You Categorize Calvinists too Simply!

I say to myself...

SELF>> You categorize Calvinists too simply while comparing them with Arminians.  For example some Calvinists prefer the language of limited atonement while others prefer the language of particular atonement.

ME>> Self, that is a very good point that could use clarification.

You are right that not all Calvinists are in agreement about salvation or numerous other Christian doctrines.  Many Calvinists advocate infant baptism while others are only for believer's baptism, as an example.  In this book I have used the term Calvinist to refer to a Christian who thinks that Christ's atoning sacrifice is only purposed for a subset of mankind and effectively accomplishes salvation for that subset of mankind.  These Christians also believe that the remainder of mankind whose sin is not atoned for have no possibility of salvation.  Thus the atonement of Christ is limited in both its saving purpose and effect.  Let's refer to these guys as Limited Atonement Calvinists.

I have already explained in my article, A House Divided, that some other Calvinists have attempt to solve the salvation riddle by suggesting that Christ's atonement IS NOT LIMITED in its purpose and is offered "generally" to all.  They rightly refuse to swallow the understanding of Limited Atonement Calvinists because of verses like I John 2:1-2.  However, they still need to explain why they think some human beings go to eternal Hell.  So they say that the atonement is general in its purpose, but it IS LIMITED in its effect.  Strictly speaking these theologians are not Calvinists.  First, their division of the atonement into two dimensions is not supported Biblically.  Second, they miss the gospel emphasis that Christ's atonement is definite in its purpose and effect of paying only the sin debt of the people known as "His People."  The offense of the cross highlighted through the whole New Testament is that Christ came to save his particular people only.  So let's refer to these guys as the Divided Atonement Calvinists.  In fact these guys truly are divided for they are further divided into two main understandings.  One camp of the Divided Atonement Calvinists believes that Christ's atonement is made effective through an individual's free will choice of repentance and faith followed by the New Birth.  Let's call these guys the Dishonest Arminians.  The other camp of the Divided Atonement Calvinists believes that grace alone effects the New Birth and is followed by faith and repentance.  This second group is very difficult to pin down.  I know because I was among them!  However, if you pin one of them down you will either find a Waffling Limited Atonement Calvinist or a Dishonest Arminian.  Beware the wrestling match.

Okay, what about the Particular Atonement Calvinists?  Though most Baptists in the United States descend from the Particular Baptist movement, there are very few Particular Baptists that remain theologically orthodox.  Most of these groups have migrated back to the General Atonement view with the determining factor of an individual's salvation being the exercise of their free will choice of faith.  The gospel of grace is lost from their preaching.  They are plainly Arminian regardless of the label they give themselves.

So the Limited Atonement Calvinists unbiblically restrict the work of Christ.  The Divided Atonement Calvinists unbiblically divide the work of Christ.  And the General Atonement Arminians unbiblically add a human supplied condition into the salvation equation.  For myself, I have said I am not a Baptist, but a Christian, in keeping with Christ's prayer for unity.  Yet IF I were to assign a label to myself I would be a Particular Atonement Calvinist Baptist.  It seems to me that a person needs to become a Christian before they should be baptized.  It also seems to me that the atonement of Christ is neither limited nor divided.  However, his atonement is a definite payment for the sins of a particular people.   God loves all mankind in a special way.  Now I cannot speak for all theologians who would give themselves that label, but at least some have come to the same conclusion as I that Christ's particular people is in fact... all mankind.  Yet sadly most of mankind is not aware or refuses to believe that their sins are already paid.  They prefer the religion of self-righteousness and man's free will.  So there is much work to do and the Great Commission is to take this good news to the world!

You might say to me that "particular" atonement ultimately means "limited."  However, that is not true.  We are using the word "particular" to mean "special" and not "limited" or "general."  Jesus does not love his beloved in a simple, general way, but in a very special way.  Why do you insist that God's special particular love for his chosen ones requires that his love is then limited to a subset of mankind?  Do you have children?  Do you have a special, particular love for each of them?  John called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" because Jesus loved him.  But that does not mean that Jesus does not love you, me, or all mankind!  John's nickname for himself confronts each of us with questions.  On what basis can you know that Jesus loves you?  Are you confident because of your choice to "trust" in Christ or because of his choice to love you from the cross?  Are you also a disciple that Jesus loved?

Quit complaining about John's confidence in God's special love for him and begin to rejoice in God's special love for you and for all mankind!