things that God has not revealed in His Word (God not having body, parts or passions for example). I am convinced that God, not having a body of flesh and bone (except in the man, Jesus), being a Spirit, does not have to mean that a spirit does not have a body of some kind or any kind. Christ once made reference to no man at any time ever seeing God’s “shape.” It does NOT say that God does not HAVE a shape … just that we can’t see it. Anyway, sorr to ramble. I need to get off this and start on “…the Poke.” Thank you much!
            Chuck Troupe

  • Doug Barron

    For Father so LOVED..that He ALL, not some; ALL that believe in His Son Jesus the Annointed should not perish, but have eternal life. Nuff said. I am not a subscriber to Calvinistic doctrine; as it leaves out the little three letter word ALL. Shalom

    • Jack Lee

      Doug, thank you for your comment and for reading. I think you are miss understanding a key component to not just calvinistic thinking, but Christian theology as a whole. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, this is true. But without God’s intervention first, no one will come.

      In response to your “all” comments, I address a few of these in the article. I also think its compelling, in a macro-sense that, prior to the new covenant, God’s promises were directed towards a certain people. Was God unjust to not extend His promises to the gentiles in this age? God has always worked through a chosen people.

  • Delwyn Campbell

    This article starts off with a false statement. ALL the reformers were NOT Calvinists. LUTHER, in his teaching, argued that the foundation of salvation was not God’s sovereignty, but His MERCY. Thus, Luther places salvation’s power in God’s promise, which IS Available to ALL. 1 Peter 3:21 says “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” What is “this” to which Peter refers? surprisingly, it is not the boat, but the WATER. The WATER executed judgment on iniquity, and by means of the boat, in which God commanded Noah’s family and the animals to go, shutting them in securely, which is a PERFECT type of baptism and the Church.
    Here is a portion of what Luther wrote, in his Small Catechism, on the subject:

    How can water do such great things? Answer:
    Clearly the water does not do it, but the Word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit,” as St. Paul says to Titus in chapter 3[:5–8*], “through the bath of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which he richly poured out over us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that through that very grace we may be righteous and heirs in hope of eternal life. This is surely most certainly true.”

    Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 359). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

    In summary, God’s promise IS available TO ALL, and it IS EFFECTIVE to ALL who TRUST in it. Luther NEVER attempted to answer the question of “Why some, but not others,” saying that the answer to this question is reserved unto God alone. Far better, he taught, as do Confessional Lutherans today, to focus on what God has promised, that Christ died FOR YOU, for the forgiveness of YOUR sins. “He who believes and is baptized WILL be saved, and he who believes not WILL be condemned.”

  • ctroop

    Delwyn … You can rationalize it however much you please. The fact is, the water of the Genesis flood was NOT the instrument of salvation. The water of the Genesis flood was the instrument of judgment, destruction and death. The instrument of savation was the ark … or, “the boat,” as you put it. The water didn’t come until Noah and his family was sealed into the ark of salvation by the hand of God. THEN the water came. And everyone who might have tried to enter the ark through the water received the ultimate water baptism … they died! Nobody got into the ark of salvation through the water. Not then, not now, not ever. Campbellites must go back and re-examine their false salvation by water baptism error … else the danger of going out into eternity, dripping wet and bound for hell.

    • Delwyn Campbell

      BOY are YOU OFF TRACK. I take it that you are VERY rusty in your Greek, brother, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, just because my last name is CAmpbell, that doesn’t make me a “Campbellite.” Dis you actualy READ my post? IF so, you would have NOTICED the HUGE quotation of Dr. Martin Luther. No, NOT the CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER, the REFORMER!!!
      See, great scholar of last names, the Greek text of 1 Peter is quite clear. First of all, let me back up a bit. Since, it is clear to me that you don’t understand what Baptism actually does (but then, if you never studied the catechism, that makes sense).
      Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

      The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 6:3–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

      Baptism KILLS things THEN brings forth life – JUST LIKE THE FLOOD!!!
      Here’s more from the FIRST REFORMER:
      [12] What then is the significance of such a baptism with water? Answer:
      It signifies that the old creature in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily contrition and repentance,82 and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

      Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 360). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

      Gee… Sounds a LOT like what happened at the flood. The INIQUITY got DROWNED, and only righteous NOAH and family came forth out of the flood. Of course, afterwards, righteous Noah did an unrighteous thing (just like baptized Christians do – Simul Iustus et Peccator (more LUTHERAN stuff!)), and got drunk. Nevertheless, God didn’t send a new flood to destroy Noah in his sin, but He remembered His promise (WOW, JUST like what God does with us in Holy Baptism – “Ain’t that a hole in the boat?”).

