21 November 2005

Is there a universal aspect to the atonement?

SpurgeonYour weekly dose of Spurgeon

PyroManiac devotes Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

Charles Spurgeon, like all Calvinists, understood that the saving efficacy of the atonement is limited to the elect alone. But he rejected the notion of those high Calvinists who deny that the atoning work of Christ has any application or relevance to the reprobate whatsoever.

Spurgeon taught that the atoning work of Christ had universal and particular aspects. Of course, he stressed that the substitutionary aspects of the atonement—where Christ stood in the place of sinners and bore their punishment in their stead, propitiating God and providing full expiation for sin—were applicable to the elect alone.

But he also saw a universal aspect to the work of Christ on the cross. He taught that common grace is (at least to some degree) grounded in the atonement, because the kindness and benevolence of God to humanity in general—especially as reflected in the well-meant offer of salvation—would not have been possible at all apart from Christ's death. That is why those who reject Christ are guilty of the most egregious kind of personal affront against His goodness toward them (cf. Romans 2:4).

The following excerpt is from sermon no. 650, "Judgment Threatening but Mercy Sparing," delivered Sunday Morning, 17 September 1865 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London:

We do not believe in general redemption, but we believe in every word of this precious Bible, and there are many passages in the Scripture which seem to show that Christ's death had an universal bearing upon the sons of men.

We are told that he tasted death for every man. What does that mean? Does it mean that Jesus Christ died to save every man? I do not believe it does, for seems to me that everything which Christ intended to accomplish by the act of his death he must accomplish or else he will be disappointed, which is not supposable. Those whom Christ died to save I believe he will save effectually, through his substitutionary sacrifice.

But did he in any other sense die for the rest of mankind? He did. Nothing can be much more plain in Scripture, it seems to me, than that all sinners are spared as the result of Jesus Christ' death. And this is the sense in which men are said to trample on the blood of Jesus Christ. We read of some who denied the Lord that bought them. No one who is bought with blood for eternal salvation ever tramples on that blood; but Jesus Christ has shed his blood for the reprieve of men that they may be spared, and those who turn God's sparing mercy into an occasion for fresh sin, do trample on the blood of Jesus Christ.

You can hold that doctrine without holding universal redemption, or without at all contradicting that undoubted truth, that Jesus laid down his life for his sheep, and that where he suffered he suffered not in vain.

Now, sinner, whether thou knowest it or not, thou art indebted to him that did hang upon the tree, for the breath that is now in thee. Thou hadst not been on praying ground and pleading terms with God this morning if it had not been for that dear suffering one.

C. H. Spurgeon

Phil's signature


SKH said...

Of course, we might wonder where are the verses that connect God's common grace to the work of Christ on the cross.

Doesn't it degrade the cross to say that He purchased rain for the unjust or that all His agony simply enabled a "well-meant" offer?

And what exactly is it that those who reject Christ are guilty of? If they reject, they have no part in the substitutionary aspects, so their affront against His goodness is that they reject His purchase of rain on their behalf?

How are the reprobate "spared" by Christ's death? That they are allowed breath for a few extra moments in light of eternity? Can we really call that being "spared" if they are off to an eternity separated from Him?

Brad said...

skh:"where are the verses that connect God's common grace to the work of Christ on the cross."
For your consideration:
Jhn 11:50 ...consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

Enjoyed Spurgeon Phil!

Brad said...

Caiaphas apparently found some "grace" in it, if only for a short time.

GL said...

John Murray writes similar things (to today's Spurgeon selection) in his treatment of John 3:16 and the nature of God's love for the cosmos. While scholars differ on the connotation of cosmos in view in John 3:16, Murray sees cosmos as "created order" (if I recall correctly- it's been many years). The coming of Jesus was love by God for the created order, not only the salvation for the elect, as Jesus fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, calmed storms, and healed diseases.

Colin Maxwell said...

Can anyone succinctly relate (from a Calvinist point of view) why the "world" in John 3:16 should mean every last sinner ever born? Or is it the "world of the elect" only? The commentators are divided, with some (including Calvin himself and John Trapp) running with the wider interpretation.

david said...

