All Sufficient Christ (2)

Isolating the Question

For the most part it has been customary for Reformed theologians to isolate the design of the atonement from all other related considerations, including its nature.  This can be seen in the way Charles Hodge introduces the question in his Systematic Theology.  Speaking of its design he writes, “The question therefore, does not, in the first place, concern the nature of Christ’s work.”1

In similar terms Louis Berkhof affirms that there is a real sense in which the atonement can be objectively considered in itself apart from the redemptive purpose for which God provided it.  “The question with which we are concerned at this point is not whether the satisfaction rendered by Christ was in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men, since this is admitted by all.”2   In other words, there are two distinct categories of truth in the Atonement, and these categories should never be conflated.

In this second installment (you can find the first one herewe will consider the first of two important points regarding the nature of the atonement.

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All Sufficient Christ (1)

The Traditional Reformed Formula

Like every other doctrine central to the Christian Faith, the Atonement of Jesus Christ has been the subject of endless controversy and unnecessary confusion.  Questions about its nature, as well as its design, abound in every circle.  Even among the Reformed, while there is certainly a strong, common, and confessional consensus on the main points of the doctrine, there remains a diversity of opinion on matters intimately related.

One such matter is the validity of the Traditional Reformed Formula, used in reference to the question of those for whom Christ died.  Did Jesus die for the elect alone?  Or is there some sense in which it can be said that he died for all?  Historically, the Reformed have answered this question by saying that Christ died “sufficiently for all, but efficiently for the elect.”  And again, while not everybody agrees that this formula adequately represents the biblical doctrine, others of us have nonetheless come to embrace it as the only reasonable and satisfactory expression which can account for the whole of the biblical data.

Therefore, with this in mind, I plan to take several blog posts, to present the doctrine of the Atonement from a distinctly Reformed perspective.  And while the Reformed doctrine is not limited to the question of the Traditional Reformed Formula, it certainly cannot escape it.  As indicated above, when the time comes, I will seek to make the case for the total sufficiency of Jesus Christ for all men.  To lay the ground work for that discussion, I want to begin here by defining the proper categories.

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