Dominic Bnonn Tennant on “universal” atonement 2 (unh, er, 6) You’ll see!

universal1Yesterday I posted the link to Dom’s 5 article in his series on “universal atonement” – today is the second post – part 6. Hope that isn’t too confusing.

I will make my pitch once again however for better language. The atonement is NOT universal in that sense that ALL are saved. None who fail to believe will be saved. And there is NO atonement for the fallen angels. Nor is it unlimited in the sense that all sins are already forgiven. It is unlimited in its capacity to save all should all believe, nor is there any sin which it is insufficient to meet. And, it is universal in that there is no human being to whom the genuine offer of salvation cannot (or should not) be made.

That said…In this part, Dominic rightly gets to the heart of 3 very important matters in this entire discussion, which I have been talking about since the first posting of my own atonement musings.

1. Eternal justification is a virtually inescapable conclusion to arrive at, if one holds to the popularized version of “limited atonement”.

2. We cannot let our theological rationalizations operate in such a way that for all intents and purposes, justification by faith – becomes little more than a cliche, and not an actual necessity in salvation. Because the atonement is the means whereby unbelief is forgiven, does not mean that one (even of the elect) has already crossed over from unbelief to saving faith at the time/space history point of Jesus’ death on the Cross.  Scripture never separates faith and justification.

3. The accomplishment of the atonement at Calvary does not automatically bestow faith upon the elect at that moment. We absolutely must make proper room for the Holy Spirit to work the grace of regeneration in the heart of the person through the ordinary means of the preaching of the Gospel. We cannot simply make the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit unnecessary.

To fail to deal with each of these in their order and importance is to create an artificial plan of salvation which does not square with the whole of the Scriptural counsel on the matte. It creates a scheme out of some genuine aspects, but omits several others resulting in a skewed view.


4 thoughts on “Dominic Bnonn Tennant on “universal” atonement 2 (unh, er, 6) You’ll see!

  1. Hi Reid; thanks for your positive comments. I agree that “universal atonement” is a relatively poor choice of terminology—unfortunately, it seems to be the best of a bad bunch unless one wishes to start using quite technical or unfamiliar language. Having now finished this series, I’m working on compiling it into a PDF booklet, and this is one of the things I’m thinking about: should I try to find a clearer or more precise term for the position I hold? I can’t really think of any though. “General expiation”? “Non-particular atonement”? Neither of those seems to really improve on “universal atonement”. I’d say that maybe “categorical atonement” is a more precise way of putting it, or maybe “categorical judicial atonement”, but as you can see, what one gains in precision one sacrifices in clarity to the average reader (my blog is intended to be popular-level, not academic).

    If you have any ideas, do let me know (:


  2. Dominic – thanks so much for stopping by. Your entire series has been refreshing. I’ve become a big fan.

    Now if I had a REAL solution for the terminology – I’d have coined it and made my millions. “Objective” is still the word I cling to most. But that doesn’t communicate well without qualification. Hey – I know! Let’s not put anything before it at all – and just call it the “atonement” – the way Scripture does! Naw, that’ll never work.

    Keep thinking and writing. You are helping many of us out here. As a former near-hyper-Calvinist (hence my HIGH-per Calvinism label) recovery is not easy. The obstacles are many. Friends in the dialog are most welcome.

    Blessings brother.

  3. Pingback: Pages tagged "atonement"

  4. Hey u 2,

    The problem of descriptors is a biggie. I’ve decided to use the same language the advocates used to describe themselves and/or their position. Hence I am settling on unlimited satisfaction (Dabney-Shedd) because there is limitation in the scope of the expiation, etc: that is, it is indefinite (C Hodge). To clear, “indefinite” for C Hodge does not mean ambiguous, vague, or non-specific, but without limitation.

    And for redemption, I will use universal redemption (Musculus, Kimecondius, Baxter and many others). It is a sufficient payment made for all, without exception.

    The language of hypothetical universalism, I think will turn out to be very problematic language in the long run. Opponents wont know what it means, and they will just make up definitions of it without any documentary warrant (as we have seen already).

    Oh, of course I want a copy of that PDF, Dominic.

    Thanks and take care,

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