The Nature And Extent Of The Atonement A Wesleyan View -- By: William S. Sailer

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:4 (Fall 1967)
Article: The Nature And Extent Of The Atonement A Wesleyan View
Author: William S. Sailer


The Nature And Extent Of The Atonement
A Wesleyan View

William S. Sailer, S. T. D.

At the Nashville meeting (1965) of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Roger Nicole suggested that the nature and extent of the atonement are among the issues lying on our theological frontier. With regard to the former aspect of the atonement Nicole has in mind its substitutionary character. With this no Evangelical should disagree. With regard to the latter aspect, Nicole comments:

We are faced with a number of questions relating to the scope and intent of the atoning work of Christ. Here we are approaching the delicate, but important area of the sovereign purpose of God, where the Evangelical is called upon to resist Pelagianizing tendencies and creeping universalism. 1

And here differences among Evangelicals become apparent. The Scriptures teach, we are told, that the atonement is limited. R. B. Kuiper, for example, has written that he is “firmly convinced that [limited atonement]… is Scriptural.” 2 Scripture also teaches, we are told, that the atonement is universal: “Arminian theologians have universally argued for belief in the universal extent of the atonement.... There is a wealth of New Testament scripture to support this conviction.” 3

Each of these writers is concerned with the atonement as it relates to the eternal salvation of men through the sacrifice upon the cross. One says that the design of the atonement is limited in its saving intent to those who are actually saved; the other insists that Christ’s death paid the price for the sins of every son of Adam but only those who trust in Christ receive its benefits. Both writers, appealing to the authoritative Scriptures, come to diverse conclusions regarding the soteric design of the atonement of Christ. 4

It is the purpose of this article to set forth the case for a universal as over against a limited or particular atonement. The method of procedure will confine discussion in so far as possible to relevant biblical data. It goes beyond the scope of this article to relate the question of the extent of the atonement to an overall system of theology. While a total theology is of importance in arriving at an adequate understanding of Scripture, it follows from the non-contradictory character of Scripture that doctrine arrived at through careful biblical study ought to fit the system—in the latter truly reflects the Word of God. Hence no attempt will be made to dispute t...

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