Mark Driscoll’s Heretical View Of The Atonement
First, some Christians (e.g., Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Foursquare, Calvary
Chapel, Methodist, Christian Church) believe that Jesus died for the sins of all people.
This position is commonly referred to as Arminianism, after James Arminius,
Wesleyanism, named after John Wesley, or Unlimited Atonement. They appeal to those
Scriptures which speak of Jesus dying for all people (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:1-6; 4:10; Titus 2:11), the whole world (John 1:29; 3:16-17; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; Rev. 5:9), everyone
(Isa. 53:6; Heb. 2:9), and not wanting anyone to perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
Arminians then teach that to be saved, all someone needs to do is simply choose
But, critics point out that if Jesus died to forgive everyone, then everyone would
be saved, which is the heresy of universalism. Additionally, they state that no one will
ever choose Jesus because sinners are spiritually dead (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1), hostile
to God (Rom. 8:7), never seek God (Rom. 3:11), cannot find God (Luke 19:10), do not
choose God, and are only saved when God chooses them (John 15:16) and draws
them (John 6:44, 65).
Second, some Christians (e.g., Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, some
Independent Bible churches) believe that Jesus dies only for the sins of the elect. This
position is commonly referred to as Calvinism, named after John Calvin, Reformed
Theology, or Limited Atonement. They commonly appeal to those Scriptures which
speak of Jesus dying only for some people but not all people (Matt. 1:21; 20:28; 26:28;
Rom. 5:12-19), His sheep (John 10:11, 15, 26-27), His church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25),
the elect (Rom. 8:32-35), His people (Matt. 1:21), His friends (John 15:3), and all
Christians (2 Cor. 5:15; Titus 2:14).
At first glance, Unlimited and Limited Atonement are in opposition. But, that
dilemma is resolved by noting two things. First, the two categories are not mutually
exclusive; since Jesus died for the sins of everyone that means that He also died for the
sins of the elect. Second, Jesus’ death for all people does not accomplish the same
thing as His death for the elect. This point is complicated, but is in fact taught in
Scripture (1 Tim. 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1).
Simply, by dying for everyone, Jesus purchased everyone as His possession
and He then applies His forgiveness to the elect by grace and applies His wrath to the
non-elect. Objectively, Jesus’ death was sufficient to save anyone, and, subjectively,
only efficient to save those who repent of their sin and trust in Him. This position is
called Unlimited Limited Atonement or Modified Calvinism.
Therefore, Modified Calvinists like the Mars Hill elders do not believe anything
different than Arminians; we simply believe what they believe and more.
Lastly, perhaps the Old Testament sacrificial system provides the best illustration of this both/and position. The High Priest would offer a sacrifice for the sins of the whole nation on the
Day of Atonement; this is, in effect, unlimited atonement. Then, each worshipper would
repent of their own sins as demonstrated by the giving of their own sacrifices for their
sins; this is, in effect, limited atonement.
(Mark Driscoll – Unlimited, Limited Atonement)