Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Putting "limited atonement" to rest

1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. [2] He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

“He is the propitiation for our sins, not only ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Let’s just bury this whole limited atonement then huh? Jesus didn’t just die for our sins, us who are elect, us who are members of the church. No he died for the sins of the whole world. In fact, the elect need to take comfort in this. The doctrine of limited atonement, coupled with a doctrine of election is a recipe for soul torture. I can know that I am elect, having been elected in baptism, having faith in the gospel that I have heard. But I can only know that Jesus Christ died for me, if I first know that he died for the whole world. I can only know he forgives my sins, that he is a propitiation for my sins, if he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, not just mine. If there is only one soul for whom Christ’s death was not propitiation, then that soul may as well be mine.
This gives us reason too to share the good news, to bring it to the world for whom he died. It pulls away from us any smugness, any reason for believing we are better, more loved, special etc.


Elizabeth F said...

Thank you. This is wonderful diakonia, both as it applies to others and to myself. I treasure these words for the comfort they bring.

Steve Martin said...

Amen, Bror!

I'm going to send a link to this to our pal J.K. Jones at 'fear and trembling' ( a recent convert to Calvinism).


Bror Erickson said...

Elizabeth, glad to have you with us. Glad you take comfort in the words.

Bror Erickson said...

yeah, I thought about that conversation as I was writing this.

mollo said...

I'm not familiar with "limited atonement". Can you explain a little further?

Bror Erickson said...

Limited Atonement is a doctrine of the Calvinists that says Christ only died for the elect, not for the world.

J. K. Jones said...

Thanks for the post.

I want you all to know that i have utmost respect for your position on the attonement. It solves a few problems.

I'm just not there yet.

I am bloggin on the subject for a while in order to sort out my thinking. Your post and some other Lutheran commentors help.


Bror Erickson said...

J.K Jones,
Curious, if you could, could you tell me what the hang up is?
I can't shae respect for the Calvinist position. Though I try to respect the men who hold the position. Especially if they are willing to take an honest second look.

J. K. Jones said...

Bror Erickson,

The Calvinist understanding of free will / agency explains so much of my life experience and so much of Scripture.

We always do what we want to do in any given situation. Always.

We are in bondage to sin before we come to faith. So we always sin and would never choose to repent and believe on our own.


Bror Erickson said...

So far nothing I can see to disagree with as a Lutheran. Repentance and conversion are always, always, the work of the Holy Spirit.
The difference is going to be in nuance, but nuance that makes a big difference, and remains faithful to all of scripture.
Election, though, from eternity, happens in time and through means. Primarily, the proclamation of the gospel.