Two Aspects In The Design Of Christ’s Atonement -- By: Wayne S. Hansen

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 02:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: Two Aspects In The Design Of Christ’s Atonement
Author: Wayne S. Hansen

Two Aspects In The Design Of Christ’s Atonement

Wayne S. Hansen

Associate Professor of Theology
Bethel Seminary of the East
1601 N. Limekiln Pike
Dresher, Pennsylvania 19025

For well over three and a half centuries Christians have been divided over one aspect of Christ’s atonement. This topic has served to separate believer from believer, often with great animosity. The cleavage is so great that it has divided schools, denominational institutions, mission agencies, and local churches. Ironically, it has been labeled as a “non-essential” by at least one side in the debate. Yet the implications for this topic are significant for one’s approach to the church, evangelism, confidence in the sovereignty of God, and especially, Christology.

The topic I am alluding to is limited atonement, to use its more recognized label. Some have preferred the term “definite atonement” or “particular redemption” to emphasize the positive focus of the doctrine and eliminate any suspicion of the value of Christ’s work. But whichever term is used the basic question remains. “Did God intend to save only the elect in the death of Christ or provide salvation for all?” Passionate defenses on each side of the issue have been offered. Frequently, tensions are so strong on this issue that one side does not hear what the other is saying. Each feels justified in her/his view and often refuses to look at the other’s argument. Not a few have stated that both are true and then dismissed the subject without seeing the inconsistency of their logic. Such approaches are not good theological methodology, nor are they to be commended as intellectually credible. Those who affirm that Christ’s death was intended for all essentially argue that the “all” passages take precedence over the “limited”

passages. They affirm that “all” simply means all persons and that the “limited” passages are viewed as not referring to God’s intention in the death of Christ, but to some benefit bestowed on those who receive Christ. More often than not a consistent dealing with each passage is not attempted. Many prefer to say that Christ’s death was sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect. Those who say that Christ’s death was intended only for the elect argue that the “limited” passages are clear enough and that the “all” passages are referring to the world of the elect. While those who affirm limited atonement attempt to explain the “all” passages consistently, their explanations often seem forced. However, it is possible that there may be another model for explaining this perplexing topic which brings greater consistency to each side of the discussion and at ...

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