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Correspondences on
Limited Atonement

Note: In each of the following correspondences, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My replies are in red.

Correspondence #1

>Hi There!  I was reading the Correspondence on Calvinism and while I admit it is a topic which doesn't seem to matter to me in the greater scheme of things I do have a question and a statement.

Question: Does Calvinism believe that some people are predestined to be saved (in the sense that God says "now lets see, John will become a Christian and come to heaven and Steve will not (be allowed to)")? Perhaps I am missing something here?<

What you are "missing" is that everyone deserves to be damned. God is under no obligation to save anyone. If He, by His grace, decides to save one person, that in no way obligates him to save another (Rom 9:22-23).

>Statement: It seems to me that God is unwilling that any man perish but God is Fair to the utmost. If He offers salvation to one He offers it to all. I believe that we are endowed with a free will and a call to salvation. It is up to us whether we respond or not. Even if something is offered to you for free, it's not yours until you take it.<

This is a basic Arminian position. The question is, what is meant by the word "fair?" Who decides? In the Calvinist view, God is the standard by which all things are judged. Or to put it another way, whatever God does is right (fair, just) by the very fact that God does it. So if He, by His grace, saves some while rightly damning the rest for their sins, then this is the "fair" thing to do. Who is able to question Him? (Job 38:1-4; Rom 9:20).

My "Scripture Study" on Arminian Arguments found in my Scripture Workbook discusses the verse you allude to (2Peter 3:9).

>Once again if I'm inaccurate somehow let me know. I'll try to check back under Calvinism.

John O.<

Correspondence #2

>Jesus Died for the few he decide to save. The sacrifice made is not available to everyone (at least that is the way the info in your article seems to read).<

The sacrifice is "limited" in its effect but available to all. In other words, anyone who wanted to could accept salvation; but, due to the sinful human heart, only those whom God has regenerated will want to accept it. The others will reject it because that is what they want to do (Matt 7:18; Rom 8:7-10).

>Some people are just destined to go to hell and others are destined to go to heaven and there is nothing we can do about it.<

We are to proclaim the Gospel to all as God has commanded us to do so. Only He know those who are His.

>Would that be a true summation?
John O.<

Basically, but with the above qualifications.

If you have never studied this subject before, I know it can sound rather "harsh." Calvin himself call election the "horrible decree." But he believed it as it is what he believed the Bible teaches.

I personally struggled with it for some time; but the overwhelming Scripture evidence forced me to believe it. And when I did, it drove me to my knees. Previously, I had thought that I had been "smart" enough to realize that I was a sinner that needed a Savior. To realize that I had NOTHING to do with my salvation; that it came SOLELY from God was humbling indeed.

BTW, the verse that got me to seriously consider Calvinism was Acts 13:48. I was studying Greek at the time and there was no way I could see to get around the implications of the verse. Arminians have tried; but the force of the passage is even clearer in the Greek than in the English.

I hope the above helps.

Correspondence #3

>Gary, Hi. I came across your Web site while trying to research Calvinism. I would consider myself a low-Calvinist like yourself. I do not believe that man in his sinful state could ever come to God of his own "free will". I believe we have a will, but to say it is free would be unscriptural. I am often asked the question "then why doesn't God choose everyone." Romans 9 seems to me a harsh response, especially when we are addressing God's Amazing grace, and love for the believers.

How would you respond to such a question?


I know that conversations about limited atonement can get rather difficult. A while back I tried to explain the doctrine to a female friend of mine. After explaining the doctrine, she asked the question you pose, "then why doesn't God choose everyone?"

I responded by saying "Why should He?" She responded, "Why doesn’t He?" I replied, "Why should He?" She responded "Why doesn’t He?" I replied …. We weren’t getting anywhere!

The problem was, the doctrine of limited atonement will only make sense to someone if they start with the following assumptions:

1. God is absolutely holy.

2. God is absolutely sovereign.

3. We are all sinners.

If someone does not accept any one of the above propositions then they will not accept limited atonement. However, each of the above is strongly Scriptural as I document elsewhere on this site.

