In Grievance Against Unlimited Atonement

maxresdefault

One of the main grievances that professing Christians have against the doctrine of Limited Atonement is that it is “unfair.” In their mind, it stifles evangelism and makes God’s atonement unjust. One preacher even likened it to inviting someone to a feast with nothing at the table. To others, it is pointless to preach the gospel because not everyone has the real possibility to be saved. And their main point of contention is not just the idea that it flies in the face of man’s free will,  but that it will be impossible for some in the world to believe because Christ’s atonement was intentionally made for the elect alone. Of course, this doesn’t seem very loving. But aside from the fact that without the gracious drawing and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit no man will come to Christ of their own volition, we are left to think that if the atonement of Christ doesn’t give an opportunity for every person on earth to be saved, then it is unjust, unfair, and unloving. This general idea that Christ’s atonement pays the penalty for sin on behalf of every human being is typically labeled Unlimited Atonement (UA). But can this doctrine realistically teach that every single person has an opportunity to be saved? In other words, can someone consistently believe that every human being has a possibility of being born again? Yes, but only if you make a few tweeks in your theology.

The Omniscience of God

The first that that has to be tweaked or denied is God’s omniscience. As I already alluded to, those who are proponents of UA understand that if Limited Atonement (LA) is true, then logically there are some in this world who will never receive eternal life. Despite all our preaching efforts and prayer to reach them, if they are non-elect, they will not be saved. And because the opportunity to be saved doesn’t seem real and genuine, then the gospel isn’t really good news for all. But whether you believe in UA or not, unless you are a universalist, isn’t it true that not everyone will be saved anyway? “Ah! But at least they had a chance, and they could have been saved if they just believed. The only reason why they are in hell is because they chose to continue in unbelief.” True. But I don’t know any who truly understand LA who doesn’t affirm sinners going to hell for their own sin and unbelief. And all these reasons concerning choice and possibility seem reasonable at first. But if God is truly omniscient (that is, He knows the beginning and the end of who will be saved), even if He did predestine some in accordance with their faith as some teach, that still means everyone is not really saveable. Because even if God, who knows who will be saved from the foundation of the world, never willed or intended to save only a particular people, it still doesn’t change the fact that only a particular number of people will believe. And it’s only those to whom the atonement is applied. And God knew that before we were born! Before we would or even could have the possibility to choose! So even if Christ’s atonement truly paid for the sins of every human being, it doesn’t really make every person saveable, nor does it present the “fair” and equitable opportunity for all to believe as advertised. Because unless God doesn’t know all that will come to pass, we are forced to fall square on the shoulders of LA whether we like it or not. Or at least some form of it. Unless you are an open theist, the whole idea behind everyone having a so-called genuine opportunity to be saved, or that Christ’s atonement made salvation possible for every single person that has ever lived is an illusion.

Universalism and Open Theism

Allow me to reemphasize the two sub-points above in case you just happen to be glancing through this article. They are the doctrines of universalism and open theism. If you’re a universalist, then you believe everyone will be saved after judgment no matter what. And if you believe that Christ’s penal sacrifice paid for the sins of every, single human being, then this would be the most consistent conclusion of your belief. However, if you are not a universalist, but still believe that Christ paid the penalty for sin on behalf of every human being, and that God intended to save everyone, and provided opportunity and possibility if only they would believe, then you are not just inconsistent, but untruthful. Because even if salvation were absolutely and utterly dependent on our will to choose Christ in order to have Christ’s atonement applied to us so that we might be born again, once again, the fact that God omnisciently knows who will come to Him by faith aeons prior to our choosing, seals the number of who and how many will be saved. Whether you call them elect or not, or whether or not you refrain from saying “limited” atonement doesn’t make a difference. In others words, although proponents of UA proclaim that salvation was purchased for every single person, and that faith is a condition to receive salvation (which LA’ers believe too), it is still a biblical reality that only some will choose to be saved. And the fact that Scripture even mentions only few will be saved, despite what some may say concerning opportunity and possibility, really reveals that God has made up His mind and the work of who will be redeemed is treated as if it is already complete. We are simply commanded to be faithful to preach and call those whom God foreknew to Christ. Which leads me to reiterate my second sub-point

If you’re an open theist who believes God chooses not to know the future, or that He only has some middle-knowledge by which He can calculate all the possible worlds which any given event can occur (like Molinism believes), only then is UA consistent. To put it another way, in order for this kind of real opportunity to be present for every single human, God cannot know what will happen from beginning to end. God cannot be truly omniscient! Because, as I said, if He knows who will be saved and who will not, regardless if He predestined us based upon our faith, that fact that He knows who these particular people are already leaves us to conclude that Christ’s atonement remains only possible for the elect. But if that word offends, then we can say it is only for those who would believe. Makes no difference really. And despite some open theist’s who say that God doesn’t have to know all things to be omniscient, or that His infinite wisdom and other faculties make Him omniscient, the point remains that UA is only consistent if you are an open theist or a universalist (Both being damnably heretical). And there are plenty of preachers who have understood this, and have abandoned orthodoxy and sought refuge in these heretical twins.

