Did Christ Die for “All,” or Just “Many”?

Five-point Calvinists claim that Jesus’ Death on the Cross was not for the whole world, but only for those few who are saved. For the rest, Calvinists claim, Christ didn’t die for them, and no amount of faith or virtue could ever save them. Catholics rightly reject this as contrary to both Scripture and even a basic understanding of the nature of God’s Love. Which is why it’s all the more important that the new Mass translation doesn’t lead Catholics into think that Limited Atonement is compatible with Scripture or the Faith.

As many of you are aware, on the first Sunday of Advent this year (November 21), we’ll be using a different Mass translation than we’ve been using in the past.  Essentially, this English version is more faithful to the Latin text, and more faithful to the Scriptures quoted throughout.  One of those changes in particular is quite controversial. Currently, the words of institution for the Blood of Christ are:

“Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

In the new translation, “It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven becomes “It will be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven.  This change is more faithful to the Latin, and more faithful to Christ’s words, recorded in Scripture (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24).  So which is right: did Christ die for many, or for all?

In a sense, the answer is both. In Greek, “many” doesn’t mean “a lot, but not all,” like it does in English.  It just means “a lot.” So Christ is saying that He’s offering up His Blood for the masses.  Many is the opposite of few, not a point between none and all.  So if you invite 100 people to a party, and all 100 show up, you’d have many and all.  So when  Christ says His Blood will be shed “for many,” He might be saying only for some, or He might be saying for all.  This passage alone doesn’t tell us.  But the rest of Scripture does.

I. The Calvinist Argument for Limited Atonement
You’ll quickly find that almost all of the Calvinist arguments for limited atonement fall into one of these two errors:
  1. Scripture says that Christ died for group, so it must mean only group. 
  2. If there are some who Christ died for who aren’t saved, this makes the Cross deficient.
(1) We see the first argument on the Wikipedia page on Limited Atonement, and it neatly summarizes the case:
1. Jesus lays down his life for the sheep.[Jn 10:14-15]
2. Jesus will lose none of his sheep.[Jn 10:28]
3. Many people will not receive eternal life.[Mt 7:13-14]
Therefore, the Calvinist position is that Jesus did not die for everyone, but only for those whom the Father purposed to save.
John HendryxJohn Piper and GotQuestions.Org use similar arguments.  The problem is in premise #1.  You can find a lot of passages which say that Christ died for the Church, and John 10:14-15 says Christ died for His sheep. But it’s false to claim that Jesus died for only the sheep, and nothing that any of these Calvinist apologists cite to suggests that they can add an “only” to John 10:14-15.

Just look at Galatians 2:20,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Christ died for Paul.  Does that mean He died only for Paul? Of course not.  Rather, Paul’s showing the depth of Christ’s love for Him.  Likewise, in John 10:14-15, Jesus is explaining that He’s the Good Shepherd, and proceeds to show the depth of His love for His sheep by His willingness to lay down His life for them.
(2) The second argument fares no better. If I buy you a free movie ticket, but you don’t come to the movie, there’s nothing wrong with the ticket.  If it’s possible to resist the Holy Spirit (which Calvinists reject), then it’s possible to reject the free gift of salvation. Scripture explicitly says that it’s possible to resist the Holy Spirit. From Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:51-53:

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

So if we reject and refuse the merits of the Cross, that’s a problem with us, not the Cross.

II. The Catholic Response

So as we’ve seen, neither of the Calvinist arguments for limited Atonement are very strong.  But what are the Scriptural passages supporting the notion that Christ died as a ransom for the whole world, including those who choose damnation?  Well, 1 Timothy 2:1-6 says,

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

That’s pretty explicit.  It means just what it says. Christ died as a ransom for all, so limited atonement is false. God desires all men to be saved, so unconditional election and double predestination are false.  Christ is a ransom for all, and God desires all to be saved.  Many Calvinists struggle with this: how could an all-powerful God’s will be thwarted?  It’s precisely because salvation must be freely accepted or rejected. God can’t force someone to make a free choice (you might as well demand that God make square circles — it’s a meaningless contradiction in terms). We see this quite clearly when Christ says to the people of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

If free will doesn’t exist, this passage becomes meaningless. Christ is clearly saying that His will, that they should return, is being thwarted, because they’re refusing to return.

