An e-mail correspondent referred me to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (A.C.E.) Question Box Archive.
The answer to the question on Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement includes the following:
==You asked why we should make a fuss over limited/unlimited atonement, in light of the greater issues around the doctrine of the atonement. In answer, let me agree that there are more important issues regarding the atonement of Christ than its extent (limited or unlimited). For instance, the Anselm view vs. the Abelardian view is much more important: Anselm argued that Jesus died to make satisfaction for our sin, the heretic Abelard argued that Jesus died to show us how much God loves us and inspire us to live him too. The Abelardian view is back among us in various nuances, and must be vigorously rejected. To deny that the atonement accomplishes satisfaction for our sin is to be anti-Christian. In short, the most important issue by far in regards to the atonement is that we vigorously affirm Christ's death as a vicarious, substitutionary atonement to make satisfaction for our sin before God. It is because of this priority that one does not hear much about limited vs. unlimited atonement today: we are now fighting over evangelical essentials, so a doctrinal battle that is de facto between evangelicals is not going to be as important.
Again, the great issue of our time dealing with the doctrine of atonement is simply its basic definition -- vicarious, substitutionary atonement. We must zealously preach and defend this core doctrine without relenting. With this on the line, limited vs. general atonement is not likely to come up as much as it did in prior generations. Nor is it so urgent, given the more fundamental doctrinal issues in the balance. But we must not shrink from this doctrine, and we must teach it in appropriate settings with all zeal and diligence.==
Here, A.C.E. says that efficacious vs. non-efficacious atonement is not one of the evangelical essentials and is not one of the fundamental doctrinal issues. A.C.E. says that both the efficacious and non-efficacious sides hold to vicarious, substitutionary atonement to make satisfaction for sin. Really? So, according to A.C.E., vicarious for all vs. vicarious for some isn't an essential difference, as long at is vicarious. According to A.C.E., substitutionary for all vs. substitutionary for some isn't an essential difference, as long at is is substitutionary. According to A.C.E., satisfaction for all vs. satisfaction for some isn't an essential difference, as long as it is satisfaction. According to A.C.E., vicarious, substitutionary, satisfactory atonement for everyone without exception, including those who are in hell, versus vicarious, substitutionary, satisfactory atonement that actually accomplishes atonement for all for whom Christ died ensures the salvation of all for whom Christ died isn't an essential difference, as long as it is a vicarious, substitutionary, and satisfactory atonement. In what way is universal atonement vicarious? In what way is universal atonement substitutionary? In what way is universal atonement satisfactory? According to A.C.E., the answer to that question is not a matter of essential doctrine -- not a matter that would make a believer judge someone else to be an unbeliever. This, of course, shows that A.C.E. is a wicked, God-hating organization that has no idea what the gospel is and will thus willingly engage in spiritual whoredom with universal atonement advocates.
The answer to the question "Is Arminianism a Biblical View or is it Heresy?" is this:
==My reply to this question is to say that 1) No, Arminianism is not itself a heresy. But in saying that, I am defining heresy as something that keeps you from being a Christian at all. If someone is a heretic, I must refuse him the Lord's Supper in my church and must not regard him as a brother. I believe that the logical implications of Arminianism are heretical, but that Arminianism itself usually stops short of heretical implications. In saying this, I am noting that the average Arminian believes on the death of the Lord Jesus for his forgiveness and justification. Whatever problems I have with their views (and I have a lot of problems) I do not question that a sincere Arminian believes on Jesus Christ for his or her salvation. Many of them reject the Reformed teachings because they misunderstand what we actually say (people like Chuck Smith, Norman Geisler, and especially Dave Hunt do much to confuse people as to the actual teachings of the Reformed faith). So often a patient, charitable but clear explanation of the Reformed faith will show a sincere believer that this really is teaching of God's Word.
But, while Arminianism is not necessarily heretical, 2) Arminianism involves serious and harmful error to such an extent that we should not tolerate it within our communions. I speak as one who serves in a confessional denomination (the PCA), which has a doctrinal standard (the Westminster Standards). I believe that we should be confessional and that our confessions should repudiate serious errors like those found in Arminianism. The Synod of Dort is the standard for the Dutch Reformed churches and it rightly rejects the Arminian teachings. So while one is not a heretic simply for rejecting the Synod of Dort or the Westminster Standards (see the issue of infant baptism, for instance, on which sincere believers disagree), these standards rightly govern those denominations that subscribe to them. For Baptists, there are other good Reformed confessions, such as the Savoy Confession.
So here is what I am saying: Arminianism involves such serious departure from biblical teaching that it badly warps the gospel so that God's glory is hindered and our Christian experience is hindered. As Dr. James Boice so helpfully put it in his book, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?, the Arminian teaching does not uphold any of the five solas. It denies sola Scriptura (scripture alone), because its essential arguments are non-biblical, but are philosophical ("isn't predestination unfair, etc."). It denies sola fide (faith alone) by changing the character of faith so that it is basically a work. It denies sola gratia (grace alone), by centering salvation on us instead of on God. And it most certainly denies soli deo Gloria (to God alone be glory), since I am saved ultimately because of what I have done. So it is a serious error. Essentially, Arminianism is a rationalistic rejection of the Protestant Reformation.==
Here, A.C.E. says that Arminianism denies the doctrine of Scripture Alone, changes the character of faith so that is basically a work, denies the doctrine of grace alone by centering salvation on us instead of God, and denies the doctrine of giving glory to God alone by saying that I am saved ultimately because what I have done. AND, ACKNOWLEDGING THIS, A.C.E. also says that Arminianism is not itself a heresy because a heresy is something that keeps you from being a Christian at all. THUS, A.C.E. believes that true Christians can and do deny the doctrine of Scripture Alone, change the character of faith so that is basically a work, deny the doctrine of grace alone by centering salvation on them instead of God, and deny the doctrine of giving glory to God alone by saying that they are saved ultimately because what I they have done. A.C.E. knowingly and willingly engages in spiritual whoredom with Arminians. They are just as unregenerate as the Arminians with whom they fornicate.
A.C.E. Alliance Council includes the following people: Eric Alexander, Alistair Begg, Gerald Bray, Jerry Bridges, Donald Carson, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, John Hannah, Paul Jones, John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler, Richard Phillips, John Piper, Philip Ryken, R. C. Sproul, Derek Thomas, Carl Trueman, Gene Veith, and David Wells.
May we stand up against such enemies of the faith by expose them as God-hating agents of Satan, and may we proclaim the one and only true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ ALONE, wherein the efficacious work of Jesus Christ that secures the salvation of everyone whom He represented is THE VERY HEART, THE VERY CORE of the one true gospel.
To God alone be the glory,
Marc D. Carpenter
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