We are taking a look at the third letter in the acronym T.U.L.I.P. and the doctrine of Limited Atonement. In Part 1 I gave a defense of Limited Atonement from a more aerial or an overall theological view. In this post I want to give one more theological defense, but one that is grounded in history and has stood the test of time.
Before I echo an argument given by famous 17th Century theologian, John Owen. Every good Christian theologian is going to regularly look at things through a trinitarian perspective. When beginning to understand the doctrine of Limited (or Definite) Atonement, we should seek to see how it fits within a trinitarian framework.
You have to begin with the Covenant of Redemption where the Triune God plans redemptive history before the foundation of the world. We find the Father sets His love on His elect (foreknowledge), the Son comes to institute the New Covenant, and the Spirit gives the new birth (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14). The Father chooses, the Son pays the elects sin debt, and the Spirit resurrects them from death to spiritual life.
Shai Linne in his song, “Mission Accomplished” takes this argument to great theological point, when he says:
“If we can agree that the election of the Father is not universal and the regeneration of the Spirit is not universal, why would the Atonement of the Son be universal? That would put the Persons of the Trinity complete at odds with one another. But the Triune God is completely unified.”
This is a massive theological point that many completely overlook. The Persons of the Trinity always work together in unity, they will never be in contradiction to another. If you follow this objection and say, “Well who’s to say that the Trinity is working all things on a universal level?” If the Father’s election is universal and the Spirit’s giving of the new birth is universal and the atonement of the Son is universal, this means theologically that every single human being who has ever lived or will live will be saved. This is completely unbiblical as the Scriptures are clear that there has been, there are and there will be those who reject Christ and spend eternity separated from God.
Now let me turn our attention to John Owen and end with his famous argument of Limited Atonement.
The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
- All the sins of all men.
- All the sins of some men, or
- Some of the sins of all men.
In which case it may be said:
- That if the [#3] be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
- That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
- But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?
You answer, “Because of unbelief.”
I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it [is], then Christ suffered the punishment [for] it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!
Here is Shai Linne’s song, “Mission Accomplished.”