Likewise, we see even in the Old Testament that salvation was offered even to those who would ultimately die in their sins.   In Ezekiel 33:11-12, God gives this message to Ezekiel:

“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ 

“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’”

It clearly shows that (1) it’s possible for the righteous to turn away from their salvation and go to Hell, and (2)  God offers salvation even to the damned.  So “Once Saved, Always Saved” is false, and so is limited Atonement.

John 3:16-21 famously says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

This is quite clear.  Look at the second sentence: Christ died for the whole world, in order to save it.  John then separates “the world” into two categories: “Whoever believes in Him,” and “whoever does not believe.” Of these two groups, Christ died for both, but only the former are saved through His Atoning Death: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  So what’s necessary is not only for Christ to die for us, but for us to have faith in Him.  Otherwise, faith becomes irrelevant to salvation (see places like Luke 7:50 and Ephesians 2:8, which show it is not).

Christ is also described by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  You get the picture.  To go back to my movie theater analogy, Christ has bought tickets for everyone to get to Heaven, paid for out of His own Blood.  We may accept or reject those tickets.  Only those who believe in Christ accept this free ticket of salvation. The rest miss out on Heaven, not because the ticket wasn’t there, but because they freely rejected it.

So when we watch the priest lift up the Chalice at the consecration, He’s holding up our ticket to Heaven, Jesus Christ, whose Blood was poured out for many, and for all.  Let us never forget that.


  1. I would like to add two points regarding the Calvinist scheme since I think you’ve missed the real issue here. Calvinists don’t come to the “Limited Atonement” conclusion from Scripture, rather, they ‘work backwards’ and come to that conclusion. The real issue is the *nature* of the Atonement, which Protestants have totally wrong. This is where all Catholic-Protestant apologetics should focus upon.

    The true problem is Penal Substitution, this heretical teaching is that Jesus took the punishment that specific individual deserved (i.e. hellfire) in their place. Here is where the SECOND heresy emerges: Limited Atonement.

    If Jesus took the punishment for every person who ever lived, then nobody would be damned because nobody could be justly punished a second time for the same sin (which Christ just got punished for). This would lead to the heresy of Universalism (everyone is saved). Calvinists rightly realize this, but because they are operating within a heretical notion of Atonement, they don’t escape the problem and rather go to the other extreme: “reasoning” Jesus *must* have died for a limited few, and from there have to explain away the Scriptures to the contrary (e.g. 1 Jn 2:2).

    (This is in contrast to say Lutherans, who believe in Penal Substitution yet say Jesus died for all and that salvation can be lost, basing this on Scripture. Calvinists *rightly* object on logical grounds, but fail as far as Scripture is concerned. Yet both fall into logical errors from embracing the Penal Substitution heresy)

    So Calvinists don’t say Limited Atonement to be mean, they just see that as the only reasonable theological option, despite how cold-hearted it sounds.

    This error is where another heresy springs: Eternal Security, since the limited atoned individual can never be damned, he’s by definition eternally secure. (In PSub Jesus effectively ‘pre-paid’ for the sin.)

    And that’s not all, other heresies also spring from this, such as that of making preaching the Gospel a lie. For example, let’s take a non-elect individual (whom Jesus did not die for by definition). A Calvinist cannot preach the Gospel to them saying “Repent, believe THE GOSPEL or be damned,” because it would be an impossible command by definition: Jesus did not die for him, the central message of the Gospel, yet he is damned on the grounds he refused to believe in what is effectively a lie.

    Once the proper understanding of Atonement is understood (see this link for an example), the whole Limited/Universal Atonement debate falls totally flat since Jesus dying for all creates no such false dilemmas as Penal Substitution does. Properly understanding this will pull the rug totally out from Lutheranism-Calvinism and totally refute Sola Fide. And then you can finish the job with texts like 1 Corinthians 8:11.

    Unless one understands this is really about the NATURE of the Atonement, they will be tossing Bible verses back and forth since they’re effectively saying two different things.

  2. Jennae, gracias! Sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you when I was in town.

    Nick, I’m intrigued. Would your arguments against penal substitution apply against Aquinas’ satisfaction theory of Atonement?

