It seems to me that the limited atonement of Calvinism makes the Gospel offer seem empty. Let's say that I hear someone saying that he is in need of $100 and I tell him "I have $100, I can give it to you if you want", and he replies "That's ok, one of my friends already told me that he'd help me out", and when he leaves the room I tell the other guys that were present there "I told him I'd give him the money, but I don't actually have $100" ... what would you think of my character? Would that show that I'm a man of integrity? Not at all. That's how I think God would be if the limited atonement point of Calvinism is true.

The Gospel is offered to everyone, right? God commands all people from everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, correct (Mark 1:15, Acts 17:30)? Why would God extend His gift of salvation to everyone who believes (John 3:16) if that offer is empty for some? How do Calvinists explain this?

  • The first 2 questions were rhetorical questions (obviously) that were used to build that analogy, the next 2 questions showed my premises, and the actual question is the last one. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 21:30
  • No offence intended, but I guess people can understand what my question is. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 21:48
  • No, it's your responsibility to make sure that it is clear. Please edit it to make perfectly clear which are the rhetorical questions and which are the real questions. Otherwise this could be closed for being unclear what you're asking.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 22:00
  • @curiousdannii I edited it. I think it's quite fine. I barely changed anything. I also answered.
    – user3961
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 22:41
  • possible duplicate of What is the Biblical basis for Limited Atonement. Also related: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/28656/… Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


You perception of what limited atonement means is incorrect, therefore, your analogy is flawed.

Limited atonement is not a declaration that the atonement is not enough to cover the world. On the contrary, Christ's death is infinitely sufficient. Limited atonement is a declaration that the world will only receive atonement in limited number (i.e. the elect).

You analogy portrays the atonement as bankrupt, when it is actually superabundant. What it did get right is that some will never receive it. Only the elect receive the atonement, therefore, the atonement is limited to the elect.

If we were to make a proper analogy similar to yours, you would have to be a mint with an infinite supply and ability to make legitimate money. Now your friend would come to you saying he needs money, and upon finding that you have it, he still refuses to take it. Though your money is sufficient to cover his debts, it is limited to only those to whom it is actually paid out1.

You must also remember that Calvinism works in tandem with the other four points. Inevitably, every discussion of one point leads to discussion of the others, because they are so tightly linked. Calvinism's approach to theology in general is a kind of "theory of everything of salvation" meant to be understood as a whole rather than piece-meal. Focusing exclusively on one point is where many people run into their objections.

Here are some general references on Limited Atonement:

  • Wikipedia
  • CARM (this one helps explain the reasoning "only the elect are atoned, therefore atonement is limited")
  • Theopedia (getting a little more involved)
  • Some of the sources on Wikipedia's article are very involved if you want to really delve into this.

1. With this explanation, I've actually argued that everyone believes in Limited Atonement, because there is surely no infinity of transgressions. They can certainly be counted. Opinion, that's why it's a footnote.


The term'limited atonement' is not actually a helpful term. Every theological position that advocates that Jesus Christ provides an atonement applies some sort of limitation to that atonement with the exception of universalism.

For whom did Jesus die

The question really boils down to who did Jesus die for, did he die to achieve the actual salvation of the elect or did he deny to provide a potential salvation to those who are willing to receive it?

Joseph was instructed to call him Jesus because he would "save his people from their sins" matt 1:21

In John 10:11 Jesus Christ says: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." Notice in John 17:9 that Jesus refuses to pray for those who God has not given him!

John 3:16 makes it plain that whilst God sent his son because he loved the world, all those who believe will experience salvation.

So, for whom did Jesus die - did he die for everyone or did his die with a specific group in mind.

Does the death of Jesus achieve what it set out to do?

What does the bible say the death of Jesus achieved?

Roman 5:19 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous."

Notice that Paul doesn't say the death of Jesus makes some potentially righteous, he says it actually makes them righteous.

The free offer of the gospel

The question assumes that God is extending his gift of salvation universally, however that is presupposition that needs biblical support. From the very beginning God seems to be selective, he selects Abraham, then he selects Isaac (rejecting Ishmael) then Jacob, then the Jews - did he offer the same opportunities to Nahor, Ishmael, Esau, and the Canaanites?

What about people alive today in remote part of the world, places where the gospel has not yet reached? Does God extend his gift of salvation to them, if so, how does it do it?

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