While I hold to a version of Limited Atonement, I also hold to a version of Unlimited Atonement. As I mentioned in my first blog entry, I hold to unlimited atonement (as defined by W. G. T. Shedd,) and limited atonement (as defined by R. L. Dabney). The difference between these two theologians is partly in their definitions of "atonement." When Dabney used the term, he meant actual reconciliation, while Shedd used the term in the way that most modern Calvinists would. Despite the difference in definition, they both believed that Christ's work was for everyone without distinction. The limitation in the atonement is in the application, which is for the elect alone -- by grace through faith.
So I am a five-point Calvinist of a sort. My previous blog entry, though, was in defense of four-point Calvinism. I mentioned there that four-point Calvinism is not logically inconsistent, B. B. Warfield to the contrary notwithstanding.
There is nothing illogical here provided we keep in mind the distinction between provision on the one hand and application on the other (borrowing Dr. Kevin Bauder's terms [scroll down to find the article entitled "The Logic of Limited Atonement"]). We could better use the terms Dabney and Shedd used. They taught the same concept by distinguishing between expiation and atonement -- as per Dabney -- or between atonement and redemption -- as per Shedd.
There does seem to be something wrong with the scheme, though. Here is the problem: If we understand the eternal counsel of God properly, the Father elected certain ones to be given to the Son as his people. Thus the saving and efficacious love of the Father is bestowed on the elect alone. If we view Christ's work on the cross as being universal, then the Son died for all men, regardless of the particular love of the Father for the elect. So the Father's work in salvation is limited and particular, while the Son's work in salvation is unlimited and general. Though there may be nothing illogical about this in the strict sense, there certainly does seem to be something incongruous about it. Why would the Son do a work of sacrifice that is seemingly so out of step with the particularity of the decree of election?
The incongruity is really only a misunderstanding. If we think of God as having both a general will that all men be saved and a special will that the elect be saved (1Timothy 4:10), then we must think of each member of the Holy Trinity as agreeing with such a purpose and contributing to that purpose.
Thus, the Father loves the world in general and has a special love for the elect (compare Matthew 5:44-45, John 3:16, John 6:32, Romans 2:4, and 1John 4:14 with Ephesians 1:4 and cognates). The Son gave his life for the world and especially those that believe (compare John 3:16, John 12:47, and 1John 2:2, with Ephesians 5:25 and 1Timothy 4:10). The Holy Spirit draws all men generally, and the elect efficaciously (compare Revelation 22:17 with 2Thessalonians 2:13).
Thus there is no conflict between a general work of Christ on the one hand and a particular electing decree of the Father and the effectual call of the Holy Spirit on the other hand. Rather, there is a general love of God for all men and a saving purpose concordant with that love in which every member of the Holy Trinity participates. And there is a particular love of God for His elect people with an efficacious saving purpose concordant with that love in which every member of the Holy Trinity also participates.More on this in the next blog entry.