    JKR, exactly.

  3. Great post as always. I wonder if Calvinists realize that their concept of irresistible grace undermines free will. Without free will God’s actions are arbitrary, thus His image is disfigured. Further in the absence of free will Gods tolerance of evil is contrary to our understanding of His love. Only if we can freely choose to reject Him does Gods tolerance of evil makes sense, because in that case He has let us fall out of respect for our choices. In that sense the Old testament passage in Exodus about choosing life and death also explicitly depends on free will and is a prefiguring of our choice to believe in Christ.

  4. Christ died for all who will accept the gift. Thus, the many and all is dependent on each man’s choice. Perhaps sticking to the Latin is the way to go. The “all” in the ICEL translation is not faithful to the original.

  5. Fr. Bauer,

    I agree with the Vatican that it should be switched from “all” to “many,” out of faithfulness to the Latin text and to Scripture. Come November, that change’ll come. On the question of faithfulness to the Last Supper accounts and the Latin Rite, it’s an easy question. But I was focusing not on whether it should say “all,” but simply whether “all” is true.*

    Even though Christ says “many,” there, my point was it’s not theologically inaccurate to say that Christ shed His Blood for “all,” even though His Death is efficacious only for many. So in that sense, Christ died for all sinners, whether or not we ultimately accept His Death.

    The alternative – that Christ died only for the elect – would put the reprobate in a category of being unsavable (short of Christ dying a second time, for them). God bless!

    – Joe

    *Likewise, I’d oppose someone putting, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” in the middle of the prayers of institution, even though that theological truth is solidly founded upon Christ. My point is just that it isn’t as though Catholics are affirming heresy when we pray the Mass as it currently stands, even though it’s an inferior translation to the new one.

  6. Hi Joe,

    PSub is intrinsically at odds with the Biblical/Scholastic notion of Satisfaction.

    In Summa 3:46:3, St Thomas explains how the Passion was not strictly necessary nor the only option, but it was in fact the best plan God chose to reconcile the world by as the above quote should make clear.

    The plan for the Passion was driven by love and forgiveness, not revenge, not to transfer guilt, and not to punish Jesus. Here is how St Thomas summarizes the concept of Satisfaction:

    He properly atones for an offense who offers something which the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense. But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. First of all, because of the exceeding charity from which He suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of His life which He laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion, and the greatness of the grief endured, as stated above (46, 6). And therefore Christ’s Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race; according to 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
    (ST 3:48:2)


    Now it is the proper effect of sacrifice to appease God: just as man likewise overlooks an offense committed against him on account of some pleasing act of homage shown him. Hence it is written (1 Samuel 26:19): “If the Lord stir thee up against me, let Him accept of sacrifice.” And in like fashion Christ’s voluntary suffering was such a good act that, because of its being found in human nature, God was appeased for every offense of the human race with regard to those who are made one with the crucified Christ in the aforesaid manner
    (ST 3:49:4)

    Christ is not punished in this case, but rather offers something up that is pleasing to God. He lived a life of perfect love and obedience and this appeased God’s wrath against sin by pleasing God with what He likes to see in all men: Love and Obedience. Rather than someone being punished, whomever unites themselves to Christ has the charges against them dropped and the channel for grace to flow into their souls was restored to them. Because Christ is the “Head” of His Body, the Church, all those united to Christ reap the benefits of the graces Christ merited.

  7. @Dave:

    Calvin was an open determinist, he denied free will absolutely, so I guess he knew.

    I think your point is completely right and deserves way more interest than people–especially Calvinists–give it. I was raised a Presbyterian but after reading C.S. Lewis your argument about free will and the problem of evil dawned on me and I could never take Calvinism seriously again.

  8. Matt23:37Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

    If someone invites “your children” to a birthday party, I take it you would always assume that they are actually inviting “you?” The “you” who killed the prophets and was “not willing” is not the same as the “your children” whom Jesus intends to gather.

    The issue in Matt23 is that the pharisees had a fiduciary responsibility to care for the people of Israel and had failed in that. If you read the whole chapter you don’t get the sense that Jesus is appealing to the leaders to be gathered, rather He is judging them.

    Matt23:13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

    You said: “God can’t force someone to make a free choice.”

