Dr. David Allen Reviews and Critiques “From Heaven He Came And Sought Her”, The Latest Calvinist Defense of Limited (Definite) Atonement

The links to the series no longer work, so here are a few interactions from his blog:

Review of Henri Blocher, Chapter 20, Systematic Theology of Definite Atonement in “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

Review of Henry Stange’s Chapter on Those Who Never Hear the Gospel in “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

Review of Sinclair Furguson’s Chapter on Limited Atonement and Assurance in “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her”

Review of John Piper’s Chapter in “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her,” Part 1

Review of John Piper’s Chapter in “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her,” Part 2

Excerpt from conclusion:

While the book [From Heaven He Came And Sought Her] will likely be too much for some laypeople to digest, I would encourage all theological students, pastors, and scholars to take the time to read it and digest it. It is probably the most comprehensive defense of definite atonement available. On the surface, it looks formidable, but it has a soft underbelly and is vulnerable to a number of criticisms.

It only takes one clear statement in Scripture that Christ died for the sins of all people to confirm unlimited atonement no matter how many statements indicate Christ died for a specific group of people. Likewise, it would only take one clear statement in Scripture that Christ died only for the sins of the elect to confirm definite atonement. There is not one single statement in Scripture that overtly states Christ died only for the sins of the elect. There are easily a dozen New Testament Scriptures overtly stating Christ died for all people.

The burden is on the authors of this book to prove that a simple positive statement can entail a universal negation. This is the book’s claim. The hill which the authors must climb is to prove, exegetically from Scripture, that Christ died only for some people’s sins (a limited imputation of sin). If exegetically, DA fails, then no amount of theological flying buttresses will support it.

We are also told that Dr. David Allen is himself presently working on a new book on atonement.  We will be sure to promote it when it comes out.

Related posts and articles:

I. Howard Marshall: The Theology of Atonement

I. Howard Marshall: For All, For All My Savior Died

Robert Picirilli: The Extent of the Atonement

Robert Picirilli: Salvation by Faith, Applied

Albert Barnes on the Extent of the Atonement

The F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation “A”: Atonement For All 

3 Part Series on Provisional Atonement

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13 Responses

  1. I was looking at how you say that Christ’s atonement was for all me without exception. Yes, there are passages of Scripture that said that Christ did for “all”. Yet, this has to be taken in the proper context. If you quote the passage without consulting other passages, you will come to the conclusion that Christ died for every individual that has ever lived and will live. At the same time, if you hold to this ridiculous view, you are saying that Christ atonement failed miserably. Because many of the people fro whom he died will go to hell. Now if you have the nerves, please respond to what follows by my brother John Owens:

    The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

    All the sins of all men.
    All the sins of some men, or
    Some of the sins of all men.

    In which case it may be said:

    That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
    That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
    But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

    You answer, “Because of unbelief.”

    I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

    So I’d like you to think about that and try and understand why this particular question has yet to be answered from those who believe Christ died for everyone who ever lived.

    Now show me from the Scriptures that his logic is wrong. I doubt that you will not respond. And if you don’t, I am convinced that you have no rebuttal for it. That is a scriptural rebuttal that address each section of his argument. His argument is strictly scriptural.

  2. So according to Owen God cannot hold the sin of unbelief against the elect since Christ died for their unbelief, right? So they are born forgiven according to Owen (and you?). So much for sola fide and Eph. 2:3, etc. Owen gets himself into a bigger dilemma in his effort to create a dilemma for Arminians. For further reading on your challenge:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/provisional-atonement-part-1-dealing-with-john-owens-arminian-dilemma/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/karate-expert-dan-phillips-gets-body-slammed-on-1-john-22/

    Enjoy.

    Now I have a challenge for you. In John 12:47-48, Jesus says:

    “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

    Jesus makes it clear that he came to save those who will reject him and ultimately be condemned as a result of their rejection. How do we know this? We know it because He specifically says that the reason he will not judge them is because He did not come to judge the “world” but to “save it”, meaning that they are part of the world that He came to save. So according to Jesus, He came to save those who would ultimately reject Him and perish as a result. And the language he uses here is a strong parallel to John 3:16-18.

