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John 3:16 Conference: Message on Limited Atonement by Dr. David Allen

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 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.”

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