The Extent of the Atonement and the Extent of Reformed Orthodoxy

Few theological questions today gender such impassioned debate as the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Just about every Christian has a view on this issue, and likely holds to it quite strongly. The question itself can be understood in different ways. On the broad scale, the question can be read against the backdrop of universalist readings of the atonement versus more exclusivist readings of the atonement. The universalist understanding posits that Christ’s death is universal in application: the sins of all men are already forgiven through the cross. All that is left is for unbelievers to simply recognize that they are already forgiven and justified. The exclusivist understanding, typical among evangelicals, holds that Christ’s death is limited in application: it is applied only to believers.

More narrowly, within evangelicalism a different sort of debate with regard to the extent of the atonement occurs. This debate takes the shape of general atonement versus limited atonement, and it runs down a dividing line between Calvinist and Arminian views of soteriology. While both sides agree that the atonement is limited in its application to believers, they disagree on whether God effectually intends to save the elect alone through Christ’s atonement. Arminians deny this, while Calvinists affirm it. This debate has spawned a number of books, both scholarly and not-so-scholarly, and is a source of no small contention for the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S., which allows for both Arminian and Calvinist viewpoints in their membership. Continue reading The Extent of the Atonement and the Extent of Reformed Orthodoxy

The Dereliction of the Son

The dereliction presents us with an unthinkable scenario: the eternally beloved Son of God cries out to his Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” How ought this astonishing reality be understood? Has the divine nature suffered? Or might it be said that the person of the Logos himself did not suffer, but only the human nature which is associated with him? Did the Father—however briefly it may have been—turn his back on his eternally beloved Son and switch to hating him? As inconceivable as it may seem, in the dereliction the eternal Logos is experiencing, through his human nature and as a representative substitute, a sense of the withdrawal of the divine love and delight, and a sense of the divine judgment—and this so that the judgment and wrath hanging over sinful man would be taken away forever. First I will place the dereliction within the broader story of Scripture in order to cast light on its meaning and significance, then I will deal with some mistaken views of the dereliction. Continue reading The Dereliction of the Son