Friday, April 28, 2006

For Who Did Christ Die?

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge John Owen junkie. Many times when discussing the issue of Christ's Atonement the conversation can get bogged down and are thinking muddled. John Owen's most popular work entitled, "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" (Book 3 Ch. 3) illustrates Christ's Definite Atonement (historically called Limited Atonement) very well (see below).

A quick point about why I use the word "Definite" instead of "Limited" in regards to the Atonement. This isn't new and I certainly did not coin the phrase. Most detractors of the Doctrines of Grace have a theological caricature in their minds when they hear Limited Atonement which results in ghastly unbelief of God's electing love. They lament, "God is all powerful, He would never limit His atonement, it has the power to save the whole world!" Duh. Of course God Almighty's power is not limited (as if you needed to convince a Calvinist, of all people, of this). The question should be, "What did the triune God intend to do by sacrificing the Perfect Lamb of God for sinners?" And, "Did Christ die for a particular people (the elect)?" Or did He die for no one in particular?" Which the non-Calvinist must assume: Christ saved no one by his death and resurrection He simply made it possible for people to be saved.

My point is this: everyone (that is Orthodox Christians) limits the atonement. Not just the Calvinist. But the 5 point Arminian as well. The Reformed Christian limits the scope or the extent of the atonement (i.e., Christ died for a particular people, namely the elect - His sheep) and not for anyone else. Remember, it's not that God's power is limited in what He can do but it what was The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit's intention before time began. The non-Reformed limits Christ's atonement by its effect (i.e., Christ's death did not result in people being saved, it was a plan God had in hopes of saving). So his death was not effectual for salvation of sinners. Theoretically, the whole world could be saved and likewise the whole world could be damned. Christ is the theoretical savior of the world. He doesn't save his people from their sin, he pleads with them to save themselves. Now, I know the average non-Reformed would never use such language (at least not explicitly) but this is the consequence of their presuppositions.

"But if the death of Jesus is what the Bible says it is--a substitutionary sacrifice for sins, an actual and not a hypothetical redemption, whereby the sinner is really reconciled to God--then, obviously, it cannot be for every man in the world. For then everybody would be saved, and obviously they are not. One of two things is true: either the atonement is limited in its extent or it is limited in its nature or power. It cannot be unlimited in both." - Edwin Palmer
"John Owen's triple choice" is useful to those who aren't acquainted with the nuances of the theological arguments. It has a way of forcing one to think about the logical outcome of ones position and beliefs. Let me head a certain type of person off before they start. Believers should not entertain absurd notions such as "god is not always logical" or "Election is a mystery and we shouldn't try to understand it." Nonsense. The Apostles sure taught it as if it was "understandable" at least to the mind that has been renewed by the Spirit. In fact, they taught this doctrine as a means to comfort and asure the early believers of God's great love. This was and is meant to bring joy and peace and assurance to God's people! On to Owen's "triple choice":

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

1. All the sins of all men.
2. All the sins of some men, or
3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?


You answer, "Because of unbelief."

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!"

Read this over again until you are absolutely clear on what it is communicating. To me, this is very concise. It is also logical (of which naturally proceeds from our God, the Word, the Logos) and thoroughly honoring the truth as is revealed in the Scriptures. Even though it may make sinners to fear and tremble.

It is inescapable: Did he or didn't He? Did Christ, the Perfect Son of God, SAVE His people or did he TRY to save His people?

I [Jesus] am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by my own. . . . But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you. - John 10:11, 14, 26

Maybe the hypothetical savior "jesus" ought not be called "Savior" rather call him "assister". Brothers and sisters, read the Bible. The whole Bible. Read it carefully. Does the Bible teach Redemption or an opportunity to be redeemed?

Be consistent. Be honest. Bow your head and bend the knee to the all Holy One. And stand in awe of Him.

4 Comments:

At 4/30/2006 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

.357 Magnunm,

You wouldn't be related to the Magnums of Columbia, SC (R. A. Magnum?)?

Mike

 
At 5/19/2006 6:40 PM, Blogger Jesus' boy said...

fantastic post - a big amen - i haven't actually as of yet read any of Owen's works but i've read some impressive quotes and i plan on reading his materials in the near future God willing.

for scripture proofs of limited atonement see my site www.calvinismdefended.blogspot.com

 
At 5/22/2006 7:09 AM, Blogger Chris Mangum said...

Great site, Chris. I especially like AntiChristPope. Are all those sites in your profile yours? Your writing?

After browsing your Arminian Heresy blog, I am absolutely floored to learn you have not read Owens works! I encourage you to do so. Let me know when you do as I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Come back again, I'll be following your writings.

 
At 5/22/2006 7:10 AM, Blogger Chris Mangum said...

"You wouldn't be related to the Magnums of Columbia, SC (R. A. Magnum?)?"

No, the name is Mangum not Magnum.

 

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