The Atonement

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Heavenly Pilgrim, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    There are different ways to view the Atonement. I see them as comprising mainly two thoughts. One is that the Atonement is likened to a forensics proceeding such as one would expect to see in a court of law where a specific amount of infractions are covered by a specific action by the court. A literal amount of sin covered by a literal payment for those sins. This could also be termed as the literal payment theory regarding the Atonement.

    The other point of view would view the Atonement as a governmental satisfaction of the debt incurred by sin, not as a forensic proceeding or a literal payment. It would view God as making a sacrifice, not specifically or directly applied to any specific individual’s sin, but rather as a general sacrifice, as making a general sacrifice for the sins of all, that would allow for, not accomplish simply in and of itself, the fulfilling of the demands of the law,only when certain conditions are met. It might be viewed as God making a sacrifice that has every capability of being applied to every sin, and having the capacity to set aside every sin that has ever been committed, yet such capacity is held in reserve to be applied to individual sins ONLY as the sinner meets the demands of the conditions for forgiveness that God has mandated must be fulfilled in order for ones personal account of sins to be erased.

    I personally believe that the Atonement is not a literal payment for sin, otherwise, logically, universalism would by necessity be true, or one would have to believe that the sufferings by Christ on the cross was ineffective to secure its end, i.e., the actual debt of all sins being paid in full once for all. If God stills holds the sinner who fails to be saved responsible for his sins, it is double jeopardy seeing that they have all already been paid for, IF the literal payment theory is correct. Again it would make the Atonement of Christ seem impotent to accomplish what the literal payment theory says was accomplished.

    The literal payment theory, a theory that claims that all past present and future sins were literally paid for on the cross, is simply not supported by Scripture or reason.

    Let me stop here and get some feed back.
     
  2. Agnus_Dei

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    Here’s what surprised me as I went through almost a year of Roman Catholic RCIA and then a year of Orthodox Catechesis…

    I guess one needs to understand how these views of the Atonement were developed in the first place and how they translated to Protestantism…

    First, we are aware that Roman Catholicism’s See is in Rome and we all know from history that the Romans were very technical and we today owe a lot to the Romans and their ingenuity. You could also say that Rome really perfected the court system and even today we base a lot of our own court proceedings from Rome. Thus it would make sense for the Roman Catholic fathers like Augustine to develop the Atonement theology based off the Roman court model.

    Therefore, the early Reformers were in fact Catholic monks and priests, so obviously we should see this view of the Atonement carried over into Protestantism and this idea of governmental satisfaction of a debt, as God being mad at use and thus His Son had to die to pay for our debt of sin and God being satisfied.

    This time of Easter, Catholicism and Protestants will remember specifically Christ’s death and dramatic plays will reenact the trail, beating and the nails being driven into Christ and Him hanging on a cross as the main plot and a short segment of His Resurrection.

    In the Orthodox Church, during Holy Week, we’ll defiantly remember Christ’s crucifixion as a solemn event on Friday, but our main emphasis is on His Glorious Resurrection, the bulk of our hymns recount the women at the tomb and His appearing to His Disciples…If you never experienced an Orthodox Pascha midnight service HP, I encourage you to do it! Don’t worry; we’ll celebrate Pascha a week after the Catholics and Protestants…so there’s no excuse HP.

    After I finished RCIA and Orthodox Catechesis I was really surprised at just how intertwine Roman Catholicism theology and Protestant theology really is!

    In XC
    -
     
  3. swaimj

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    The scriptures DO support the payment for all sins and logically, nothing else could possibly be true. On the cross, Jesus satisfied God's wrath for all sin. Otherwise, God's wrath against sin could never be satisfied in all eternity. It is impossible that God would allow sin to be unpaid for all eternity so that his justice and wrath are never satisfied, forever. If Jesus, could not satisfy God's wrath against all sin, what is the qualitative difference between some sins that could be/were satisfied and those that could not be?
     
  4. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: If that was true, why would hell even need to exist? Do you believe in a literal hell? Will not the wrath of God against sin eternally exist in spite of the Atonement made? I am really trying to understand you, not simply debate. :thumbs:
     
  5. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Thanks for the invite. No one knows where one might find me on that night. :)




    HP: I believe in a governmental satisfaction of the debt, but not in the literal payment. Do you see the distinction between the two views? As for God being ‘mad’ I do not know how you get that, although he is indeed angry at the sinner. I see nothing about being ‘mad’ that would give impetus to a show of mercy such as God showed. I see nothing in the notion of being ‘mad’ that would give rise to one giving of themselves to save the lost sinner. Maybe I simply am not understanding you here. Again, I believe in a governmental substitution but not in a forensic proceeding such as the literal payment ascribes to. Maybe those holding to a literal payment see God as a Deity that needed to be appeased?
     
