Does the Bible Teach Definite Atonement?

Playing Bible Ping-Pong

To support the doctrine of definite atonement, I don't think it's as simple as providing a set of biblical texts. For example, as someone who believes in definite atonement, I could bring all the particularistic texts to the table and speak about Christ's death for me, for his people, for us believers, and for the church. But then someone who believes in a general or universal atonement will bring to the table universalistic texts, and say, Look at these. Christ died for many, for all, for the world.

What normally happens then is a bit of textual tit-for-tat. You go back and forth, a bit like a game of Bible ping-pong.

Synthesizing Biblical Truth and Theological Reality

I think a better way to understand the doctrine of definite atonement is that it's a theological construct. It's a biblical-systematic doctrine. What I mean is you arrive at it by harmonizing a whole bunch of biblical texts, and holding them in tension.

At the same time, you must synthesize internally-related doctrines that impinge upon the intent and nature of the atonement—doctrines such as eschatology, election and predestination, christology, union with Christ, the Trinity, covenant, and doxology.

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her

David Gibson, Jonathan Gibson

With contributions from a number of well-respected Reformed theologians and church leaders, this volume offers a comprehensive defense for the doctrine of limited atonement from historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral perspectives.

When you take all the biblical texts together and you take all the doctrines that impinge upon the intent and nature of the atonement, then you can arrive at the doctrine of definite atonement on the other side of this comprehensive synthesis of texts and doctrines.

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