The atonement, a discussion with a Calvinist


#1

I am in a discussion with a Calvinist and he has proposed the limited atonement theory. He basically says that Christ died for certain people. I came back with a response listing several quotes that specifically say that Christ died for all. This is his response. My response to him follows, I would like to hear what your opinion of my response is. I would also like to hear any suggestions.

If the sin debt has been paid for, then the sin debt has been paid for. For God to cast someone into hell to pay their own sin debt when Christ had already paid for it is absurd. If you owe a traffic fine and refuse to pay it and I come along and pay it, its paid and they will no longer require a payment from you - this is justice, God is just.

Your understanding of the atonement is wrong. You understand it as a legal payment. Christ payed the price therefore you are forgiven. That is a completely wrong understanding. Christ died to merit us grace. It was not because God said I require this much sacrifice, since My Son sacrificed this much, then you are forgiven. If this were true then God would not be allowed to send anyone to hell because as the verses I showed you above said, Christ died for all. There is no way to get around it unless you just ignore the verses. It is clear when Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews all say that He died for all. The truth is, the result of the sacrifice of Christ was that He united Gods grace and man. Through this grace man recieved forgiveness. This grace works by making men perfect and making us pure enough to enter heaven. As Apocalypse says nothing impure shall enter heaven. God created us in His own image, therefore we will only recieve salvation by being restored to His image. God created us clean and pure and holy, we will not recieve salvation until we are returned to this state or even a higher state.

You also have a problem with understanding Gods justice. Gods justice is nothing other than Himself. He knows what is just by looking at Himself. If this were not true then God would be imperfect and consequently would not be God. God would be subject to something that is apart from Himself: whether it is some actual being or just a thought of what justice is. So, in order for God to be just, all things must reflect God Himself. We must be holy as God is Holy[Exodus] We must be perfect as God is perfect.[Matthew] Since God is justice, then true justice would be to make everything reflect Himself. This is done through the grace of God.

Think about it like this. There is God and then there is nothing, literally nothing, not even an empty space. Look at God being a light and He shines into the darkness(which is nothingness). God created man and man was united to God. Man sinned and seperated himself from God and Gods grace. From that time on man was in complete darkness. They had lost the beatific vision of God. They had rejected His grace. Christ, full of grace and truth, came and He sacrificed Himself to pull man from this darkness. By sacrificing Himself Christ merited grace for mankind. Through this sacrifice of Christ, mankind was united to God once again. Man recieves grace through it. Now, the forgiveness is on two levels. First there is the forgiveness that is obtained simply due to Christ sacrificing Himself. Second there is the forgiveness recieved through accepting Christ in every way. Through Christs sacrafice He obtained the forgiveness of Original Sin from God for all of His Church. In our baptism we are brought into this Church. Second, Christ also died for the forgiveness of each of your actual sins. But this forgiveness is obtained only through your repentance of sin and through your acceptance of Christ in every way. What you did not do by your own personal act but was accorded to you was forgiven automatically through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. What was done specifically by you, with your hands, is forgiven through the sacrifice of Christ when you reject your sins. You can not be forgiven for your actions until you reject them(this is more than just a vocal rejection).

Christ spoke with Peter after the ressurection and He questioned Peter. He said, “Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these?” Peter said “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Christ told him to feed His lambs. Christ then said again, “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?” Peter responded, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Christ told him to feed His lambs. “A third time Christ said, Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?” Peter responded, “Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee.” Christ told him to feed His sheep. The point of this discourse was partly to reaffirm Peter in the faith. Peter had rejected Christ three times when questioned, therefore Christ questioned him three times.

[Continued]


#2

Christs sacrifice was for all, He died for Judas and every other sinner[read the quotes mentioned in the earlier post, there are others that say the exact same thing]. Therefore either there is no one in hell(which is absurd because scripture says otherwise), or your interpretation of the atonement is completely wrong.


#3

I am a little fuzzy on the part of your explanation that talks about two levels of forgiveness. Terminology seems to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks when talking to our non-Catholic brethren. My understanding of this process is that it includes redemption, atonement and forgiveness. Redemption was performed for all by Christ alone. Atonement was performed by Christ but we must participate in the atonement by having contrition for our sins so that we may receive forgiveness from God for our sins. We cannot be saved without all three pieces being accomplished. Without Christ’s act of redemption and atonement we cannot receive forgiveness for our sins because our contrition and atonement alone is not enough to satisfy God’s perfect justice which, since we are imperfect, we cannot fully understand.

Let me give an imperfect example. A man robs a bank and a couple of blocks from the bank the police catch him, all the money that the robber took is returned to the bank and the robber apologizes for having robbed the bank. The bank got its money back so the robber has been “redeemed”. But, even if the bank accepts the robber’s apology and forgives him, the robber still must go to jail to complete the atonement for his wrong doing.

So God’s justice demands our redemption by Christ (including atonement), our contrition for our sins, our atonement for our sins and the resulting forgiveness of our sins by God.

I did not include scripture references because it appears from your post that you have already done that. I hope this helps.


#4

Jesus died for all. Everyone gets a Christmas present. Only thing is, no one knows who the present belongs to. Someone has to put your name on the gift before you can open it. This is the work of the Holy Spirit that puts my name on the the gift of Christ’s redemption.

Imagine taking all the names off the gifts this Christmas. Who would know what to open? So it is easy to get lost in the Universal dimension, but there is also a personal dimension at the same time.

You know what I mean?

Merry Christmas


#5

I would also suggest the Thomistic way of understanding Christ’s atonement; being sufficient for all but effacacious for the elect. So, it is true that Christ died for all, but according to St. Thomas, he did not die for all in the same way. God desires the salvation of all and so Christ’s death is more than sufficient to atone for the sins of all, however, God only intends the atonement to be effacacious for the elect. This is one acceptable position in Catholic theology, the Molinist position (which most people hold I think) is the other major position that is acceptable. It is more “Arminian” so to speak in its understanding.


#6

[quote=DreadVandal]I would also suggest the Thomistic way of understanding Christ’s atonement; being sufficient for all but effacacious for the elect. So, it is true that Christ died for all, but according to St. Thomas, he did not die for all in the same way. God desires the salvation of all and so Christ’s death is more than sufficient to atone for the sins of all, however, God only intends the atonement to be effacacious for the elect. This is one acceptable position in Catholic theology, the Molinist position (which most people hold I think) is the other major position that is acceptable. It is more “Arminian” so to speak in its understanding.
[/quote]

DreadVandal, that sounds the same as saying that Christ only died for some. I could be misunderstanding it though. I think my view is more Molinist. I look at what Anselm said. He basically said that God presents the possibility for salvation to all but only some accept it.


#7

[quote=jimmy]DreadVandal, that sounds the same as saying that Christ only died for some. I could be misunderstanding it though. I think my view is more Molinist. I look at what Anselm said. He basically said that God presents the possibility for salvation to all but only some accept it.
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There are several understandings of the atonement that are acceptable in Catholic theology. A more restricted view is acceptable with certain qualifications. Such was the view of Aquinas and Augustine. I think there is a good article called “A Tiptoe Through TULIP” by James Akin that explains this well.


#8

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