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I want to begin this post with a disclaimer and a warning.  The disclaimer:  I’m about to wade into theological water way over my head.  Okay… here goes… glub, glub, glub… (that’s the sound I make when I’m sinking).  The warning:  Long post ahead!

I’m going to include quite a few links below, and then pose a question.  If you’ve never really thought much about this issue, I’d like for you to read as much of the linked information as possible (especially Bruce Ware’s paper on the “Multiple Intentions View” of the atonement).

One more thing, before I get to the links.  Most people who know me very well consider me a Calvinist.  However, that label means so many different things to so many different people, and can be so unnecessarily divisive  that I don’t care for it.  Nothing at all would be lost if it just went away, in my opinion.  At any rate, my allegiance is to the Word of God, rather than to any particular system of theology, although I believe systematic theology is an important discipline.

The Links and Some Thoughts

A few weeks ago our pastor taught on the atonement as part of a series on the person and work of Christ.  He leans toward the view of Bruce Demarest, articulated in The Cross and Salvation.

My pastor also mentioned Bruce Ware in his message.  Ware is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and considers himself a 4-point Calvinist.  He proposes a view of the atonement he calls the Multiple Intentions View.

Another somewhat different form of 4-point Calvinism is Amyraldianism.  (If you follow that link it leads to a pretty good overview by Sam Storms of Moises Amyraut’s theology.) Richard Baxter, a Reformed Anglican who held to a form of Amyraldianism, once wrote,

When God saith so expressly that Christ died for all [2 Cor. 5:14-15], and tasted death for every man [Heb. 2:9], and is the ransom for all [1 Tim. 2:6], and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world [1 Jn. 2:2], it beseems every Christian rather to explain in what sense Christ died for all, than flatly to deny it.  (quoted in the article, ANGLICANISM, AMYRAUT AND THE ATONEMENT)

That, I think, is what Bruce Ware and Amyraut and others have attempted to do–to explain in what sense Christ died for all.

For whatever it’s worth, it doesn’t seem accurate to me to call either Ware or Amyraut a 4-point Calvinist.  If I understand their positions correctly, neither of them concede any of the traditional 5 points of Calvinism.  Rather, both add a point.  Amyraut believed in a definite atonement of the elect, but he also believed that God wills salvation in more than one way.  Bruce Ware believes in a definite atonement as well, but he also believes that God has more than one intention in the atonement.

Although there are variations of these views, all of them are generally categorized as moderate or classic Calvinism.  There are a number of websites that advocate some form of moderate Calvinism.  One that I visit occasionally is Calvin and Calvinism.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently and discussing it with with my pastor and some of my online friends.  One of my good blog friends, James Galyon, recently introduced a new feature on his blog.  Anyone can ask him any kind of biblical or theological question, which he will answer on a subsequent Monday.  James has a good mind and a gracious heart.  He would be happy to tackle any question you might have.

Anyway, I took him up on his offer and asked a question about the extent of the atonement.  You can see my question, his answer, and the rather spirited discussion that it prompted at The Doctor is IN.

So much for the links.

The Question

Have any of you ever wrestled with this particular issue? I’m not qualified for a debate on the subject (remember my disclaimer), nor am I interested in one.  I’m just offering my humble opinion, and asking you to feel free to offer yours, as well.

After many, many years of pondering this issue, I believe that my own view conforms most closely to Bruce Ware’s.  The thing I appreciate most about his view is that it tries to take into account and give due weight to all of the biblical passages, without doing harm to the apparent meaning of any one of them in particular.  I find that to be both rare and refreshing.