  3. The original links I had in the post no longer worked, so I replaced them with some interactions from his blog.

  4. Neal,

    You have now left 5 follow-up comments. In only one of them do you address a question I asked you. In the rest you demand that I answer your “questions.” All of your “questions” have been addressed on this site. Begin by reading the 3 part series on provisional atonement. It answers all of your questions. Here are the links:

    Part 1: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/provisional-atonement-part-1-dealing-with-john-owens-arminian-dilemma/

    Part 2: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/provisional-atonement-part-2-provision-is-consistent-with-foreknowledge/

    Part3: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/provisional-atonement-part-3-the-integrity-and-justice-of-god-in-the-gospel-offer/

    You have still not explained how the elect are not born already forgiven if Owen’s claim is true that unbelief is atoned for at the cross. That is something you need to do if you want this discussion to continue.

    With regards to the answer you offered on John 12, you write:

    Answering John 12:47-48 Christ was not coming to judge at that moment, he was talking to them. But if you continue to read, he will judge the unbelievers on the last day. Why do you try to make the Scriptures say what you want them to say. That is dangerous.

    Jesus was referring to His earthly mission. His mission was not to “judge” the world but “save it.” That is still His mission today. That is the reason stated by him why he would not judge them for their rejection. But if they are not part of the “world” He came to save, that doesn’t make any sense, because then He could indeed be there to judge them. But the fact that He came to save the world is the express reason why He will not judge them: because they are part of the world He did not come to judge but to save. Ultimately, they will be judged because they rejected (refused to accept the word of) the one who came to save them (cf. John 3:16-18, 36).

    You are not grappling with Jesus’ deliberate and specific use of language in explaining why He will not judge those who reject Him. There is no way around it. Jesus came to save even those who would ultimately reject Him and be condemned as a result.

    I will also address this question, since it is not directly dealt with in the links I gave you,

    You asked,

    If God gave limited freedom as you say he did, then tell me why God holds man responsible for not giving him enough freedom to make the right choice. If God gave man limited freedom, at the judgment, man could say, “If you had given me full freedom instead of a partial freedom (limited freedom), I would have made the right choice.

    When I say that God gave us a measure of freedom, that has reference to the fact that we are not free to do anything (i.e., I do not have freedom to choose when there is no choice). For example, I cannot choose to flap my wings and fly. That is not an option for me, so I am not free to do that. But I do maintain that God does enable all who hear the Gospel to believe it (He makes a previously impossible choice possible through divine enabling).

    So your conclusion doesn’t follow at all. There is no “partial freedom” with respects to that choice. And what would “partial freedom” with respect to a certain choice even mean? I have some freedom to choose, but not full freedom? If you have freedom to choose, then in what sense can it be “partial”? You either have freedom to choose or you don’t.

    For the limits of freedom, see here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/some-excellent-and-concise-comments-on-free-will-the-bondage-of-sin-and-prevenient-grace/

  5. When we understand the atonement as provisional in Christ we can accept all the universal passages concerning Christ dying for all or making propitiation for all while avoiding full blown universalism (the belief that all will be saved).

    I understand that you mean by the above statement that Christ provides salvation for all, but accomplishes salvation for none, since his atonement is what you call “provisional”. I am I correct about your statement?

    I would like to say, which I should have earlier, that I am not trying to win an argument. I just want to get to the truth. Nor do I have any doubt that you are a Christian and that you love the Lord Jesus as I do. So lets continue this in love for one another and the truth. What shall I call you?

  6. I would like to ask you a few questions. Did Christ atonement provide salvation in Christ or accomplish salvation in Christ? This is my attempt to better understand what you mean by “provisional” atonement. Can it do both at the same time? If so how can it be both provisional and accomplishment? How is that you can be a partial universalists? You believe in unilateralism but not “full blown universalism” as you call it.

  7. When we discuss these things, lets not send each other to a website that has pages of information. That is how we should debate. We should respond to each other’s propositions directly. and not be sent to other people’s commentaries. For example, if a say the word world in Joy 3:16 is not a universal term, I should show you why it is not from the Scriptures. And if you disagree (and you will) you should show me from the Scriptures that it does. Short excerpts are okay from other that you we copy and paste but not tons of stuff. I want to know how you see things and I will show you how I see them. Can we agree to do this. I can prove to you that John 3:16 is referring to the elect and not everybody in the world. Let’s start there.

  8. Sir, what is your email address. I don’t see your responses. It says my comments are waiting moderation.

  9. Neal,

    Did you read all three posts? I understand if you have a question and you want me to answer it, but these questions are addressed in those posts. So just keep reading. For example, you write,

    I understand that you mean by the above statement that Christ provides salvation for all, but accomplishes salvation for none, since his atonement is what you call “provisional”. I am I correct about your statement?

