Most people outside the ropes of Reformed theology would say that there is no such thing as a humble Calvinist. Reformed culture seems to be known for its lack of grace rather than its absolute reliance on grace. Many would classify Calvinists as “Post Toasties” Christians. (I think that the demographic of this readership is such that most of you will remember the advertising slogan on the Post Toasties cereal box. It read, “Post Toasties…Just a Little Bit Better.”) So when I was a kid, we would disparagingly refer to those people who attended the church down the street that claimed to be the only theologically correct church in town as “Post Toasties Christians.” And that’s the way most non-believers, and sadly many of our non-reformed brothers and sisters in Christ, feel about us Calvinists. Why is that? There are Christians around the world who will be sharing the joy of heaven with us for eternity, but who find a reason for debate with every point of the TULIP acronym. But the point that seems to cause the most criticism is the doctrine of Limited Atonement.
By Limited Atonement, the reformers meant to teach that the saving intent of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was limited to the elect, and the elect are those chosen by God before the foundation of the earth, and for whom He died. The Bible clearly teaches that not all people are saved. Romans 9:27 states that Jesus atonement on the cross was only for an elect “remnant.” And that is where so many Christians and non-Christians alike base their objection, arguing that the loving creator of mankind would not save only a finite number of His created humanity.
But Limited Atonement does not mean Meager Atonement. J.A. Medders, the author of a fantastic book which I would recommend to everyone entitled, “Humble Calvinism,” says that phrases like “particular redemption,” or “definite atonement” do a much better job representing the point being made. He says, “’Limited Atonement’ can make it sound like Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t pack enough power needed to redeem all of us from our sins. But ‘Definite Atonement’ puts the focus back on what Jesus did, not what He didn’t do. Definite Atonement means that Jesus’ death definitely and explicitly, surely and indubitably, absolutely and incontestably, paid for the sins of ALL who would believe in Him.”
So why would we conclude that the Father who created every human being who has ever lived would choose to save only a tiny percentage of His creation? Charles Hodge (Presbyterian theologian and principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878) wrote that on the basis of God’s electing grace, “We have reason to believe . . . that the number of the finally lost in comparison with the whole number of the saved will be very inconsiderable, our blessed Lord, when surrounded by the innumerable company of the redeemed, will be hailed as the . . . Savior of Men, as the Lamb that bore the sins of the world. The number of the saved shall, in the end, be not small but large, and not merely absolutely but comparatively large; . . . to speak plainly, it shall embrace the immensely greater part of the human race.”
Charles Spurgeon, never one to mince words, once famously preached, “I do abhor from my heart that continual whining of some men about their own little church as the remnant. They are always dwelling upon what they conceive to be a truth, that but few shall enter heaven. . . . I believe there will be more in heaven than in hell . . . because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence” and I cannot conceive how he could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in paradise.
Moreover, it is said there is to be a multitude that no man can number in heaven; I have never read that there is to be a multitude that no man can number in hell. Of all people, those who affirm the Bible’s teaching on unconditional election have reason to hope for a vast election. This is because salvation doesn’t rest on people’s willingness to choose grace, but on God’s free choice.”
In Genesis 15:5, God promises Abraham that his descendants (the chosen of God-the elect through the ages) would outnumber the stars. Then in Revelation 7:9, John gets to see that promise come to fruition as he beheld “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne…” So Reformed theology doesn’t promote Post Toasties Christians. It encourages humble sinners, who have been saved by God’s grace alone, to rejoice in the immensity of our Savior’s love and the fulfillment of His promise to deliver an innumerable remnant of redeemed believers to the eternal throne of the Father. Sola Gratia.
Written by Jim De Horn