You're all missing the bigger question in this post. Which, of course, is how can this be a Monday dose of Spurgeon when it's still 11:25pm Sunday.

Thanks for the great message tonight, Phil. Double dose today, and it was a blessing.

Chris Meirose said...

Great stuff, but that is one creepy looking Spurgeon image!

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

Kay said...

Guys, pull yourselves together! Frank Turks eyebrow, Creepy Spurgeon pics, you big girls blouses..

I was reminded of Romans 9:22 with this snippet-of-Spurgeon today. Does the cross, in some sense, make that long-suffering possible?
We all deserve the death that comes from sin - surely it's rich mercy that allows us all to take one breath in this world, elect or not.

Bob Hayton said...

Thought-provoking article & interesting discussion.

First, regarding John 3:16 (mentioned by gl) check out James White's discussion of John 3:16 in his rebuttal letter to Dave Hunt's book What Love is This?. It is excellent. You will have to scroll down to the middle of the page and look for the section heading "John 3:16 Freed From Tradition".

Second, I think libbie is onto something. Perhaps the "universal" benefits of the atonement are in a large part merely a means to an end. The end being the salvation of God's elect and their sharing in and exulting in God's glory forever as an extension and expansion of God's infinite joy.

Third, concerning verses (brought up by skh and brad meyer). I believe that Spurgeon is clearly referring to several verses in this quotation. Heb. 2:9 (taste death), 2 Pet. 2:1 (bought), and Heb. 10:29 (trampling). I think the context of Heb. 2:9 determines the interpretation of "every/each" as each of the elect. Wayne Grudem has a good discussion of 2 Pet. 2:1 on pg. 600 in the Zondervan (2000) edition of his Systematic Theology. It does not have to mean what Spurgeon is implying. Heb. 10:29 opens up the big can of worms named "Warning Passages in Hebrews". I won't deal with that. Now as for Jn. 11:50 (brought up by brad meyer), I think the context (John's explanation/interpretation of Caiaphas's statement in verses 51-52) indicates Jesus is seen as dying to save the elect who are spread throughout all the world. Compare 1 Jn. 2:2 as a great parallel passage, with almost identical Greek phrases employed by the same author.

Lastly, while the above verses do not support Spurgeon's claim, verses like Rom. 9:22 (mentioned by libbie) coupled with Rom. 3:25 (brought up in the Piper quote below) seem to teach that God's passing over sin, temporarily, in order to more fully display his power and glory, was made possible thru Christ's atonement. Yet the element that is obviously central in all of this is that Christ did intend to save the elect thru his atoning sacrifice, and thus gave his life as a propitiation for them. Notice the clear implication from Scripture's intentionally chosen metaphors used to describe those for whom Christ died (His sheep/flock, His church, His bride, and more) [the implication being he died only for his sheep, not the ravenous wolves; only for the church, not the non-church; only for His bride, not for every other "woman", etc.].

What is also interesting to note is when Paul refers to the created order's waiting for redemption in Rom. 8:18-25, creation is seen as being liberated to obtain "the freedom of the glory of the children of God"(v. 21). The elect's salvation is the freedom this whole world is goaning and waiting for!

I also wanted to mention that John Piper brings up this same issue (that Phil/Spurgeon brought up) in his booklet on the 5 points. I am going to include the quote from the relevant section but you can access the booklet online Here.

Piper's quote:

We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." What we deny is that all men are intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way. All of God's mercy toward unbelievers—from the rising sun (Matthew 5:45) to the worldwide preaching of the gospel (John 3:16)—is made possible because of the cross.

This is the implication of Romans 3:25 where the cross is presented as the basis of God's righteousness in passing over sins. Every breath that an unbeliever takes is an act of God's mercy withholding judgment (Romans 2:4). Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers it is the mercy of God that gives this opportunity for salvation.

Whence does this mercy flow to sinners? How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ's death so clearly demonstrates God's just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men.

