Late Night Thoughts on Limited Atonement

In the quite of night-
a time I dread-
remembering times gone
and loved ones dead.
The grief so strong,
like a hammer’s blow.
I gasp out loud,
the tears flow.
How I loved them!
Did You love them too?
Will I see them again?
I wish I knew.
If alone You choose,
why limit the call?
Love without action
is not love at all.

I wrote this poem at a time when I was beginning to have grave doubts about predestination and God structuring our salvation in such a way that we are helpless in its decision. That was over 15 years ago, and I still haven’t worked it out. In the belief that “questions tell us more than answers ever do” (Michael Card), I frequently ask lots of questions that I don’t really propose to answer.

Below are some I wrote after writing the poem. I won’t try to answer them here. But 15 years later, I think my position is this: God predestines some, known to Him as the elect, to salvation, and He may predestine some to damnation. Of that I am less confident, and I tend to be more like Luther than Calvin. Aside from those, I think that God makes it possible (that is He somehow provides enough grace ) for others to accept Him.

In other words, some receive God’s grace like a dead person receives the air blown into his lungs. Others accept his gift the way we accept a compliment. In neither case is the one who is saved doing anything to earn salvation, it is a free gift of grace, but those predestined have no choice and those not do.

The questions that drove this poem:

I don’t mean to question the sovereignty of God, but does it have to be an either/or situation, either God ‘s grace or our choice? Could it be that God gives us sufficient grace to choose Him if we want? But then this opens up a whole can of worms implying that God’s grace can be resisted. If it can be resisted then He is not sovereign is He?

However, that aside, the thing that troubles me is that if God deliberately chooses those who are damned can He be said to love them? I realize that we are not worthy of being loved, that we rejected Him, but He says He loves us and sent His Son to die for us.

If limited atonement is true then God did not send His Son for all, and He does not will for all to be saved. This implies, to me, that people have no intrisic value at all. I believe in original sin, but I also believe that man has value to God-all men, because He created us. If He values us then His act of atonement would be for all to receive if we take up our cross and follow Him.

How cruel if someone is born amoung the unelect, and their family loves them, they live an admirable life of self-sacrifice, in human terms, genuinely care about other, make the world a better place, and die never having had a hope of eternal life. This seems to make it God’s choice and not their sin that condemns them. If God’s sovereign will to save me is based on His choice alone in spite of my sin then His sovereign will to damn another is based on His choice and not their sin.

This also seems to be contrary to the actions and some of the words of Christ. Christ acted as if all men had value to God. Was it just because He did not know who the elect were or is it because God loves and values all men? If He values all men then why limit atonement or the possibility of it?

Now, am I questioning Scripture? Predestination is certaintly there. Am I saying that Paul does not count what Christ said? I hope not, but where is the reconcilation?

Another thing, why was the language of predestination and Calvinism so believable to people in the 16 and 17 centuries and not so much today? Is it that knowledge of Scripture has declined or is it that the cultural context in which Christianity finds itself has an effect on it? Is it that words lose meaning and shift focus? Is it that at times God’s Holy Spirit emphasizes one aspect because it is being negelectd and then emphasizes another later on?

Do we need to find the language of our generation to express the gospel? I am not talking about watering down the gospel, only finding the right way to evangalize modern America. That’s another thing, what is the point of evangalizing? Is it like prayer, more impt for the practictioner that the one evangalized?

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