    You should read the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9. He was freely choosing to kill and imprison the church – if only God could interfere with free choice! And Jonah didn’t want to preach to Nineveh, did he? You’re making an argument from philosophy but note that you have to deny scripture to make it.

    Also, while calvinists would agree that God doesn’t typically outwardly “force” your change of heart, He does do it on His terms and is not dependent on your consent.

    Ezek36:26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (also note v22 and 31.)

    Isa55:11 …so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

    Acts13:48When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

    Heb10:13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

    By one sacrifice He perfected those who – in space and time – are being made holy. Did He also perfect those enemies that He is waiting to make His footstool? Does He love them the same? You say His death was a “ransom” – who accepted this payment? If it was God who was pleased with Jesus atoning sacrifice for unbelievers as well as believers (“all”), then why does His wrath remain on unbelievers. C.S. Lewis’ pagan logic denied this and taught that God accepted them but left them to freely choose Hell if they wanted. The bible teaches that God casts unbelievers into Hell, saying “depart from Me, you cursed ones”…because Jesus was not made a curse for them. (Gal3:13)

    The big issue, though, is that you affirm man’s wisdom and not scripture. When God commands “Be perfect” that is our duty, regardless of whether we have the natural ability. When Jesus told Peter “you will deny Me,” it was certain and Peter lacked the power of contrary choice in any real sense…yet he was right to accept responsibility for his denial and weep bitterly. You demand that ability and responsibility must always be tied together because human philosophy teaches it…calvinists stand with the scriptures in putting that rule aside where God is concerned.

  9. Chalee,

    On your first point, you say that “Jerusalem” and the children of Jerusalem aren’t the same. This ignores the fact that Jerusalem is a city, not a person. So “Jerusalem” and “children of Jerusalem” are two different ways of referring to the city and its inhabitants. The term “Israelites” means “children of Israel” in Hebrew. Same thing going on here. So the distinction between “Jerusalem” and “the children of Jerusalem” is like the distinction between “Israel” and “Israelites.” Not like the distinction between Abraham and Isaac.

    In your next sentence, you appear to acknowledge that the children of Jerusalem are the inhabitants of the city. That’s made explicit in Ezekiel 14:21-22, which prophesies judgment against the city, but that some sons and daughters will flee. So unless you’re conflating “Jerusalem” and “the Pharisees” for some reason, I don’t see what your argument is.

    Christ is lamenting the evil done in Jerusalem, and how He desires to bring the people of Israel to salvation, but they refuse.

    Even if you insist on treating Jerusalem and the children of Jerusalem as two separate entities, you’re still left with the fact that Christ is lamenting that the children of Jerusalem have not returned. His desires are being thwarted, something Calvinism denies is possible.

    Paul’s free will wasn’t overridden in Acts 9. Yes, Christ appeared to him, but He didn’t deprive him of his free will. Paul still freely chose the waters of Baptism (Acts 22:16; Acts 9:18).

    Catholics don’t deny that Christ can influence one’s decision (by imposing penalties for disobedience, by pouring out graces to enable you to obey, and so forth). We don’t understand “free will” to mean “our wills, ripped apart from the influence of Christ.” So if that’s the position you’re refuting, we agree.

    In context, I think that Ezekiel 36:24-28 is pretty clearly about regenerative Baptism. That doesn’t force someone to freely choose Christ, although the inner working of the Holy Spirit enables that choice.

    The other verses don’t say anything about how God overrides our consent, either. You’re making a heck of an argument from silence – that because God saves us, He must do it without regard to (or in spite of) our wills. But Acts 13:48 even shows that the saved wanted to be saved.

    In any case, Catholics agree with Calvinists that the saved are predestined and don’t merit salvation, so these verses seem to be missing their mark. No one comes to Christ without Christ first calling them, and to accept Christ, the Holy Spirit must first enable us to. But there’s a difference between extending a hand of salvation to a man who is drowning (and unable to save himself, or even reach the lifeboat), and pulling the man out of the water whether he wants to or not.

    As for the command to be perfect, your interpretation would have Christ commanding something and refusing to allow the thing to be done — actively thwarting His own Will. I don’t see how this argument helps you. And I don’t think that there are a lot of non-Calvinists who would read Christ’s prophesy of Peter’s denial as Christ forcing Peter to sin. If Christ was commanding Peter to deny Him, He’d be the Author of Evil.