But he is especially the Savior of those who believe. He did not die for all men in the same sense. The intention of the death of Christ for the children of God was that it purchase far more than the rising sun and the opportunity to be saved. The death of Christ actually saves from ALL evil those for whom Christ died "especially."

One more thing, you can check out an excellent succinct article on limited atonement defending it from a covenantal perspective Here.

Oh, and Phil: Thanks for the great blog!

Jeremy Weaver said...

What do you think about D. James Kennedy's book, 'What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?'

Forgiven Sinner said...

If John 3:16 would have been wrote by an Arminian and not a Calvinist then it would of have said, If he so chooses to do so!!

I feel He died for the Elect, because if people reject Christ then the Blood on the Cross does nothing for that Lost person.

Am I wrong Phil?????

Chris Freeland said...

I'm by no means an expert on either side, but forgiven_sinner, it might also be argued by an Arminian that had John 3:16 been written by a Calvinist it would have said "whosoever is elect." Thankfully, God is neither Calvinist or Arminian... He's God.

I've heard it argued that there's a difference between the payment for sin and the forgiveness of sin. According to that argument, Universal Atonement guys argue that Jesus paid for all sin of humanity on the Cross although all sins are not forgiven. Anyone care to bat that one around?

Father Brown said...

Chris Freeland: "Thankfully, God is neither Calvinist or Arminian... He's God."


LeeC said...

Charles Simeon, a Calvinistic pastor, ran into the well known Arminian preacher, John Wesley one day. Simeon tells the rest:

"Sir,” said Simeon, “I understand that you are called an Arminian, and I have sometimes been called a Calvinist, and therefore, I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission, I will ask you a few questions. Pray, sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God if God had not first put it in your heart?"

"Yes, I do indeed," Wesley answered.

"And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ?"

"Yes, solely through Christ."

"But sir,” said Simeon, “supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterward by your own works?"

"No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last,” responded Wesley.

"Allowing than that you were first turned by the grace of God are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?"


"What then, are you to be upheld every hour and ever moment by God as much as an infant in its mother's arms?"

"Yes, altogether."

"And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you into His heavenly kingdom?" asked Simeon.

"Yes, I have no hope but in Him," Wesley said.

"Then, sir, with your leave, I will put [away] my dagger again, for this is all my Calvinism, this is my election, my justification, my faith, my final perseverance, it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it. And therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where we agree."

Cited from John Piper's sermon: Life of Charles Simeon

MTG said...

Matthew 5:45

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heave: for he maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.

SKH....The OT is about promised redemption, the NT is about accomplished redemption.....

Momo said...

5. Full Atonement - Saving Redemption

- Christ's high priestly work, his great work of redemption centered around Calvary, was designed to effectually save all those whom God has chosen to be recipients of his grace. All the elect, who are known by their faith in Christ, find their salvation fully guaranteed by that act of Christ at Calvary. Having purchased them with his blood, Jesus now intercedes on their behalf to ensure they are brought, first to repentance and saving knowledge of Christ, and then finally to full son-ship, completely restored, glorified, before the Father in heaven.

- Further, God's mercy is extended through the cross and in that act of Calvary there is an inherent invitation to all men everywhere to come, repent, believe, and find mercy. The cross does not exclude anyone, rather it ensures the salvation of many and extends the offer of mercy to the rest who are only excluded by their own stubborn wills.

Antonio said...

1. Limited atonement (actual/limited in extent)
2. Unlimited atonement (potential/unlimited in extent)
3. Universal atonement (actual/unlimited in extent)

These are not the only options.

I advocate a different take of the atonement:

Actual, unlimited in extent, limited in intent

View my article HERE.

You may find its thesis, at the very least, intriguing and thought provoking.

The Free Grace Theology Blog


Antonio said...

Chris Freeland,

I take the view you are asking about.

Refer to my article



Antonio said...

BTW, there is an unpopular (among the Reformed) view going around that John Calvin did not espouse particular atonement. See R.T. Kendalls book "Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649"

Dozens of statements by Calvin can be shown that he believed in the universality of the atonement.

There has been but one quote supposedly from Calvin explicitly denying the universality of the atonement. This statement has been proven to not even have come from Calvin.

