The Case for Unlimited Atonement Pt. 2

I proceed from where I left off (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/28/the-case-for-unlimited-atonement-pt-1/).

John on the Atoning Death of Christ

 In John’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t merely come to die for his own sheep but also for the entire world:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:11, 14-16

Now contrast this with the following verses:

“This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6:50-51

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

“If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” John 12:47

“My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

According to this same author, the whole world is that which is under the dominion of Satan in distinction from those who are born of God:

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the One who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one.” 1 John 5:18-19

“I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Me.” John 14:30

“and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” John 16:11

Therefore, according to John, Jesus came to die and atone for the sins of the whole human race, even those who belong to Satan, and not just for the people of God.

In fact, in one particular verse where Jesus refers to the ruler of this world, he specifically states that he will draw all to himself:

“Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” John 12:31-32

It is abundantly clear from the immediate context that by the word “all”, Jesus meant everyone, all of mankind, since he just got through explaining to his hearers that the ruler of the world shall be cast out. The point Jesus making is that the ruler of this world is being cast out in order to save all those who are under the evil one’s control. Since every person is under Satan’s control, this means that Jesus’ desire is to draw all mankind to himself in order to set him or her free from the authority of the Devil.

This brings me to the next point. Jesus is also said to have died for the whole nation of Israel, not just the elect among them:

“One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.’ He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God.” John 11:49-52

John says that Caiaphas was actually prophesying at this point and yet, according to the testimony of Scripture, no prophecy comes about by the will of man but by God through his Holy Spirit:

“First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

What this means is that it was God who moved Caiaphas by the Holy Spirit to prophesy that Jesus would die for the whole nation so that it would not perish.

Ron Rhodes on the verses which refer to the many

Noted Evangelical Christian scholar and apologist Ron Rhodes says this concerning the verses which are used to prove that Jesus died only for the elect:

Seemingly restrictive references can be logically fit into an unlimited scenario more easily than universal references made to fit into a limited atonement scenario.

“The problem that both groups face is the need to harmonize passages that refer to limited redemption with passages that refer to unlimited redemption. To the unlimited redemptionist the limited redemption passages present no real difficulty. He believes that they merely emphasize one aspect of a larger truth. Christ did die for the elect, but He also died for the sins of the whole world. However, the limited redemptionist is not able to deal with the unlimited redemption passages as easily.”

The two sets of passages noted earlier – one set seemingly in support of limited atonement, the other in support of unlimited atonement – are not irreconcilable. As Elwell puts it, “It is true that the benefits of Christ’s death are referred to as belonging to the elect, his sheep, his people, but it would have to be shown that Christ died only for them. No one denies that Christ died for them. It is only denied that Christ died exclusively for them.”

Millard Erickson likewise says that “statements about Jesus loving and dying for his church or his sheep need not be understood as confining his special love and salvific death strictly to them…. It does not follow from a statement that Christ died for his church, or for his sheep, that he did not die for anyone else, unless, of course, the passage specifically states that it was only for them that he died…. Certainly if Christ died for the whole, there is no problem in asserting that he died for a specific part of the whole. To insist that those passages which focus on his dying for his people require the understanding that he died only for them and not for any others contradicts the universal passages. We conclude that the hypothesis of universal atonement is able to account for a larger segment of the biblical witness with less distortion than is the hypothesis of limited atonement.”

Robert Lightner similarly argues: “The task of harmonizing those various Scriptures poses a far greater problem for those who hold to a limited atonement than it does to those who hold to an unlimited position. Those who hold to an unlimited atonement recognize that some Scriptures emphasize the fact that Christ died for the elect, for the church, and for individual believers. However, they point out that when those verses single out a specific group they do not do so to the exclusion of any who are outside that group since dozens of other passages include them. The ‘limited’ passages are just emphasizing one aspect of a larger truth. In contrast, those who hold to a limited atonement have a far more difficult time explaining away the ‘unlimited’ passages.”

The fact is, the Scriptures do not always include all aspects of a truth in any one passage. “If these texts are used in isolation to ‘prove’ that Christ died only for the elect, then it could be argued with equal logic from other isolated passages that Christ died only for Israel (cf. John 11:51; Isa. 53:8), or that He died only for the Apostle Paul (for Paul declares of Christ, ‘Who loved me, and gave himself for me,’ Gal. 2:20). As well might one contend that Christ restricted His prayers to Peter because of the fact that He said to Peter, ‘But I have prayed for thee’ (Luke 22:32).” (The Extent of the Atonement: Limited Atonement Versus Unlimited Atonement: http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Atonement.html; bold emphasis mine)

 I now turn to the final section (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/28/the-case-for-unlimited-atonement-pt-3/).

6 thoughts on “The Case for Unlimited Atonement Pt. 2

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