  6. swaimj

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    Thank you. I accept your questions in that spirit and I will attempt to answer in the same spirit.

    Because, though God's wrath HAS been satisfied against sin, people reject God's gracious offer of salvation. Therefore God leaves them in their sin and in its deserved consequence.

    No. In eternity, all things are reconciled to God through Christ.

    Yes.

    Let me expand my thought process a bit. The other night, in our city, a young man who is a star baseball pitcher on a local high school team was riding his bike down the street. Some people in a passing car, who so far are unidentified, fired on him with high powered paint-ball guns. For the most part, they simply stung him, but one paint ball hit his eye which has since been surgically removed. This young man, who is 17 or 18 has now had his dream of playing baseball ruined. If he lives 70, 80, or 90 years, this event will be seen as a pivotal, ruinous event in his life. And what if the people in the car are never caught? On what basis do we say to the young man, "you should forgive those who have injured you?" There is one basis and one only. The young man should forgive because God's wrath against this sin has been satisfied in Christ. Because of Christ's sacrifice, God is fully capable of meting out justice to these attackers. If they repent of what they have done, then their sins are under Christ's blood and their is ground for reconciliation between the attackers and the young man. If they do not repent and if they are never caught by human officials, God knows who they are and he will punish them appropriately in hell forever. Their going to hell will not repay the wrong they have done nor will it restore the young man's earthly potential. The repayment for the wrong is found in Jesus' sacrifice, not in human punishment and the restoration for the man is found in God's eternal kingdom which is entered by faith in Christ.
     
  7. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    Quote:
    HP: If that was true, why would hell even need to exist?



    HP: Ok, but if His wrath has been satisfied concerning their sin, why would heel need to exist? I personally cannot think of hell in any other terms that the ultimate wrath of God being poured out on sinners.
    Something that you seem to suggest is that the damning sin is only the rejection of Jesus Christ, a notion I do not believe is biblical. What I do not understand is that if the damning sin is the only sin that sends one to hell, and one believes that all other sins have been atoned for, are we to assume that the one that finally is saved is just one of the lucky ones that had the damning sin paid for, again before one ever accepted, and the one that finds their home in hell is really there on the account that God simply did not pay for their rejection of Christ, otherwise they would not be in hell as they are? Is this not in reality double predestination at it’s core? I know that you might not believe in double predestination, but does not the argument that you are presenting lend itself directly to such a necessitated fate as double predestination of necessity fosters?
    Quote:
    HP:Will not the wrath of God against sin eternally exist in spite of the Atonement made?


    HP: Here is yet another 'all' that is not in reality 'all' unless you believe that the devil and his angels and all lost sinners are in the end reconciled to Christ. I simply do not believe that is the case nor can it be.



    HP: What a terrible trajedy, yet illustrates the difference we might find between us, (and a whole lot of others I might add) on what constitutes sin. I saw absolutely nothing that any of these boys did that could be rightfully denoted as sin. I see carelessness, stupidity, poor judgment, and even civil disobedience than can be punishable to some degree, but I cannot see sin, moral guilt, moral blameworthiness from what you are telling us.

    Does anyone have any thoughts as to why I might feel that way? Is there any on the list that might agree with my assessment or am I alone once again in my judgment?
     
  8. Agnus_Dei

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    Poor choice of words on my part, but yes, an angry God is the picture I always had as a Protestant.

    Let me try again…

    In the creation account we see man created in God’s image and likeness. Then we see how this was lost due to man’s sin and thus man was corrupted because man no longer showed the likeness of God, but the likeness of His creation. Thus God’s goal in our redemption is the restoration of this oneness with God, to have His likeness, and energies enlivening us once again as it did with Adam and Eve and to correct the corruption of His creation.

    The redemption and reuniting of man with God is why Christ came to earth, why he died and was resurrected. the Atonement centers around what was accomplished on the cross specifically, but the rest ties into it as well since it’s the whole picture. However, there’s always been a question as to why Jesus had to die to accomplish our salvation…what is being atoned for?

    Some view this as not a lack of union with God that is being fixed, but something that God has to extract from us which we don’t have and so all we are left to give is our lives, to die. Instead of being in death because of losing the likeness, we are in death because we have a need to pay God the Father back.