In Kendall's new edition of his book (unchanged, but with added apendii) he includes an extract from Dr. Curt Daniel's PhD Thesis, New College, Edinburgh shows that the statement in question was not Calvin's own statement after all.

If you have never read "Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649" it is highly recommended, even by the late Dr. Lloyd-Jones.

Anonymous said...

Warfield has a great sermon on John 3:16, which I think is in the book "The Savior of the World." I borrow heavily from him in my two posts on this verse, which you can find at these two links:



Momo said...

Phil, since we're on the subject of Charles Spurgeon, I thought I'd let you know here that you should have three freshly proofed Spurgeon sermons in your Inbox within the hour. I just thought I'd show a little appreciation for the traffic you sent by my blog last week.

The sermons are:
#1821 Cords and Cart Ropes
#1837 A Great Gospel for Great Sinners
#1876 Robinson Crusoe's Text

De nada.

Mike said...

James White has a lengthy discussion of 2Peter 2:1 which is alluded to in this passage. It is is worth the read whether you agree with him or not.



Forgiven Sinner said...

Chris Freeland, this sounds like something to discuss over a round of golf.......but.....if you notice, you will find the words "elect" & "chosen" mentioned more times in the Bible than "free-will"....

Clare said...

Thanks for the weekly dose, Phil.

Forgiven Sinner said...

Here are a few quick scriptures regarding our conversation.
Exodus 33:19, "And He said, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy."

Deut. 7:6-8, "For thou art a holy people unto the lord thy God, the Lord they God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all the people that are on the face of the earth. The lord id not set his love upon you or choose you because you were more in number than any people, for Ye were the fewest of all people, but because the Lord loved you."

Deut. 10:15, "Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day."

Joshua 11:20, "For it was the Lord who hardened their hearts, that they should come against Israel."

I Kings 20:42, "And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, because thou hast let go out of they hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life."

II Chronicles 6:6, "But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be their, and David to be over my people Israel."

Psalm 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord and the people whom he hath chosen for His own inheritance."

Psalm 65:4 "Blessed is the man you choose and cause to approach you."

Psalm 78:67-70 , "Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the mount of Zion which he loved. He chose David also his servant and took him form the sheepfolds. "

Psalm 135:4, "For the Lord hath chosen Jacob for himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure."

Proverbs 16:4, "The Lord hath made all things for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil."

Proverbs 21:1, "The Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water, he turneth it withersoever he will."

Isaiah 44:1-2, "Yet now hear O Jacob my servant whom I have chosen...and thou Jerusalem whom I have chosen."

Isaiah 45:4, "For Jacob my servants sake and Israel's mine elect, I have called thee by thy name."

Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee, and before thou hast come out of the womb I saved thee, and I ordained thee as a prophet to the nations."

Malachi 1:2-3, "I d you saith the Lord, "But how have you loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord, yet Jacob I loved and Esau I hated."

Matthew 20:16, "For many are called but few are chosen."

Matthew 24:22, 24 "And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved, but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Insomuch as it were possible they shall deceive the very elect. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of the trumpet and they shall gather together the elect from the four winds."

Mark 13:20, 22, 27 (repeat above)

Luke 8:10, "Unto you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables, that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not hear." (Matthew 11:25)

Luke 18:7, "And shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them."

John 6:37, 39, 65, "All that the Father shall give to me shall come to me...And this is the father's will which hath sent me, that all of which he hath given me I should lose none of them...No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him, and I will raise him up in the last day...Therefore no man come to me except it is granted to him by the Father."

John 10: 14, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep and they know me, even as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father and I lay my life down for the sheep, but Ye do not believe, for Ye are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish."

John 13:18, "I speak not of you all, I know those whom I have chosen..."15:16, "Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you and ordained you that Ye should go and bring forth fruit, fruit that shall remain..."15:19, "If Ye were of the world the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."17:19, "I pray for the believers, I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me, for they are yours."

Acts 2:23, "Jesus being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, Ye have taken, and by wicked hands has crucified and slain."

