The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement

by Max Andrews

Motivated by a Bible study discussion last night, I decided to give an outline of the singular redemption view of the atonement.  This view (unlimited) was the view that was advocated by John Calvin.  This outline is certainly not meant to be exhaustive.  To list a few proponents of singular redemption:

  • John Calvin
  • Moise Amyraut (Calvinist, developed Amyrauldianism)
  • Richard Baxter (Calvinist)
  • Bruce Ware (Calvinist)
  • Millard Erickson (Calvinist)
  • Kenneth Keathley (Molinist)
  • Timothy George (Molinist)
  • Robert Picirilli (Arminian)
  • Matthew Pinson (Arminian)

A brief distinction in common views:

  • Universal Atonement:  Christ died for all and the atonement is applied to all (universal salvation).
  • General Atonement:  Christ obtained salvation for all but secured it for none.  It holds to a government view of the atonement.  Christ did not die for your sins he died for you.  It’s a general amnesty.  The penalty for sin is eternal perdition and no one could do that.  Christ suffered for everyone so the Father could forgive those who repent.  (Notice the problem with the government view of atonement 1 Cor. 15.3, Gal 3.13, 1 Jn. 2.2–it was a penal substitionary atonement).
  • Limited Atonement:  Christ secured salvation for the elect and only the elect.  Christ died for the particular person and because some die without Christ, Christ did not die for that person. (Substitionary)
  • Singular Redemption/Unlimited Atonement:  Christ provides salvation for all but the benefits of salvation are secured for those who believe. (Substitionary)

Common verses supporting universal/general atonement (corporately):

  • Jn. 1.29
  • Jn. 3.16-17
  • Jn. 4.42
  • 2 Cor. 4.14-15
  • 2 Cor. 5.19
  • 1 Tim. 4.10
  • Heb. 2.9
  • 2 Pt 2.1
  • 1 Jn. 2.2
  • 1 Jn. 4.14

Whoever:

  • Acts 2.21
  • Rom. 10.13
  • Rev. 22.17

Common verses supporting particular atonement:

  • Mt. 1.21
  • Jn. 10.3-4, 14-16, 25-27
  • Rom 5.8
  • Rom. 8.32-35
  • Eph. 5.25

Singular redemption presumes that God wills for every individual to be saved.  Antecedently, God wills all to be saved; consequently, because of the individual’s sin and rejection of the Gospel, God wills for that person to be damned.  There is a temporal distinction in when the elect becomes elect, an elect person temporally prior to their conversion is just as lost as an unelect person.  God does incorporate contingency in his sovereign plan (i.e. Ez. 3.17-18).  There is also a distinction between the extent of the atonement and the intent of the atonement.  The death of Christ is the basis for the salvation of all men, but Scripture does not call upon men to believe in a salvation they already have.  The gospel does not inform the elect that they are saved, it exhorts all to repent and believe so that they will be saved.

What does many and world refer to in these passages?

  • Calvin advocated that these may not be limited to the elect only, rather the whole human race.  He contrasts many to one.
  • World does not mean “the world of the elect.”  Calvin argued this point as well (arguing from Jn. 3.16).  He believed man is doubly-guilty for rejecting Christ.  Unbelievers who turn away from him and who deprive themselves of him by their malice are doubly culpable.

What about equating Christ’s intercession as Hight Priest and the atonement? (argument for LA)

  • The Bible does not equate the two in extent.
  • Intercession relates to the believers only after they exercise faith
  • Intercession illustrates that blessings of the atonement are experienced only by those who place their trust in God.

Does non-limited atonement lead to universalism?

  • No, but the objection works only if the biblical necessity of faith is ignored.
  • Faith is conditional for salvation.

Double-Jeopardy:  If Christ died for some who die lost, then their sins are paid for twice!

  • This assumes what it wishes to prove –that the death of Christ actually secures salvation for the elect and applies the benefits prior to the exercise of faith.
  • Until faith is exercised, an elect persons is just as lost as the non-elect.

Limited atonement is logically inconsistent with a well-meant offer of the gospel.

  • If an unelect is presented with the gospel, it really wasn’t meant for that person.
  • The claim, “God loves all of you and died for all of you” is a lie (David Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, 88 [a Calvinist himself]).
  • Does God love the world?  Would we attempt to restrict any other perfections of God to the elect only?

Limited atonement teaches that the non-elect are condemned for rejecting Christ when in fact he did not die for them.

  • Man cannot reject what doesn’t exist.
  • This falls in line with Calvin’s double-guilt argument from Jn. 3.16.

Again, this isn’t exhaustive and there may certainly be objections [and rebuttals] but this is a brief outline.  For more check out Ken Keathley’s book Salvation and Sovereignty (the source for this information).


4 Responses to “The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement”

  1. Well done and stated! In addition, I believe Engelsma is himself a hypercalvinist, so that he even believes God does not want certain people to be saved.

  2. I cannot express enough how much this helped me. Because the double jeopardy issue was my biggest objection. I’ll have to keep reading it and reading scripture for it to sink into my heart. Because if this is true, then even when i struggle with salvation, I can say with surety: Christ loved me and gave Himself for me. Thank you so much.

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