Saturday, August 11, 2012

An Exegetical and Theological Defense of Universal Atonement

I have begun the process of taking several blog entries related to a certain topic and compiling them into essays in defense of particular Lutheran doctrines. I am working on a website where I can compile these and other essays I have written for the sake of easier access than looking through old blog entries to find the topic of interest.

The first one that I have written is on the doctrine of universal atonement. I have taken all of my blog entries related to the subject, edited them heavily, and added new material. This is an attempt at a short but comprehensive refutation of Limited Atonement. Eventually I hope to write a book on the subject because the topic merits more in-depth discussion but this will have to do for now.

An Exegetical and Theological Defense of Universal Atonement


Martin Yee said...

Wow, this is great stuff Jordan.


Martin Yee

J. Dean said...

As a Calvinist wrestling with Lutheranism in some aspects, this is a tough one to swallow, mainly because all of those Calvinist arguments against Universal Atonement keep coming to mind (one of the chief ones being it's a step in the direction of Arminianism or Universalism).

Good article to chew on though. Thank you!

Andrew said...

I also am struggling with some of these issues. I found this paper to be a little disappointing. There are some very good Reformed works that deal with the three passages you addressed and all you really did was scratch the surface. That is your prerogative of course; but you didn't offer as much as you could have. But what was really disappointing to me, and by the way I am not using "disappointing" as some sort of pejorative. It's just my reaction, was that you didn't interact at all with the Reformed argument from the relationship between Christ's atoning sacrifice and his intercession before the Father. This is based heavily upon the book of Hebrews. I would think you would have addressed it. And when you touched on the logical arguments you left out what is probably a better one. Universal atonement puts the Trinity at cross purposes with each other. Christ dies for all; but the Father doesn't elect all and the Spirit doesn't regenerate all. I also found it to be odd that you would chide Calvinists for arguing from logic instead of scripture, despite the mountains of scriptural argumentation they have produced on this subject, and then go on to argue for your position based on what you see as logical problems with the Reformed position. If ind this almost constantly with Lutheran apologists and it drives me nuts. Nobody else can use logic. That would be magisterial use of reason. But I have read Luther's Large Catechism on baptism several times and his entire argument for infant baptism is based on inference from other theological assumptions. So clearly Lutherans don't have a problem with doing theology based on logic. Okay, I am done ranting now. I don't want to use up the entire bandwith of the internet in one post. Beside that, I am probably starting to sound angry and I can assure you I am not. Keep writing, Jordan. The confessional Reformed and Lutheran camps need to talk and talk some more until whoever is wrong sees it and repents.

Jordan Cooper said...


You are right that I only scratched the surface regarding Reformed arguments from the three passages I dealt with. That is the nature of an essay this length that deals with such a complex topic. I want to delve into the topic more deeply, and eventually hope to write a book on the subject. It merits a lengthy in-depth examination.

However, even though I didn't deal with every Reformed interpretation of each of these passages (and there are a lot), many of the arguments are valid regardless of which interpretation one takes. For example, how can one get around Peter's clear statement that some deny the Lord who bought them, in reference to the evidence presented that this refers to Christ?

Reason is not a bad thing, and should be cherished and used by Christians. However, the problem comes when your doctrine is formed on rational inference rather than scripture. Many Calvinists accept limited atonement primarily because of rational arguments and then subsequently find Biblical evidence to support their position. This I find troubling.

My arguments in this paper were primarily exegetical. Rational arguments are valid to an extent but should always be placed under scripture.

Patrick T. McWilliams said...

Can you point me to a Lutheran (yours or someone else's) response to the argument that Andrew raised about universal atonement putting the persons of the Trinity at cross purposes with each other? Thanks in advance.

Jordan Cooper said...


I deal with this in my extended version of this essay, which is a chapter in my forthcoming book on Reformed and Lutheran theology. If you send me your email address I will send it to you.

Patrick T. McWilliams said...

Thanks, it is patrickmcw AT gmail DOT com