Ethnocentric “All”

I am compelled to give a quick admonition before moving forward to the second point. Ascribing to UA simply because the alternative is a misrepresented view of Limited Atonement (LA) is not wise. Not only that, to believe in UA because some can present it compellingly is just a smoke screen. Even though the Scriptures mention Christ dying for “all” in various contexts, linguistic consideration to the kind of “all” that is meant needs to be taken into account. The one thing that I think that proponents of UA miss is that Limited Atonement does make all men saveable. That’s right, all men. But what I mean by that is that there are no ethic barriers as to who can be saved. Because of the atonement of Christ, there is a definite purpose and intention in Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement. And that it will save a particular people from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Ethnically and biblically speaking, that truly is anyone! But it cannot be everyone. To put it differently. It is anyone qualitatively. And everyone quantitatively. And in that sense, Christ died for all! And if it wasn’t for Christ dying and the Holy Spirit effectually working on the heart of sinful men, no one would believe! No one! And this is the next crucial point too important to pass up.

Original Sin 

The second thing that would need to be tweaked or denied is original sin. Even if human beings had every opportunity and chance to come to Christ, and they had a thousand years to consider it, because of their love for sin and enslavement to it, they would not come. Because, as the Scripture says, they love darkness more than light (John 3:19). And they are slaves to sin (John 8:34-36). Unless Jesus makes us free, we will remain slaves. But, unless you are a Pelagian (another damnable heresy) and don’t believe the human will and their nature is totally ensalved to sin from birth, denying original sin, then you cannot truthfully and consistently say that every human being has real opportunity and possibility to be saved. Because it still requires a purposeful and intentional work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the sinner to set them free. And how can slaves under their masters more powerful than themselves be truly free without someone stronger overcoming them? In this case, by the penal and limited substitutionary atonement of Christ of course! And if you are semi-pelgian, and believe that we are indeed enslaved to sin, but not so enslaved that we can still choose to be saved without some regenerative work on the heart first, you still have the same, nagging problem(s). That God still omnisciently knows who will believe. And that Christ’s atonement is still only going to be applied to them. And that God knew from the beginning, before anyone was born, who would be those people. And if God knew this, how can it be believed that the atonement was intended to be truly universal? Or how can God know this settled future, yet decide to fight against it by intending to save all, and yet failing to do so, miserably. This makes the Trinity into some greek demigod, internally conflicted, self-contradicting, and intending to save every single person, but powerless to carry out His intended purpose! So it comes back full circle to Jesus’ atonement being for the elect whether we would like to admit it or not.

Nevertheless, despite all the above, there is still a more precious doctrine that must be tweaked…no!…emphatically denied and manipulated in order for UA to be consistent. It is the necessary and essential doctrine of penal substitution atonement.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In this last point, I hope you understand how important penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) is. There are some that believe that Christ’s atonement was substitutionary, but not penal. Penal meaning Christ paid the penalty for our sins, in our place, instead of us. Satisfying the demands of God’s justice and wrath on our behalf. Making full payment for the debt of sin to God so that we might be justified and reconciled to Him! What a Savior! But there are some shady types that try to subtly deny the payment aspect of the atonement, and would deny this only because they logically understand this one aching problem. That if Christ did truly pay the penalty for our sins in full on the Cross (John 19:30), and that He did so for every human being, to punish them in Hell is truly a judicial problem. Knowing this, and being unwilling to let go of UA, some have cast off this important aspect of PSA. And I have seen and read more and more of these kinds of preachers advocating for this kind of atonement. An atonement that must change the nature of penal substitution made on our behalf just to make their view of Unlimited Atonement (UA) consistent. Not everyone who believes in UA does this, nor picks up on the logical demand. But those pseudo-apologists and preachers that do, slip this compromise in their sermons like a date rape drug, and the congregants are completely unaware of the heretical poison in their drink. But regardless if they realize it, the main point here is that UA cannot consistently teach penal substitutionary atonement without making some unbiblical modification to it to suit their position.

