The Death of John Owen’s Argument: a General Atonement means God failed to achieve His goal (Part 3)

In part 1, we examined Owen’s contention: Christ’s death does not make salvation possible. It actually and infallibly applies the benefits of the cross to everyone that Christ died for.

the [purpose] of our Saviour’s coming, … [was] namely, to “save sinners;” — not to open a door for them to come in if they will or can; not to make a way passable, that they may be saved; … but actually to save them … (Bk II, chap 3; emphasis added)

This is true, according to Owen, because that is what God, as a wise and powerful agent, wanted to achieve through the cross. God would fail to achieve his goal of saving sinners if anyone for whom Christ died did not have salvation applied. Given these premises, it logically follows that anyone who does not receive salvation was someone that Christ did not die for.

In part 2, we looked at several of Owen’s arguments against a general atonement as presented in Book II. In this post we will examine some of Owen’s ideas on faith as a condition for receiving salvation as presented in Book II and III.

Begrudgingly admitting there is a distinction

The opponents of a limited atonement argue for a distinction between Christ obtaining the spiritual blessings of salvation and the application of these blessings. The discriminating factor, between the obtaining and the application, is an enduring faith.

The sum of all [who reject a limited atonement] comes to this, … Christ obtained redemption and reconciliation for all; [but] it is bestowed only on them who do believe and continue therein.

That there could be a distinction based on faith, in the eyes of Owen, is an idea full of “venom”. It has “no place in the intention and purpose of Christ.”  For Owen, God is not in the business of conditionally applying salvation. Continue reading

The Death of John Owen’s Argument: a General Atonement means God failed to achieve His goal (Part 2)

In part 1 of this series the dilemma that Owen poses to those who reject a limited/particular atonement was explored. According to Dr. Owen the options are:

  • Universalism
  • Accepting that God had no purpose or intention behind the cross
  • Accepting that God had a purpose behind the cross but failed to achieve it

We left off with Owen acknowledging that others interpreted key passages differently than he did. Those who disagree argue that there is a distinction that must be made between Christ procuring spiritual blessings for all and applying them only on those that believe.

Some of them say that Christ, by his death and passion, did absolutely, according to the intention of God, purchase for all and every man, dying for them, remission of sins and reconciliation with God, or a restitution into a state of grace and favour; all which shall be actually beneficial to them, provided that they do believe

Owen vehemently rejects this view citing several reasons in Book II, chapter 4. Several of these seem to be begging the question as they are restating Owen’s conclusions.

  • this distinction (between the procurement of the blessings and the application of them) hath no place in the intention and purpose of Christ.
  • whomsoever Christ obtained any good thing by his death, unto them it shall certainly be applied.
  • [all the spiritual blessings] must be applied to all for whom they are obtained; for otherwise Christ faileth of his end and aim

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The Death of John Owen’s Argument: a General Atonement means God failed to achieve His goal (Part 1)

In the Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1647), Dr. John Owen offers a famous argument for a limited atonement. That was explored in another post. In chapter 1 of Book I there is another challenge presented to those who hold to a general atonement, in which Christ “died to redeem all and every one”.

The dilemma for those rejecting a limited atonement

Anyone holding the view that Christ died for “all the sins of all men”, according to Owen, should logically arrive at an unsatisfying conclusion, thus demonstrating that the view is incorrect.

In a nutshell:

if he died for all, all must also be justified, or the Lord failed in his aim and design, both in the death and resurrection of his Son (Book I 7.1)

800px-John_Owen_by_John_GreenhillAt the end of opening chapter, he also argues:

Wherefore, to cast a tolerable colour upon their persuasion, they must and do deny that God or his Son had any such absolute aim or end in the death or blood-shedding of Jesus Christ, … but that God intended nothing

According to Dr. Owen my options, should I hold that Christ died “for all the sins of all people”, are:

  • Universalism
  • Accepting that God had no purpose or intention behind the cross
  • Accepting that God had a purpose behind the cross but failed to achieve it

Way to box someone into a corner.

BoxingTheology

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