I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t think the doctrines of limited atonement and unlimited atonement are all that different in the end. If you’re not familiar with the controversy, here are the basic ideas of each:
- Jesus paid the price for the sins of all men equally.
- Only believers have their sins completely and finally atoned for, as the atonement is made effective by faith.
- Those who do not believe do not have their sins atoned for in the same way as believers, because the atonement is not made effective in them by faith.
- Jesus paid the price for the sins of the elect.
- All of the elect (who all become believers) have their sins completely and finally atoned for. This atonement is applied through the effectual calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification of the believer.
- Those who do not believe do not have their sins truly atoned for, except in the sense of a temporary propitiation that allows God to pass over them now and even give them various kinds of grace on earth until final judgment.
Another way to say it is that unlimited atonement views the atonement as covering all mankind objectively, but only those who believe subjectively, whereas limited atonement views the atonement as covering all of only the elect objectively and subjectively. People must be both objectively and subjectively covered by the atonement to be saved.
- Jesus died to benefit the whole world, for at very least all get to live for a while on this earth without being judged.
- Only believers will have their sins atoned for in such a way that they will not go to Hell.
- Unbelievers, despite the cross, will still die in their sins.
These points of agreement are very substantial. Indeed, they are the very essence of the atonement. So either way you look at it, these same truths are there. Jesus died for all. Believers will be saved. Unbelievers will be condemned. So let’s not fret or complain about the other side.