    Look at Redemption…There is two ways to redeem something, either by buying it back or by defeating the one who holds it. in Romans 6:6, we get the answer and we see the same concept in the OT as examples of redemption, when God redeemed Israel from Egypt, not by buying back, but by forcefully taking them.

    During our Pascha Troparia, we hear that “Christ defeated death by death and on those in the tombs bestowed life”. It was a defeat of Satan who held us bound to death with our sins. Christ invades our world and takes back what is His! So basically, Christ defeats death in us with His life, uniting us to Him, and overcoming Satan and death with His life.

    Next Sacrificial/Substitution…here the “what” of atonement makes a big difference. Christ is considered the reality which the OT sacrifices point to. Christ did take our place in death and defeated it, and thus Christ did substitute Himself in our place that was to die. This whole picture is portrayed in Hebrews 9 and 10. Christ is our Pascha Lamb. The central celebration of Christ’s resurrection is called Pascha or Passover. It was this sacrifice by which the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt and how Christ with His sacrifice redeems us from the bondage of Satan and death

    Satisfaction…ever heard of Anselm? He’s known as the father of satisfaction understanding of the atonement. His goal was basically make it explainable to the heathen in a ‘logical’ fashion as to why Christ had to die for our sins. Because of his methodology he drifts away from what the Fathers and the Church has always taught.

    Essentially Anselm took the concept of debt that we owe to God and made it into the whole of the atonement. Of course the Bible does speak of debt, but not as Anselm ended up using it. Because of sin, we owed God a debt due to our violation of His honor. This honor has to be repaid somehow due to the nature of God. Man can’t pay it, only God can pay it, so God becomes man to not only pay what His due is to the Father through perfect obedience, but goes beyond that to give what He didn’t have to give, His life. Since He didn’t need this “merit”, we can obtain that merit for paying our debt to God off. The sacraments then become a means of distributing these merits, as well as other good works. This is basically the Roman Catholic understanding.

    The two major problems with this understanding are these:
    1. God’s forgiveness is not dependant upon repaying a debt, and
    2. The debt we owe is not to the Father.

    All we have to do to know that the first is not true is look in the Scriptures. All through the Old Testament, before Christ’s sacrifice, God is considered merciful, slow to anger, forgiving all who come to Him. He is ready to cast our sins as far as the east is from the west. The only requirement for forgiveness offered in 2 Chron. 7:14 is:

    ...if my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…. ​

    Nothing is mentioned about atoning for a past debt before forgiveness of sins can happen. Rather, God simply says: …then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. In the New Testament we have the parable where the servant who owes his master more money than he could ever hope to repay is forgiven his entire debt without expectation of repaying it. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, likewise the father takes the son back, not asking that he restore the wealth he lost in sinful living.

    There is a third key change in Anselm’s view that makes a major shift from the view of the Early Church, and that is what is being atoned for. In Anselm’s view, it is the debt of broken honor with God that is the problem to solve and fix. The whole goal of Christ’s death and resurrection has moved from redeeming us from death and Satan by defeating Him, to paying back God for the honor due Him that we cannot pay ourselves. This was arrived at by deductive logic on Anselm’s part by making what should have been analogical the reality.

    The Reformers modified this a bit, but used the same principles as Anselm, and thus it has the same problems. Instead of using the debt analogy, a juridical analogy replaced it. Instead of a debt of God’s honor, it is breaking God’s Law. Instead of owing a debt, we are guilty of Law breaking. Instead of Christ dying to satisfy God’s honor, He dies to satisfy God’s justice. Instead of salvation being the fulfilling of the debt, it becomes the declaring innocent of the guilty due to Christ taking our punishment.

    Still, God is the one with a problem in that He cannot forgive us outright, but He must punish someone to satisfy His justice. Christ is the only one who can take it and not be defeated by it, and so He becomes man in order to take our place. Salvation is still understood in terms of something other than a relational oneness in Christ; a clearing of us from a legal problem. It still contradicts the Bible which shows God the Father as forgiving many without needing to punish someone for it. It is still based on premises about salvation and the Father that are not evident in the Early Church or Scriptures.

    Missing from the satisfaction theory are the points we derive from another analogy used by the Fathers and the Scriptures, that of healing. Actually, the Greek word used for salvation is the same word translated as “heal.” Context and theology determines the translation choice. It basically is a word that means wholeness or completeness. For Orthodoxy it indicates the fullness of how we were created. We are sick, and need healing because of the corruption we are subject to. In this picture, there is no owing or guilt directly involved, though it is in the background of how we got here. Rather, there is a healing of our souls going on. The analogy of debt and justice totally miss this whole context which is much frequently used in the Fathers. Even the Eucharist is referred to as the “medicine of immortality.” That is why to get a complete picture; we need to keep all the analogies before us.