Conclusion

My only motivation in this article is to help us see that Limited Atonement isn’t just some doctrine contrived by only a few men in a dark room from the secret corners of a watchtower in Belize somewhere in the middle of nowhere. In the most crude sense, Limited Atonement can be understood as every Christian would understand it. That is, it will only be applied to those who repent and believe (but even for some, repentance is a problem too). But if you believe that, then you must believe only some will be saved, unless you’re a universalist. And if you believe not everyone will be saved, unless you’re an open theist, you cannot consistently conclude that every single person can possibly be saved. And if you can stomach that, then it will be much easier for you to see how our enslavement to sin is one of the central issues here. And that even though our wills are free to do as it pleases, because it is totally enslaved to sin, we will always choose sin over submission to Christ. Unless, of course, you’re a Pelagian. And if you can see our sin and enslavement to sin as not just debt, but an injustice against God, making us an enemy of His, unwilling to repent and believe, then the glorious gospel declared in the Penal Substitutionary model of atonement will be amazing grace to your ears! Where the debt has been paid! And justice has been satisfied! And if you are willing to believe in penal substitution, then you have no choice but to affirm Limited Atonement. Because, whether you realize it or not, they are both one and the same doctrine. And although this doctrine has been refined over the centuries, it is indeed a doctrine that our Reformed forefathers believed, our biblical church fathers, the apostles, the prophets of old, our father Adam, and of course, our blessed Trinity who planned it from eternity.

-Until we go home

Advertisements

Michael Brown’s Dangerous Orthodoxy

Image result for line of fire michael brown

If you haven’t heard about the controversy surrounding Dr. Michael Brown and his association with heretical teachers, you may feel a bit out of the loop reading this. But, if you’ve ever encountered any preacher/Christian who seemed to lack the necessary discernment when considering who they approve of in ministry, then the conclusion I draw here will easily resonate with you. Since the dust has settled (somewhat), I would like to cast my widow’s mites into what I believe has been a long standing problem within Western Christendom. This issue with Dr. Brown is merely a symptom of the deeper problem that has been growing like a silent cancer right under our noses. It is concerning a brood of preachers that will indeed seem orthodox in creed, but nevertheless still dilute the pure wine of the gospel with the profane waters by who they approve of in ministry. I call them, “Troublers of Orthodoxy.”

I have met many of these troublers on the streets, in churches, and watched them grow on TV and podcasts. I call them troublers because, contrary to the many who might call them false teachers, they are not really false teachers by the historical, and even biblical, definition of the word. But they indeed can be just as dangerous! Not because of any heretical creed they profess or preach, but because of lack of discernment and unwillingness to examine those whom they labor with. Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8a) – Jude’s Eternal Fire

214_2_sodom_and-gomorrah

I’ve been waiting to write this article for a while. But I have been eager too. Jude 7 is a go-to verse for annihilationists who assert that since Jude 7 seemingly speaks of “eternal fire” that rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and that fire was not (and is not still) burning, therefore, the eternal fire in Matthew 25, or anything other semantical reference about hell’s fires burning forever, is false. And since also the parallel passage in 2 Peter 2:6 mentions Sodom being reduced to ashes, that pretty much seals the deal and destroys eternal conscious torment (pun intended). Not so fast though. There is a key linguistic feature in Jude that I have yet to hear being addressed in any of the articles or podcasts being written (even though I directly challenged Chris Date with this, and his answer was appalling). But before I reveal what that is, this will be a two part article. This first one is the easier-to-read-just-get-the-gist, kind of article that will be for those of us who do not fully understand linguistic terms. I will attempt to break it down so that almost anyone can understand. The next article will be more technical.

So what is this key? First, here is Jude verse 3 – 7 Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 7a) – Rethinking Hell’s Proponents

2011-03-22_151653_oxen_yoke_1

I keep saying over and over again that the annihilationism/conditionalism discussion would take on a different form if it wasn’t for all the heretics Rethinking Hell and others like them affirm, associate, and keep company with. As I pointed out in article 5a concerning the atonement, there are some very serious concerns that should be addressed, not just about the unsound biblical hermeneutics coming out of this camp, but also the corruptions these associations bring to the table. Saying this, have you ever taken a gander at Rethinking Hell’s list for “proponents” of conditionalism?* I have. Seems overwhelming at first. It’s almost like so many orthodox scholars and preachers would adhere to this position. Well, I have watched videos and listened to podcasts where Chris Date touts some of these names when asked for scholars that believe in conditionalism. But are you aware of what some of these people believe about some of the essentials of the faith? Are you even aware of the names of the people that are being used in the Rethinking Hell articles, podcasts, books, and conferences? You should. Because some of these people stand out if you diligently seek to know those that labor among you (1 Thess 5:12). For some of these names, it didn’t take long before something damnably heretical turned up. For others, (some of which I was already aware of), I was surprised (but not really) that Rethinking Hell, which considers themselves within the bounds of orthodoxy, would list such heretics and not call them out as they are. But if you’ve read article 5a on the atonement and how Unitarians, Universalists, and those that deny penal substitution are on the approval list for even supposed gospel-centered Calvinist like Chris Date, then this article may not come as a shock to you. Let’s deal with a few of these men now.

