“Offer Atonement” is not Biblical Atonement, by Tianqi Wu

Many people who confess “limited atonement” also assert the “free offer of salvation”. When they try to describe the compatibility of the two ideas, their explanation ends up changing the meaning of atonement.

Whereas “universal atonement” advocates think of the atonement as a meal delivered to your table and is now up to your choosing to eat it or not, the “offer” advocates add the twist that

– God already knows who will say yes so God made the meals for them in advance, and
– God knows who will say yes because God predestined them to make that choice

This “offer” makes the faith-response of elect the reason of Christ dying for them. Whereas “universal atonement” says whether Christ’s death for you will save you depends on your willing, the “offer”says whether Christ will die for you depends on your willing. The two views are finally quite similar.

In “universal atonement”, salvation conditioned on the sinner is injected between atonement and justification, whereas in “offer atonement”, salvation conditioned on the sinner is injected between election and atonement.

The two views tend to become blended into some concept of “faith-union with Christ” (“appropriation”) as the reason for God’s imputation of sin / righteousness.

“Offer atonement” puts us back to the idea of “governmental atonement” where God’s law is not basic .If Christ’s legal work of death is not the decisive factor, then some sort of “personal relationship” is more basic, and more real.

In such a false gospel the legal death of Christ for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ becomes instead merely a prop, a tribute to the basic self-righteousness of the sinner’s “faith”.

Explore posts in the same categories: atonement, election, imputation, union with Christ


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11 Comments on ““Offer Atonement” is not Biblical Atonement, by Tianqi Wu”

  1. David Bishop Says:

    The offer guys say you cannot tell the unbeliever that Jesus died only for His elect, because the unbeliever might then presume that he is not elect since he does not yet believe.  So rather than telling him Jesus died only for His elect, you must instead tell him Jesus offers salvation to everyone and that it is the unbeliever’s duty to accept this offer.  If the unbeliever accepts the offer, then you and he will both know he is elect, and that is when you can tell him that Jesus only died for His elect.

    This kind of preaching is ashamed of the gospel.  It  does not think accomplished redemption is a gospel issue.  Redemption accomplished, redemption not accomplished, you can take it or leave it.  For them, as you pointed out, the gospel is that you make some sort of faith response to the announcement of Christ’s death and resurrection.  That you surrender yourself to God’s will for your life.  That you commit yourself to becoming person.  That you join a body of similar believing people and you commit to tithing, to baby washing, and to eating the bread and wine.  They are functional Fullerists, and it is no wonder they have had such a difficult time with N T Wright.

    But now, there is another group we will call the tolerants.  These guys reject the offer.  Nevertheless, these guys insist it doesn’t matter, because Arminians are brothers anyway even though they do reject definite atonement.  These guys love the word “inconsistent”.  They say that even though the Arminian’s gospel is synergistic, nevertheless the Arminian is himself INCONSISTENT in the belief of his gospel, meaning he really believes in a monergistic gospel, because he professes that salvation is all by God’s grace.

    These guys also do not believe accomplished redemption is a gospel issue.  They instead think sovereign grace is the gospel issue.  They believe God is so sovereign and so gracious that He can save in a way that mocks His justice. 

    You are correct in pointing out that for both these guys, God’s law is not basic, because these guys think there is another part to redemption which they must accomplish by comparing themselves to other men.  I don’t mean to other Christians, but rather to the world.  They compare themselves to men they consider of low base, men of little worth. 

    They see no benefit to this self righteousness that can be reaped from an accomplished atonement.  If Jesus has literally done it all and I have literally nothing to do, then that means everything I have ever counted as good and noble and excellent about me is filthy and unrighteous.  These men simply cannot accept that.  They behold at least a little something of value in themselves, and they think they can prove it by comparing themselves to other men. 

    This is why both these guys hate – ABSOLUTELY DESPISE – the gospel of accomplished redemption.  They want more men instead who they can compare themselves, so therefore all but those detestable, hideous “hyper Calvinists” are welcome in.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    To be inconsistent with the gospel is a curse because it means having a false gospel, and those who still believe the false gospel are still in their sins, not yet justified.

    Mark Jones—“Divine grace is not merely God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, and thus a characteristic of how he relates to finite creatures, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam; in the “wilderness,” the grace of God is upon his Son, the second Adam.”


    Mark McCulley—In our post-Barth/Torrance world, it is more and more common to think of all sin as sin against grace. This tends to remove the antithesis between law and grace. But only Christians sin against grace.. And when a Christian sins against grace, that Christian is still sinning against law, even though the Christian is no longer under the condemnation of law.

    The justified elect are no longer under the condemnation of law ONLY BECAUSE Christ was under the condemnation of law. Romans 6:9–”We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him.

