August 8, 2006 Posted by Roger Overton
In my last post I made the claim that Mark Driscoll does not
hold the traditional Reformed view of Limited Atonement. Instead, he calls his
position “Unlimited Limited Atonement.” In this post I will simply be providing
evidence that his view is not the Reformed view, not arguing whether or not his
view is correct.
The crux of the issue is the definition of atonement. Most
simply, atonement means reconciliation between God and man. As Christians, we
believe we are saved because Christ’s death on the cross had an atoning
benefit- we are no longer at war with God but are reconciled to him.
Two views of atonement are typically discussed (particularly
in Driscoll’s sermon). Arminianism teaches that by His death Christ reconciled
all men to Him, meaning every man, women and child throughout human history.
This is usually called Unlimited Atonement. Calvinism/Reformed Theology teaches
that Christ reconciled all of the elect to Him, all people throughout history
whom God had predestined to be saved. This is typically called Limited or
On November 20, 2005, Mark Driscoll preached the eighth
sermon in a series on “Christ on the Cross” called Unlimited Limited Atonement.
In the sermon Driscoll lays out 5 positions on atonement. A text summary of his
sermon is available as well as the full audio.
In the audio, Driscoll puts it this way: “As to the ‘L,’ we
believe both. That Jesus died for all and in a saving way for some.” He means
by this that everyone receives benefits by the death of Christ on the cross,
but only the elect receive a saving benefit. The Reformed view is that there
are other benefits from Christ’s death that everyone experiences; we call this
common grace (as one blogger noted John Piper’s presentation of this). However,
where Driscoll errors is in calling this atonement. Christ only atoned for the
sins of the elect; atonement on the Reformed view is not applied in an
Driscoll goes further: “Therefore, Modified Calvinists
like the Mars Hill elders do not believe anything different than Arminians; we
simply believe what they believe and more.” In other words, he believes Christ
atonement for all and particularly for the elect. Such a view, apart from not
making any sense, is not the Reformed view. Unlimited Limited and Limited
Atonement, contra Driscoll, are diametrically opposed when properly understood.
His position may be equally, or perhaps better, identified as Modified Arminianism.