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The Atonement of Christ - limited or universal?

I believe in the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

Recently, it was stated in a different thread that if Christ’s atonement was limited to only the elect, then no sins could be forgiven at all. I’ve never heard that argument before and I’m not sure how that could be applied.
My case:
God never fails to accomplish his goal. If He died for the sins of every person, then every person is forgiven. That’s universalism and we know that not every person is going to be saved. This also debunks the idea of “sufficient for all but effectual for some”. God is sovereign. His sovereignty doesn’t end where ours begins. Salvation is a monergistic act of a sovereign God. We are his creation. The Gospel is folly to those who are perishing…

I’m looking forward to the discussion!

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Interesting question. Is this definition of ‘a monergistic act’ (from Wikipedia article) fairly reasonable?

Monergism is the view within Christian theology which holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, regardless of the individual’s cooperation. It is most often associated with the Reformedtradition (such as Presbyterianism, low church Anglicanism and the Dutch Reformed Church) and its doctrine of irresistible grace, and particularly with historical doctrinal differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.[2] This position contrasts with Arminian synergism, the belief that God and individuals cooperate to bring individuals salvation.

Some issues I struggle with a position that swings too far towards the Calvinism position.
· How could God in eternity past have fixed a persons’ destiny so that they are unable to believe?

· If the above is true, How could God rightly judge a person and send them to hell for not believing something that they were incapable of believing.

It then introduces other issues as a result.

It turns man into an automaton, a pre-programmed being, and removes free will.
If taken to a conclusion where RC Sproul and others take it, it makes God the only actor in all events.
It removes Love from the equation; both God’s real Love in reaching out in Grace to which we completely freely respond in faith/repentance. It also removes our genuine love in response to trust in God’s revealed character, shown through the incredible fact that it was God Himself (in the Person of Jesus) who entered into our suffering and died at the hands of His creation. This love shown at the cross in and of itself is too astonishing to comprehend.

Of course we know that God is sovereign over all things and yet we have free will. Both exist without diminishing the other.

Some of my thoughts are:

Is it possible that God who is Love and completely Sovereign and also completely Just, keeps the world in a state so that the most possible completely free willed humans have the highest amount of possible opportunities to hear and respond to the Gospel?

I think that somehow God, in His Sovereignty, has created a ‘finite moral space’ inside which my free will sits. In the same way I occupy a finite space physically and am free to make physical movements, I occupy a finite moral space. God reaches into this moral space and I respond freely. Keeping in mind Hebrews 1:1-3 All things are upheld by Him and the Word of his Power

I currently am ok with the middle ground position of molinism as explained by William Lane Craig.

The good news is we don’t have to pick a position; if we are trusting in Christ alone for salvation we are all Christians and can talk it through together in love and understand others perspective.

One book I really enjoyed was John Lennox ‘Determined to Believe’. The first part of the book he explains that in the atheistic worldview the only option is determinism; then in the second half he looks at theistic determinism. Lennox also wrote a great book on Joeseph showing Gods sovereignty; As Joseph said to his brothers when he revealed himself to them “You meant it for evil, but God intended it for good”.

https://www.amazon.com.au/Determined-Believe-Sovereignty-Freedom-Responsibility/dp/0310589800

Just a few thoughts to get the conversation started. Hopefully a little helpful. :slight_smile:

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I am not a believer in limited atonement, but am very interested in this subject as well. I have read Determined to Believe and have listened to debates and teachings from different perspectives on this subject. Two of my favorite speakers label themselves as reformed. What I find fascinating is how much I agree with both sides about most of what they believe. Could it be that the different sides of these beliefs actually believe more in common than they realize? I am often left wondering, can seemingly contradictory things be simultaneously true? God is such a mystery. I am looking forward to following this conversation as I am mostly a listener on this subject for now. And it is wonderful that people can discuss things like this in love. :slight_smile:

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I believe that salvation is universal.
First of all, the bible says in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
It did not say God loved a selected few, it said for God so loved the world that he gave his son for the world not a limited number of persons - but for the world. That whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Jesus died for the whole world and as far as God is concerned everyone is supposed and is potentially saved, all that is left is for us to believe in Jesus and be saved.
Jesus offers salvation to all not based on selection, or the color of our skin or by our good works but based on faith in his name.
So I strongly believe and its biblical that salvation is universal not just for some select few.