    These are given us not only to understand what is salvation and how Christ chose to accomplish that in Orthodox theology, but also to show the basis for the view that many of us had as converts from Protestantism. We can see not only why Protestants understand things the way they do in relation to salvation, buy why Orthodox understanding is different. It is relational with God, not legal or financial in nature. That changes the whole perspective in how we approach salvation. It is not a one time deal, a declaring “not guilty,” but a continuing relationship with God.

    It is not a matter of works or faith, but a obedience to God of love which draws us closer to Him. It is not a matter of paying back something in full to God like a transaction, but a journey with Him into wholeness as we were originally created. It is the journey that saves us as we follow Him, taking His yoke upon us, carrying the cross we have been given. So we with repentance and humility work to become more in union with Him as the Church guides us.

    I know this was long and please forgive me, but in order to fully express what I believe, it’s hard to sum up such a doctrine in such a short forum. Volumes have been written on this, and a post as this hardly gives justice…Much of this is taken from my notes while in Catechesis.

    In XC
    -
     
  9. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Mercy could not have been extended apart from the debt being set aside by some means under certain conditions, or God would be arbitrary, changing, and as such could not be trusted. Apart from a satisfaction being made to the demands of the law, no forgiveness could be garnered and God still be seen as to honor His law.



    HP: It is to His law.
     
  10. Jedi Knight

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    "HP: If that was true, why would hell even need to exist?" Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, PREPARED FOR the devil and his angels: We are not the only ones who offended Him! And no,Jesus cannot atone for Angels,he became a man to atone for fallen humans.....not fallen angels.
     
    #10 Jedi Knight, Apr 2, 2009
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  11. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Excellent point.:thumbsup: I might have used the words ‘did not’ in place of ‘cannot’ but other than that, I agree.:thumbs:
     
  12. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Sorry I did not have the time earlier to look well at your post. I had other obligations to attend to. It is a lengthy post and I have read it but there is much to absorb.

    I see in the Atonement a definite need to make a satisfaction to the demand and penalty of the law. “The soul that sinneth it shall certainly die.” God could not allow His law and its just penalty to simply be arbitrarily overlooked lest the law become of no effect. He had to make a substitutionary sacrifice to make a satisfaction to the debt owed by the sin of men. That substitutionary sacrifice, Christ Jesus, His sufferings and death, made it possible to offer a pardon to the sinner under certain conditions. I would believe that apart from that satisfaction of the debt of the sins of the entire world no offer of grace or mercy could have been wisely offered. I have not yet decided how that does or does not fit into the theories of the Atonement you have written about. I am still considering you post.

     
  13. Allan

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    I don't know if this will help you understand but that atonement (or propitiation) though it has been 'for all' it isn't applied to anyone yet, else all born after Christ's death would be born saved and there would be no need for faith, grace, or anything. However scripture states that it (atonement/propitaition) is only applied by faith. IOW - The atonement made by Christ toward God was/is completely satisfactory for 'Sin' (meaning all sin) but is not yet applied to anyone. The payment is made but it's application toward individuals is completely dependant upon their reception of it and thus it is by faith that the propitiation is applied. (Rom 3:25)
    Now, just to be clear here, don't misunderstand the words "that are past" to mean that of an individual because it is the following words ("through the forbearance of God") which give us the authors meaning, that of it (atonement/propitiation) covering even the sins of those who have gone before us. We know this also by the context of the preceding verses like verses 21 and 22. Now couple that with what it means to be justified before God. Justified refers a legal standing which means God (as Judge) has given a judgment, which is a final verdict. It means your debt concerning all charges against you has been paid in full. Remember that God stands in eternity and what we think is the past, present, and future all 'present' for Him. Thus the payment made (atonement/propitation) and the sins forgiven, all fall in the catagory that transcends out grasp of time and encompasses all times. Thus Romans 8:1 speaking of there being now No More condemnation (damnation) for those who are In Christ. And if we be in Christ who can seperate us from that love who gave himself for us, that while we were YET (still) sinners he died for us. So while in sin he loved us so much that He died to save us, can we really state that to do sin will seperate us?? Where is His great love is this could be true?

    My second point of argument on that issue is one I use often in these discussions of losing salvation in conjunction with the above:
    If as a father you love (or if you not - would love) children greatly. Is there ANYTHING they can do to seperate them from your love? No there isn't.
    Then how much more love does the Father have toward us, if we being corruptable and flawed can love so greatly, how much more does He love us who is perfect in all His ways. And even if the child wishes to not be apart of the family it does not change the fact that they are family.