    In all of this, though, I note that you still haven’t actually provided a single passage showing that Christ didn’t die for the unsaved. None of the verses you cite are relevant, unless one accepts a lot of your philosophical presuppositions. If it’s true that your belief is based off of Scripture, and not Calvinist scholasticism, why is only one side in this debate providing topical Scriptures?

    God bless,


  10. “This ignores the fact that Jerusalem is a city, not a person.”

    It’s a figure of speech.

    Regardless, you are interpreting the verse to say “YOU who killed the prophets…I wanted to gather YOU but YOU were not willing” and that’s not actually what it says. The ones to be gathered are identified separately from the violent ones who were not willing: “YOU killed the prophets and were not willing when I wanted to gather THEM.”

    Matt23 is not about the general evil in Jerusalem, it’s about the leadership: the Pharisees and teachers. Jerusalem was the site of the temple which was the source of their authority and they are the ones Jesus is addressing here.

    Free will is an interesting topic.

    God absolutely stepped in and firmly stopped Paul on his freely chosen path of violence. God was not obligated to allow Paul to do as he wanted. Instead, God was free to change what Paul wanted by giving him a new understanding and changing his heart.

    Calvinists teach that we are free agents – that we are free to choose what we want. The problem is that we don’t naturally want to obey God. (Gen6:5; Gen8:21; Jer17:9; 1Cor2:14; Rom3:10-11; John8:47, 14:17) We naturally have “stone hearts” that want to focus on ourselves and not turn to God.

    Your solution is that God can move us to the very top of a metaphorical triangle, where we are perfectly balanced and can ponder our options dispassionately and consider which side we’d like to go down. But this is not realistic. A heart of flesh doesn’t want the same things a stony heart wants, and will necessarily choose differently – v27 says that God will change us and cause us to act differently:

    Ezek36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes.

    I always wonder if “free will” types are afraid to vote. Your will isn’t constrained by your understanding or your desires after all, perhaps your will might choose a candidate whose positions disgust you. Risky to go out to eat, too. Even if you are allergic to shellfish, your will might choose the shrimp dish…

    But the bible teaches that good trees produce good fruit and fresh water springs produce fresh water (Matt7; Jam3). We make choices that flow from our understanding and emotions – we are not free to choose anything at all, rather we choose based on our nature. And we are not capable of changing our nature. (Jer13:23)

    You said: “there’s a difference between extending a hand of salvation to a man who is drowning (and unable to save himself, or even reach the lifeboat), and pulling the man out of the water whether he wants to or not.”

    Anyone who chooses Jesus will be saved, calvinists agree. Yet people with stony hearts who are hostile toward God and hate Him will never choose Him. They are not “free” but are limited by their nature. The bible says we were rebels, hostile toward God, spiritually dead, unable to even hear and naturally unable to choose Him. All turned away from the offered hand of salvation.

    Someone whose eyes have been opened to the reality of the kingdom of God (2Kings6:17; John3:3; Acts9) is not simply in a position to dispassionately choose – do they prefer to go back to having a stony heart or not? – rather they choose based on their new understanding. Paul and the jews were alike in having zeal without knowledge (Rom10:2; Phil3:6) – God gave Paul understanding in a unique way, so that he would make different choices and desire a different path. But God has not done that for everyone. That is why the bible teaches not to take pride in choosing God – rather, God’s choice is foundational and it is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus. (1Cor1)

    BTW, I do appreciate your discussion and eagerness to stick to biblical teaching. I just don’t see what exactly you mean by “free will.”

  11. Chalee,

    Your last paragraph is the most fruitful, because I think a lot of this debate is colored by our very different understandings of what “free will” even is. I share your appreciation that we’re having this, because I think it helps clear up both of our points of view.

    To my knowledge, no one who believes in free will thinks it’s being at “the very top of a metaphorical triangle, where we are perfectly balanced and can ponder our options dispassionately and consider which side we’d like to go down.” That’s how Calvinists describe non-Calvinists, but that’s not an honest or accurate assessment of what (to my knowledge, any) non-Calvinists actually believe. We’re men, not Vulcans.

