Thursday, April 02, 2009

Who Did Jesus Die For?

That was the question in the Explore Bible Reading notes today. Perhaps you've already jumped into your 'camp' whether it be Arminian or Calvinist, universalist or hyper-Calvinist.

In the run up to Easter, Explore is taking things very slow, working verse-by-verse through 2 Corinthians 5. The focus is on what Jesus achieved on the cross. In verse 14, we read these words: For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.

One has died for all. Perhaps some of my Calvinist brothers and sisters are already implying that 'all' there means 'all the elect'. After all, Christ performed only a limited atonement, according to Calvinism. Yet that's not what this verse is saying. One has died for all.

For those who approach the scriptures through doctrine-tinted spectacles, verses like these may need to be explained, or explained away. Rather than listening to scripture, we prefer to have our doctrinal framework, then seek to mould scripture to fit into the frame.

Predestination, election and the extent of the atonement are big issues. A lot of ink has been spilled on these. Some verses clearly state that Christ died for all (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:3-6). Others state that he performed a particular redemption (Mark 10:45, John 10:14-15). Are you Arminian or Calvinist?

Into the mix comes the Amyraldian Association. Named after Moses Amyraut, who was a disciple of Calvin, they point out that Calvinism as we know it today is actually more like exaggerated, or hyper-Calvinism, and not actually authentic Calvinism which Jean Calvin himself would recognise. Amyraldianism argues that Christ did indeed die for all, but that only those who are elect will be saved - a hypothetical universalism but with a particular or limited atonement.

It's what Mark Driscoll in Death by Love calls 'an unlimited limited atonement.' It seems to take account of the Biblical evidence, that Christ died for all, but that only those who have faith will be saved. Better than labels, let's hold to the Scriptures as our basis of faith and doctrine. Doctrinal frameworks aren't inspired, but the Scriptures are the God-breathed word.

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