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Calvinism Makes the Universal Offer Insincere? ::: Hardly

All philosophical objections [that I’ve heard] to Actual Atonement (better known as Limited Atonement) are mistakes in logic. Perhaps the most common is the objection that a limited view of the atonement makes the universal offer of the gospel insincere.

First, we might say that if the Bible teaches on the one hand that God only intends to eternally redeem the elect, and on the other hand that we should offer salvation to all, we should conclude that God’s offer must be genuine even if our pre-conceived philosophical understanding makes the legitimacy of such an offer a genuine mystery.

Second, this objection misunderstands the nature of the offer. The universal offer of salvation is always contingent. The offer is not intended to benefit everyone, only those who repent and believe. Thus, the nature of the offer itself astronomically limits the scope of its intended benefactors by virtue of its built-in conditionality. The offer, therefore, is just as genuine as the offer “Whosoever meets the requirements for enrollment to SBTS, as well as the requirements for discounts on tuition, will be able to receive such benefits.” The offer is intended for, and voiced to, all seminary students indiscriminately, but the benefit is only intended for a select group. This contingency does not ruin the genuine nature of the offer.

Many of the other objections leveled against an actual view of the atonement are really objections against Calvinism as a whole—that it contradicts the concept of a loving God, that it is unfair, that it prohibits people who sincerely desire to be saved from actually being saved. These objections impose philosophical definitions of love, justice, and grace that are foreign to the Bible. They also misunderstand the nature of responsible Calvinism.

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2 Comments

  1. mike says:

    interesting post, as always

    although i’m not a calvinist (right now, anyways), i too have always found that particular argument. the first time i heard that approach was in terence fretheim’s “the suffering of God,” in which fretheim argues for the “integrity” of God’s relationship with the world. i think the very fact that God’s word clarifies His divine choosing is integrity at its best.

    still, i’ve made the switch from calvinist to non- or maybe soft-calvinist. the NT election passages are clear, and i don’t want to do exegetical backflips with them simply to keep a particular theology intact. but, the “christ-died-for-all” passages are clear too, but calvinists tend to explain those away with backflips of their own.

    i’m at the point now where i’m trying to make room for election passages, other passages where God doesn’t want anyone to perish (like the ezekiel stuff), the Christ-died-for-all passages, so on.

    reconciling these types of passages isn’t even the weird part. what’s really weird are books like malachi, where God “hated” esau but “loved” jacob (election and covenant language). then just a little later in the book we see that God is looking forward to be worshiped in other “places” by the nations, so israel (the elect) needs to get its own worship right. there are several passages where the “elect” must get it right in order to save the non-elect. wait, that sound way too “new perspective”

    anyway, didn’t mean to post my own blog, but i agree that the “insincerity” route is a logical dead-end. i see it as a clear example of how far some will go in order to construct the theology they want to achieve and adhere to.

    mike

  2. theophilogue says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Mike. I’ve yet to have someone who is not a Calvinist admit my point.

    I’m glad to hear that you are doing your best to give full weight to both sets of texts in the scripture. Hopefully, this is everyone’s goal—to give full weight to the totality of biblical teaching, and not make a case based on a selective choosing of evidence.

    Bradley

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