The doctrine of unlimited atonement teaches that Christ died for all mankind, but only paid for the sins of those who believe in Him. If this is the case then either Jesus already knew who would believe and paid only for their sins (which sounds like limited atonement), or he paid for everyone's sins, but those people who do not believe are still viewed as guilty before God and are still punished. Hence, their sin receives a double payment. This though would seem to make God unjust (which I know He's not.)

Let me give an example why I say this. Let's say there was a man who got a speeding ticket and stood before the judge. The judge tells the man that the fine is $200.00 or one week in jail. The man says he doesn't have the money, but before the man is escorted to his cell, another man comes forward and pays the $200 instead. The fine is paid. Now what if the judge, having accepted the $200, still sent the man to jail. Wouldn't that make the judge unjust and wouldn't it make the person who paid the $200 feel used? In short it would mean the judge was demanding double payment for the penalty.

Because unlimited atonement is an Arminian teaching, I would like answers from Arminians.

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    Thanks. I hold to the limited atonement view, but am reading Lewis Sperry Chafer's book, Grace. Lewis teaches Universal Atonement - the view that Jesus died for all people. From what I understand of his position is that Jesus paid for the sins of all mankind in His death on the cross, and that what saves or damns someone now is whether they believe in Jesus or not -not their sins. This doesn't make sense to me since unbelief would be a sin included in the atonement. This sounds as if people are damned for sins already paid for. I know God is not unjust, so i'm looking for clarification. Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 1:41
  • I think this source can be used to tackle this question. Shultz Jr., G. L. (2010). Why a genuine universal gospel call requires an atonement that paid for the sins of all people. Evangelical Quarterly, 82(2), 111-123.
    – Double U
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 23:38
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    "The doctrine of unlimited atonement teaches that Christ died for all mankind, but only paid for the sins of those who believe in Him." This wording is curious: If Christ died for all mankind, was He not paying for the sins of all?
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 14:33
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    Your analogy is faulty. Jesus' death paid the price for all sins ("the whole world," not for Christians only, 1 John 2:2). That means a guilty person approached the judge and a fine is levied on him. Before he is taken to jail, the man confesses that he is guilty of the crime and wants to do better. Smiling, the judge dismisses his case, telling him that payment has already been made and it's applied to all who acknowledge their wrong. This analogy is more accurate, since the payment has already been made and only awaits the condition of faith to be applied.
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 14:37
  • Your analogy could just as easily go in a different direction. Suppose the guilty speeder had someone come forward to pay the penalty, but the speeder said, "No, thank you." That's what many sinners do with God's gift of salvation: They say, "No, thank you God, I'll pass on your generous offer." What thinkest thou? Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 3:35

4 Answers 4


The Wesleyan Arminians recognised the problem implied by your analogy and resolved it by proffering the Governmental Theory of Atonement.

Applying this resolution to your analogy

Christ has 'made' the payment at the cross - and He can't unmake the payment because the cost to Him was real) - but rather than a completed individual transaction on behalf of each sinner (the penal substitution theory of atonement), it is like setting up a massive trust fund which has enough for all but must be applied effectually for each case.

Analogy as an Answer

The individual application is like writing a check against the trust fund for this amount and presenting this to the individual concerned (i.e. preaching the gospel to them). They can receive or reject this offer. Furthermore, after receiving, they can still tear up the check or lose it through negligence (again this is according to Wesleyan Arminianism). They will receive the check, hang on to it and present it when it falls due if they identify as Christ's (i.e. put their trust in Him, confess Him as Lord and continue to walk in obedience to Him). Actual payment falls due at the judgment where those found outside of Christ have either rejected their checks, lost them or effectively torn them up through their unbelief.