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I would love to add to what you’ve said @Cherry, It is true that the attonement of Christ is Universal, i.e for all mankind. Some do wander if angels could rebel and if so, could they be forgiven? The answer here will be NO. Angels have no atonement for sin. Hence, my emphasis is on the fact that Christ’s atonement is universal to mankind alone but strictly limited to celestial beings.

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Hi Matthew!
Thanks for the reply and yes, that is the definition of monergism as I used it. Let me start by saying that this doctrine - that does go along with the rest of Reformed Theology or Calvinism - is at first hard to swallow. Even John MacArthur admitted he struggled with it at first! It is a beautiful doctrine, though, that I think has the highest view of God and makes me thankful to be one of the elect. Let me also state unequivocally that I believe these doctrines to be a post-salvation learning in knowing God’s character and gift. Someone once asked how you can win souls preaching predestination - to which I replied that no one should ever do that!! We’re told to go out among the nations and proclaim the Gospel! There is no change in that mandate by acceptance of this doctrine either. I hope to show that in this post if I get enough words.

This is a question that has been hard for humans to comprehend since Christ’s day and theologians have been arguing the point ever since! The Roman Church questioned Paul about it first, which led him to write Romans 9 where he answered by quoting the OT where God said, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated”, how he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, told Moses He will have mercy on whom he pleases, and then asked if the clay vessel had the right to question the potter. This always leads me back to Isaiah 55:9 where God says Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways are higher than ours. There are some things our human minds are too limited to understand. This pretty much addresses your first question.

If the above is true, How could God rightly judge a person and send them to hell for not believing something that they were incapable of believing? All of us deserve to be judged and sent to Hell for our sins. Romans 3:23. The fact that God chooses to have mercy on some and saves them from Hell should just make you appreciate that gift even more. Salvation is truly a gift from God. God is just and Holy. Cf. Romans 1:18 - 2:10

It turns man into an automaton, a pre-programmed being, and removes free will. Not at all! It’s just that our will is trapped. We are “dead in our trespasses and sins” until God’s grace regenerates our hearts. (Ephesians 2:1-10) “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8

It removes Love from the equation. How could it do that? For God so loved the world… and he chose you to have mercy on so that you would believe. What greater love is there? When you are able to see his love for you and what a sinner you are, who would refuse a gift like that? (irresistible grace) then you spend the rest of your life freely loving and worshipping God and following His teachings… Still with complete free will, but now with the Holy Spirit to synergistically sanctify you.

I’m sorry, but I don’t get Molinism. It seems to me Molina wanted to somehow allow for God’s grace and sovereignty, yet hang on to human complete free will, so he comes up with a plan where God manipulates you into believing by making sure your life “guides” you into choosing to believe due to the circumstances he created for you to walk in since he’s Omniscient and all and therefore knows what your choice will be given said circumstances… Talk about determinism! :slight_smile: That’s also a LOT of work on His part. HA!

When it comes to the free will argument, I feel like God does keep his hand on things so that they don’t get completely out of control. If He completely just “let us go” and turned humanity over to our depravity, there’s no telling what kind of world we’d live in . Getting worse all the time! Thanks again for posting and reading this response. I hope it blesses you and you’re right! Sides do not have to be picked. Spurgeon loved Wesley and even told people Wesley’s book was great and they all ought to read it! Let’s go out and gather up the flock…

Your brother in Christ -

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I agree with you

thanks for raising this. praying. hope to have something to contribute to this. I want to look at what some of the best scriptures would be to base my answer off of and also what scriptures would be ‘on the other side of the theological fence.’ My desire is to do irenic theology well with y’all.