Acts 2:46-47, "And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily as many as should be saved."

Acts 4:28, "Herod and Pontius Pilate did whatsoever they hand and thy counsel determined before hand should happen."

Acts 13:48, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

Acts 22:14, "And he said the God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldst know his will and see that Just One, Jesus, and should hear the voice of his mouth."

Romans 8:29, 30, 33, "For whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son...moreover whom he did predestine them he also called, them he called, these he also justified, these he justified, these he also glorified. Who shall lay any charge to God's elect?"

Romans 9:6-26, "And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac (For the children not yet being born, neither having done anything good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election may stand, not of works but of Him who calls), I t was said unto her, the older shall serve the younger, As it is written, Jacob I d Esau I have hated. What shall we say then? Is there any unrighteousness with God? Certainly not. For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. So then it is not of man who wills, or him who runneth, bu8t God who shows mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose I have raise you up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my might shall be seen throughout all the earth. Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whomever he shall hardeneth he shall hardeneth. You will say unto me, why does he still find fault? Shall the thing formed say to the him which formed it, why did you make me this way? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump to make on vessel unto honor and one for dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, endued patience the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?"

Romans 11:5, 7-8, 28, "Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. What then, Israel has not obtained that which he had seeketh for, but the elect have obtained it and the rest were blinded. According to what was written, "God has given them a spirit of slumber, eyes that should not see. As concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but as for the elect they are the beloved of God..."

I Cor. 1:27-29, "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the wise, and the base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and things which are not saved to bring to nought that they are. That no flesh should glory in his presence."

Galatians 1:15, "But it pleased God who separated me from my mother's womb at birth, and called me by his grace."

Ephesians 1:5, 11, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestined us to adoption as children by Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will...In whom we also have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will."

Ephesians 3:11, "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus.."

Colossians 3:12, "Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering..."

I Thessalonians 1:4, "Remember without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in Jesus Christ in the sight of God and our Father; knowing brethren beloved, you election with God."

1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."

2 Thessalonians 2:13, "But we are bound to give thanks always for you to God, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

2 Timothy 2:10, "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect..."

Titus 1:1, "Paul a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness."

1 Peter 1:1-2, "Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father..."

1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, peculiar people;"

1 Peter 5:13, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you..."

2 Peter 1:10, "Give diligence and make your calling and election sure..."

Mike said...

I've heard it argued that there's a difference between the payment for sin and the forgiveness of sin. According to that argument, Universal Atonement guys argue that Jesus paid for all sin of humanity on the Cross although all sins are not forgiven. Anyone care to bat that one around?

Interesting, so let me make sure I understand.

Jesus Paid the penalty for All sins of All me on the Cross? Stated similarly, Jesus was the propitiation of the Wrath of God due all sinners as a result of all of their sin.

Now this leaves us with a problem (if you are not a universalist).

People will still Go to hell. That means, God is pouring out His wrath on them for some reason. But Why?

Is it their sin? But how could a just God punish someone for a sin that has already been paid for?

Is it for rejecting Jesus? But is this not a sin that Jesus also already paid for?

So then we are left with a few options:

Jesus died for All men for All sins = Universalism

Jesus died for Some men for All sins = Limited/Particular Atonement

Jesus died for All men for Some sins = Nobody is saved.

If we agree that Jesus paid the Penalty (bore the wrath) for sins on the cross then I do not see how it is possible to be anything but a Universalist or a Particularist.


Antonio said...


I must then conclude that your reading of the bible and your reasoning skills are not quite up to the task, rather than continue with your insistence on a false dilemma.

The Purpose of Christ's Death

Phil Johnson said...


See rule 2.

Fair warning: it's bad enough for you to try to peddle the radical no-lordship heresy in my comments thread. Lobbing gratuitous insults, devoid of any real argument, at other commenters is going to get you on my bad-list really, really fast.

Anonymous said...

Mike wrote: If we agree that Jesus paid the Penalty (bore the wrath) for sins on the cross then I do not see how it is possible to be anything but a Universalist or a Particularist.