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    When dealing with a short attention span audience - which is the bulk of internet users - it is sometimes useful to hit the kettle drum as a preface to each of your points. My edit has attempted to do that. (PS, love your answer) Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 22:36

Christ paid for the sins of the whole world, but this payment must be received. It is that simple. Reconciliation is a two step progress, God forgives the sin of all men, but this forgiveness must be received by faith. This is the doctrine of justification by faith. We must repent and accept Christ's forgiveness, else Christ's forgiveness does not profit us. God is reconciled to the whole human race, based on Christ's work on the cross, yet we are enemies of God until we come to faith, we must accept that Christ is the mediator between God and man (all men, not just the elect) until we come to faith Christ's mediatory work on the cross for all sinners is of no effect. Not sure what is so complicated with this. God forgives us in Chrit, but we have no relationship with God until we recognize that we are in need of forgiveness that we have sinned against God and accept his forgiveness. God forgives all men (unlimited atonement) but not all men receive the forgiveness of sins. Nobody is justified individually until he comes to faith.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview, please take the Site Tour. Thanks for offering an answer here. Though it might be a good answer, it's not clear that you're presenting a specifically Arminian answer, which is what the question asks for. Can you provide any references to Arminian teachings or statements of faith to show that this is from that perspective rather than being just your own individual viewpoint? See: What makes a good supported answer? Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 13:07
  • Welcome to Christianity! Please take a moment to view our tour. It is also helpful to review how we are different than other sites. One thing you can do to improve your answer is to add citations from scripture or prominete theologians within the denomination to substantiate your points.
    – Tavrock
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 13:13

I will start it by challenging the very nature of your analogy.

According the Bible, until we have faith we aren't saved. But, according to your analogy, the saving must occur at the exact time of Crucifixion.

How can you reconcile these two things? On the one hand, the payment is already done; on the other hand, without faith there is no salvation - and no one is born already saved.

Arminians reconcile this by adopting a provisional atonement. There is a general provision of atonement for anyone, and the atonement will be applied only to those who believe.

In fact, even Calvinists need to use a provisional stance, or else the elect would be already saved at least from the Crucifixion event onwards.

  • I'd offer that your last sentence mildly misrepresents the Calvinist position. The Calvinist would say that you are conflating "salvation" with the things accomplished in the atonement. The Calvinist would argue that Salvation is by definition the thing that happens at time of faith, wherein an elect person is transitioned temporally from a state rebellion to a state of submission to God, which is distinct from the propitiation and expiation secured on the Cross. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 17:11
  • The Calvinist still needs to resort to some provisional form or Atonement. The propitiation and expiation secured on the cross aren't applied until the time of faith. In other words, the double jeopardy proves too much, and can be used against the Calvinist. After all, why aren't the elect saved at the time of the Cross? Is God preventing them to be saved? Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 1:26
  • It’s clear you’re using different working definition of saved than most Calvinists. Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 1:30
  • If the "working definitions" are different, then it is the burden of Calvinists show they are right in the first sight before challenging the Arminian understanding of it. In other words, you are question-begging. Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 11:35

I have quickly looked at Arminian doctrine to show you truth behind their thinking. For the question of eternal salvation versus salvation lost has been of a topic through many versions of churches. And also to show how both are correct. The failure that many come to learn is that of the Holy Attitude. For the Holy Attitude is eternally available to all that enter into the peace, and also one can reject this attitude being in need once again of atonement not that another atonement is needed. Only a return to the attitude and the usage of the teachings.

Some bible verses for you to consider so that you may see how just God really is.

Jesus gave us "The Parable of the Wedding Banquet" in this passage we see how we all where invited to come to the banquet of love, peace, and joy.

Matthew 22:10 NKJV

So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

So understand that the servant is Jesus the Son, calling all to come. So notice next that in this next scene the man without the wedding garment was already present in the kingdom.

Matthew 22:11-14 NKJV

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

So the man was present in the kingdom of God, and then afterwards was tossed out into the darkness.


Notice how many are invited, but notice most of all that it is the "sons of the kingdom" that are cast out.

Matthew 8:11-12 NKJV

And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

So you see, many branches of Christianity focus how your invitation to the kingdom is secure, and how you are guaranteed to get their by faith in his name. What is failed to be seen, is that once you are their it is by your clothing that you will stay or be thrown outside.


Take notice of the word abide. Defined as "Act in accordance with."

John 15:6 NKJV

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.


Romans 11:19-24

You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

So obtain the peace by faith and forgiveness, and remain as well. Notice they are considered clean before he died on the cross. And to bear fruit.

John 15:2-3 NKJV

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

John 15:5 NKJV

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

John 15:16 NKJV

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

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