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Hi Cherry,
Thanks for your post! You bring up a very important passage. Here is the Reformed interpretation.

In John 3, Jesus (a Jew) was talking to Nicodemus (a Jew and Pharisee) about being reborn. “The World” here doesn’t mean all people, but simply all nations as opposed to specifically the Jews only - which is who the Jews felt the Messiah was coming to save. The rebirth Jesus is describing here is the regeneration of a person that is done by the Holy Spirit - quickening them to spiritual life from spiritual death and giving them a new heart. Just before this, Nicodemus asked Jesus how you could be born again and Jesus answered him in verses 7-8 that it is the will of God. Just as the wind blows and you know it’s there but don’t see where it came from or where it’s going. Jesus also makes it clear in John 6:37-40 10:14-18 and 17:6-10 that the Father gives him his sheep and all the Father gives him he will save and none shall perish. These are the elect that God chose before the beginning of time to be his remnant to save out of all of fallen humanity - all that ever lived.
Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Your brother in Christ -

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@TXian, Hello,
I love the way you put your point but I’m quite not clear over the Universalism and Limit.

Let me put it this way;
When I say I agree that the atonement of Christ is universal, I am saying that Christ died for all, so that as many would believe in Him would receive that free atonement that was made for all. Romans 3, 5, and 6 makes that clear.

When I disagree with limited atonement, I’m saying that Jesus’ death or sacrifice of atonement, is not limited to a few but is available to all; as many as choose to believe.

Hence, if there is a limit, it isn’t on God’s part but on man’s. We can choose to refuse that universal atonement by choosing to disbelieve Jesus Christ, thus, limiting ourselves. God on the other hand has made full salvation free and calls all to repent and believe in the Son, Jesus Christ.

I’m looking forward to hear your response @TXian.

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Thank you for your question on this new thread @TXian.

To set the context for this discussion, someone on another thread had asked me if all sins are equally offensive to God even though some were apparently more damaging than others.

My answer was “yes”, and by way of making my point, here is what I posted on the other thread which prompted this discussion.

"Since God is infinitely holy, then any violation of His law is of infinite offense to him. Taking one bite of a piece of fruit you were told not to bite can condemn your soul even in paradise. And that is why no finite mortal could ever pay the infinite price for even one of his sins.

"But the same infinite sacrifice of Christ which satisfies the price for one sin likewise satisfies the penalty for the unlimited number of sins of an unlimited number of sinners.

"(Some people teach that Christ’s atonement is limited to only those He would save - but a limited atonement would have never saved anyone from even a single sin.)

“Since every sin infinitely offends God, then none can offend Him more infinitely than another.”

Obviously, this contradicts the Calvinistic view of limited atonement.

You mentioned that if Christ paid for all, then all would necessarily be saved by virtue of His payment alone. But I do not think that argument holds up well. I think most of us have had the experience of setting a table for guests who did not all show up just because we paid for them to.

When Lincoln emancipated the Southern slaves, whose freedom was bought with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers, all of them were free to leave their plantations - but there were plenty who refused because they knew no other way of life. Just because something is paid for all doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be experienced by all.

You claim that the concept of “sufficient for all but effectual for some” is debunked. But I would say the very opposite - God is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe - I Timothy 4:10. He is the Savior of all potentially because He paid for all - but He’s the Savior of believers especially because their faith has made salvation effective in their lives.

You raise the issue of God’s sovereignty, and you believe that His absolute sovereignty necessitates a Calvinistic view. Here is a link to another post which previously answered that issue. I hope it will be a help to you.