    Rather, free will is simply the ability to make an actual choice. That doesn’t mean that the choice is made in the absence of consequences, passions, or the like.

    The example of sex makes this clear. A person deciding to have sex with someone else may have all sorts of reasons to do so: they may feel emotional and physical passions, might feel a duty or other external pressure (“he’s my husband, I really should…”), might be guided by reason (“this will advance my career!”), etc. In all of those cases, the individual is still acting with free will intact. In contrast, if someone pins them down and rapes them, their free will is profoundly violated.

    Sorry to illustrate it so graphically, but I think it shows the difference between “a free will guided by knowledge, passion, reason, duty, and the like” and “a lack of free will.” The act of choosing proves a free will: no one chooses to be raped, for example.

    A person with free will can knowingly choose a destructive or stupid option. People choose to start using drugs, long before the power of their will has been reduced by the addictiveness of the drug.

    The food allergy example you gave was funny to me, because I’ve got a mild allergy to certain types of sourdough bread, but will occasionally eat it anyway, because it’s delicious. It is a choice that someone on a metaphoric triangle would make? Probably not. But a person who’s craving a sourdough breadbowl might, while possessing the power and ability to decide not to.

    So given that non-Calvinists don’t understand man to be a coldly dispassionate Vulcan like Spock, I’m curious as to which of your points you think still apply.

    On the original subject, can a Calvinist even proclaim, “Christ died for your sins”? Or would they have to know whether a person was a member of the elect first?

  12. I forgot to address your other issue. On the interpretation of Mt. 23, the view that I’ve cited is the view taken by the early Church Fathers. But even if you were right, that Christ views “Jerusalem” as “the Pharisees,” you’re in the exact same problem.

    The point of my bringing up Mt. 23:37 is that it shows that Christ wills some thing which are not achieved. He desires to gather together the children of Jerusalem, but does not, either because of the hardness of their hearts (the traditional view) or the Pharisees (your view). Why His Will is thwarted is secondary. The fact that His Will may be thwarted is more critical, since Calvinism denies that this is even possible.

    I address that passage specifically here and here. In the latter, there are Patristic sources quoted by Fr. William Most showing how the Fathers viewed God’s permissive Will.

  13. Sorry – I got busy…just wanted to follow up for informational purposes at least…

    You said: “The point of my bringing up Mt. 23:37 is that it shows that Christ wills some thing which are not achieved.”

    IMO the point of Matt23 is not that God’s will is thwarted. The temple leaders had a fiduciary duty to care for the people of Israel. Their role was to help the people understand and obey God – to be part of the gathering – but instead they were interfering with God’s work. The point of Matt23 is judgment…some of the strongest language in the bible is right there.

    But from that you assume that Jesus’ condemnation means that the temple leaders must have succeeding in keeping Jesus from gathering His intended people. I disagree.

    John10:25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

    Jesus sheep hear His voice and believe in spite of the obstacles. As Rom11:1-5 puts it, God has reserved a remnant for Himself. I do not believe He failed in His gathering. But enough of that…

    I would agree that every single person is “invited” to come (but apart from God’s intervention, none want to and thus, none would choose to come). As in Luke14:15-24, many are invited but not “compelled” (v23) to come in. Many are called, but few are chosen.

    And with the bible’s talk of “compulsion” we are back at free will. You affirm “a free will guided by knowledge, passion, reason, duty, and the like” –I have no problem with that – and say that “free will is simply the ability to make an actual choice.”

    Sounds like we are close-ish. (You might have gotten a little carried away with the Vulcan idea – obviously Mr. Spock would accept some degree of pain in exchange for a more beneficial outcome…one that made him “happier.”) While some “knowingly choose a destructive or stupid option,” I don’t think they make those choices because they are “destructive or stupid” but because they think it will make them happy and ignore the consequences.

    God didn’t force Peter to sin, but to say that Peter had the power of contrary choice means you genuinely believe that Jesus could have been wrong – if Peter really possessed “the power and ability to decide not to.” Peter wanted to deny Him because that is who Peter was at that time – he was free to do as he pleased, but his primary pleasure at that point was survival. Unless God changed his heart beforehand, that is the choice he would have made 100% of the time. I don’t think Peter was “free” in any real sense to choose other than what he wanted. Jesus was at no risk of being wrong in His prophecy.

