Saturday, May 27, 2006


There are five principal points of Calvinism, of which two are, to me, inconsequential.

The first of those two is Limited Atonement. That doctrine says that Jesus atoned for the sins of (only) the Elect, by His death. That He did not atone for the “sins of the world”, or the “sins of everyone”. There are several ways of explaining why that is: one holds that, if He died to atone for the sins of someone who dies unsaved, then He failed with respect to that person. But I think the major arguments over this point stem from misinterpretation of “atonement”, and not from the principle.

What it does not mean is limited payment, price, sacrifice, or number of salvations. Atonement is something else, according to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary:

ATONEMENT: The reconciliation of God and man through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ; or: reparation for an offense or injury


If someone dies lost, they were not reconciled to God … that is, the separation of them from God, caused by their sin, was never remedied. The debt for their sin was never paid; it was never satisfied. Oh, it could have been, had they done what the Bible sets forth as to how we must be saved.

I think of a parable to illustrate the thought: think of a bus driver who goes to the owner of a restaurant and sets a Rolex Watch before him. The driver then says “I have a busload of hungry people .. will you take this as payment for dinner for them?” The owner looks at it, and thinks “I’d feed everyone in town for THIS..” and says to bring the people in and let them eat.

40 folks do, but 8 stay on the bus. They’re not hungry, they don’t like the look of it, it’s too cold outside to walk in, it’s too long a walk, or whatever. They just don’t want to eat.

An hour later, when the bus leaves, 40 meals have been consumed. The Rolex paid for but 40 meals, despite the fact that 48 could have eaten. The price paid was enough for all, and even more.

If you choose to die lost, then your sins were not atoned for. And, since we cannot ever know whether someone else is saved, truly, it doesn’t matter. We can only know about ourselves, with any certainty.

So much for "L". I'll get to T U I & P in later posts.


At 10:20 PM, June 02, 2006, Blogger 70 year old Brother in CHRIST said...

This is a good start. I remember DR
Edmund P. Clowney in our discovery class and TULIP.
Brother in CHRIST

At 10:28 PM, June 02, 2006, Blogger 70 year old Brother in CHRIST said...

I see you were in the Presbyterian Church, I assume it was the PCA. We were at New Life in Escondido, Ca. for quite a few years.

At 5:29 AM, June 03, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

70 YO BIC:

Actually we were, first, members of a Fundamental, Evangelical, United Presbyterian Church (Southport Presbyterian) in Indianapolis. We really liked it there, and I met a couple of my real heroes of the faith while there. One is still there, some 38 years later.

We then moved to Muncie, and joined a Reformed Presbyterian Church (Evangelical Synod). They were best known for Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, TN. That was 1971, and within 10 years or so, the RPCES was merged into the PCA.

When we moved to Birmingham in 1975, we joined a PCA church. In fact, we were part of a group that started one .. Covenant Presbyterian. We then moved to Firat Baptist Church of Pelham, AL in 1983.

At 10:36 PM, June 06, 2006, Blogger Bart Barber said... if this is what Limited Atonment means, can you identify for me any difference between what Calvinists believe about the extent of the atonement and what non-Calvinists believe? It seems to me that you've just defined Limited Atonement as General Atonement. In which case I agree completely.

At 6:58 AM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


I'm a first-year college flunkout and my only theological education is OJT; hence, I'm not familiar with all the terms. I do know this:

The Baptists (etc) want to say Jesus died for "everybody". Saying that indicates He died to atone for the sins of everyone. That's where Calvinism differs; it says He died to atone for the sins of those who look to Him for salvation. When you hook the doctrine of Election to that, you get that He didn't die for the sins of those who die lost.

But the real bottom line is that the atonement was only for the sins of those who are saved. That is, no atonement was, in fact, made for those who die lost.

At 9:26 PM, June 07, 2006, Blogger Bart Barber said...

Your further explanation sounds a lot more like Calvinism, but doesn't match your busload illustration at all. Your bus driver paid for everyone. The only reason anyone didn't get a meal was because of their choice. Now, if the bus driver walked in and said, "How much to feed 40 people, because I know that those other 8 won't eat," then THAT would be, as I understand it, the theory of Limited Atonement.

The bus driver analogy is a perfect picture of the General Atonment view: Jesus paid enough for everyone; some choose not to avail themselves of it; therefore they remain hungry (lost) by their own wrongful choice. According to the Remonstrant Articles, "no one actually enjoys. . . forgiveness of sins except the believer." Thus, I believe that you have, through your analogy, defended General Atonement.

I am not looking for a debate about the extent of the atonement. Those are much more fun face-to-face. :-) I just was confused for a little bit. Thanks for clarifying your position.

At 7:32 PM, June 15, 2006, Blogger Big Al in Austin said...


i liked your illustration. bart is trying to make it "walk on all fours" which no illustration can, of course.

i reject calvinism (not calvinist brothers) and TULIP for three reasons:

1. people who can not figure out that the children of the saved are not ALL going to be saved do not have any right to determine doctrine for the rest of us, and

2. The Spirit of GOD said thru the apostle paul not to form (divisive)groups identified by the name of some favorite leader; duh! and,

3. despite considerable emotion to the contrary, the institutes, the westminster confession, and the synod of dort are not, never have been and never will be the scriptures of truth.

keep writing!

big al in austin

At 8:55 PM, June 15, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Big Al:

You're not actually my preacher in disguise, are you? He doesn't preach Calvinistic Doctrine, either, but we discuss it thoroughly and are as fine as can be with each other.

Wait .. you're in Texas. Never mind.

PS: I'll be posting some stuff about Baptist concerns ... firstly about "tongues" since no one seems to be paying attention to my ravings on the other blogs.

At 9:39 PM, June 15, 2006, Blogger Big Al in Austin said...


oh brother, tongues! it used to be, "do you speak in tongues?" now, it's "do you believe in sovereign grace?"

if there has ever been a more useless debate and focus than the importance or lack thereof of speaking in tongues, i don't know of it!

some of the mission board people have their panties in a wad about tongues on the mission field. not that THEY are going to the mission field to try and understand what is going on; no, just that no sb missionaries out there should be speaking in any languages (known or unknown) not previously approved by the mission board!

keep writing,
big al in austin

At 10:11 PM, June 15, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


I prefer a more sedate term for trustees being upset about something, than the euphemism you used.

I'll have my observations posted in a day or so. I'm just beginning to recuperate from 4 days at the SBC convention.

At 11:04 AM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Scotte Hodel said...

Excellent analogy; I've tried to say this before but not as well.

I notice from your profile that we're just down the road from each other. I've driven through Pelham several times on my way to MSFC in Huntsville.

Yours (and War Eagle!),
Scotte Hodel

At 11:30 AM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


Thanks for the kind words.

Next time through Pelham, if you're on US 31, look for the huge red brick church on the east side of the road. That's where I go.

Anyway, ROLL ON, brother.

At 11:53 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger W said...


I strongly disagree with what you say about limited atonement. Instead of providing long commentary here, I wrote on it on my own blog...I do hope you will take a look and respond.


At 6:51 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...


Thanks for the comments. I looked and responded.

God bless.


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