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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Later, in chapter 5, Owen seems to begrudgingly admit that there is a distinction.

I shall, then, briefly declare, that although these two things may admit of a distinction, yet they cannot of a separation, but that for whomsoever Christ obtained good, to them it might be applied; and for whomsoever he wrought reconciliation with God, they must actually unto God be reconciled.

Admittedly, Owen does not think it is possible for spiritual blessings to be procured for someone who will not eventually have them applied.  This, in his view is because “faith is given without condition to the elect.” But we will tackle that a bit later. Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Wednesday with Wesley: Wesley Calmly Considered

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are looking at some of the people that have stood out in the history of the church. This past Sunday we focused on John Wesley.

John Wesley was born in Epworth on June 1703 to Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Living a full life he died in March of 1791, having spent most of his life preaching the Gospel and making disciples in Methodist Societies. He was well known during his lifetime, and the following was written about him in The Gentleman’s Magazine after his passing (link).

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He was noted as a zealous reformer:

He now appeared as a zealous reformer, and the great leader in a sect no way differing in essentials from the Church of England. His peculiar opinions were justification by faith, and Christian perfection; … however he might enforce its possibility, he always disclaimed having attained himself …

 

and humanitarian to the needy: Continue reading