Calvin’s Corner

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37 Responses

  1. Jim says:


    As you may remember, I can’t wrap my head around the need for Jesus to die for those who are not His. I understand that your answer was short, but help me out here. Hasn’t common grace always existed? It’s always rained on the just and the unjust. I see this as a testament to the goodness of God to all creation, or at the very least, a sort of spillover…it rains on the just, and the unjust get wet too. 🙂

    I’m not getting why common grace required the death of God in flesh.

    I’m not challenging you, as your capacity to understand these weighty matters far exceeds mine. just wondering if you can help a brother out.

  2. Michael says:


    I getting ready for a job interview, but I’ll tackle that as soon as I get home.

  3. Steve Wright says:

    I’m in 1 Timothy 4:10 this Sunday…so you guys figure this out in time for my message please.

    Many thanks. 🙂

    For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

  4. Francisco Nunez says:

    His death is certainly more than sufficient for all but only efficient for those who repent and believe.

  5. Francisco Nunez says:

    Btw, good podcast today Michael.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Xenia says:

    One of the ways limited atonement was explained to me was that God would not provide more than what was needed. If only (say) 500 people were going to be saved, then He would die for just those 500 people. If He died for 501 people but only 500 were elect, then there would be “leftovers” and that’s not how God does things. <— This may be an awful explanation of limited atonement but I have heard it explained this way numerous times by Calvinists so even if it's not accurate, it is a commonly held belief. I am sure there is a more sophisticated explanation. In other words, God keeps tidy accounts. His check book balances to the penny.

    My comment is this: When Christ distributed the loaves and the fish to the crowd, there were lots of leftovers. I don't think "leftovers" are contrary to God's way of doing things.

  7. Michael says:

    Ok, I’m back.
    First of all I think the mysteries of predestination and election are much deeper than any tradition embraces…sometimes i think we are trying to explain the secret things of God that He has chosen not to reveal at this time in order to have a neat systematic theology to assure us.
    Back in the days when life was simpler I accepted the common Calvinistic doctrine on limited atonement.
    That being that Christ died specifically and effectually only for the elect.
    I put aside the concerns I had with passages such as Steve quoted and accepted the hermeneutical gymnastics that are done to “harmonize” them.
    Upon reading Mr. Calvin for myself, I noticed that he did no such thing.
    He held the two truths in tension…Christ died for all, yet only salvifically for the elect.
    Where the text says Christ died for all, Calvin said “amen”.
    Where it said that Christ died for the elect, Calvin said “amen”.
    If the Reformed are to be people of the text, we must do likewise, in my opinion.
    You ask, to what advantage for the non elect is the death of Christ.
    I don’t have a good answer for that, though I suspect at it’s heart is something to do with the justice of God and the free offer of the gospel.
    Mine is not a unique position.
    Calvin held it without much definition…don’t expect him to address a question he wasn’t asking.
    Hodge, Dabney, Davenant and others held it as well.

    This is Dabney from my favorite site on historic Calvinism in general and this issue in particular;

    1) But while I have no idea that they intend to be satisfied with anything that I can say, I will repeat in another form, what my opinion is, so that no fair mind will be any longer misled to suspect me of ambiguity. I am asked whether I believe that “Christ bore the guilt of his elect only.” I reply, Christ designed by his sufferings to deliver the elect only from their guilt. In that sense he “bore” the guilt of the elect only. But if they wish to make me say that Christ had no more to do with the guilt of the non-elect than of the fallen angels, I shall not say it. For Christ’s work has actually procured for them great temporary benefits, which their guilt would personally have made them unworthy to enjoy–a suspension of just doom, social, material good, common operations of H(oly) G(host) and an offer of salv.(ation) from God, who is “serious.” Had there been no mediatorial dispensation, the doom would doubtless have followed immediately on the guilt, as in the case of fallen angels. I must believe, therefore, that, (with Hodge) there is a relation which the sufferings of Christ had to all men.

    2) There is no safer clue for the student through this perplexed subject, than, to take this proposition; which, to every Calvinist, is nearly as indisputable as a truism; Christ’s design in His vicarious work was to effectuate exactly what it does effectuate, and all that it effectuates, in its subsequent proclamation. This is but saying that Christ’s purpose is unchangeable and omnipotent. Now, what does it actually effectuate? “We know only in part,” but so much is certain.

    (a.) The purchase of the full and assured redemption of all the elect, or of all believers.

    (b.) A reprieve of doom for every sinner of Adam’s race who does not die at his birth (For these we believe it has purchased heaven). And this reprieve gains for all, many substantial, though temporal benefits, such as unbelievers, of all men, will be the last to account no benefits. Among these are postponement of death and perdition, secular well being, and the bounties of life.

    (c.) A manifestation of God’s mercy to many of the non elect, to all those, namely, who live under the Gospel, in sincere offers of a salvation on terms of faith. And a sincere offer is a real and not a delusive benefaction; because it is only the recipients contumacy which disappoints it.

