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John Calvin and 'Unlimited Atonement'

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John Calvin and 'Unlimited Atonement'

Post  MRyan on Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:06 pm

I thought this was important enough to warrant its own thread.

Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery" (Gaudium et Spes, 22, §5).

In his Commentary On Romans 5:18, John Calvin writes:

"Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world. And is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive him" . (Calvin's "COMMENTARY ON ROMANS AND THESSALONIANS", 1973, p. 829, published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids)

Imagine that, Gaudium et Spes and John Calvin appearing to teach the same doctrine.

Here's the rest of the story:


We have saved one of the most powerful witnesses until last, namely, JOHN CALVIN HIMSELF. Yes, John Calvin himself, as we will see, is his own most convincing witness AGAINST HIS OWN FORMER ERROR of "LIMITED ATONEMENT" and in FAVOR finally of "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT."

1. Some "LIMITED ATONEMENT" Fanatics Disagree That Calvin, In These Quotes Favored "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT."

I was very much surprised to receive a long, long letter from a very devoted "LIMITED ATONEMENT" man a few weeks ago, who told me that I had misinterpreted John Calvin in the quotations that I will be using here. He interpreted Calvin's words in a "LIMITED ATONEMENT" sense which he claims is the way ALL "LIMITED ATONEMENT" people understood them. Read his quotations very carefully, and see if there can be any doubt whatsoever, unless people are "WRITING OUT OF BOTH SIDE OF THEIR PEN"!!

2. Dr. John R. Rice Quoted August H. Strong On Calvin's MODIFICATION OF HIS VIEWS."

Though I to not concur in everything Rice writes on a number of subjects, yet, as I was reading his book, PREDESTINED FOR HELL? NO! [1958 and 1977] (pp. 11-12), I noted an interesting lead. Rice wrote: However, it is fair to say that CALVIN IS THOUGHT TO HAVE MODIFIED HIS VIEWS SOMEWHAT THROUGH THE YEARS. Dr. Augustus H. Strong, in his standard Systematic Theology Vol. II, Doctrine of Salvation, page 778, quotes CALVIN'S LATER COMMENTS to prove this, as follows:...(op.cit. p. 12). Part of Rice's quotation from Strong was a follows:

The progress in Calvin's thought may be seen by comparing some of his earlier with his later utterances. . . . IN LATER DAYS Calvin wrote in his Commentary on 1 John 2:2--"he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world"--as follows: "CHRIST SUFFERED FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD. and in the goodness of God is OFFERED UNTO ALL MEN WITHOUT DISTINCTION, HIS BLOOD BEING SHED NOT FOR A PART OF THE WORLD ONLY, BUT FOR THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE; for although in the world nothing is found worthy of the favor of God, yet he HOLDS OUT THE PROPITIATION TO THE WHOLE WORLD, since without exception he SUMMONS ALL TO THE FAITH OF CHRIST, which is nothing else than the door unto hope." (Rice, op. cit., p.12). Let it be very plainly stated: Calvin himself here repudiates "LIMITED ATONEMENT" and affirms an "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT"!! And everyone of his "followers" should do likewise!! No amount of semantical gymnastics can twist the clear meaning of Calvin's words quoted above into anything else but that!!

3. John Calvin Witnesses For "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" In His Commentary On Mark 14:24.

Mark 14:24 states in English (KJV): And He said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, WHICH IS SHED FOR MANY. (Mark l4:24). Here is the comment that John Calvin made on Mark 14:24, as translated and published in the Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Volume III, p. 139 [as published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, 1972]:

"The word 'many' DOES NOT MEAN A PART OF THE WORLD ONLY, BUT THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE: he contrasts many with one as if to say that he would not be the Redeemer of one man, but would meet death to deliver many of their cursed guilt. No doubt that in speaking to a few Christ wished to make His teaching available to a larger number...So when we come to the holy table not only should the general idea come to our mind that THE WORLD IS REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST but also each should reckon to himself that his own sins are covered. (op. cit., p. 139).

In this passage, John Calvin clearly and unmistakably affirms his belief in the "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" of the Lord Jesus Christ who "SHED" His blood for "THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE" with the result that it can be said that "THE WORLD IS REDEEMED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST." What could be clearer? John Calvin by no means took the "Fifth Amendment" on this verse! In fact, where many of his "LIMITED ATONEMENT" followers use the "many" to try to force a "LIMITED ATONEMENT" into that word, John Calvin broadened it out in an "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" sense as it should be broadened by way of contrast with a "few."