    And since Paul speaks of adoption (which was not something in the Jewish custom but was a Roman custom) it should be noted that there was no reversal once a child was legally adopted. They were that parents children and legal heirs, period. Thus Jesus claim to never leave us (walk away) nor to forsake us (to abadon us) fulfills this point competely. No matter what He will always be there because we are now His, being bought with a price, adopted unto Himslef, and made an heir of righteousness and His Kingdom. Let us not forget to add that we are no longer the same after salvation and according to scripture and have been given a new nature that desires, longs after, and loves the Lord their God. It does not mean they can not sin nor that they will be perfect for they still must contend with the flesh. However, as one of His and to ensure our safe keeping, he has placed within us His security or down payement (the Holy Spirit) and sealed us with a Kingly Seal untill the day of our redemption. This seal historically was forbidden to be opened upon penalty of immediate death (which is why the Kings guards always went with the messages) except for the one to whom it was intended. And thus the Holy Spirit is not only our down payment on what is to come but is also the very seal given upon us to gaurentee (sp?) our safe coming home. I'm rambling.. sorry - mostly off topic I know - I appologize.
     
    #13 Allan, Apr 3, 2009
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  14. Agnus_Dei

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    Hi HP: I've gotten swamped here at work, so I haven't forgotten about replying to you and will soon. Continue to ponder my post and we'll discuss soon.

    In XC
    -
     
  15. ReformedBaptist

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    Your making the assumption here that the atonement is universal, and those who believe so must argue along those lines. Consider the Reformed (biblical) position that the atonement is particular (limited) to the elect.
     
  16. Thinkingstuff

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    Agnus Dei do you believe then that as far as attonment goes we are inserted into Christ relationship with the father becoming true sons of God?
     
  17. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Allen you have nothing to apologize for yet surely we can and need to learn our own lesson from it. My posts are often too long and cover too much ground. If I started to address your post in depth it would take a short book. Help me out Allen. How can we break up this subject up into smaller segments?



    HP: Let me start to address this one point just for starters. First we can say that sin will separate us upon the testimony of Scripture. Lu 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” I see nothing in Scripture that would suggest that future sins would not separate the one that once believed. I find clear passages that plainly state that sins will indeed separate any and all that sin if persisted in without repentance. Eze 18:26 “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.”

    Love does not negate the possibility of separation. God loves the entire world yet will separate in the end from all enemies of God, including those that once knew Him but turned from the commandments to do evil. Saul in the OT might well in fact be such a Scriptural example. Again, nothing about love indicates or demands that if one turns their back on God and does despite the grace once afforded them, that separation and that fro eternity might in fact be their ruin. 2Pe 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

    Again, forgive me for simply singling out this one idea of your post. Many things you say deserve an answer. Try to break down your post and I will try to address it in smaller portions.:)
     
  18. Amy.G

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    For me the atonement is easy to understand if we look at the first passover.

    Not only did the lamb have to be killed, but it's blood had to be applied to the doorposts.

    In the same way, Jesus (our passover) had to die, but His blood must be applied. His blood is applied through faith.

    The sacrifice was made once for all, but only those who believe will have the blood applied.
     
  19. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Let me provoke your thoughts for a minute. :)

    I thought it was all finished on the cross? Now you tell me that I must believe for it to be effective. So, was it finished on the cross or not?

    What about repentance? Christ came preaching repentance just as John did. If belief and repentance are simply two sides of the same coin, could I be just as correct to omit belief and simply say that for the blood to be applied we need to simply repent? Would I be correct in saying that all those that repent will have the blood applied, believing, although not mentioning it directly, simply is a part of repentance? Here might be my proof text for this position. Note is says nothing of faith, or nothing of belief.:)
    2Pe 3:9 ¶ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


    Scripture also gives clear indication that some need to ‘do their first works over’ having left their first love. If the blood was applied once for all, and all future sins were automatically covered, what in the world is this ‘doing ones first works over again’ necessary for?
     
    #19 Heavenly Pilgrim, Apr 3, 2009
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  20. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Heavenly Pilgrim


    HP: If that was true, why would hell even need to exist? Do you believe in a literal hell? Will not the wrath of God against sin eternally exist in spite of the Atonement made? I am really trying to understand you, not simply debate.



    HP: I understand. The problem with what you denote as the Reformed position is that it denies the truth of Scripture. Christ died for all, not simply the elect. 2Pe 3:9 ¶ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
     

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