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October 22, 2009

It has been a few weeks now since we finished reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, the most recent entry in Reading Classics Together.

The impetus for this project was the simple realization that, though many Christians want to read through the classics of the faith, few of us have the motivation to actually make it happen. This program allows us to read them together, providing both a level of accountability and the added of interest of comparing notes. Those who have participated in each of the programs will now have read Holiness by J.C. Ryle, Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen, The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink, The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Real Christianity by William Wilberforce and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. That is quite a solid collection of classics! I have benefited immensely from reading these books and know that others have, too. The format is simple: every week we read a chapter or a section of a classic of the Christian faith and then on Thursday we check in at my blog to discuss it. It’s that easy: one chapter per week.

I’d love to have you participate in this next effort. Keep reading to find out how you can do that…

The next classic we will read together is Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. In this book Murray explores the biblical passages dealing with the necessity, nature, perfection, and extent of the atonement, and goes on to identify the distinct steps in the Bible’s presentation of how the redemption accomplished by Christ is applied progressively to the life of the redeemed. It is, then, an overview of the biblical account of salvation as understood by Reformed Christians. Monergism Books says it is “One of the best, most concise, theologically sound and helpful expositions of the atonement ever produced. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied should be required reading for every Christian. At just under 200 pages, Murray offers page after page of devotional and scholarly study that is nearly unparalleled in its clarity, usefulness and theological depth. Read this book, re-read this book and keep it close at hand.”

At a time when so many people are discovering or re-discovering Reformed theology, this book offers us an opportunity to turn to Scripture to see if all that we are being taught, all that we believe, truly accords with Scripture. And even if you have no love for this New Calvinism, you may like to read along to at least ensure that you have a correct understanding of its theology.

We will begin reading the book on November 12. So if you would like to read along, read chapter 1 by November 12 and then check in here on that day.

You can purchase the book at:

Amazon | Westminster Books | Monergism Books

It is not unusual for the “next classic” to sell out really quickly at the various stores, so if you’d like to read along, go ahead and order it ASAP.

Do let me know if you are planning on participating. Obviously I will not hold you to anything; it is just nice to get a sense of how many people will be joining in the fun.

November 07, 2008

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Congregational singing: “Redeemed, Redeemed.”

Introduction of Dr. Allen by Dr. Jerry Vines.

Dr. David Allen:

Quote of John 3:16.

Argument against Limited atonement quoting only Calvinists.

What two things do these men have in common?
(Long list of theologians including Calvin, Bullinger, Ursinus, Bunyan, Edwards, Hodge, Strong.)
A: They are all Calvinists, and they all rejected Limited atonement.

2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”
5-point Calvinists define “world” as the “elect.”

Extent of the atonement, two possibilities:
1. Jesus died for all humanity:
a. Arminians- He died for all equally.
b. 4-point Calvinists- He died for all, but especially the elect.
2. Jesus died for the elect.

Jesus died efficiently for all, but sufficiently for the elect. In the high Calvinist position, Jesus’ death is sufficient only for the elect.

Several theologians were named who signed either the Canons of Dort or the Westminster Confession, yet rejected Limited atonement.

“The dirty little secret that you’re not often told” about Dort is that the language was left ambiguous to allow both high Calvinists and those who rejected “strict particularism” to all sign the document.

Calvinists were repeatedly enjoined to read primary sources rather than only popular authors like John Piper and John MacArthur.

The first person ever to hold to limited atonement was a 9th century monk named Gottschalk. Gottschalk was condemned by three French councils.

Luther rejected Limited atonement, as seen in his comments on 1 John 2:2 and numerous other comments.

Numerous quotes from John Calvin were offered (such as his comments on Romans 5:18 and John 3:16) to demonstrate that he did not hold to Limited atonement.

Ursinus, “Christ satisfied for all…” but not in respect to its application.

The controversy in the second and third generation was over the introduction of Limited atonement into Calvinism.

With the introduction of Limited atonement into Calvinism leads to hyper-Calvinism.

The early English reformers all held to unlimited atonement.

Quotes from at least two Westminster divines were given to argue that many at Westminster did not hold to Limited atonement. The argument centered on whether these divines interpreted “world” in John 3:16 to refer to the world of the elect.

Richard Baxter, well-known for rejecting Limited atonement, was quoted.

Jonathan Edwards quote to the effect that Christ in some sense died for the whole world, though there is a particularity to his death that effects only the elect.

The three categories of Arminianism, Amyraldianism, and Calvinism are historically not enough. Additional categories allow for definitions of Calvinism such as hypothetical universalism and four-point Calvinism. [Dr. Allen asserts that these categories are different than Amyraldianism, but I could not understand his explanation of the difference he asserted.]