    (d.) A justly enhanced condemnation of those who reject the Gospel, and thereby a clearer display of God’s righteousness and reasonableness in condemning, to all the worlds.

    (e.) A disclosure of the infinite tenderness and glory of God’s compassion, with purity, truth and justice, to all rational creatures.

    Had there been no mediation of Christ, we have not a particle of reason to suppose that the doom of our sinning race would have been delayed one hour longer than that of the fallen angels. Hence, it follows, that it is Christ who procures for non elect sinners all that they temporarily enjoy, which is more than their personal deserts, including the sincere offer of mercy. In view of this fact, the scorn which Dr. William Cunningham heaps on the distinction of a special, and general design in Christ’s satisfaction, is thoroughly shortsighted. All wise beings (unless God be the exception), at times frame their plans so as to secure a combination of results from the same means. This is the very way they display their ability and wisdom. Why should God be supposed incapable of this wise and fruitful acting? I repeat, the design of Christ’s sacrifice must have been to effectuate just what it does effectuate. And we see, that, along with the actual redemption of the elect, it works out several other subordinate ends. There is then a sense, in which Christ “died for” all those ends, and for the persons affected by them.

    3) Well, then, the realized results of Christ’s sacrifice are not one, but many and various:

    1. It makes a display of God’s general benevolence and pity toward all lost sinners, to the glory of his infinite grace. For, blessed be his name, he says, “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth” (Ezek. 18:32).

    2. Christ’s sacrifice has certainly purchased for the whole human race a merciful postponement of the doom incurred by our sins, including all the temporal blessings of our earthly life, all the gospel restraints upon human depravity, and the sincere offer of heaven to all. For, but for Christ, man’s doom would have followed instantly after his sin, as that of the fallen angels did.

    3. Christ’s sacrifice, wilfully rejected by men, sets the stubbornness, wickedness, and guilt of their nature in a much stronger light, to the glory of God’s final justice.

    4. Christ’s sacrifice has purchased and provided for the effectual calling of the elect, with all the graces which insure their faith, repentance, justification, perseverance, and glorification. Now, since the sacrifice actually results in all these different consequences, they are all included in Gods design. This view satisfies all those texts quoted against us.
    But we cannot admit that Christ died as fully and in the same sense for Judas as he did for Saul of Tarsus. Here we are bound to assert that, while the expiation is infinite, redemption is particular. The irrefragable grounds on which we prove that the redemption is particular are these: From the doctrines of unconditional election, and the covenant of grace. (The argument is one, for the covenant of grace is but one aspect of election.) The Scriptures tell us that those who are to be saved in Christ are a number definitely elected and given to him from eternity to be redeemed by his mediation. How can anything be plainer from this than that there was a purpose in God’s expiation, as to them, other than that it was as to the rest of mankind? (See the Scriptures regarding the immutability of God’s purposes–Isa. 46:10; 2 Tim. 2:19.)

  8. Andrew says:

    Michael, in the show you mentioned you believed in a hypothetical universal atonement. And I think it was Phil who mentioned that he didn’t understand how someone who believed in universal atonement could also believe that some go to Hell. I’m one of these guys holding these views in tension. Reading scripture I am becoming more convinced that its not just hypothetical but rather Christ’s suffering was for the entire world. This is the good news and God’s express will that none should be lost. How else could it be good news? However, likewise I’m also convinced that some go to Hell because of their unbelief. Is there really a big difference between a hypothetical verses just a real universal atonement?

  9. Michael says:


    The “hypothetical” is that “hypothetically” all can be saved because of the work of Christ.
    Now, we know that not all will be saved which leaves both synergist and monergist with a dilemma as to why.

    I chalk it up to the divine council of God, others to the “free choice” of men.

  10. Michael says:

    Thank you, Francisco!

  11. Man is in a constant state of rebellion against God – it is no surprise that some / many will still resist God’s grace. It’s not a matter of their will, it’s a matter of who they are.

    Your position of irresistible grace won’t allow you to follow that.

    Christ can die for the sins of all, atone for their sin and they still go to hell. Sin is no longer the issue … it’s belief or lack of belief.Look at Jesus weeping over Jerusalem – he is not saying “I wish I had been able to die for you, but I couldn’t.”

    As I like to say, hell will be populated by forgiven sinners.

  12. Andrew says:

    Michael, I am not sure we are to ask the question why some are saved and some are not. I put both the question and the answer in the divine council of God. What I don’t want to see lost in the conundrum is the expressed will of God that all come to a saving knowledge of him. After all, this is the good news. Would you agree?

  13. Michael says:


    The conundrum comes from the expressed will of God that all be saved, yet we know that not all are.
    Various traditions solve that conundrum in various ways.
    Where we should have agreement is in our preaching…in offering the good news to all men.

