Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Limited Atonement and 1 John 2:2

Below is an email discussion I had with a guy who spoke at FOCUS (blog) (they are the Christian group at ANU and UC). I have removed some personal conversation from this discussion just to keep it more on track and to shorten the length of this post. I have also changed his name to Talker Dude, just in case (although he was going to post this discussion on his own blog, which I never found, so I'm doing it here). His replies will be in the quote format.

On 28/09/2007, at 11:35 AM, Andrew Vella wrote:

Hey there Talker,

I think we met at the preaching conference that was at St Matts earlier this year. /*insert personal conversation*/

Anyway I sat in on your talk on at ANU on Thursday which was on 1 John 2. I was going to ask you a question, but I'm not sure if it was going to be helpful to the rest of the group to hear.

1 John 2:2 has Jesus dying for the sins of the whole world. Do you take that to mean everyone who has ever existed? If so then why are people in hell suffering for their sins if Jesus has dealt with them on the cross? If not then how do you limit the "sins of the whole world" to only mean the church (or elect)?

If your busy and have other things to deal with that is fine. I'm not a UC or ANU student, so I have no problem if you don't spend any time on this question when there are students who may have more personal and basic questions about Christianity.

On 28/09/2007, at 2:15 PM Talker Dude wrote:

Hi Andrew,

I was trying to place your face on Thursday and couldn't, so I'm glad you emailed me. Yes I now remember chatting to you at the preaching conference.

/*insert pleasant personal conversation*/

My answer to your questions is "Yes with an if".

Yes I do take it that Jesus death was for the sins of everyone who ever existed and not just that but also for the liberation of the creation, IF it is rightly understood that the NT nowhere says that everyone is automatically saved.

There are more than the two options you gave for putting this together
A. he died for the elect
B. he died for everyone and this leads to universal salvation

Of the other alternatives, the one I favour, you could call Hypothetical Arminianism. I'll explain:

Jesus did die as the propitiation (wrath appeasing and favor winning death) for the sins of the whole world. The Arminian would say, and yes now people must choose between believing or rejecting that work.

However, I only believe this is right in part, because my reading of the bible and 1 John is that if we say we don't sin, or there is no sin, then we deceive ourselves. Everyone is thoroughly condemned in their sin and rebellion from God. And people are so far gone in their sin, that no one in their natural rebelliousness against God chooses or is able to choose Jesus as their advocate and propitiatory sacrifice, in fact what God has done in Christ only seems to harden the hearts of man in his natural state of sin. John 3 rings a bell here, noone comes to the light because their deeds are evil, ... so though Jesus died for all, all reject him and thus ... Nicodemus ... Israel's teacher must be born from above to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

That is, God by his Spirit changes, reinvigorates, recreates our hearts and minds and wills so that we are able to accept what God himself has done at the cross.

Jesus' work is universal in scope
The Spirit's work is particular to bring individuals to accept Jesus' work on their behalf, to unite people to Christ, for without accepting (trusting/believing) Jesus noone will be saved.

Jesus and the Spirit are working together but in different ways to reconcile God to rebellious humans.

Why only some .... Romans 9-11!

feel free to come back with any questions, or points of discussion.

yours in Christ
Talker Dude

On 28/09/2007, at 3:53 PM, Andrew Vella wrote:

Hey Talker,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I work at ANU and when I remember I attend Focus.

So to clarify, your saying that Jesus died for everyone's sin and by default no one is saved.

My question is then, what are people being saved from, if Jesus has dealt with everyone's sin?

On 28/09/2007, at 8:55 PM Talker Dude wrote:

Hey Andrew,

Jesus died for everyone's sin and no-one's sin.

It all depends on what you mean by he died for 'my/your/our' sin.

What 1 John says is that Jesus' death is the propitiation for the sin of the whole world. That is, Jesus death turns God's wrath at our sin into favour. Jesus death has its primary effect on God himself not on us, it changes God, not us. Yet, Jesus death is not automatically applied to anyone far less everyone. What changes people is the Holy Spirit. So understood this way the reconciliation of sinner to God is properly Trinitarian. God in all three persons is involved in reconciliation, not in the same way but in complimentary ways.

People are being saved from the coming judgement of God, Jesus death releases/frees/exonerates/pardons/ransoms/atones for our sins because the father's wrath at sin was exhausted when he punished Jesus at the cross. Yet given the unimagineable pain this caused within the God-head, God is now even angrier with those who reject Jesus wrath propitiating death.

I wouldn't say that Jesus has dealt with everyone's sin, rather that he has dealt with the God's wrath at everyone's sin, but not automatically. We can then see further into the doctrine of grace, logically (rather than temporally) God within himself deals with his own anger at sin before he turns to consider any particular sinner.

hope this makes sense,
love to hear your thoughts,

PS can I publish this discussion on my blog if I give you anonymity through a fake name?

On 2/10/2007, at 11:07 AM Andrew Vella wrote:

Hey Talker,
> can I publish this discussion on my blog if I give you anonymity through a fake name?
You sure can publish this email discussion! and you can call me "Andrew", I'm not too fussed about my ideas being published. /* insert personal conversation */

I did hold to limited atonement pretty strongly (that Christ died for just the church), but 1 John 2:2 seems pretty wide and sounds like it includes everyone... (and so does 1 Tim 2:5-6).

1 Tim 4:10 seems to be the key in the sense that Christ died for all and also "especially of those who believe". I am at the moment just trying to work out how or to what extent that Christ died for all and also especially the believers.

Of a point of interest it seems that John Calvin also held to Christ dying for the whole world to some extent (see below quotes) but i am just trying to work out the extent of that with the idea of general grace and particular redemption.

"for it is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world." - John Calvin on Gal 5:12

"this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated" - John Calvin on Col 1:14

"though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him" - John Calvin on Rom 5:18

Thanks again for getting back to me.



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