But the point that stimulated this discussion was the statement that God’s infinite holiness makes even one sin an infinite crime which demands an infinite penalty (an eternal hell), which no finite mortal could ever pay. Therefore God’s infinite love sent His infinite Son to pay the infinite penalty on our behalf. (Does a particular word seem to stand out here? :slightly_smiling_face:)

The conclusion was that anything less than an infinite atonement would have been insufficient to have satisfied eternal justice even for Adam on that fateful day in paradise. If you limit the atonement for even one, you limit it for everyone. Only an infinite atonement can satisfy the demands of justice for one sin committed by one sinner. But being infinite, it necessarily satisfies for an unlimited number of sins committed by an unlimited number of sinners also.

There’s only one door, and it’s either open to all or its closed to all.

I hope this makes sense to you.

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You’ve hit the nail on the head. I agree with you 100%

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@Bassey Yes! We are talking about the same thing and I disagree with you. :slight_smile: Limited atonement means that Christ died for the complete atonement for the sins of only the elect (chosen, remnant) - not all humankind.

Man’s free will is trapped in sin and can not accept God. Romans 8:7-8 ESV For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Therefore, natural man does not seek God. He cannot and will not come to Christ on his own, God must regenerate his heart upon the hearing of the Gospel to allow him to receive grace. I’m curious which verses in Romans 3,5, and 6 you’re pointing to that support your case? as Romans 3:10-18 says what I just stated.

I hope this clears up my position. Let me know what you think! And as always, we are to tell everyone that has ears to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord! We don’t know who the remnant are or when their time is to come to Christ. We’re simply commanded to proclaim the Gospel and have a defense of our faith. Then let all who will believe come and they will be saved.

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Pastor Lyons, this is the particular line that I was in question of that warranted this thread. Thanks for responding! You begin by drawing several parallels to men here, but I argue if Jesus makes supper, then somebody’s going to be there to eat it! :smiley:

In your view, If there is someone that I know that is lost, should I pray for them to be saved? If God has absolutely nothing to do with it and man’s sovereignty cannot be tread upon, then why pray for them? God would have to say, “I know… I sure wish they’d come on over to our side, too! Go back and see if you can change their mind…”

Here at the end, you’ve kind of shifted gears on me. I don’t know anyone at all that has ever argued that Jesus’s propitiation was not complete - as in “only for some sins”. His sacrifice was the ultimate propitiation for God’s wrath. Limited Atonement means limited in scope - not in completeness.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

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Hi Paul,

Exactly; we deserve to be judged for our sins, which are our own choices. The offer of salvation to all through the person of Jesus Christ is the most beautiful gift. Our eternal destiny depends on if we accept Christ’s completed work on the cross or reject him.

The problem comes when God has in eternity past fixed an individual’s destiny to hell, so they are incapable of belief in Christ because they are not one of the elect. God then judges a sends this person to hell for not believing something where were incapable of believing
in the first place because they are not one of the elect.

Lennox’s book covers these topics in great detail in his book ‘Determined to Believe’.

  • Pharaoh hardened his own heart for the first 5 plagues, then possibly got to a point of no return, and then God hardened his heart for the last plagues.
  • Jacob I loved and Esau I hated; refers to the nations of Israel and the Edomites; not the individuals.

If our (free?) will is trapped, and without hope and we are not part of the elect predestined in eternity past to become a Christian; how are we free to choose?

This might be helpful about Love and Free will? Quite thought provoking.

I love how Ravi shares about Love being the supreme ethic in this article.

“Love is the supreme ethic. Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin. Where there is sin, there is the need for a Savior. Where there is a Savior, there is the hope for redemption. Only in the Judeo-Christian worldview does this sequence find its total expression and answer. The story from sin to redemption is only in the gospel with the ultimate provision of a loving God.” Dr. Ravi Zacharias

If interested, this is one article below from Willian Lane Craig website.
this from the Wikipedia article on molinsim and has this idea of God’s Middle Knowlege.

William Lane Craig calls Molinism “one of the most fruitful theological ideas ever conceived. For it would serve to explain not only God’s knowledge of the future, but divine providence and predestination as well”.[9] Under it, God retains a measure of divine providence without hindering humanity’s freedom. Because God has middle knowledge, he knows what an agent would freely do in a particular situation. So, agent A, if placed in circumstance C, would freely choose option X over option Y. Thus, if God wanted to accomplish X, all God would do is, using his middle knowledge, actualize the world in which A was placed in C, and A would freely choose X. God retains an element of providence without nullifying A’s choice and God’s purpose (the actualization of X) is fulfilled.

