Limited Atonement vs. “Unlimited” Atonement

Most people tend to think that if one is reformed one is required to hold to the doctrine of limited atonement, the doctrine which says that the cope of Christ’s atoning work is accomplished on behalf of and applied only to the elect.

Stations of the Cross

In a recent article on “hypothetical universalism” (hear unlimited or universal atonement, not universalism), the doctrine by which the atoning work of Christ is universal in its sufficiency but applied only to an elect number less than the total number of fallen humanity Oliver crisp argues that there is significant room within some key reformed confessions in which one can hold to a doctrine of atonement that excludes limited atonement and is open to universal atonement. In this article (found in his most recent book Deviant Calvinism) he makes the historical case that this is so, there have been reformed theologians throughout history who have not compromised reformed orthodoxy by holding on to universal atonement. How is this the case? Essentially it hangs on a Lombardian dictum that Christ’s atoning work is sufficient for all humanity yet effective only for the elect, i.e. those that are predestined. Briefly the argument goes like this:

1-Atonement is sufficient for all of humanity.

2-Faith is a necessary condition to receive salvation.

3-God intends the work of Christ, i.e. atonement, to be effective for all those who have faith.

4-Faith is a divine gift.

5-God provides faith for the elect.

6-Thus only the elect, who have been given faith, receive salvation i.e. the effective work of Christ.

Do you think this argument works? What are the flaws in the argument?

Jason Sexton’s Advice to Students – Serve the Church!

Jason Sexton, a Systematic Theologian who holds positions at USC and Cal State Fullerton and heads up the Theological Engagement with California’s Culture Project, advises those pursuing theological and biblical studies to serve the church consistently and faithfully in order to flourish during their education

Baker Catalog Fall 2014

New Books from Baker

I remember the days of “book fairs” at elementary schools. A few weeks before the fair we would get a catalog of all the books we could order. There were Goosebumps, Clifford, Bernstein Bears, and Animorphs books galore. Now that I have grown up I am still getting those catalogs, except now adays its publishers sending me their Academic Catalogs with books that are about to be released. Every Fall, Winter, Summer, and Spring I have the opportunity to drool over the books I wish I had enough money to buy. Now I will definitely get a couple of books from each one of these publishers, I wish I could get them all but there are just so many!

Anyway, here are a few of the books from Baker’s Fall 2014 Catalog that I am really looking forward to:

Baker Catalog Fall 2014

1-Reformed Catholicity by Michael Allen & Scott R. Swain (January 2015)

Can Christians be both catholic and Reformed? Can they believe in the authority of Scripture but also receive scripture within the context of the apostolic church? In this book Allen and Swain argue that to be Reformed means to go “deeper into true catholicity rather than away from it.” The authors seek to encourage theological renewal through retrieval of the rich resources of the historic Christian tradition.

2-Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation by Matthew Levering (November 2014)

This book argues that divine revelation has been truthfully mediated through the church, the gospel, and Scripture so that we can receive it in its fullness today. Levering’s approach engages contemporary and classical views of revelation across various traditions. The thing that excites me the most is who is endorsing this book: John Webster, John Millbank, and Hans Boersma. What a variety!

3-Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul by Simon Gathercole (February 2015)

There is no other book in this catalog that has me this pumped! Much of my work focuses on Christology and Atonement theories plus I love all that Simon Gathercole writes. He has a way of navigating through revisionist positions, taking what is best of these critiques and yet he always finds a way to show that the traditional Christian positions are actually more persuasive than the revisionist positions. In this book he takes us the highly contest subject of penal substitution. He argues that a thorough account of atonement must in fact include penal substitution.

4-Colossians by Christopher R. Seitz (September 2014)

Christopher Seitz has written quite a bit about how the NT and OT relate to one another. His approach usually involves drawing a link between the theology of the OT to the theology of the NT. So he is definitely known for his theological interpretation of scripture. This book however is the first time he has undertaken the project of interpreting one whole book of the bible. Colossians is my favorite New Testament book to study, so I am really looking forward to this book!



Book Review – Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

I haven’t really made it a practice of reading these types of books, much less reviewing them, however my brain has been fried from a lot of intense work these past few months and I really needed a break. I needed to read something that wouldn’t stress me out. So I acquired a copy of Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat. They say laughter is the best medicine, that definitely is not true, laughter won’t cure cancer or a broken leg, or broken ribs (actually laughter is the worst kind of medicine if you have broken ribs), however when it comes to stress laughter works wonders. This book had me laughing out loud the whole time.

Jim Gaffigan, as you probably already know, is the stand up comedian famous for his “hot pocket” routine. Yes the hot pocket bit does show up in the book, but it doesn’t play a major role in the plot line. Actually, there is no plot line in this book, it’s a collection of “essays” (can I even call them essays, essays sounds so formal and academic), about family life. They are mainly humorous observations of what it looks like to be a father of 5 in New York City. He shares with you, the reader the joys and horrors of raising 5 kids, who never want to sleep, in the city that never sleeps.

Among his “essays” one of my favorites was “Oh My God, You’re Pregnant?” in which he points out the absurdity of how people get surprised when they find out a celebrity is pregnant…

As human beings we end up acting like we are the first generation on this planet to deal with pregnancy. We are most shocked when really attractive, successful someone get pregnant. It’s unbelievable. “Did you hear Beyoncé got pregnant? Its almost as if she is a human being!