To explain, God’s holiness means that sin simply cannot enter into His presence. God’s sovereignty means that He is not answerable to anyone for anything. He can do just as He pleases (Ps 115:3). There is not "court" to which He must answer. He sets the standard; He cannot not be held up to any standard.

Furthermore, given that we are all sinners we all deserve damnation. God would be absolutely "just" to damn everyone.

Now, most Christians will say they agree with the above points, but deep-down I have found that they really do not believe it. They will often hold some sense that we somehow "deserve" to be saved, at least someone does.

More so, most Christians really have not grasped the concept of God’s absolute sovereignty. They will cling to the idea that there are standards by which God is obliged to obey. Usually that "standard" is their own feeling of right and wrong. But our "feelings" cannot be used to judge God!

Now all of that said, God decides to save one person. Then people seem to "feel" that He is then obligated to save the next person also, or at least make it possible of the next person to be saved. But why? On what are we basing this standard? We deserve damnation. Not grace.

Furthermore, God is under not any "law" that says He has to extend His mercy to all. God declares, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy" (Rom 9:15).

Perhaps a illustration will help. In 1974 then President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. Now Nixon was not the only one who was involved in the Watergate break-in and cover-up. There was Mitchell, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, and Colson, among others. And these others were all convicted and went to jail.

Now if you are old enough to remember, when Ford pardoned Nixon there was a great public outcry, "That’s not fair! If you’re going to pardon Nixon then you should pardon the rest also!" Right?"

Well, not quite. The outcry was, of course, "Nixon’s a crook. He deserves to be in jail!" But, at the time, there was nothing the public could do about it. Neither could the Congress nor the Supreme Court. Ford was acting with constitutional authority when he pardoned Nixon.

But why did he not pardon the other "crooks" involved in the Watergate affair also? Or more to the point, why was there not an outcry for him to do so? Answer, because we knew that they were crooks and deserved to be in jail.

Now the above illustration does break done at a few points. Ford did eventually answer to the people for his pardoning of Nixon. He was soundly defeated in the 1976 election. But God does not have to be elected!

Moreover, Ford could pardon Nixon because he had "constitutional authority" to do so. But God’s authority comes from within Himself, not some external source.

But the above illustration does show that we are not so consistent in our cries for "unlimited grace." We knew that Nixon and his gang were crooks. So they all deserved to be jailed. But do we really know that we are sinners that deserve to be damned?

Moreover, there was no "feeling" at the time that Ford somehow "had" to pardon the other Watergate crooks when he pardoned Nixon. So why do we "feel" God must pardon everyone if He pardons some?

Lastly, God's "amazing grace" can be seen in the Watergate scandal. God chose to save one of the above "crooks" while he was in prison, namely Charles Colson. After being released from prison Colson started a ministry to prisoners, Prison Fellowship.

Correspondence #4

>Gary:  Taking into consideration the belief of limited atonement, is it right for churches who hold to this belief to continue to teach their children in Sunday school "JESUS loves the little children, all the children of the world, red & yellow, black & white, they are precious in His sight, JESUS loves the little children of the world.?" Shouldn't they be consistent in their belief and teach the song "JESUS loves the little children, some of the children of the world, etc....?

Even though I am not affiliated with his ministry, I would recommend reading on the net: "Calvinism, Arminianism, & the Word of God", a Calvary Chapel Perspective by Chuck Smith. I have not read R.C. Sproul's book Chosen by GOD, but will attempt to obtain a copy, hopefully through a library.


Rev 5:9 says, "And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

The point is, God does not choose people based on their nationality, race, or color. And I believe that is what is meant by the "little children" song; so let the kids sing it.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above correspondences were posted on this Web site during 1997.

Calvinism - Limited Atonement and Free-will
Calvinism (Reformed Theology)

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