Redemption & Limited Atonement

Redemption is a comprehensive term regarding our salvation through justification, expatiation, and reconciliation in Christ. It is eschatological and teleological. It is the consummation of Gods’ redeeming purposes in the new creation. It tells us that glorification is an essential part of our salvation.

In Atonement Torrance runs through the uses of the words for redemption in the scriptures. He shows that Lutron implies a price of Atonement - TF Torrancerelease or emancipation. Luo means to destroy, to release, or to loosen. Lutrosis, implies a deliverance out of oppression and from guilt and punishment and it also carries eschatological connotations. As we look at these three ways of speaking about redemption it becomes clear that “redemption is the mighty act of God’s grace delivering us out of the power of darkness into the glorious liberty of the sons and daughters of God.”[2] Humanity is redeemed from the power of darkness, the law, and the bondage to sin. This act of redemption is completed and actualized by the pouring out of the Spirit to the church so that the church can participate in the atonement that Christ has undertaken on its behalf. It is through the Spirit that we are incorporated into him; it is through the incarnation that God is incorporated into us. Thus at Pentecost, double incorporation occurs, meaning that redemption has been completed.

For Torrance humanity is justified before God in the person and work of Christ (by the hypostatic union), also humanity has been reconciled to God for eternity in the person and work of Christ (by the hypostatic union). It would also seem to follow that humanity is redeemed because of Christ’s atoning person and work. But we should stop and ask, who did Christ die for? In other words, is the atonement limited? Torrance wants to say that it is not. First we must admit that if incarnation and atonement cannot be separated then Christ represents in his death all whom he represents in his incarnation.[3] Thus taking on human nature, Christ represents all men and women without exception in his atoning work. So if Christ represents all humanity in his atoning death, we might want to make a distinction between the sufficiency and the efficacy of his death. In other words Christ death was sufficient for all but efficacious only for the elect. This view is the logical conclusion of the doctrine of absolute predestination. However to take this view is to deny that Christ represents all in the incarnation. By separating Christ’s atoning representation into terms like efficaciousness and sufficiency we separate Christ’s person from his work. However by denying that God can freely elect some and choose not to elect others is to deny God freedom. We also end up denying God freedom by asserting that God must necessarily save all. Torrance concludes that pitting hypothetical universalism against limited atonement is an instance of “man’s proud reason” subjecting the “great mystery of atonement” to the “rationalism of human thought.” He concludes that we must think of atonement as a sufficient and efficacious reality for every human being.[4] However it is the baptism of the Spirit, that effects our incorporation into Christ. Thus objectively atonement is universal but subjectively atonement is actualized through the Spirit.

At least that is what Torrance seems to say….


[1] Torrance, Atonement: the Person and Work of Christ, 172.

[2] Torrance, Atonement: the Person and Work of Christ, 177.

[3] Torrance, Atonement: the Person and Work of Christ, 182.

[4] Torrance, Atonement: the Person and Work of Christ, 189.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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