Patrick: Historically, in order to avoid this conclusion, Arminians like Grotius developed the Moral Governmental theory of the atonement.

Chris Freeland said...


Thanks for the verses. Actually, at the end of the day I stand on your side of the discussion. But I get tired of the "trite" comments lobbed back and forth by people on both sides of the issue as though the answer is so obvious any moron could come to our conclusion. It's not an easy issue. I was only attempting to point out that John 3:16 could be rephrased to make both sides of the argument.

Mike, I didn't choose to read Antonio's page. Frankly, if he's going to stand for "free grace," I'd prefer him demonstrate it prior to posting about it. So I don't know what he'd say. But the argument distinguishing between payment and forgiveness is an attempt to answer the universalism question from the perspective of one who is a Universal Atonement believer.

Their argument would say that people go to hell because they reject the payment; not because the payment hasn't been made. They would also point to John 3:17, and say the basis for condemnation is the failure to believe, not the lack of a payment for sin. Most would say Scripture never condemns men for their sin, since sin has been paid for. Mankind has been condemned because of his unbelief.

I'm honestly not settled on either side, so don't think I'm attempting to be sly about presenting my point of view. The concept of LA is vexing to me. I can understand the logical way we come to it, but can't find it biblically.

Mike said...

Their argument would say that people go to hell because they reject the payment; not because the payment hasn't been made. They would also point to John 3:17, and say the basis for condemnation is the failure to believe, not the lack of a payment for sin. Most would say Scripture never condemns men for their sin, since sin has been paid for. Mankind has been condemned because of his unbelief.

Right, and that leaves us with only one question to settle the matter. Is rejecting Jesus a sin? I would say so and as such we are back in the very same situation.

Most would say Scripture never condemns men for their sin

I am not sure how one could make that argument from the bible. It seems to me that the biblically speaks dramatically opposite of this view.

I must then conclude that your reading of the bible and your reasoning skills are not quite up to the task

1Corinthians 1
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."

I must concur with you that my abilities and my reasoning are not good enough for annything. I am simply a foolish man who can do nothing by my own strength. But praise be to God that he takes foolish men and uses them as His instruments. Moses was a murderer and could not speak well but he was used mightily by God. Peter was a lowly fishermen who denied Christ but God used him greatly. I rejoice in that it is so evident that I am nothing and that I should never have cause to boast in myself. Let he who boasts, boast in the Lord only!

In Christ alone,

Call to Die said...

Mr. Johnson,
I thank you for this post, especially as it helps me to better understand the MacArthur quotes that I emailed you about awhile back.


Phil Johnson said...

For the record, I have read Kendall's Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 and think it's one of the worst academic hack-jobs on historical theology I've ever slugged my way through.

Paul Helm's excellent Calvin & the Calvinists is a thorough and persuasive reply.

The notion that Lloyd-Jones agreed with Kendall's ludicrous interpretation of Calvin (not to mention Kendall's broad-brush condemnation of the Puritans) is capably answered by Iain Murray in volume 2 of his biography of Lloyd-Jones, pp.721-725.

Antonio said...

Besides the one quote in dispute, which I believe has been nimbly shown to NOT have come from Calvin, Can you reference where Calvin in his institutes or any commentary where he explicitly lays claim to a limited atonement understanding?

I can provide many quotes that show him to believe in an unlimited atonement. I can provide the documentation if needed.


My Free Grace Theology Blog

Phil Johnson said...


1. You cited no such quote. You merely made an undocumented allusion to it. That's called "baiting," and no one here is impressed by it.

2. You're off topic anyway. This post was not about Calvin's view of the atonement. See rule 3.

3. Don't keep spamming these comments with multiple links to your blog. Once was enough. Three comments in a row was over-the-top excessive. Say what you have to say and leave it at that. Future comments that include gratuitous links to your blog will be deleted.

4. See rule 5. That's strike 2 for you.

Kate said...

I almost expected Mr. Spurgeon's eyebrow to be lifting in that picture.

:+) Kate

2Tal said...

