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A View from the Altar / The Bible tells me so
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The Bible tells me so

People with no background in the Calvinistic traditions of Christianity are often shocked to learn that Calvinists believe Christ died only for the chosen and that his death cannot avail anything of saving power for the non-elect.  Calvinists prefer to call this belief the particular atonement, though some still refer to it as the limited atonement.

The limited atonement is basically the view that God foreknew his elect from before the foundation of the world.  Since he foreknew the final state of who’s in and who’s out, he sent the Son and designed his sacrifice to accomplish only that.  The rest of the mass of men, insofar as salvation is concerned, were simply not in the picture.

My friend Jack Brooks from New Covenant Living long ago expressed the best objection to the doctrine of the limited atonement.

I’ve decided that all the argumentations that amount to versions of, “But if you don’t accept limited atonement, then this will happen….” are meaningless because they’re not exegetical.

Christians take God’s word as the most basic, fundamental data set.  But God’s word, just like anybody else’s, requires interpretation.  The process of interpretation starts with the notion that when the word was delivered to its original recipients, it made sense to them using the plain, normal, literary meanings of the words.  The sense that it would have made to them is usually the intended sense.  We alter this only when the text itself indicates clearly that we should, and those instances are rare.

So, when Moses says, “the evening and the morning were the first day,” (Gen 1:5) we conclude that this was a normal, 24-hour day that had a morning and an evening.  Or, when John says, “they crucified him,” (John 19:1), this would indicate crucifixion according to the usual, normal, literary sense in which people living in Roman times would have understood it.

Likewise, when John tells us Christ is the propitiation”not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” (1 John 2:2) the exegetical sense of the language is plain.  To my Calvinist friends, ignore for a moment that this construction of the language will create a conflict somewhere else in the field of systematics.  If we’re to build a store of doctrine defensible on the basis of sound exegesis, then the conclusions drawn from sound exegesis must be allowed to stand unless another exegetical reason renders that impossible.

This is why I say that the doctrine of the general redemption (i.e., Christ died for everybody) is the exegetical doctrine, and that places it on far stronger footing than the limited atonement which is derived from systematics using faulty logic, as I will show in future posts.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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