    No, you are not correct, since salvation is “accomplished” (if by that you mean applied to) for all who believe. So it is false to say it is “accomplished for none.” I answered this same basic question in Part 2,

    While the Calvinist believes that the atonement will infallibly be applied to those God unconditionally elected from eternity, it still remains that the atonement is provisional until that time when it is actually applied to the sinner. Since Calvinists must acknowledge the provisional nature of the atonement this leaves the door wide open for the Arminian view. The issue cannot be provision but the certainty of application. For the Calvinist it is a certainty that God will apply the atonement to all those whom He has unconditionally pre-selected and for the Arminian it is a certainty that God will apply the atonement to all those who will trust in His blood (Rom. 3:25; 5:1, 2). Both hold that the atonement is provisional and both hold to the certainty of application. The only difference is that the Calvinist holds that this application is unconditional while the Arminian holds that it is conditional.

    Calvinists will sometimes appeal to the hypothetical possibility that not a single person would have benefited from the atonement if it were both provisional and conditional. But this is plainly to deny God’s foreknowledge. Even before God created the universe He foreknew those who would trust in Christ’s blood and so be saved. But even if no one ever put trust in Christ His sacrifice would still serve as a means of provision and the outworking of God’s amazing love and grace. If all rejected that blood it would be truly tragic but neither God’s love nor His grace would have failed as a result. That man rejects God’s love and grace does not make His love and grace void in any way. To think that it would seems to be far too man centered, especially for those who hold to Calvinism and claim to disdain “man centered” theology. It would make the significance of God’s love and grace dependent on the creature’s reception. But God’s justice would be vindicated and His love and grace fully displayed even if every one of His creatures turned their nose up at the provision of Christ’s shed blood. But again, such a “hypothetical” is hardly relevant since it simply has no basis in reality and God always knew what the reality of the situation would be.

    And the parable of the wedding feast addresses this further and is explained in the same post: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/provisional-atonement-part-2-provision-is-consistent-with-foreknowledge/

    I would also recommend reading the interactions in the comments sections of the posts. The interactions in Part 2 will address these questions you raise. Keep reading, you will get your answers.

    You write,

    I would like to say, which I should have earlier, that I am not trying to win an argument. I just want to get to the truth.

    That’s great, but your initial comment did not come across that way. It came across as very combative and dismissive. Look at what you wrote:

    If you quote the passage without consulting other passages, you will come to the conclusion that Christ died for every individual that has ever lived and will live. At the same time, if you hold to this ridiculous view, you are saying that Christ atonement failed miserably. Because many of the people fro whom he died will go to hell. Now if you have the nerves, please respond to what follows by my brother John Owen…So I’d like you to think about that and try and understand why this particular question has yet to be answered from those who believe Christ died for everyone who ever lived…Now show me from the Scriptures that his logic is wrong. I doubt that you will not [sic.] respond. And if you don’t, I am convinced that you have no rebuttal for it. That is a scriptural rebuttal that address each section of his argument. His argument is strictly scriptural.

    Do you see how that initial comment comes across as very argumentative and even condescending to those who hold a different view? That doesn’t seem like someone who just wants to get to the the truth rather than wanting to just “win” an argument. But I am glad to hear that this is the case, despite how your initial comment appears.

    Nor do I have any doubt that you are a Christian and that you love the Lord Jesus as I do.

    I appreciate that.

    So lets continue this in love for one another and the truth. What shall I call you?

    Well, a good place to start would be for you to address what I have now twice asked you to address. Here it is again:

    “You have still not explained how the elect are not born already forgiven if Owen’s claim is true that unbelief is atoned for at the cross. That is something you need to do if you want this discussion to continue.”

    But instead of addressing the implications of the argument you set forth in the beginning as irrefutable, you have ignored those implications. Does that mean you acknowledge that Owen’s argument is fatally flawed? If not, please address the question above as you have been asked. If you are not willing to answer my questions, then you cannot expect me to answer your continuing questions.

    And what about John 12:47-48? I addressed your answer to that passage and showed why it does not grapple with the specific language Jesus used. So you still have two issues to address before you expect me to answer more questions from you. That is what makes this a discussion, rather than an inquisition.

    You can call me Ben.

    God Bless.

  10. Neal,

    You write,

    I would like to ask you a few questions. Did Christ atonement provide salvation in Christ or accomplish salvation in Christ? This is my attempt to better understand what you mean by “provisional” atonement. Can it do both at the same time? If so how can it be both provisional and accomplishment? How is that you can be a partial universalists? You believe in unilateralism but not “full blown universalism” as you call it.

    See my answer above from Part 2. The provision of atonement was “accomplished” at the cross. The application of atonement is “accomplished” when one comes to be in union with Christ through faith.

