There are a handful of debates between polar opposite views in theology. None probably more popular than limited vs unlimited atonement. This issue has probably been discussed among every one of us who love Jesus and read His Word. In no way will I win the argument and neither will you. There is too much baggage among the debate to “win the day”! When we get to heaven, and sit in “theology 101″ we will all learn the truth
But until then, debates will rage, ink will spill, keyboards hammered, and late night blogger wars will ensue while our spouses sit in the other room asking if we really have to stay up late because someone is wrong on the Internet.
A few perspectives should be kept when discussing the issue. First, most of the people on both sides of the aisle disagree with universalism. We would be fair to not think one side are closet universalists. Second, Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude, Mark, Luke, Matthew, and Paul in Hebrews do not consider this debate important. WHAT??? How dare you say that!!!!!!!! But, turn in your Bible where Paul says, “(insert your view here) is the biblical view despite the (insert opponents view here).” Paul spends no time denouncing those who believe (reinsert your opponents view here). Third, A person can be your opponent and not be a false teacher. AND your fellow cohort on your side of the debate could be a false teacher (but for other reasons). In other words, when we read through the debates, discuss, and pray for our opponents heresy, Paul and Scripture authors spend no time discussing limited vs unlimited in the same manner or with the same depth we do. What does this mean? Is this significant?
Well . . . yes. It means there are bigger, clearer issues we should be focused on. Apparently Paul, led by the Spirit, wasn’t concerned enough with the issue to think it mattered for conforming us to His image! This debate exists because of our theology practices.
There are clear teachings, emphasized over and over again in Scripture. Jesus for one is clear! Let us focus on, preach, and teach what is clearly seen! Let us spend time in those texts advocating Scripture because we KNOW Scripture will save and edify people. Apparently Paul did not get the memo and forgot to convey the importance of (insert your view here).
Yet having said this, let me bring some balance to what I’m saying. It is not wrong to wrestle with the text of Scripture and come to theological conclusions. Do not leave my article thinking theology is a worthless endeavor. To know your God better is an endeavor we should actively pursue. The only way to know him with clarity, precision, accuracy, and ultimately conviction is through His Word! We must be faithful to His Word!
Since I brought up the discussion. Here is a helpful document I was given years ago. The following information is helpful to both sides of the debate because each side MUST wrestle through each text! The following comes from Dr. Trevor Craigen at the Master’s Seminary:
The Biblical Testimony
What is the whole teaching of Scripture? is the right question to ask as the subject is approached with a passionate desire to be true to the clear statements of the text. After these are first established, then, and only then, can various questions pertaining to “Why this?” or “Why that?” and “What about this?” or What about that?” be validly tackled.
a. Verses of general specification
- John 1:29 Lamb…who takes away the sins of the world
- John 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave…
- Jhn 4:42 the Christ, the Savior of the world
- 2 Cor 5:19 God was in Christ reconciling the world
- 1 Jhn 2:2 propitiation for the sins of the whole world
- 1 Jhn 4:14 Son sent to be the Savior of the world
- 2 Cor 5:14 one died for all, therefore all died
- Col 1:20 through Him to reconcile all things to Himself
- 1 Tim 4:10 Savior of all men, especially of those that believe
- 1 Tim 2:6 gave Himself a ransom for all
- Tit 2:11 bringing salvation to all men
- Heb 2:9 taste death for every man
- Isa 53:6 laid on Him the iniquity of us all
- Lk 19:10 Son of Man…to save that which was lost
- Rom 5:6 Christ died for the ungodly
b. Verses of particular specification
- Mtt 1:21 He…will save His people from their sins
- Jhn 10:15 I lay down my life for the sheep
- Acts 20:28 church of God…purchased with His own blood
- Eph 5:25 loved the church and gave Himself for her
- Rom 5:8 Christ died for us
- 1 Cor 15:3 Christ died for our sins
- Gal 1:4 who gave Himself for our sins
- Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us…being made a curse for us
- Eph 5:2 and gave Himself for us, an offering
- Isa 53:5 wounded for our transgressions…for our iniquities
- Mtt 20:28 have His life a ransom for many
- Mtt 26:28 blood…shed for many for remission of sins
- Heb 9:28 Christ once offered to bear the sins of many
- 2 Pet 2:1 denying the Master who bought them [false teachers]
2. The concluding cautions from the texts
- That reducing the whole debate to a strict “either/or” alternative is not the ‘hermeneutically-honest’ route to adopt.
- That focusing on the very specific object of certain verses is not a ‘rationally-honest’ restriction to make.
- That proposing a “both/and” alternative is the ‘textually-honest’ solution to offer. Refer to Zemek, Appendix H, 271-, for an intriguing chart based on Jhn 3:16.
- That reading back election into these texts so as to redefine their scope or reprogram intent and design is not a “‘perspicuitively’-honest” application to undertake.