Arminian Atonement Errors (I)
Universalism says, “Christ died for everyone, and everyone is saved.” Reformed believers say, “Christ died for God’s elect people, and every one of them is saved.” Arminianism says, “Christ died for everyone, and those who choose to have faith in Christ are saved.” The first two positions are logical, albeit the first one is wrong. The last one is not logical, nor true. Let us consider a few of its errors.
In the first error of Arminian theology, as it pertains to the death of Christ, we learn that God has no definite decree to save any one person. Christ made perfect redemption, but with no application, hence, no atonement. Atonement is possible, but it is not, actual. Christ died for everyone and every man, but no one is actually atoned for by Christ’s sacrifice. Faith is the condition that every man must generate himself, for obedience unto salvation.
In the second error, Christ’s death successfully made it possible for God to covenant with man once again. The covenant, be it grace or works, is a joint work project of salvation. It has been reduced to a mere conditional agreement between God and man. God does His part, and every man must do his part. The application of Christ’s redemption is the condition of the covenant, placed upon every man. The choice to accept or reject Christ’s work of redemption actuates the application.
In the third error, Christ’s death was for no one in particular, nor did it satisfy the requirement of faith, which is the means by which redemption is actually applied. Rather, Christ secured the Father’s right to covenant, which the Father did by making man responsible for obedience of faith, which man chooses of his own free will. This left the possibility that no one would choose Christ’s redemption; or absolutely everyone could possibly choose Christ’s redemption — and be saved.
In the Arminian view, therefore, God the Father established a covenant, resulting from Christ’s death. The covenant is actually one of works. The conditions of the covenant, placed upon every man, require man’s self-generated faith. Faith is man’s choice. Choice comes from man’s free will. The conditions are prescribed by God, but the decision that applies Christ’s redemption and saves a man is that man’s decision. This makes man the arbiter of salvation.
The result of the Arminian view is an unknown number of possible decision makers in heaven. If God the Father purposed for the Son, to actually save someone, by His death, then Christ has failed. May it never be! If Christ’s redemptive death actually atoned for no one, then Christ has failed. God forbid! If God’s salvation has been handed over to man, then it is no longer God as Savior, but God and man are joint saviors of man. This breaks the Scripture.
To summarize, Christ’s death gave His Father the right to covenant with man. In the New Covenant, God placed conditions on man. Man must use his free will to choose to apply Christ’s redemption to himself. Man’s choice is his work in the covenant, while Christ’s death and the Father’s design of the covenant are God’s work. When God does His work, and man does his work, redemption is applied, and salvation is successful, according to the Arminian.
Now, let us shift gears and correct the Arminian errors (there are more!), as we consider the death of Christ. God the Father chose a definite number of people for salvation before creation (Rev 13:8; 17:8). He predestined them, in love, and gave them to His Son (Jn 6:37; 17:2, 6, 24; Eph 1:4-5). The Father also gave the Son the task of being the Redeemer of those exact people (Mt 1:21; Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 2:24). Christ the Son, died on the cross to redeem this specific people. He satisfied every requirement to secure their salvation.
By His meritorious work, Christ also secured every blessing and benefit, including faith. The unconditional terms of God’s eternal covenant means God has promised to do everything, in planning salvation for His people, executing salvation, and applying salvation to His people. A definite purpose for Christ’s death has been decreed. A certain salvation for a known and loved people has actually occurred (Titus 3:5), not by the will of man, but by the grace of God (Jn 1:13; Rom 11:5; Eph 2:8–9). The precise number of His named elect from every nation will receive the gift of faith (Phil 1:29; Rev 5:9), granted by the Holy Spirit, Himself given to them as a gift (Acts 2:38), in the measure of God’s own choosing (Rom 12:3), who is the Author of their faith (Heb 12:2).
Salvation belongs to God our Savior (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Titus 2:13; Rev 19:1). No man can do God’s work (Rom 4:5), nor will any man steal glory from God. The faith of the Reformers rejects the errors of man-centered Arminianism for these reasons, even as Augustine rejected the heresy of Pelagius. Praise God for His design and full delivery of so great a salvation!
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 8, 2021