      • ctroop

        So, evidently you think your knowledge of Greek changes the fact of what actully happened prior to and during the Genesis flood, and how it doesn’t seem to matter to you that your scholars refered to what water bapitsm signifies … as opposed to what some people erroneously think it actually does. It signifies (you can also say symbolizes) the death, buriel and resurrection of Christ, and our dying with Him, and our buriel with Him and our rising up with Him. It even signifies our baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit. No man (no matter his title or vestments) can baptize us into Christ … that is the Holy Spirit’s function. There is no Greek that contradicts that Truth. Your name has nothing to do with me thinking you might be a Campbellite. Your position that water baptism “saves us” did that for you. The Apostle Peter (who in my opinion outranks any scholar) said that the reason we rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of glory is because we have received the “end” or our faith … NOT the end of our having been baptized in water. The Greek word is telos. You are not the only one who knows how to use a lexicon.

      • ctroop

        The civil rights leader was Martin Luther KING … nobody with more than two functioning brain cells get them mixed up. Christian water baptism is a buriel not a washing, not a cleansing, and not a birth. Water baptism (like a buriel) does not “kill” anything … we do not bury living people … unless the funeral plan is to kill them. Water baptism is not what makes or causes believers to “die to self.” Noah and his family did not “come out of the flood … the flood never touched them because they were sealed in the ark by the hand of God. There was no hole in the boat either. Yeah, Noah got drunk and passed out. One son covered his nakedness and the other laughed. Guess who got in trouble? The best accusation to throw at Noah was simply poor judgment. At that time there was no commandment … no law forbidding intoxication, but God didn’t like his son’s disrespect. In closing, can you please cite me a New Testament chapter and verse (or verses) using the term, Holy Baptism? Oh, and may God also bless you as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Delwyn Campbell

      Now, about that Greek:
      14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a *good conscience*, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

      The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 3:14–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

      See that part, “good conscience”? Now, what this: συνείδησιν ἔχοντες ἀγαθήν “having a good conscience” – well, from where does this good conscience come?

      Swanson, J., Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (2002). The Swanson New Testament Greek morphology: United Bible Societies’ Fourth Edition (4th ed., 1 Pe 3:16).

      ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ *συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα* εἰς θεόν, διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

      Swanson, J., Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (2002). The Swanson New Testament Greek morphology: United Bible Societies’ Fourth Edition (4th ed., 1 Pe 3:21). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

      There it is again! THIS time, regarding your response to evil treatment, you have a “*good conscience* in God, through the resurrection of JEsus Christ” Where are you connected to Christ’s resurrection? THAT’S RIGHT Biblical Scholar – in BAPTISM – remember Romans 6?
      Now, I HOPE that you can look past your preconceptions about how EVERY REFORMER followed Calvin’s error (LOLOL) and see that THE REFORMER understood THE SAME THING that EVERY generation of Christians understood before him – Baptism now saves you – JUST like Moses was saved, by God’s promise, THROUGH WATER!
      God bless you, as you GROW in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • raven nevermore

    Another Calvinist spreads “its” chorus of chaos. You have just demonstrated what Olson aptly called Calvinism: “unintelligible.” But I’ll go further than Olson or Corey. Calvinism is tainted with the demonic and is the dark side of Christian spirituality. It also spreads like a poison spiritual immaturity. I have yet to meet a Calvinist that can think cogently about biblical concepts – Lee, wake up from your Calvinist egocentric self. Yeah – another characteristic of Calvinists. Unbelievable!

    • Jack Lee

      Bruce, the terms you use are concerning. What bible concepts am i thinking cogently about?

      • raven nevermore

        Jack, the terms you use are concerning. The “thinking” you use is has flawed logic, which is common from Calvinists. You have presented yourself as a deterministic person who cannot freely choose to believe. We have such freedom since free will is what we control. Jesus has died and came alive for the whole of humanity – that’s before the fact of the collective group of Believers. Those who choose to believe – after the fact of what Jesus accomplished “become” the chosen.

        What also is a common view point from Calvinists is their egocentric premise that Jesus accomplished everything just for the chosen that freely believe. God uses our faith so that we can accept the gift of salvation. Faith is never a gift, rather it is salvation. Know what is before the fact, from what is after the fact. The chosen people is the collective group, not the individual – for the concern of salvation. See William W. Klein’s book, “The New Chosen People.” That book also makes a good reference book for Bible study.

        • Jack Lee

          Bruce, you make statements with no scriptural support. I would like to discuss with you, but with this method it ceases to be a discussion about biblical Christianity and falls into a philosophical one. Without an objective standard for discussion and learning, we are left to sway with whatever ideas sounds the nicest to us. My “free will” is far too tainted in sin to be trusted, i must go to scripture to discern truth. A conversation about soteriology without the bible is a fools errand.

          Furthermore, it is difficult to take much of what you say with sincerity when you make straw generalization statements about “egocentric calvinists”.

          • raven nevermore

            Without an overload of Scriptures, I’ll stick with Ephesians 2: 8, 9 to say that our faith is used by God so can accept the gift of salvation. the other is 2 Timothy 2: 10 as referring to corporate collective group of believers and not to individuals. Those that were chosen, which is every human for salvation, but as the verse specifies they must chose salvation. The ESV is “that they may also obtain” and the NVC “can have” which is saying that salvation is made available but it must be accepted, which not all do. We have more freedom then what you acknowledge.