Molinists also believe it can aid one’s understanding of salvation. Ever since Augustine and Pelagius there has been debate over the issue of salvation; more specifically how can God elect believers and believers still come to God freely? Protestants who lean more towards God’s election and sovereignty are usually Calvinists while those who lean more towards humanity’s free choice follow Arminianism. However, the Molinist can embrace both God’s sovereignty and human free choice.

Take the salvation of Agent A. God knows that if he were to place A in circumstances C, then A would freely choose to believe in Christ. So God actualizes the world where C occurs, and then A freely believes. God still retains a measure of his divine providence because he actualizes the world in which A freely chooses. But, A still retains freedom in the sense of being able to choose either option. Molinism does not affirm two contradictory propositions when it affirms both God’s providence and humanity’s freedom. God’s providence extends to the actualization of the world in which an agent may believe upon Christ.

I’d agree with you; if a person rejects God then they become more and more depraved as it says in Romans 1.

Yes I agree about humility in all things; I remember a quote from Wesley who showed great humility with his fellow believer while still being able to hold different views and discussing them.

It is said that when Wesley and Whitefield were at odds on theology and ecclesiastical matters, one of Wesley’s adherents asked him, “Do you think we shall see Mr. Whitefield in heaven?” “No,” he answered, “I do not. I think he will be so near the Throne, and you and I so far away, that we shall not get within sight of him.” {From The Pastor amidst His Flock G. B. Wilcox 1890}

Together these two men turned much of the English speaking world upside down. It has been said that Whitefield preached 18,000 sermons and Wesley 40,000 sermons. It is estimated that Whitefield preached to over ten million people in his lifetime. Wesley had travelled throughout Great Britain some 225,000 miles which would equal nine times around the earth. They were both {along with John’s brother Charles} considered founders of the Methodist movement. John Wesley preached George Whitefield’s funeral. Though Christians may not agree on these weighty doctrinal issues we should still try to be Christ-like to one another. Spurgeon who was a Calvinist said the following; “We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians – not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus.”

In another place, he also said: “Far be it from me to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views”

a quick mention of the atheistic worldview. It has no option but determinism; and this video was worth a watch. A scientific atheist asks Ravi the question.

Great topic; may we discuss it in love… :slight_smile:
Your brother in Christ.
Matt

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You’ve finished everything. nothing more to add sir.

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Brother Matthew,

Thanks for your post! About the first quote, we’ve both stated our cases and I’ll leave it there.

I agree with you and still - as I said - If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to carry out his purpose and not allowing him to believe, who are we to judge that action as unfair? Yes, many believe (as do I) that God was talking about the nations here. Still - He hated the Edomites and the Amalekites. Who are we to judge?

We are free to choose our actions, but since we are dead in sin, we will always choose to stay that way unless we a regenerated and given grace by God. Before regeneration we are like a drug addict. We can’t help but to sin because it’s what we want. I LOVE that video, by the way… one of my favorite Ravi stories is about the man with the horse that ran away.

I think you may have misunderstood my words as my typing doesn’t always drip with the same sarcasm as my speech (HA). I do understand Molinism as I explained it in that paragraph. I just don’t “get” how anyone could believe in it - that God manipulates us into accepting Christ. What about the people he didn’t manipulate to believe? They’re still going to be judged, right? What happened to true free will?

