I am still not a fan of the term “universal atonement” – in that the term (in my small brain) conveys something of application. I.e. universal implies on some level true effectiveness actually acquired or participated in by all. Maybe I just need to get over the language issue. One dictionary states its first definition universal as: “Of, relating to, extending to, or affecting the entire world or all within the world; worldwide: “This discovery of literature has as yet only partially penetrated the universal consciousness” (Ellen Key).” So while I hold that the atonement is universally “applicable” (the way John Davenant most often says it) I tend to shy away from calling it a “universal atonement”. I still prefer either an “unlimited” atonement (there is no sin which cannot be forgiven on the basis of it without violating God’s justice) or perhaps an “objective” atonement – it is “real” and yet is not “applied.”
As I’ve stated many times before and in other places, I do not think of myself as a 4-Point Calvinist (though I’ve since stopped thinking that’s necessarily a bad thing) but prefer to describe myself as a 6-pointer: That there is both a particular aspect to the atonement (in God’s intent regarding the elect) and a universal or unlimited aspect in the genuine offer of the atonement’s benefits to all in the preaching of the Gospel, God’s desire for all men to be saved, and some of the benefits of the atonement which do impact all of mankind.
OK – all of my (probably unnecessary) qualifications aside – Dominic Bnonn Tennant’s latest post on Universal Atonement is truly superb reading. Clear, concise, Biblical, rational and I believe – correct. Check it our for yourself.