Monday, March 28, 2011

Limited Atonement: A Mere Logical Deduction?

In studying the Reformed doctrine of limited (or particular) atonement, I turned to A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007) in order to see how my Baptist brothers dealt with this doctrine. Dr. Paige Patterson, who articulates an Amyraldian view of the atonement in his chapter "The Work of Christ," critiques the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement by simply stating,
"The idea of an atonement limited only to the elect is a concept that belongs to a logical system" (585-6).
In presenting John Owen's exegetical view of the doctrine of limited atonement, Carl R. Trueman responds to charges such as this. He writes,
It is important to make this point at the start, because there are many who see limited atonement as a mere logical deduction from the doctrine of election and reprobation. That is far too simplistic a way of looking at it, because there is considerable exegesis underlying the notion of limited atonement and a great deal of sophisticated reflection upon the connections between Old Testament and New Testament in the development of the concept. Thus, to disagree with limited atonement you must disagree with the exegesis that underlies it and reject the understanding of the relationship between Old Testament types and New Testament antitypes. You should not dismiss limited atonement as a naïve, overly logical deduction from [the] doctrine of election, because that simply is not the case." [Carl R. Trueman. "Post-Reformation Developments in the Doctrine of the Atonement," in Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ, ed. Richard D. Phillips (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2009), 197-8.]
Three classic studies on the atonement which include detailed exegetical work on the subject of the extent of the atonement are:

  1. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955 [reprinted in 1984]. 
  2. Leon Morris, The Atonement. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1983. 
  3. John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1983.