For Whom Did Christ Die? -- By: Tom Wells

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 05:1 (Winter 1996)
Article: For Whom Did Christ Die?
Author: Tom Wells


For Whom Did Christ Die?

Tom Wells

Ask the average Christian the question in the title of this article and you’re likely to get one of two reactions. Some will give you a quizzical look, as much as to say, “All right, what’s the catch? Everyone knows the answer to that question.” Others will say simply, “Christ died for everyone who ever lived.” A small number of people will smell heresy and point an accusing finger. “Aha!” they will cry, “You’re a Calvinist!” Without another word they may convey a further disheartening message: you ought to blush with shame and slink back into whatever hole it was that you crawled out of.

Let’s take a further look at this last reaction. A frequent complaint against Reformed or Calvinistic people goes something like this: “Your view of the Atonement is not the result of Scripture but of logic. In fact, you are rationalists!” Those are harsh words indeed, but necessary, if true.

When I hear that I am a rationalist I am reminded of something Carl F. H. Henry said in another connection: “Let those who want to defend irrationalism do it with whatever weapons they can find!”

Abandon logic altogether and you must abandon all reasoned discourse. There is no discussion that does not appeal to reason from beginning to end. We have no choice. If we want to graduate from “Mama” and “Dada” we have to think in a rational way.

But to be fair, the objections really amount to this: I have a logical grid that I impress upon Scripture and it affects how I read it. Or, the lens through which I look at Scripture distorts it. I do not come objectively to the Word of God. Is that really true? If it is true, is it serious?

To begin with, I must plead guilty to not being objective. It’s widely recognized in our country that objectivity, however desirable it may or may not be, is not the state of any of us. We all bring a great deal of baggage to every question we seek to answer. My objector and I have this in common. What we must both do is to admit this and to keep it firmly in mind as we carry

on our discussion, seeking to minimize its negative impact on us.

But there is more to be said.

Let’s think together about how we learn what Scripture teaches. When we come to a text that we’ve never carefully considered before, how shall we approach it? Sooner or later we will have to look at it in the light of all that we already know from Scripture. Of course this is virtually instinctive with us; we seldom think about what we are doing, we just do it.

To illustrate how this works, imagine that...

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