2007December8, Saturday

Which “Limited Atonement” Do You Hold?

Posted in History, Theology at 8:43 by Trey Austin

As our Hobbit friend, David, shows us, there is a difference between the “strict Calvinist” position on the atonement and the balanced Calvinist position. It all comes down to the nature of imputation: whether the whole world’s sin was imputed to Christ and whether the sins of only the elect were imputed to Christ. Both believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement for all men (hypothetically in the case of the latter, but still), and both believe that only the elect will be saved, but only one can be the true and consistent basis for an offer of salvation for all men. The question is, in reality, one of logic much more than Scripture (and if you’ve ever embraced Calvinism because of “Owen’s Dilemma,” you probably already know that; Owen held to the latter schema).

I find it interesting that Dabney was so keen to show that Arminian objections to Calvinism were well-founded and that biblical Calvinists could and should be moved by the arguments that our Arminian brothers offer to us from Scripture. He certainly wasn’t from the Owen School of Calvinism, which sought, by hook or by crook, to rebuff the Arminian argument with decretalist rejoinders. Dabney, like Hodge, Edwards, Shedd, and many others, didn’t default to God’s decrees to explain everything about Christ’s sacrifice, the free offer, and what Scripture so plainly states. We need to recapture that balance as Reformed Christians, because, if we don’t, we’ll quickly become obsolete in the whole realm of Christendom.



  1. David said,

    Hey Trey,

    I was thinking too, there is a profound issue with C Hodge. Hodge says that whether the one and same atonement was designed to save 1 or all, or any number in between, the one atonement would not have changed. That’s very powerful. If Owen was right, and if some modern internet Calvinsts are right, then that cannot be so. The one atonement would have been different if God had elected more or less, or imputed more or less sin. I’ve seen one person make a comment a few times now on blogs rejecting the idea that it is categories of sin imputed, but personal sins. He has challenged his opponents that it is not sin imputed, but sins. Of course this is false. Scripture speaks of it in both ways. He insists it is personal sins, however. What does that mean? I guess it means named sins. So many sins from Bob, so many many sins from Guido, and so on. Owen would have said that the one death would have remained the same, exactly, as physical death (clearly he thought death was a category punishment:-), but the effected expiation would have been different.


  2. […] there isn’t only one, on practically every issue within the Reformed world. As i point out in my post that TurretinFan linked, there is more than one way to flesh out what “limited […]

  3. […] there isn’t only one, on practically every issue within the Reformed world. As i point out in my post that TurretinFan linked, there is more than one way to flesh out what “limited […]

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