            To claim that your free will “is far too tainted in sin to be trusted” is a philosophical statement without Scripture to back it. Human nature is a freedom, as it is created after God’s nature or image. Sure, our freedom can be crippled or tainted or has less effect, at times. But not every time or even in everything in life. Therefore, the freedom to choose salvation or the freedom to choose no to have salvation, means we have enough freedom to have control over our will as a free human. Otherwise, we are not free. Further, as Christians, we are no longer bound by the power of sin. We now can trust our new nature with its freedom.

            So, the concept is also philosophical. Calvinism, I’d say, is more of a philosophy than a theology. I trust this is helpful. Peace.

          • Jack Lee

            Raven, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am confused on what are you trying to prove or accomplish by saying my desire to adhere to scripture above philosophy is it and of itself philosophical? It seems you want to swirl in circular logic; i’m not sure how that is helpful. If we can both agree that scripture is objectively true, lets focus there and move away from whats philosophy and what isnt.

            the Ephesians text says nothing about man have a free will, and and rather explicitly seems to imply the other – all grace.

            Consider this, is saving faith possible without repentance? I would hope, we could both agree to say no. a genuine faith is tied at its core to repentance. Thinking a step further, if we look at this text, it says we are saved “through faith and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works”

            To me the text is clear that faith is a gift of God. it does not originate from us. Hebrews can add some clarity when it says that Christ is the “author and finisher” of our faith. Considering the works, one could argue that the most excellent of good works would be repentance – what better work can man do? This scripture says we saved apart from good works.

            I would argue that faith and repentance flow from God.

            John 1:12-13 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God”

          • raven nevermore

            Hi Jack. The Ephesians citation is about the person’s own faith used by God. Faith is never a gift, but salvation. Each human has faith, but then God uses our faith because it definitely originates from us. Jesus is the start and end of faith when it concerns the process of sanctification which is growing spiritually. That is what Hebrews is referring; only to that extent, as in after the fact of accepting the gift of salvation. Faith and repentance are from the human who potentially becomes a Christian – obviously, since it is the human acting on faith and doing the repenting: God takes that and gives salvation.

            As an aside note, perhaps you are reading too much garbage from John Piper and RC Sproul. Those two have screwed up so many people’s thoughts on the Bible.

            True, in the last quote from John. Sharpen your eye: “he gave the right to become” not that they would become. Salvation is made available to freely choose or freely reject, regardless of the amount of faith. That brings the philosophical perspective back to freedom of the will, which indeed, we have control over.

          • Jack Lee


            Thanks for the back and forth. I think we will have to agree to disagree. Piper and Sproul (and many men before them of the same theological persuasion) have been great aids to the church.

            I think your position is wrong, but i do appreciate the conversation.

            God bless!

          • Karin Isbell


    • Karin Isbell

      Raven, you are projecting your own “reasoning” upon others who do not agree with you.

  • James McClymont


    Requiring someone to be tortured to death is beautiful.

    Religion has so warped your morality that you believe that is a beautiful and loving act.

  • Ectricark

    At the end of the day, limited atonement forces us to confront a timeless God who predestined the unelect for Hell. There is some philosophical jiu-jitsu that goes on about debating between single and double predestination, but if you choose to pull one person out of a burning building when you could choose all of them, it’s just as abhorrent.

    Calvinism is only tenable under universalism, because if God’s will is the only force acting within the world and within salvation, and God wills that all of His children should come to His side, and our free will cannot undo what He has done, either He chooses to abandon most of us to the fire, or He takes all of us.

  • Craig

    Calvinism is flawed both Biblically and Morally.

    Calvinism distorts the mind of the Calvinist, so that, they cannot think rationally and morally.

  • Karin Isbell

    Excellent comment — thank you.

  • Ashwin

    The main problem with limited Atonement as presented above is that it makes Faith a meaningless Add-on.

    When is a person Saved? On the cross? or when he believes in the Gospel? Is a person Justified apart from Faith in Jesus? Can a person who is not brought into union with Jesus by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit be considered Saved?

    If the cross saves in the way you say it does. Then the following is true –
    1) A person is Justified/Saved apart from faith. Because,the elect were saved 2000 years ago. Far before many of them were born or believed or even heard of Jesus.
    2) A person is saved even before he is born again of the holy Spirit.

    In both Systems (Calvinism & Arminianism); Jesus doesn’t really save anyone on the cross. In Calvinism, He shows intent to save some specific people (chosen for unknown reasons in “beginning”) through the instrument of faith. In Arminianism, Jesus shows intent to Save all people who are willing to believe the Gospel.
    In both systems. Jesus Accomplishes what he sets out to do. What does the Bible say the Father sent Jesus to do?
    John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his uniquely existing Son so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. 17 Because God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s uniquely existing Son.
    I think Jesus intent is explicitly taught in the Bible. “so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life”