    If free will is “guided by knowledge, passion, reason, duty, and the like,” in what sense was Peter “free” to choose what seemed foolish to him at that time? If denial was his only choice (and being human, Peter certainly could only make one choice at that point in space and time), does that count as an “actual” choice?

    Paul was knocked down and blinded. That sounds pretty forcible. His ability to oppress the Damascus church was gone. Was Paul free to continue hating Jesus afterwards -after his understanding and heart had been altered? Ezek36:31 says that after God gives us a soft heart, we will regret our former disobedience…Paul gave evidence of that. Was God wrong to compel him to come in, rather than limiting Himself to gentle guidance and human teachers like Stephen?

    Again, generally God will often act internally to make a change such that you barely notice it…but it’s interesting to compare your parameters to the biblical examples like Paul and Jonah.


  14. Back to limited atonement:

    Most of your argument seems to be predicated on verses that teach Jesus died for “all” or for “the world.” I would say that this is based on a misunderstanding – the biggest issue in the NT church was “what do we do with the gentiles?” In that sense, yes, Jesus died not just for the jews but for the whole world, meaning the gentiles as well. (1John2:2) John was sent to the jewish church after all (Gal2:9) and made a similar point in John11:51-52. Jesus was sent as a ransom for “all men” and that is why Paul was sent to the gentiles. (1Tim2)

    Jesus died for “all kinds” of people, both jew and gentile. But the point is that Jesus died for a purpose: to save His people from their sins. (Matt1:21)

    If you read 1John2:2 as Jesus atoning for unbelievers, why does God’s wrath remain on them? Some like C.S. Lewis would ignore John3:36 and try to logically argue that atonement was made and God is reconciled to them, but they remain free to choose Hell if they prefer. If God accepted Jesus sacrifice, is He peaceably reconciled to those for whom that atoning sacrifice was made?

    Some have the notion that Jesus died to create little bags of atonement. If you come forward and take a bag, you get the atonement. If not, you pay the consequences but at least there was a bag there for you. The problem is that Jesus Himself is the Atonement: those who are in Christ are atoned and there is no atonement for those on the outside.

    Rom8:32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

    Rom8 teaches that Jesus was given up for “us.” On that basis, God will give “us” all things, including justification. That is what atonement is about – peace with God. Yet you say that Jesus died for unbelievers. If Jesus was given up to death for unbelievers, wouldn’t God logically also give them all things? There is a huge logical hole for you.

    Eph5:25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy…

    Jesus died for a specific people for a specific purpose. He actually accomplished something by His death rather than merely hoping for the best. I’d love to know how your philosophy understands Heb10:13? How do you believe that Jesus was made a curse for the goats that He will one day call “accursed?”


  15. “All” and “world” simply don’t always mean in the bible what you take them to mean. Is the love of money the root of “all” evil in 1Tim6:10, or just “all kinds” of evil? It’s the same greek word (“pas”) you are referencing as “all” above. Acts2:17 says that the spirit will be poured out on “all” people yet in the context of Acts2, the Spirit was only poured out on believers.

    Maybe you mistakenly believe that if Jesus only died for some/many rather than all, that you are responsible to identify which is which. I’d agree that it would seem nicer and more egalitarian if Jesus died for all and leaves it up to us, but I don’t see that in the bible. If he simply left it up to us, then all would turn away…(Rom3)

    You asked: “can a Calvinist even proclaim, ‘Christ died for your sins?’”
    True – most would prefer the more general form “Christ died for sinners” and would not generally tell an individual unbeliever that “Jesus died for you.” If that were true, their response would be a nonissue, as discussed above – God would be pleased with them as He has accepted Christ’s atoning work (and yet the bible warns that God’s wrath remains on the unbeliever.) Anyway, most unbelievers in my experience seem to think that “God” (in whatever form) must love them and would be evil to turn them away as they are “decent people” who generally have never killed anyone or something “really bad.”