    No, I do not believe in “universalism” as that term is normally used in theological discussions (to refer to the idea that all will be saved). Owen wrongly referred to those who hold to unlimited atonement as “universalists”, hence my distinction. Universalism (strictly speaking) cannot be partial since it means that all will be saved. Holding to “universal atonement” does not mean one holds that all will be saved. It means that the atonement is provided for all in Christ’s death, just as the Scriptures testify whenever they specifically address the scope and extent of that provision. Owen’s problem is trying to use passages that speak of application to limit the universal passages. That is a backwards hermeneutic. In other words, the only way Owen’s arguments can gain any traction is to wrongly conflate provision with application.

    And contrary to your claim, Owen’s arguments are primarily philosophical and not Scriptural. He does misapply Scripture to try to prop up his logic, but the arguments are logical deductions. If Owen wanted to be “scriptural” he would submit to the Biblical data that always refers to the scope and extent of Christ’s atonement (and God’s desire to save) in universal terms. Instead, his argument is: Despite the plain universal language of those passages which speak to the extent of the atonement, they cannot really mean that, because: [add philosophical argument here].

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Neal, you write,

    When we discuss these things, lets not send each other to a website that has pages of information.

    I have only sent you to posts that I have written that specifically address your questions in detail. Why should I have to re-write things for you here that I have already written elsewhere? Because you don’t feel like reading too much? I don’t have the time to re-write things I have already written. That is why I wrote them in the first place, to address specific issues, issues that you are raising here. If you can’t be bothered to read them that’s OK, but you can’t expect me to cater to you when you refuse to read the answers to your questions that I have already explained elsewhere. If you really want answers, you should be willing to read the posts I have referred you to.

    However, I have given you plenty of concise and straightforward answers in this discussion, while still waiting for some from you.

    That is how we should debate. We should respond to each other’s propositions directly. and not be sent to other people’s commentaries.

    I didn’t send you to anyone else’s commentaries. I sent you to posts that I wrote here at my site. And let’s not forget that you began this discussion by quoting Owen’s argument. Was that “your” proposition, or Owen’s proposition?

    For example, if a say the word world in Joy 3:16 is not a universal term, I should show you why it is not from the Scriptures. And if you disagree (and you will) you should show me from the Scriptures that it does.

    And if I state that Owen’s argument leads to absurdity like eternal justification, you should address that. But you still haven’t. And I did specifically address your response to my question on John 12:47-48. And you have not yet responded to that either. So why aren’t you willing to play by your own rules?

    Short excerpts are okay from other that you we copy and paste but not tons of stuff.

    So you are the one who gets to determine how discussions in the combox of my site should be conducted? Really?

    I want to know how you see things and I will show you how I see them.

    If that were the case, you wouldn’t mind reading the detailed posts I have written that address your questions. Sorry if you think I should re-write everything here to make things easier on you, but I don’t have time for that.

    Can we agree to do this.

    No, because I don’t have time to cater to you in such a way and you have not shown the willingness to do what you are proposing since you have yet to answer questions from me or follow-up questions from me.

    I can prove to you that John 3:16 is referring to the elect and not everybody in the world. Let’s start there.

    Let’s start with you answering the questions I have asked about Owen and John 12 (which is directly related to John 3:16-18). I can’t play this game of: You ask a question…I respond… you ignore the response and ask a different question…I respond…you ignore the response and ask a different question, and on and on. That’s essentially how this has gone so far. Sorry, not interested.

    You offered Owen, I refuted his argument. I asked you follow-up questions; you ignored them or refused grapple with specific language. No need to continue.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Okay, Ben, do me a favor. Delete all that I have written from your site. I would like to start over again. I have made too many typos. And I will start again with John Owens as you have requested. I will go to your post and comment on each section. How about that.

  13. Neal,

    No need to worry about typos. I just approved and answered some more of your comments, as well as the one at the post about Owen. But you still did not address the crucial issue of Owen’s view (and your view) leading to the unBiblical conclusion that the elect are born already forgiven since even their unbelief was atoned for at the cross. The only way to get around this is to admit to a provisional element to the atonement, something you continue to deny. So as long as you deny that the atonement is provisional in nature you will have to affirm that the elect (as Calvinists understand the “elect”) are born forgiven and not under condemnation, contrary to the plain testimony of numerous Scriptures. Until you address this issue, I will not be approving any more comments from you. And even if you do address this question that has been repeatedly pointed out to you and has been repeatedly ignored, I will likely not be able to respond any further till sometime next week.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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