The boys over at the Fide-O blog recently noted Jerry Falwell's contention (my word) that the doctrine of limited atonement is heresy (click here).
I don't claim to be some kind of theologian or expert, but I do consider myself a "thinker." My understanding of the doctrine of limited atonement is that Christ's sacrifice on the cross purchased salvation only for those that would believe, put their faith in the blood of Jesus Christ for their salvation. Jesus didn't die for EVERY man, woman and child that would ever live. David Steele/Curtis Thomas¹ put it something like this:
Jesus only bore the sins of the "elect."² Christ's redeeming work was intended to render complete satisfaction for certain specified sinners; it actually secured salvation for these individuals and for no one else. Christ did not die simply to make it possible for God to pardon sinners.
Now why would I believe in something like that?
One - Well, first of all, it makes sense to me just on a "logical" level. If Jesus died on the cross, and we know that everyone DOESN'T make it to heaven, then it seems that a portion of the sacrifice was "wasted" so to speak--if Jesus died for everyone.
Two - God/Jesus being omniscient, why would He die for people that He KNEW WOULD NOT believe in Him; people that would not trust in Him and His sacrifice for their salvation? If God already knows something will happen, it seems to reason that it WILL happen exactly as He knows it. No one will "trick" or "surprise" God by suddenly embracing Christ at the last minute. God will never say: "Well, I'll be...I never saw that coming!"
Three - If...and I mean IF...Jesus died hoping that people would be saved, then that doesn't sound much like an all-knowing, all-powerful God to me. How can an omnipotent God not know who will be saved? And why would he die if there was only HOPE? If that were the case, then there must have existed the possibility that NO ONE would be saved! (And that doesn't make sense to me.)
I believe that from the "foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4), God chose for Himself a select group of people from all the people--from various tribes, nations, eras, etc.-- that would ever exist. He chose them based upon nothing but "His purpose" (Eph 1:11). His choosing had nothing to do with their deserving or earning His grace (Rom 9:11). He owes salvation to no one; He owes no explanation for His actions--"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy..." (Rom 9:15)
It's usually right here where someone will say: "Oh, yeah! What about John 3:16?! It says God so loved the world...that's EVERYBODY!!!" What about it? I agree that God loves the world He created. I believe He loves men/mankind. He created them. BUT, John 3:16 does not say or imply that God loves everyone with a saving love. In fact, continuing on in the verse, Jesus states "whosoever believes will have eternal life." That statement in and of itself implies limitations. Only the "whosoevers" have eternal life--and those "whosoevers" are the only ones that believe and receive salvation. Of course, I believe the "whosoevers" are those God has chosen and given the ability TO believe in the first place! (No, I don't believe men have a "free will" in which they choose to believe. Maybe that's another post for another time.)
NOTE: Go back and read John 3 in context. Jesus' statement of God's love for the world is actually an indictment against Nicodemus and his manmade belief system. Nicodemus believed that God loved only the Jews. Jesus' words were designed to shock Nicodemus and to inform him that God loved both Jews AND Gentiles and that Messiah would come and save people from ALL races.
If believing in "limited atonement" makes me a heretic according to Jerry Falwell and others, so be it. I'm in good company (i.e. John MacArthur, Arthur Pink, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, Loraine Boettner, to name a few).
¹The Five Points of Calvinism by David Steele/Curtis Thomas, (1963), Pg 39
² Suffice it to say, I believe in "that", too.