I keep saying it, but it’s being missed. We have free will. I believe in it. It’s a Biblical truth. We have it before we’re saved and we have it after we’re saved. Any time a Calvinist says God chose us and therefore saved us, there’s a chorus of Arminians, Pelagians, and I guess Molinians :wink: that cry foul. I tell you one thing right now… I wish I had a little less free will! There’s been sin in my life that I’ve pleaded with God to help me overcome - and he does…eventually. Little by little the process of sanctification - a synergistic work of man and the Holy Spirit - make us a little more like Christ (as long as we’re willing <- see what I did there… :slight_smile: ) So much of the New Testament is spent on trying to get the saints to turn from their old sin nature and walk forward in righteousness! Free will in action!

Another thing that is certain is that we all love the Lord now and are wanting to serve Him no matter how we got here! Amen? GREAT article on Wesley and Whitefield!!! Great quote from Spurgeon as well!

Please tell me if my posts come across as mean-spirited… seriously be honest… because they are not meant in that way at all. I’ve enjoyed this free exchange of ideas and maybe somebody will come along someday and read them and be edified. That’s my prayer. It’s worth it to have the discussion. :slight_smile:

Your brother in Christ,
Paul

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@TXian, Hello,
I see your point now, but lets consider this as a question; Do you think or believe that there are people who are created to perish? Also do you assert that from the choices we make, can either condemn us or justify us, hence even though one had been saved, there is a possibility of falling from grace according to Hebrews 20:26-19.?

I hope to hear your response soon.
Shalom my new friend :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi @Bassey! Thanks for the note! :slight_smile:

I’ll start with Romans 9:19-24 ESY 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

When we discuss this topic, I think we all immediately begin thinking about a friend or family member that is lost whom we love and wouldn’t want to perish. Or someone we know that is a “good person” but has a naturalistic worldview. But instead, let’s refocus our attention the opposite direction to Mao, Stalin, or Hitler. You’ll say, “Well, they would never believe!” but could they? If on his deathbed, Stalin, instead of raising his fist to God (a story Ravi loved to tell) had said a prayer of forgiveness - would he be enjoying heaven for all eternity? Would that be fair after the millions he had slaughtered? All I can do is read God’s Word and interpret it the best I can (with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course, who helps us to understand). It’s easier for me to accept this clear, concise teaching, leaving the “mystery” to God and His sovereignty rather than to hang on to a possible misinterpretation of the scope of the word “all” in a five word verse somewhere else. <- my opinion, of course!

John 6:35-40 ESV 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

This is just one of the places where we get the “once saved - always saved” doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (or more accurately preservation). People who show no evidence of salvation never truly believed in the first place. Please check your verse reference as Hebrews doesn’t have 20 chapters. :slight_smile:

I truly hope that this post is taken with the love and kindness is was intended.

Shalom! :slight_smile:
Your Brother in Christ -

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Hello brothers and sisters, this has been an interesting thread to follow along. It seems much has already been said representing each view. If I can suggest a couple more thoughts, hopefully they can add yet another set of nuances in the discussion.

First off, I will concede that I would locate myself within the Reformed tradition. So, when it comes to salvation, I would embrace a Calvinistic framework.

That being said, there are a diversity of perspectives even within a Reformed perspective. With respect to the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, on any side of the playing field, we must be willing to embrace both. The Bible quite emphatically teaches both!

Of course, as has already been expressed, the challenge is the relationship between the two. It seems to me that a majority of Calvinists (though not all…) would accept what is called “compatibilism” which is the affirmation that God’s predetermination and providence are compatible with human free will. It seems to me that this should dispel certain criticisms of Calvinistic thinking, but certainly, this does not leave every stone unturned. Nevertheless, it allows for a distinction between primary causes and secondary causes, which should open up more space for discussion.

Another thing that seems to be coming up quite a bit here is the question about the created condition of the reprobate/the lost. In other words, does God create people for the purpose of being lost and never having the ability to be saved?

But before I offer another window of ideas here, I think a pastoral dimension should be addressed. It seems clear from the Gospels that over and over, Jesus invites people to come to Him, to turn away from their wicked ways, and extends the genuine offer of fellowship with them. However this works out, I just want to affirm that those are authentic offers given. Meaning, any and ALL who come to Jesus, expressing genuine faith, placing their trust in Him, remorseful for their sin, turning away from it and seeking fellowship with God…any and ALL of those will be saved. The Gospel of John is clear about this…He will by no means cast them out and none of them will be lost.

