Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Limiting the Atonement

Many believe that only Calvinists limit the atonement.  We Arminians like to champion our view of “unlimited atonement” but in reality, we both limit the atonement.  For instance, Calvinists limit the atonement to the elect only, that Christ died only for the elect.  We Arminians do agree.  We don’t believe in universalism or the idea that Christ died for all equally.  We believe that the Bible teaches that there is a heaven for the saved and a hell for the lost (John 5:24-25).  But we believe that Christ died as well for the elect of God.  The key difference here is whether this salvation (0r election) is based on conditions from God or not.  Calvinists hold that God has unconditionally elected whom He will save and those whom He will condemn.  Arminians reject this view and believe that Christ is the elected one and that His blood secures salvation for whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13).  In other words, the sovereign choice of God was to send His Son to secure the salvation of all human beings who would place their saving faith in His Son.  Some say, “He elected the plan but not the man.”  While I think that is a bit too simple and is not completely accurate of the Arminian view, it does reflect the heart of Arminianism in some ways such as our view that God has not chosen few to salvation while condemning the vast majority.  We believe this doesn’t reflect the doctrine of God in regard to His love for humanity (John 3:16).

My own view is that election is conditioned upon saving faith in Jesus (2 Peter 1:10-11).  Thus at this point, the now saved disciple becomes the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10).  God foreknows those who His (Romans 8:29) and He knows the free will decisions of all humans.  He does not force anyone to be saved but He allows the person to freely come to Him for salvation (John 6:37-45; 12:32).  Calvinists would agree in part.  For example, R.C. Sproul teaches that people do come to Christ on their own free will and that God does not force anyone to be saved but the difference is that God places an inward call in the elect to come to Christ to be saved.  This grace is irresistible and effectual in its calling.  All the elect of God will hear the call of grace and will be regenerated to believe.  Arminians reply that this grace is resistible but to those who repent, salvation is freely given.

So the reality is that both Arminians and Calvinists believe in some ways in a limited atonement.  We differ, however, over whether the call to salvation is conditional or unconditional.  I hope that fairly demonstrates the views of both Arminians and Calvinists regarding the atonement and election.

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