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The "L" in the TULIP acronym of Reformed Theology stands for Limited Atonement, which the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms defines as:

Sometimes called 'particular redemption,' the view that Jesus' death secured salvation for only a limited number of persons (the elect), in contrast to the idea that the work of the cross is intended for all humankind (as in “unlimited atonement”). This view resulted from the post-Reformation development of the doctrine of election in Calvinist circles. Proponents claim that because not everyone is saved, God could not have intended that Christ die for everyone.

We already have a question asking for the Biblical basis for Limited Atonement, so my question is what is the Biblical argument against Limited Atonement?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Limited atonement brings with it the implication that not anyone can be saved by Christ - only those for whom he atoned. The language used in the Bible to describe salvation is inclusive. It is described as being presented to whosoever wills. In 1 Timothy, Paul claims that God desires all people to be saved.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 (ESV)
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

This would make little sense in light of limited atonement, and in fact, the presence of the phrase "ransom for all" seems to directly contradict it. If God desires all people to be saved, then why would salvation not be even theoretically available to some? If God desires all people to be saved, then wouldn't he offer it to the entire world? John tells us that this is exactly what he did:

John 3:16 (ESV)
16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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When I face this issue I think sometimes it’s just about semantics. For example, of course only those who are saved, Christ died for, because as He knew all men from eternity. He knew who He was dying for, in terms of actually providing real forgiveness to. However, with the hyper Calvinistic view (which I think you are referring to for Calvin did believe it) I think Calvin was overreacting to the opposite view, Pelagianism. Calvin does not seem to know how to reconcile man’s free choice and God’s desire to save all mankind, with the doctrine of election. This view actually gets itself into theological knots and even some of my favorite theologians have been sucked into it. In the extreme case it is actually proposed that Christ is not even truly offered to all and that He actually does not really love all in the same way that he loved the elect. From this extreme view, God only chooses some and does not choose others. This extreme form of Calvinism is not shared by all Calvinists. I do not think Luther thought this way at all. A window into Luther’s attitude about it all can be found here.

The way out of this quagmire is simple for me. I accept the doctrine of predestination and consider myself a Calvinist. However, where Calvin does not follow the more mature Luther on this subject, I lean to Luther. I do not speculate so much about God’s election of those who will ultimately inherit eternal life, like Luther. Plus, I take the commandment to love our enemies as meaning God must love them also. Luther often seems to be filled with this faith; Luther never clarifies when offering Christ to sinners that ‘Oh by the way this might not be for you.’ Its simple, if God commands us to love His enemies, then He must love them and offer that love through the death of Christ for them. It makes no sense for God to command us to love His enemies if He does not love them. God commands us to love them because He wants us to be like Him. Love must include desiring what is eternally best for them, or else love if hate and hate is love and the Devil could be God and God could be the Devil. The whole thing is nonsense when taken to the extreme through vain speculation. Besides, those who go to hell will go there primary for rejecting His love in Christ. If that love was not offered, then it is no sin to reject it.

The only sure thing we know is:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV John 3:16)

Even if you get into the original Greek and somehow argue that this verse is not applied to all but only the elect (which is what these people actually do) - it makes no difference. God must love the world or He would not ask us to and He does mean the whole world in the verse.

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What is the Biblical argument against Limited Atonement? Proponents claim that because not everyone is saved, God could not have intended that Christ die for everyone.

There is an assumption in this logic regarding God's intentions.

We get an insight into God's intentions from the these verses;

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (propitiation = atoning sacrifice)

1 Timothy 2:3-4 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

We may be able to conclude that if the potential exists for all to be saved, that potential rests on a propitiation having been made for all.

We may also conclude that if the Son has been given the authority to judge all, that the basis for this is the Son having made payment for all. (similar to purchasing the debts of another)

Atonement can be seen in two ways, what is offered and what is accepted. Atonement is offered universally. Atonement is accepted in a limited fashion. Unaccepted atonement results in judgment.

There is a mystery in how we come to have faith. We need to make allowance for that we do not know. However, the Bible is pretty clear that the willing sacrifice of Jesus was for everyone regardless if it was accepted or not.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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