Another one of my favorites is his essay, “Toddlerhood.” He makes the keen observation that the more he thinks about it, adults are actually a lot like giant toddlers…

I think we are always unconsciously seeking to return to our early childhood. This is why we go to bars…Think of the last two times you had Jell-O. When you were three and when you were in that bar in Florida for spring break. Have you ever turned off lights in a room filled with children? They immediately start screaming and acting insane. Is it merely coincidence that lights are so low in bars? It’s just a license for adults to misbehave.

All in all this book had me laughing the whole time. And I’m pretty sure that if you pick it up you will be laughing as well.

The Holy Spirit in Romans

Romans has often been called Paul’s “systematic theology,” I would beg to differ, but if we are going to insist that Paul is writing a “theology” it would be best to call it “biblical theology” or “narrative theology” because Paul takes the entire storyline of scripture – creation through restoration – and rereads this Jewish story in light of Christ. So in that sense we could call Roman’s an occasional narrative theology…

What doe Paul have to say about the Holy Spirit in Romans?

We tend to think that Romans is deeply Christological, which it certainly is, but more than that its thoroughly Trinitiarian, meaning that Paul has the Holy Spirit play a huge role in his theology. Consider these facts:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s (1598-1655) – Dove of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of God” four times, the “Spirit of Christ” once, “the Spirit of holiness” once, the “Spirit of adoption” once, the “Holy Spirit” five times, and “the Spirit” a whopping fifteen times! In other words the Holy Spirit is all over the book of Romans, and those are just the times the Holy Spirit is explicitly named!

So what does the Holy Spirit do in Romans?

According to Paul the Holy Spirit does a ton of things! Here is a brief list:

1-By the Spirit God pours is love out into the hearts of believers. (5:5)

2-The Spirit sets believers free from the law of sin and death. (8:2)

3-The Spirit helps believers fulfill the law. (8:4)

4-The Spirit lives in believers and will give them life (8:11)

5-By the Spirit believers are able to put sin to death. (8:13)

6-Believers are led by the Spirit. (8:14)

7-The Spirit testifies to believer’s spirits that they are children of God. (8:15-16)

8-Believers enjoy the first fruits of the Spirit. (8:23)

9-The Spirit helps believers in their weaknesses especially when we don’t know how to pray. (8:26-27)

10-The Spirit sanctifies believers. (15:16)

11-The Spirit helps Paul (and us) carry out our mission. (15:19)

All that to say – the Holy Spirit plays a huge role in Paul’s theology in Romans!

Music Monday – “Hood Cries” by Bizzle

When Bizzle addresses the situation in Ferguson and Christians’ response to racial injustice he simply doesn’t care if people are going to like what he is says. He is going to speak truth regardless if it offends some people’s sensibilities.

He especially kills it in his 2nd bar (1:38 – 2:26).

Book Review – New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit and Kingdom by Robbie Fox Castleman

As the person who oversees college Life Groups at my church I know how hard it is to find, write, or develop good small group/bible study curriculum. Over the years I have perused tons of Bible studies and small group materials, only to be fairly disappointed every time. However, Robbie Castleman’s New Testament Essentials a collection of 12 weekly bible studies does not disappoint.

Castleman’s book focuses on two basic characteristics of the New Testament – first that it is Christocentric and second that it is thoroughly Trinitarian. These two themes get developed across three bigger sections: 1) the person and work of Christ, 2) the person and work of the Spirit in the church, and 3) the kingdom of God. Under each of these sections you will find a Bible study portion – 5 in the Christ section, 3 in the Spirit section, and 4 in the Kingdom section.

Each of these sections include:

1 – Bible Study: scripture to read, some texts to memorize, and some question to reflect on based on the reading.

2 – Reading: a section written by Castleman in which she offers background and insight into the passage.

3 – Connecting to the Old Testament: here she helps the reader understand how the New Testament draws upon the Old Testament.

4 – The Ancient Story and Our Story: a section on how the passage connects with our lives as Christians today.


I was pretty impressed with the book. Rarely do I come across a bible study that actually challenges me to think deeply about Scripture and deeply about my life. Bible studies tend to go one-way or the other, but this one found a a great balance. Also I thoroughly enjoyed it – in fact I did one study each morning for 12 days. During those twelve days I was forced to ask myself deep questions about my life with God and I was challenged to really read Scripture instead of simply skimming it. All in all it was a valuable exercise.

However I can foresee some issues that people will have with this book. First, and maybe this was just my own issue, the book started falling apart in just a few days. Maybe it was created so you could rip out the pages for “study purposes” but I highly doubt that is the case. Second, I can foresee some people saying that the study questions are way too difficult. The author really leads the reader into some heavy exegetical work, meaning that most people will have a difficult time making it through the questions in a timely manner. I found the depth quite refreshing, but I know not everybody will feel the same way. This makes me wonder about its intended audience, who is this book really for? Is it for a new believer? I doubt it. Is it for the average adult? Probably not. I imagine that it is probably geared towards college students and/or seminarians.

Overall this study guide impressed me. I enjoyed working through each session. I was challenged and stretched and I believe that others will be too.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)

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