I would consider myself reformed but there are verses 5 point Calvinists have difficulty exegeting as far as limited atonement goes. (Tim 4:10, 1 Pet. 2:1, I John 2:2 etc.)
Eric Svendsen, founder of New Testament Research Ministies, makes some interesting points regarding his 4.5 Calvinism when debating James White.
Any thoughts on this guy? Anyway, James White seems to respect him.

2Tal said...

I meant to site I Tim 4:10 and 2 Pet. 2:1.

Mike said...

I would consider myself reformed but there are verses 5 point Calvinists have difficulty exegeting as far as limited atonement goes. (Tim 4:10, 1 Pet. 2:1, I John 2:2 etc.)

I meant to site I Tim 4:10 and 2 Pet. 2:1.

While it is true that some have ignored these verses, I think there are pleanty of quality responses out there.
James White, for example, gives a very lengthy response to 2Pet 3:1 here:

Now sometimes Reformed answers are long and have to look at the original languages *greek here* and other factors, but I think their answers (in conjunction with the Particularist Proof-texts) make "L" the best and correct view.


Rose~ said...

The pontificating that goes on in regards to the mind of God is just, well... mind-boggling!

Tony Byrne said...


By posting this material by Spurgeon, are you meaning to imply that you agree with his view?

Spurgeon's view is still high Calvinism by the way, even though he was not as high as some of his other strictly limited brethren. Christ only bears a legal saving relationship with the elect alone in the death he dies, not with everyone he shares a nature with (contra Anselm and the early Reformers).

Incidently, for those commenting in this thread, James White's "exegesis" of certain controversial passages is down right embarassing. He filters everything through a decretal grid (2). White, contrary to John Murray and others, does not even think that God has a desire to save the non-elect (I wonder if he thinks that God even wants them to comply with his commandment that they should repent). He is influenced by John Gill (a hyper-Calvinist [as Spurgeon himself acknowledges] who denied free offers and duty-faith) in some of his interpretations. The bottom line is: White is wearing these Magic Glasses (2).

Spurgeon, even though he was not as high as others, still had ALOT of Owenic categories in his view of Christ's death. He even used the bogus double jeopardy (2) arguments that some in this comment thread are using. Anyone using this argument should consult Charles Hodge and R. L. Dabney. Both of them refute it from a Calvinistic perspective. One wonders how those who affirm a limited imputation view (this is Spurgeon's view as well) can sustain their allegiance to the formula that Christ suffered for all sufficiently, but efficiently for the elect alone. How can Christ's death be sufficient to save those he doesn't bear the sins for???

Dale Courtney said...

Welcome to the Federal Vision!


Antonio said...

Dear Phil, since you commented concerning about his treatment of the puritans (opening the discussion up), I wish to quote J.I. Packer

"Dr. Kendall's exiting study [Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649] ... is a major step forward in the reappraisal of Puritanism ... No student in the Puritan field can excuse himself from reckoning with this important contribution" (J.I. Packer)



Phil Johnson said...


On the other hand, Packer gave a similar "endorsement" to Peter Kreeft's Ecumenical Jihad, and when he was called on it, he said he never intended it as a a positive appraisal of the book's contents.

Packer's too knowledgable about the puritans to agree with Kendall.

The only people who really think Kendall's work is worthy scholarship are Arminians and semi-pelagians with an axe to grind.

Like Zane Hodges.

2Tal said...

I guess the question I have (which I'm ripping off Svendsen in a very crass manner) for those who espouse the "double jeopardy argument" in supporting the "L" entirely, is why are the elect whom Christ redeemed at the cross also "children of wrath" until justified by faith?

Rose~ said...

Good question, 2tal. I will be back to see if anyone answers that.

Tony Byrne said...

Hi 2tal,

Svendsen joined the Calvin and Calvinism list some time ago, and probably became acquinted with the objection you mention from that list (this seems to be where he leared about Calvin's view accurately, but he's never commented there). The objection you raise is an old objection that even Edward Polhill (1622-1694), a Calvinist and contemporary of Owen (Owen actually wrote a preface to Polhill's work on The Divine Will) mentioned. I have documented many Calvinistic objections to the Double Payment argument on my web page (click here). I include quotes from Polhill, Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, R. L. Dabney, W. G. T. Shedd, Curt Daniel and Neil Chambers (Calvinist's today desperately need to read works like Chambers' thesis). Be sure to check the page for the comments, links and references. I will try to organize the blog entry better in the near future.