    But calvinists are (usually) clear that all are invited…if you come, God will not turn you away…it’s just that your very coming is evidence of God’s work within you and your repentance and faith are just additional things for which to be grateful to God (as opposed to

    No one can identify the elect perfectly except God – on earth the elect are recognized by how we live and respond toward God. (2Pet1:10) We love because He loved first and we choose because He first chose us.

    1Cor1:28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus…

    (and apologies for not being more concise…)

  16. trying one more time on that last part:

    …your very coming is evidence of God’s work within you and your repentance and faith are just additional things for which to be grateful to God (Phil1:29; Acts5:31; Acts11:18; Eph2:8) as opposed to just being grateful for salvation itself.

    here is one example of a calvinistic sermon:


    “I have one more thing to say about this doctrine. It encourages the sinner. Sinner, sinner! come to Jesus; for “all things are of God.” You are naked; the robe in which you shall be dressed is of God. You are filthy; the washing is of God. Come, and be washed. But you are unworthy; your worthiness must be of God. Come as you are, and he will cleanse you. You are guilty; your pardon is of God. Come to him, and his pardon shall be freely given. But you say, you are hard-hearted; a new heart is of God. Come to him; he will give you the heart of flesh, and take away the heart of stone. But, you say, “I cannot pray as I would.” True prayer is of God; he will pour out upon you the Spirit of supplication. But you say, my very coming must be of God. Ay, blessed be God for that. And, therefore, if now you feel something saying to you, “Let me go and trust in Christ,” that is of God. Oh ! come with cheerfulness; for there is nothing wanted of you, everything is of God. Is your heart barren? Fruitfulness is of God. Is your heart stubborn? Obedience is of God. Can you not repent? He is exalted on high to give you repentance. Repentance is of God. Do you say, ” I cannot believe?” Faith is of God ; it is one of his unspeakable gifts…Believe Christ; trust Christ; take him to be everything, and you are saved; your sins are washed away; you are an heir of paradise, and you may rejoice.”

  17. About Limited Atonement: it is at odds with the Universal Offer, accepted for any Calvinist (except some from Hyper variety). If the simnple offering of Saint Paul, ‘Believe and you will be saved’ is true, then the Atonement needs to be universal. Because if I am saying to a reprobate person ‘believe and you will be saved’ I am just saying that ‘there is a way to be saved WITHOUT the Christ’s atoning work’. And it is utterly false.

    So, NO argument for Limited Atonement can be true. And in fact there are a huge of Calvinist theologians who refuse the limited ationement. Even Spurgeon says that God wills to save every human being in your sermon about 1Tim 2:4.

    About the argument ‘all is not all, just some’, it doesn’t work. The Calvinist needs to show ‘all is not all, but only the elect’. If, for example, I found Judas among the ‘all’ Christ died, the atonement is limited – limited to all elect AND Judas, a non-elect. And it is just all a Non-Calvinist needs.

  18. God didn’t force Peter to sin, but to say that Peter had the power of contrary choice means you genuinely believe that Jesus could have been wrong – if Peter really possessed “the power and ability to decide not to.”

    Fatalistic thinking. The knowledge of Peter’s betrayal is logically dependent of Peter’s betrayal. Peter COULD refrain from betrayal, but he IN FACT betrayed. Saint Anselm has responded your silly objection some centuries ago…

    Peter wanted to deny Him because that is who Peter was at that time – he was free to do as he pleased, but his primary pleasure at that point was survival.

    Irrelevant. You are just question-begging determinism here

    Unless God changed his heart beforehand, that is the choice he would have made 100% of the time. I don’t think Peter was “free” in any real sense to choose other than what he wanted. Jesus was at no risk of being wrong in His prophecy.

    So God is not omniscien in your scheme. Also, ‘heart-changing’ is problematic here – because Peter was a sheep of Jesus, and listened to your voice – in a Calvinistic scheme, he was a regenerated person. So, Peter were a ‘new creature’ at this point.

    If free will is “guided by knowledge, passion, reason, duty, and the like,” in what sense was Peter “free” to choose what seemed foolish to him at that time?

    ‘Guided’ is not the same as ‘determined’. Question-begging!

    If denial was his only choice (and being human, Peter certainly could only make one choice at that point in space and time), does that count as an “actual” choice?

    Interestingly, even for a Deterministic, it does count as an actual choice.

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