Many Amyraldians or "4-point Calvinists," while espousing a particular election (by the Father) and a particular application (by the Spirit), hold to a universal atonement (by the Son). What's problematic about emphasizing particularity at the stage of application but not at the stage of atonement?The Amyraldian view of the atonement leads to disharmony or dissonance in the triune God: the Father elects some, the Son dies for all, but the Spirit only draws some (those whom the Father elected). The same problem attends semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism. Hypothetical universalists seek to get around the problem by positing "two levels" in the atonement: a universal intent and a particular intent (see, for example, Curt Daniel and Norman Douty). According to this scheme, the Trinity is united at each level of intent. However, this position lacks scriptural support despite attempts based on a certain (and, we believe, superficial) reading of 1 Timothy 4:10.
Hypothetical universalism also leads to a confusion within the will of the Son. How can Christ on the cross, in his one act of propitiation, will both to die for the non-elect and not to die for them? This distorts orthodox Christology. Christ is presented in the Bible as King, Shepherd, Bridegroom, Head, Master, Firstborn, Cosmic Savior, and Last Adam. This is who the incarnate Son is, and therefore when he dies for sinners he cannot fail to be for them who he is. The person and work of Christ cannot be separated. In short, both trinitarianism and union with Christ point toward a definite intent in the atonement, as both ensure its efficacy. (Source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/12/05/did-jesus-die-to-save-everyone/)I am not an Amyraldian or "4-Pointer," and probably not a "hypothetical universalist," as those terms are usually defined among today's Calvinists. I do not deny that the intent of the atonement was to save a particular people. I do, however, deny that this was the sole intent, and I also deny that the atonement's extent has to be measured by its intent. My theology is Classic/Moderate Calvinism, as opposed to "High Calvinism." Classic/Moderate Calvinism is a prestigious tradition that is often castigated and misrepresented (or perhaps simply misunderstood) by High Calvinists.
It is from this perspective that I will respond to a few of the statements made above, beginning with this one:
The Amyraldian view of the atonement leads to disharmony or dissonance in the triune God: the Father elects some, the Son dies for all, but the Spirit only draws some (those whom the Father elected).This problem is not relevant to Classic/Moderate Calvinists, as I will now demonstrate. In fact, our position exposes a significant inconsistency in the High Calvinist view. This is how they often frame the discussion:
1. Election is particular
2. Atonement is particular
3. Calling is particular
In other words: "God's work is particular, so why confuse things by generalizing just the atonement?"
On the other hand, this is how we frame it:
1. Election is particular in scope, but this does not limit God's general love and common grace which are extended toward all humanity
2. Atonement is particular in intent, but this does not limit the universal sufficiency of the atonement as potentially salvific for all of humanity
3. Calling is particular, but this does not limit the general call of the Gospel as God's command for all people everywhere to repent and believe.
Most High Calvinists will agree with our views on 1 and 3, but for some reason cannot accept the correlating balance on 2. This is actually in inconsistency on their part, not ours.
In other words, we say: "God's work is general and particular, so why deny the general aspect of just the atonement?" In fact, we might even go a step further, and offer a much more reasonable and Biblical solution, by viewing the General Love of God, Common Grace and the General Call of the Gospel as grounded in and made possible by the general/universal aspects of the atonement. The Cross IS God's Word of love and grace to all mankind. The Cross IS God's call of repentance to all of the world's people. The Cross IS God's extended hand of forgiveness to all humanity. And our Gospel is THE WORD OF THE CROSS.
Hypothetical universalists seek to get around the problem by positing "two levels" in the atonement: a universal intent and a particular intent (see, for example, Curt Daniel and Norman Douty).A bigger problem is faced by the High Calvinist, as I have shown above. Additionally, I would suggest that few people understand Calvinism as well as Curt Daniel. My High Calvinist friends would be well advised to listen to him.
According to this scheme, the Trinity is united at each level of intent. However, this position lacks scriptural support despite attempts based on a certain (and, we believe, superficial) reading of 1 Timothy 4:10.Despite this dismissive comment, 1 Timothy 4:10 presents a strong exegetical case for the atonement's unlimited extent and limited intent, if not a dual intent. Furthermore, in the Classic/Moderate approach the Three Persons of the Trinity are certainly united in expressing a general love, a general atonement and a general call toward all humanity, while also working to achieve a specific end for a particular people in each of those activities. Why don't High Calvinists level the same criticism against General Love, Common Grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel (as Hyper Calvinists do)? Again, it is clear that the High Calvinist scheme is inconsistent by overlooking the fact that General Love stands alongside Unconditional Election, and the Free Offer stands alongside the Effectual Call. The next statement demonstrates this oversight well:
Hypothetical universalism also leads to a confusion within the will of the Son. How can Christ on the cross, in his one act of propitiation, will both to die for the non-elect and not to die for them? This distorts orthodox Christology.This is quite a stretch, and, I might add, a little bit uncharitable. The phrase, "died for," is far too ambiguous to become the basis for judging a person's Christology as "distorted" or less than orthodox. Why can't Christ "die for" all of humanity in one sense, and "die for" a particular people in another sense? Furthermore, is the Father's will confused when He elects some but extends love and grace to all? Is the Holy Spirit's will confused when He tells us to proclaim Good News to everyone but inwardly draws only His chosen ones?
Following the logic of the statement quoted above, the Father cannot love those He did not elect, and the Spirit cannot send the Gospel to those He will not convert, without somehow being "confused." In our view, neither the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit are ever confused; they each work in both general and particular ways, being in precise harmony with themselves and with One Another.
As a Calvinist and a Bible believer, it makes the most reasonable sense to embrace the universal extent of the atonement while not denying its particular intent. Whatever you call it, the result will be truly CONSISTENT CALVINISM.