Friday, October 9, 2015

Thomas Bell - Limited Atonement: Extent and Application

"This must be granted, unless we make his federal representation wider than the communication of life and righteousness: the purchase of redemption more extensive than the application: which, in our apprehension, would be making the work of God crooked. It would be reckoned strange doctrine, to teach that the first Adam represented some persons, to whom he never in fact conveys sin and death; and equally absurd would it be to say, that the second represented any, to whom he never actually conveys life and righteousness. To what end was that, if not to convey these? According to the holy scripture, the one representation is as effectual with respect to the represented, as the other is. As by the disobedience of the one, many, even all that he represented, were made sinners; so by the obedience of the other, shall many, even all that he represented, be made righteous, Rom, v. 19. This inequality of the two covenants as to their extent, was strongly intimated, in the very first revelation of the covenant of grace, Gen. iii. 15. There God speaks of two opposite seeds: the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman. By the former must be meant, all that persevere in their enmity against God, John viii. 44. By the latter must be understood, Christ primarily, and next, all those who come over as to his side. Now from this view of the matter, it is evident, that to aver the covenant of grace is as extensive as that of works, is saying in effect, that the personal seed of the woman, represented the seed of the serpent, which is a glaring absurdity. We see from the following context, Gal. iv. 28, 29. that the children of the promise, or covenant of grace, (Acts iii. 25.) are born after the Spirit, while the children of the covenant of works, are born after the flesh. It is evident therefore, that the two covenants, are just as unequal in their extent, as corrupt nature, and regenerating grace. The one reaches all mankind without exception: the other extends to the elect only...
"In a word, Christ did not represent the world, but the men whom his Father gave him out of the world, John xvii. 6."
Thomas Bell. A Treatise on the Covenant of Works and Grace, pp. 190-191


  1. I prefer to use the Nicene Creed to prove the orthodoxy of Limited Atonement.

    It says referring to the Father that He is "Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible", and then referring to Jesus Christ, it says that He is "Begotten of his Father before all worlds" and by Him "all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven..."

    In other words, there are no additional, contingent or backup salvation plans made subsequently, but rather there is only one eternal plan. It is fully sufficient for salvation and it applies only to "us". I should say also that the Nicene Creed proves that this plan is irrevocable, irresistible and persevering for those to whom it applies. The Nicene Creed is really so clear that proof from Reformation era documents is unnecessary.

  2. Hudson,
    Not to get into whether the Nicene Creed teaches a clear understanding of Limited Atonement... assuming it does then why do you think most Anglican jurisdictions as well as Lutheran and all of Rome (all who confess the N.C.) deny this doctrine and hold to an Arminian understanding of Christ's death?

  3. My point is that if you wish to convince a man of the truth, it's wise to teach him from a text that he might regard as authoritative, if known to him, rather than from a text that he will automatically reject. Among most Christians and even Presbyterians, many will have memorized the Nicene creed, and yet because they have not been properly taught few will recognize it as clearly teaching the doctrines of the Reformation vis-a-vis the Plan of Salvation (eg. Predestination, Election and Reprobation). This is not the fault of the creed itself. For those whose ears are shut, having the form of a sound confession is just a vanity. The same goes for Lutherans and RCs. The proof of this hypothesis is found with the PCUSA which obviously has rejected both the creeds and the Reformed confessions.


  4. Herman Hanko–"By making faith the condition of salvation, faith is set outside the benefits of the atonement. if the atonement is for every sinner, but faith is not for every sinner, then faith cannot be a blessing given by means of the atonement. Then faith is not one of the blessings of Christ’s death, but becomes a condition for making Christ’s death effective. One cannot have it both ways. Faith is either part of salvation or a condition to salvation; but both it cannot be."

  5. Yes. Faith is not a condition of salvation, yet it is a very commonly held idea. Even the best creeds are believed superficially and with fingers crossed. In one ear and out the other.

    My question is how does one persuade a Roman Catholic or an Orthodox or a Lutheran, or for that matter a Baptist? Surely it's not by quoting Hanko. He would never listen or understand. Pearls before swine. Far better to explain the Nicene Creed.

  6. I think the question comes down to if we think of "the Reformed faith" (or being Anglican Reformed) is simply "the cherry on top" of the sundae, and not the "basic gospel" which is the power of salvation. Of course depraved sinners will not hear and believe the gospel apart from God's effectual call which brings faith to the elect.

    I Corinthians 2: 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom[b] but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, 5 so that your faith would not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. 6 However, we do speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: What eye did not see and ear did not hear,
    and what never entered the human mind—
    God prepared this for those who love Him.
    10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts[d] of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 But the unbeliever[g] does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually."

  7. Tran---- A member of the believing community cannot presume of the foreigner that
    certain claims will prompt certain reactions.If the community member wants her community to come off as attractive to the foreigner she had better find ways to communicate beliefs in ways the foreigner can understand and embrace.

    “Why do you talk like that to the foreigner?” she naturally responds, “Because I’m trying to persuade.” There is nothing untoward about persuasion playing a role here. According to Kelsey’s formulation, the great danger is to “conflate address” so that one confuses
    logics of belief with logics of coming to belief in talking with the unbeliever and the believer,
    respectively. If in the course of trying to persuade a nonbeliever one talks as if one were talking to a believer, one would fail as an evangelist. Conversely, one ought not talk to a fellow believer by dumbing down or trying to make attractive logics of belief by, for example, premising humans for any question about God.