4. John Calvin Witnesses for "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" In His Commentary On Romans 5:18:

Romans 5:18 states in English (KJV): Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18) Calvin's comment on Romans 5:18, as translated and published in the COMMENTARY ON ROMANS AND THESSALONIANS, 1973, pp. 117-18 [as published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids] was:

"Paul makes grace COMMON TO ALL MEN, not because it in fact EXTENDS TO ALL, but because IT IS OFFERED TO ALL. Although CHRIST SUFFERED FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD. AND IS OFFERED BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WITHOUT DISTINCTION TO ALL MEN, yet not all receive him" (op. cit., p. 829).

If indeed Christ "SUFFERED FOR THE SINS OF THE WORLD," John Calvin was himself (at least at the time of his writing this Commentary on Romans) a confirmed believer, as is the BIBLE FOR TODAY, in an "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" of the Lord Jesus Christ! Any self-respecting friend of John Calvin presently holding the unscriptural and anti-Scriptural error of "LIMITED ATONEMENT," should immediately get rid of it--If only in deference to their friend! A BETTER reason, however, for getting rid of it, would be because it is unbiblical!

5. John Calvin Witnesses For "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" In His Last Will, And Farewells

Calvin's "LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, April 25, 1564" as printed in the History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8, pp. 828-29, by Philip Schaff [as published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, 1972], states:

"I testify also and declare, that I suppliantly beg of Him, that He may be pleased so to was and purify me in the blood which my Sovereign Redeemer HAS SHED FOR THE SINS OF THE HUMAN RACE, that under His shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment-seat...."(op. cit., p 829).

Here is a clear testimony made by John Calvin who was about to die, in 1564, that He, at least at the end of his life, had come to believe most definitely that the Lord Jesus Christ "SHED" his precious "BLOOD" "FOR THE SINS OF THE HUMAN RACE "

This is, in very essence, an "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" for which we have been speaking, writing, and arguing these many months [28 to be exact]. Again, let me urge every follower of John Calvin, because of the biblical truth of his position, to JOIN HIM in this sound belief in the "UNLIMITED ATONEMENT" that is, that the Lord Jesus Christ "HAS SHED" His blood "FOR THE SINS OF THE HUMAN RACE"!! Notice that in these words, John Calvin, however, seemed to be in DOUBT of HIS SALVATION! Thus he sounded like he no longer was certain, for himself, at least in the "perseverance of the saints." This is a rather SAD statement, I believe, for Calvin himself to make on his death bed!

Will the real "reformed theology" on "limited atonement" please stand up?

This is what happens when there is no Magisterium (willed and established by Christ).

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Re: John Calvin and 'Unlimited Atonement'

Post  MRyan on Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:12 pm

Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Atonement

Apr 1st, 2010 | By Bryan Cross |

The Reformed conception of the Atonement is that in Christ’s Passion and death, God the Father poured out all of His wrath for the sins of the elect, on Christ the Son. In Christ’s Passion and death, Christ bore the punishment of the Father’s wrath that the elect deserved for their sins. In the Reformed conception, this is what it means to bear the curse, to bear the Father’s wrath for sin. In Reformed thought, at Christ’s Passion and death, God the Father transferred all the sins (past, present, and future) of all the elect onto His Son. Then God the Father hated, cursed and damned His Son, who was evil in the Father’s sight on account of all the sins of the elect being concentrated in the Son. R.C. Sproul says that here (

In doing so, God the Father punished Christ for all the sins of the elect of all time. Because the sins of the elect are now paid for, through Christ’s having already been punished for them, the elect can never be punished for any sin they might ever commit, because every sin they might ever commit has already been punished. For that reason Reformed theology is required to maintain that Christ died only for the elect. Otherwise, if Christ died for everyone, this would entail universal salvation, since it would entail that all the sins of all people, have already been punished, and therefore cannot be punished again.

The Catholic conception of Christ’s Passion and Atonement is that Christ offered Himself up in self-sacrificial love to the Father, obedient even unto death, for the sins of all men. The Father was never angry with Christ. Nor did the Father pour out His wrath on the Son. The Passion is Christ’s greatest act of love, the greatest revelation of the heart of God, and the glory of Christ. So when Christ was on the cross, God the Father was not pouring out His wrath on His Son; in Christ’s act of self-sacrifice in loving obedience to the Father, Christ was most lovable in the eyes of the Father. Rather, in Christ’s Passion we humans poured out our enmity with God on Christ, by what we did to Him in His body and soul. And He freely chose to let us do all this to Him. Deeper still, even our present sins contributed to His suffering, because He, in solidarity with us, grieved over all the sins of the world, not just the sins of the elect. Hence, St. Francis of Assisi said, “Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.” The Passion is a revelation of the love of God, not the wrath of God. The fundamental difference can be depicted simply in the following drawing:

One problem with the Reformed conception is that it would either make the Father guilty of the greatest evil of all time (pouring out the punishment for all sin on an innocent man, knowing that he is innocent), or if Christ were truly guilty and deserved all that punishment, then His suffering would be of no benefit to us.

