Friday, February 17, 2006

Universal or Limited?

Chris Tilling had a wonderful little excursus on Universalism which was rather thought provoking and readily recognises the complexities of the issue. Then recently, someone brought up the topic of the Reformed Tradition's notion of “limited atonement”. I’m rather perplexed about these issues. Currently, I’m also reading Ben Witherington’s The Problem of Evangelical Theology. Ben deals with many of these things in the opening chapters [although, he misses some significant literature in this debate, which seems to weaken the overall argument – even though I find myself in much agreement with what he says.
But what I’m curious about, is how people explain the follow scriptures:
For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of ALL people, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:10
he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the WHOLE world. 1 Jn 2:2
Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for EVERYONE. Hebrews 2:9
and through Jesus, God was pleased to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Col 1:20
With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up ALL things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Eph 1:10
Now I recognise that these have been used to argue for universalism, and I’m not quite convinced of that. But how does someone who holds to limited atonement exegete these scriptures? Surely there must be one or two monographs that tackle this issue? Could the apostle Paul honestly have believed that Christs work was of only limited value? And is the issue in these verse relating possibly to the Jew/Gentile issue, and from that can we conclude that our questions regarding the extent of Christs work is unknown and cannot be known, because this is a question foreign to the text's worldview and story?

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