Homosexuality

1) Jeff Cook is listed as a modern  and Professor at University of Northern Colorado. In an online debate with Preston Sprinkle (who also is a conditionalist), he writes some pretty disturbing things. To cut to the chase, he affirms monogamous same sex marriage as not  immoral. He says: Continue reading

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On

699343

No doubt many have run into an atheist who is adamant about the non-existence of God (usually, in a more specific sense, the Judaeo-Christian God of the Bible). Whether it is all religions or just Christianity in general, they tend to reject what they believe is blind faith and fairy tales. Of course, they are entitled to their opinion. And there is no small shortage of satirical and philosophical rhetoric that some of them use to “refute” the existence of God. But, if you pay attention to the arguments they use to defame, blaspheme, and misalign God, there is one thing that Christians can agree with them on – the god they believe doesn’t exist really doesn’t.

Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4c) – Irenaeus

saint_irenaeus

I have confronted multiple conditionalists about why Irenaeus didn’t believe in conditionalist/annihilationist doctrine, but they continue to spread this lie even after being corrected. And conditionalists wonder why I say some of their content is deceptive. What’s even more discouraging, is that Chris Date, even after an online debate with Jerry Shepherd, continues to spread this. I am grateful, though, to have come across a gem a few months ago, and have been meaning to share it.

I never read this online debate before writing my first two Irenaeus articles, but yet I was still able to come to some the same conclusions. Jerry Shepherd did what I would encourage many of you to do, and that is simply read the rest of Irenaeus’ work. But just like anything dealing with annihilationist doctrine, proper literary linguistics and context will overturn much of the rhetoric that come from this camp.

Continue reading

Atonement Theories on Echo Zoe Radio

G.Alvarado Profile pic

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Echo Zoe Radio with Andy Olson to speak about the differing views of the atonement. This is a very important topic that I am seeing wedged into my conversations more and more. Whether I am counseling, evangelizing, or defending the faith among heretical teachings, the varying views of the atonement keep coming into play.

Can you tell the differance between substitutionary atonement theories and penal substitutionary atonement? As you listen to this podcast, take notes concerning the language used by those that ascribe to the more damnably heretical forms of atonement. The reason being is that they use words like substitution, sacrifice, atonement, punishment, and the like, but they mean them in entirely different ways. And they apply them differently depending on what other theologies they hold accomodate thier position.  Grab a drink, a snack, sit back, and may God bless the edify the understanding of His atonement in your soul.

http://www.echozoe.com/archives/4156

-Until we go home

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 6a) – Eternal Life and Immortality

john-17_3-this-is-eternal-life-beige-2

I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life.  It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.

John 17:3

  • (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above.  It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 5a) – The Atonement

I would like to reveal and exegete more Scriptures that conditionalists use to affirm their position of annihilationism, but let’s cut to the chase. There’s an even bigger topic at hand. And it is in the area of atonement. Because whenever you change the nature/definition of eternal punishment or eternal life, you inevitably change your view of the atonement. And even though conditionalist claim to say that their view of hell doesn’t change their outlook on the atonement (in a heretical way at least), it seems that when the contributors write or speak on their podcasts, they betray themselves. And this issue is hard to tackle in writing seeing that those within the conditionalist camp are not only varied in their opinion concerning what happens in the intermediate state (between death and the resurrection), and the nature of Hell (whether it is retributive and/or restorative), but because of their hermeneutics and also some of their different applications of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). But I contest that this position is indeed not only a gateway doctrine to heresy, but it seems to accommodate heretical company. And hopefully, the concerns below will make this more clear. Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4b) – Irenaeus

saint_irenaeus

***Please read part 4a first***

In this continuation of Part 4a, we will look at different chapters of Irenaeus’ work that reveal that he really believed in the wicked who continue in eternal punishment, not annihilation. I worded it that way on purpose because those within the Rethinking Hell network believe that this Church Father (and others) simply used “biblical language” to talk about hell, not meaning that the wicked would reside there forever. In the future, I will show why that is simply not true depending on who you mention. You should read the article I’m referring to here if you have not read it already.

Although, I will not elevate the writing of the Church Fathers above Sola Scriptura, I am only taking the time to write about this simply because a claim is made, and being familiar enough with the Church Fathers’ writing, wanted to re-investigate these claims. And predictably, they are out of context. The principles of textual analysis that I will incorporate here in understanding Irenaeus can easily be applied to other writings if need be. One of them being, systematic study of the whole of their writings. Or at the very least, a good chunk of it.

Below is a list of chapters I will reference so that you can click on each of them and read them at your leisure. They will be numbered, and I will quote from them so that you know which link I am referring to.

1. Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 27)

2. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 28)

3. Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 33)

4. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 39)

5. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 40)

1. Regarding Book V, Chapter 27, Irenaeus recognizes that not only will there be a greater punishment awaiting the wicked than those of Sodom and Gomorrah (a city Chris affirms is an example of annihilation), Irenaeus goes on to say:

Continue reading