  14. Andrew says:

    Yes, we are in agreement in the preaching as long as the preaching doesn’t throw in the line that you can only believe if you are one of the elect. Saying that could psychologically condition someone to think they are not the elect. For me, Christ died for the sins of the world period. Nothing more needs to be added other than to believe and be baptized.

  15. Michael says:


    I’ve never heard a Calvinist condition the free offer of the Gospel on election.
    The truths of election and predestination are things we talk about after the fact of salvation, not before.

  16. Andrew says:

    Michael, this blog i am sure is being viewed by many unsaved people and we are talking about election and predestination.

  17. Michael says:


    I’m not preaching, I’m discussing theology for crying out loud.
    The way I explain it to people is that if you want to be elect, you are.
    The very desire itself comes from God.

  18. Jim says:

    Thanks Michael. I’m still in the hermeneutical gymnastics phase 🙂

  19. Andrew says:

    Michael, you have already told us that church is not to be an evangelistic meeting and its for believers and not unbelievers. So if I am not mistaken, I would think preaching is for believers and not unbelievers. So where does discussing theology come in?

  20. Michael says:


    I think we (Calvinists) do a very poor job with the “all” and “world’ passages…I just take them as they’re written now.
    I could be wrong.
    I think I was wrong before… 🙂

  21. Michael says:


    When I’m preaching, I’m also preparing the people who hear to do the work of the ministry.
    We are all evangelists…and all of us should know how to present the free offer of the Gospel.
    Theology discussions obviously take place on forums like this and should be taking place in catechetical classes for both believers and those seeking to believe.

  22. Steve Wright says:

    So…how about that verse I threw up there earlier.

    Seems like a pretty good “tension” verse to me. Whatever one’s doctrine

  23. Michael says:


    I think it’s an excellent proof text for my position… 🙂

  24. Michael says:

    Here’s Calvin’s take…

    “This is the second consolation, though it depends on the former; for the deliverance of which he speaks may be viewed as the fruit of hope. To make this more clear, it ought to be understood that this is an argument drawn from the less to the greater; for the word is here a general term, and denotes one Who defends and preserves. He means that the kindness of God extends to all men. And if there is no man who does not feel the goodness of God towards him, and who is not a partaker of it, how much more shall it be experienced by the godly, who hope in him? Will he not take peculiar care in them? Will he not more freely pour out his bounty on them? In a word, will he not, in every respect, keep them safe to the end?”

  25. Steve Wright says:

    Well Michael, as we know this centuries-old doctrinal discussion can easily be summarized in one prooftext, right?

    That’s how it’s done, no? 🙂

  26. Andrew says:

    Are saved, being saved and will be saved.

    past, present, future

    Just thinking out loud here. 🙂

  27. Michael says:


    Absolutely. 🙂

  28. Francisco Nunez says:

    Hi Steve. 1 Timothy 4:10 is certainly a mind blogging verse as there is no getting around it. I hadn’t seen it like this before. Thx for pointing it out.

  29. Phil N says:

    Thanks for listening everyone!!

  30. Phil, you are a loser. I would like to slap you with a mackerel.

    Not really, but you said Podcasting didn’t bring as much hate 🙂

  31. SJ says:

    Do all Calvinists write like Dabney? Sheesh. What was his point, in five sentences?

  32. Richard says:

    Here, at your reading level —

    1 — See Dick
    2 — See Jane
    3 — See Dick and Jane
    4 — Jane kick Dick
    5 — Pizza hot

  33. Michael says:


    That was completely out of line.

  34. Michael says:


    That’s how theology is written by scholars, whatever tradition they might be writing from.
    I believe that excerpt was from his systematic theology…and it’s simply an excursus on the benefits of the atonement to all men.
    I hope you take the time to read through it…this kind of writing is challenging but very profitable for the reader who will try.

  35. Xenia says:

    This kind of writing, even (maybe especially) when written by Orthodox academics, drives me crazy.

    The example Michael gave can be sorted out easily enough but in my course of studies I am required to read material that I simply cannot make heads or tails of. I know what all the words mean but can’t make the sense of them when combined in endless multi- clause sentences where I can’t even identify the main subject and predicate. I do appreciate elevated, lofty writing but I feel sometimes (and not talking about the example above) but sometimes I just feel the author is trying to impress other academics and isn’t all that interested in edifying the reader. You see this kind of writing coming out of seminaries.

    One of my college profs, a Greek Orthodox lady straight from Greece, with a charming accent, said “Christianity is a verrrry complicated religion.” Sure, but why make it more complicated than it needs to be? If it is complicated, (maybe complex is a better word) why not work to un-complicate it, rather than add layers of obfuscation?

    *I know folks will object and say “No, Christianity is simple: Just believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” <— This is certainly true but we are never content to leave it at that. I am certainly not content to leave it at that.

    Just sign me
    -simple xenia

  36. Steve Wright says:

    Real teaching is making the profound simple enough for all to understand.

  37. SJ says:

    Thanks Richey. You forgot the punctuation.
    The TV was on at the same time I was looking for a light read, my bad.

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