It's a shame that good men like Spurgeon used the Double Jeopardy argument. He was unfortunately influenced by Owen and other High Federalist Puritans. One can only hope that Phil sees the flaws and avoids using this argument in his ministry and teaching, and the commercialistic presuppositions that undergird it. If followed logically, the Double Jeopardy argument entails justification prior to faith (either at the time of the cross, or in eternity) or theoretical antinomianism (denial of duty-faith and other important truths concerning our responsibility).

What you have to realize is this: for the High Calvinists who use this argument, the end justifies the means. If they have to use a bad argument that logically entails hyper-Calvinism (double jeopardy or the triple choice arguments) to get a strictly limited atonement view (the end), then so be it. They open the door to hyperism, but usually do not go through the door themselves. Others see the logic and make the mistake of going through the door. If you try to help the hypers by pointing out where they went wrong ideologically, even the High Calvinists boo and hiss at you. This certainly grieves the Spirit of God, but few people (among the Calvinists) are talking about it.

The larger enemy, in terms of it's adherents, are clearly on the side of free will theology (Arminianism, Open Theism etc.). Spurgeon had to battle it in his day, but he also tried to refute hyperism as well. Phil has been like Spurgeon in this regard, and he has been despised for his Primer on Hyper-Calvinism. There are people commenting on and reading Phil's blog who disagree with the content of that Primer (even those who are friends with the "Darth Gill" sorts [as listed under Phil's "appalling" links]). They have a decretal sickness, but will never acknowledge it. After all, they agree with the scriptural interpretations of James White, and he's considered "Stellar".

ResponsiveReader said...

AMEN! From a recovering High Calvinist.

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Tony, you do not give up do you?
Why don't you just call Dr White a Hyper and be done with it?

I for one, find his interpretations smack bang on.
I see you have not changed, and yet again attempt to bring in the eternal justification argument again.

Have you read Murray's book on Salvation accomplished and applied?

You never did respond to my refutation of your opinion on John 17:9, did you?
Same ol, same ol brother.

Mark (aka Tartanarmy)

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Wow. A year later. Man that was fast. And no new comments. Amazing.

It is interesting that my views (called by others to be High and strict limited view of atonement) are far less supported just one year later, and has in fact, lead to me quitting the forums due to the pressure to conform away from what has become High Calvinism. (Dr Geisler kind of labelling!)

Tony (above) is right about one thing in a sense. If you passionately defend even High and strict limited atonement, other Calvinists can and will sometimes boo and hiss at you.

Even when you are down on record as passionately rebuking true Hyper Calvinism. It is truly amazing.

After years posting at Unchainedradio and discussing these issues with Tony and others (Mr Ponter), my views have fallen way off what is considered "Calvinistic"
by the majority.

I used to think I was in the majority, but not now. I don’t think I ever was.
I have just resigned as Moderator at Unchainradio as the forums were coming to an end anyway as brother Gene takes the board in a new direction.

Wow, a whole year just flew by!

Mark a.k.a Tartanarmy

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Wow, another year nearly gone, and no more comments on this important subject.

Alas, I am again, moved on to just my own blog (which no one reads!) nor links to!!


Is it official yet, that all high Calvinists like me are now just no good nasty Hyper-Calvinists?


Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Since we started this thread with a Spurgeon quote, and some one here besmirched John Gill, I thought after two years I may end with a Spurgeon quote.

"My first exhortation shall be to Christian people. My dear friends, I beseech you do not in any way give yourselves up to any system of faith apart from the Word of God. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants. I am the successor of the great and venerated Dr. Gill, whose theology is almost universally received among the stronger Calvinistic churches; but although I venerate his memory, and believe his teachings, yet he is not my Rabbi. What you find in God’s Word is for you to believe and to receive.

- Spurgeon