A second problem with the Reformed conception is the following dilemma. If God the Father was pouring out His wrath on the Second Person of the Trinity, then God was divided against Himself, God the Father hating His own Word. God could hate the Son only if the Son were another being, that is, if polytheism or Arianism were true. But if God loved the Son, then it must be another person (besides the Son) whom God was hating during Christ’s Passion. And hence that entails Nestorianism, i.e. that Christ was two persons, one divine and the other human. He loved the divine Son but hated the human Jesus. Hence the Reformed conception conflicts with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. The Father and the Son cannot be at odds. If Christ loves men, then so does the Father. Or, if the Father has wrath for men, then so does Christ. And, if the Father has wrath for the Son, then the Son must have no less wrath for Himself.

St. Thomas Aquinas says:

Christ as God delivered Himself up to death by the same will and action as that by which the Father delivered Him up; but as man He gave Himself up by a will inspired of the Father. Consequently there is no contrariety in the Father delivering Him up and in Christ delivering Himself up.
There St. Thomas explains that there is no contrariety between the Father and the Son during Christ’s Passion, no loss of love from the Father to the Son or the Son to the Father. The Father wholly and entirely loved His Son during the entire Passion. By one and the same divine will and action, the Father allowed the Son to be crucified and the Son allowed Himself to be crucified.

One question, from the Reformed point of view, is: How then were our sins paid for, if Christ was not punished by the Father? Christ made atonement for the sins of all men by offering to God a sacrifice of love that was more pleasing to the Father than the combined sins of all men of all time are displeasing to Him. Hence through the cross Christ merited grace for the salvation of all men. Those who refuse His grace do not do so because Christ did not die for them or did not win sufficient grace for them on the cross, but because of their own free choice.

A second question, from the Reformed point of view, is this: St. Paul tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a true.” How should we understand the curse, if God the Father is not pouring out His wrath on His Son? St. Augustine explains clearly in his reply to Faustus, that what it means that Christ was cursed is that Christ suffered death. Christ took our sin in the sense that He willingly bore its consequence, namely, death, because death is the consequence of sin and its curse. Death is not natural. But Christ took the likeness of sinful man in that He subjected Himself to death, even death on a cross for our sake.

A third question, from the Reformed point of view, is this: How then should we understand Isaiah 53? What does it mean that:

Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. .. And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: if he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall be prosperous in his hand. Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53;4-6, 10-11)
This means that Christ carried in His body the sufferings that sin has brought into the world, and that Christ suffered in His soul over all the sins of the world, and their offense against God. He bore our iniquities not in the sense that God punished Him for what we did, but in the sense that He grieved over them all, in solidarity with us. That is what it means that the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He suffered the consequences of sin (i.e. suffering, grief, death), by entering into solidarity with us, entering into our fallen world, and allowing Himself to suffer in it with us, for us, even by our hands.

If one watches the film The Passion of the Christ from the point of view of the Catholic conception of the atonement, the experience is very different from watching it from the point of view of the Reformed conception of the atonement. The film is available online, in 12 parts of ten minutes each; below is the first part. Try watching it from the Catholic point of view of the atonement.


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Re: John Calvin and 'Unlimited Atonement'

Post  George Brenner on Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:02 pm


The Passion of Christ was the only major crowded event that I have ever attended in my life where silence and tears seemed to make the world stand still during the Passion and afterwards as people were exiting the theater. I think of Mel Gibson as the perfect example of intense Good versus intense evil in his own life. I have written Mel and pray that he may find truth, peace and harmony in his life as a Catholic.

I can not begin to get my heart, mind and soul around what Jesus did for all of us; even though only few or many will ever earn or deserve His outpouring of love and the ultimate sacrifice of his very life.

Much to think about:

Like Us in All Things Except Sin

General Audience — February 3, 1988

"We repeat with the New Testament, with the creed, and with Vatican Council II that Jesus Christ "has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin." It is precisely thanks to this likeness that "Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (GS 22) "


Acts 2:23 "Jesus Christ, being delivered by the predetermined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death."

Matthew 26:39 "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will."
Matthew 26:42 "My Father, if it is not possible for this to pass away except I drink it, then let your will be done."


“At three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46"


It appears as if the ultimate sacrifice of God the Son, taking on the human form of a man as the second person of the Blessed Trinity and doing the will of the Father for the remission of our sins. This is the greatest love story of eternity. Since there are three persons in God that being God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost maybe the pain, suffering and crucifixion was experienced simultaneous by the Blessed Trinity. Maybe the earthly cries and laments by Jesus the man are to clearly show that Jesus was like us in all things but sin, thus showing both the natural and supernatural.

I can never accept that Jesus was being punished in any manner for our sins. Any thinking along that line, I find ridiculous and a mockery of God and Heaven.



George Brenner

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Re: John Calvin and 'Unlimited Atonement'

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