3 sets of texts that affirm unlimited atonement:
1. “All” texts
2. “World” texts
3. “Many” texts

Other texts speak of Christ dying for His sheep or for His church, but these texts do not say that He died only for these groups.

Owen argued that God hates the non-elect (a quote from Owen was cited), but the Bible says that God loves the world and never says that God hates the world.

Any teaching that says one or all of these things:
1. God does not love everyone
2. God does not want to save everyone
3. Jesus did not die for everyone
is unbiblical and should be rejected.

Quote from [Reformed Baptist] Sam Waldron: The free offer of the gospel does not require us to tell people Christ died for you.

But the above is contradicted by passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3, in which Paul related what he said to the Corinthians as he proclaimed the gospel to them, including, “Christ died for you,” and in Jesus’ statement of the cup at the Last Supper, “This is my blood,” was given while Judas was at the table.

There is no statement in Scripture that Jesus died only for the elect

Why this is important:
1. Limited atonement undermines God’s salvific will
(Dr. Allen asserted that Dr. James White is a hyper-Calvinist according to Phil Johnson’s primer on hyper-Calvinism, as Dr. White says that God does not have any desire to save the non-elect.)
2. Limited atonement undermines evangelistic zeal
(Mark Dever in is otherwise great book on personal evangelism leaves out two important motives for evangelism- that Christ died for all men and that God desires all men to be saved.)
3. Limited atonement means that we could not say to a sinner that Christ died for you.
4. Limited atonement means that the preacher must speak to his congregation as if they can be saved, when he knows that some cannot
5. Limited atonement means that we will not give evangelistic invitations. Dr. Allen asserted that a professor [left unnamed] from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said at a recent conference that we should not give an evangelistic invitation.

Conclusion: “Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward 5-point Calvinism, such a move would be away from, and not toward, the gospel.” This was met with a standing ovation.

Dr. Allen directed hearers to BaptistTheology.org where there is apparently a paper pointing out the logical and exegetical fallacies of Owen’s “double-payment argument.”

Three pages of handouts were given, defining terms used in the presentation such as Arminianism and Amyraldianism. Dr. Allen strove for accuracy in these definitions, footnoting each definition, using Calvinistic sources to define terms to do with Calvinism.

A peculiarity in his definitions is that Dr. Allen restricts the meaning of Limited atonement to the teaching that Christ’s death in no way benefits the non-elect. This is how he can claim so many of the Reformed teachers mentioned before did not hold to Limited atonement.

After the sermon, Dr. Vines advertised several resources, including his “Baptist Battles” series of DVDs, which includes, “Calvinism: A Baptist and His Election.”

July 28, 2007

I’ve been reading R.C. Sproul’s latest book, The Truth of the Cross. It’s just a small book but you know that if Sproul is writing about the atonement that it will be well worth reading. Just seven pages in he discusses visiting a bookstore in a local mall. He found shelves and counters full of books with the categories prominently marked: fiction, nonfiction, business, sports, children’s stories, and on and on. In the very back was a religion section which consisted of only four shelves, meaning it was one of the smallest segments in the entire store. The material was not what could be considered orthodox, classically Christian. Sproul wondered, “Why does this store sell fiction and self-improvement, but place no premium on the content of biblical truth as part of its program.”

The answer is obvious. “I realized the store wasn’t there as a ministry. It was there for business, to make a profit. So I assumed the reason there were no solid Christian books was that there weren’t a lot of people asking, “Where can I find a book that will teach me about the depths and the riches of the atonement of Christ?”

While it seems that Sproul was in a mainstream bookstore, the same is true of most Christian bookstores I’ve visited recently. The few good books are sequestered in shelves furthest from the door and furthest from the flow of the foot traffic. Books sharing good theology are “destination” books that people look for deliberately. The junk rates the prime shelf spots. This is simple supply and demand. Most people who visit the store are not interested in good books on matters of profound theology. Instead, they want easy answers, quick fixes, and secret keys to easy spiritual growth. And this is what the market gives them.

So I got to thinking, I wonder what the people in my local Christian bookstore would come up with if I went inside and asked, “Where can I find a book that will teach me about the depths and the riches of the atonement of Christ?” Or perhaps I could ask, “What book would you recommend to teach me about the depths and riches of the cross?” Unfortunately the bookstore wasn’t on my list of things to do today, but I’ll be going near there next week and am going to drop in to see what they say. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a bunch of us did the same, just stopping by a variety of Christian bookstores to see what they can offer?

So how about a few of us try it? We don’t need to go looking for a fight or seeking to embarrass anyone. I’d just be interested in knowing whether Christian bookstore owners (or employees) are equipped to answer this question and what they might recommend to a person who wants to understand the atonement and who wants to glory in the cross.

Does anyone want to give it a shot? If so, drop by your bookstore and post a comment here (or send me an email) with the results. I’m guessing the results will be interesting.