All that to say: our soteriological positions should never hinder our Gospel calls (I don’t think anyone here would disagree), much less should they be used to instill any measure of fear in the true believer (I don’t think anyone here is doing this). In other words, an individual’s chief occupation shouldn’t be with whether they are elect or not, or whether they can lose their salvation or not…as far as I see it, their chief occupation should be with the Gospel: have they rightly understood Jesus and placed their trust in Him. That’s it! Any more than this is edifying and fruitful for us to learn, as we grow in the grace of God, however its proper place is as an in-house discussion (as we are presently having).

And in the end, the purpose of this doctrine (God’s sovereignty in election) is meant to offer assurance to the church. It is not, first and foremost, a statement on the lost. Nor is it a statement on how we should treat or consider the lost. In that area, we should continue praying for them (as God has the power to save anyone), proclaim the Gospel to them (we do this indiscriminately), and extend love, care and respect for them (they are fellow bearers of God’s image AND we are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors). I myself will confess I have not been perfect in this area, but, I seek God’s grace and guidance and believe these are practices to be pursued and developed.

Now, I promised I’d offer one more nuance. This would be the so-called “logical” order of God’s decrees. In other words, in eternity past, when God was determining His plans and purposes for the course of history, what was the flow of planned divine action? Some might dismiss this as pure speculation, and in all fairness, that might be a fair criticism. However, in light of God’s revelation and the canon of Scripture, I’d suggest that a theological agnosticism need not be the alternative in this area.

Some would argue that the order follows from what comes last in the course of redemptive history and works back. Those within this position would stake their claims on the idea that what is last is probably usually what is foremost in the mind when making a decision, and all other things leading up to it would follow as intermediary steps. So, these would order God’s decrees this way: 1. Election of the regenerate and the reprobate, then 2. the decision to create, 3. The Fall, and 4. The decision to provide salvation only for the elect.
The implication of this (as has been suggested already in our discussion) is that God has an ACTIVE role in creating both the regenerate and the reprobate (or, those elected for salvation and those elected for eternal punishment). In other words, God’s decision to create flows from a logically prior notion of those whom He wants to save and those He does not. This position would be called “supralapsarianism” (“Supra-“ meaning “over”, and “lapse” referring to humanity’s fall in sin. So, it’s emphasizing election as something determined before the consideration of the fall of humanity).

The other perspective in view differs quite a bit. Whereas the “Supra” position is working from a top-down logic (reasoning from the mind of God, downward), the alternative position suggests reasoning from the bottom-up. In other words, the flow of history as it’s given to us reflects the logical order of God’s decrees. This would offer the following scheme of God’s decrees: 1. Creation, 2. Fall, 3. Election, 4. Redemption. The implication of this is that God’s active role is first in the divine will to create all humanity and from that state of goodness, allowing them to fall. From that lump of fallen humanity, God chooses some to actively save, while the others are passed over. And then, Jesus is sent to provide redemption for the elect. In other words, before any are saved, all are in a state of sin and freely choosing to continue in that lifestyle. However, it also preserves the reality that God created all human beings, along with the rest of creation, good! And when we talk about the redeemed, it also preserves the reality that although they are sons and daughters…they are adopted sons and daughters (“once lost, but now found”). This position would be called “infralapsarianism” (“Infra-“ meaning under. So, it’s emphasizing the order of redemptive history, as we have it, reflecting the logical order of God’s decrees. God is active in creation, and then in the election of some, but “passive” in the reprobation of others).

Surely, this does not address all the questions…and certainly this raises many more! May God keep us humble, as we listen to one another, learn from one another, and hopefully, remain willing to change our positions in conformity with God’s revealed knowledge, wisdom, and revelation.

God bless!
Soli Deo gloria.

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