    Law DID HAVE dominion over Christ, because God imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.

    William Lane Craig, In Pinnock, the Grace of god and the Will of Man, p 157—-“God desires and has given sufficient grace for all people to be saved. If some believe and others do not, it is not because some received prevenient grace and some did not.”

    Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

    For advocates of universal “grace”, God did accomplish all that he intended. But God did not intend to effectually to redeem anyone. God simply intended to offer and provide “grace” for everyone. And in this, they claim, God was perfectly successful, even if all sinners were to fail to use this “grace”.

    • David Bishop Says:

      Craig and Pinnock have never compared themselves to the perfect standard of God’s law. Had they, they would have seen that we all have come short of the absolute perfection God demands. Instead, these folks have wasted their time comparing themselves to the behavior they see in men they perceive less virtuous than themselves. They have never submitted to God’s righteousness, because as you well point out in other places, submitting to God’s righteousness means confessing along with God that there is nothing good in me. These folks do not believe that for one second. They are convinced that even if they are mostly bad, there is still at least some good in them, some bit of virtuous excellence they grow and nurture, because, after all, aren’t they better men than most?

  3. DavidC Says:

    Funny, I was reflecting on this idea this morning. The died-for-everyone preachers will tell non-believers that Jesus paid for their sins. When the listener asks why he still needs to do something to be saved, he will be told ‘if someone buys you a gift, you still need to receive it.”

    What’s going on here? How did the death go from a debt being paid to merchandise that one purchases from a store which is then presented for acceptance or rejection?

    • markmcculley Says:

      the receiving of the gift is also a gift!

      Matthew Mason—According to John Owen, although God’s will toward the elect was not changed upon the death of Christ, for he is immutable, Christ’s death nevertheless changed the status of the elect. On the basis of Christ’s death, God is obliged to deliver them from the curse . Because of Christ’s satisfaction, God is able to give out the benefits Christ purchased, without any other conditions needing to be fulfilled. In particular, Christ also purchased faith in the gospel for the elect. Hence, from the time of the atonement, the elect have an absolute right to justification.


      John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith.”. 10:26

      Garry J Williams, p 511—How does John Owen avoid the accusation of Richard Baxter, that satisfaction would have to be applied immediately upon being made? For John Owen, the gift of faith is itself a certain result of the work of Christ, produced by it ipso facto, BUT NOT “in immediation of time but causality.” John Owen argues for the compatiblity of identical satisfaction and delayed application on the basis of covenant (that stipulates how the satisfaction will be applied).

      Owen, volume 10, p 450—Of the Death of Christ, the Price He Paid, and the Purchase He Made

  4. Alien Pebble Says:

    The atonement is internal to the electing God realized historically in Christ and him crucified. This was decreed to happen outside the sinner, causing the justification of the sinner, all without contribution from sinner’s will, but rather one of its other effects is the change of sinner’s will to repent and believe the gospel.

    Thus the atonement is not “open-ended” (i.e. saying to unbelievers on the last day that “you could have had it, if you had been willing…”, instead Jesus will say to these non-elect “I never knew you”)

    The gospel is one way announcement, from the God who justifies the ungodly, through the internal calling of the Spirit, to the elect sinner in the world.

    This is not an opportunity for sinner to “appropriate” with “the empty hand of faith” some sort of “righteousness” available to anybody and everybody. Christ’s righteousness is not available to anybody and everybody, because Christ’s righteousness is not some generic quality, but a specific work:
    legal representation by eternal election in Christ, substitution by God laying sins of the elect on Christ and punishing Christ for those sins, satisfaction by Christ’s voluntary death fully bearing this punishment, and the result is eternal life (justification and all spiritual blessings) for the elect.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Brandon Adams vs Scott Clark

    Should we say, “Whosoever will may come?” with the understanding that, out of the mass of damnable humanity. God has unconditionally elected some who will respond to that invitation with faith and repentance? That’s all we’re talking about.
    -R. Scott Clark

    No, sir, that’s not all we’re talking about and you know it. I get incredibly frustrated by the amount of confusion that is introduced into this discussion by comments like that. Neither Hoeksema nor Reymond deny a proclamation of the conditional truth that God will forgive whosoever comes. What they deny is that God eagerly desires, wants to accomplish, the salvation of those He has ordained to reject it.

    You say the Canons of Dordt embrace your paradox hermeneutic. Article 2.5 from the Canons of Dordt has nothing to do with mystery and paradox.

    Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel (Canons of Dort, 2.5)

    What does that say? It says that the promise of the gospel is a conditional statement that if people believe, they will be forgiven. This conditional forgiveness, along with the command to repent and believe in Christ’s work, should be proclaimed to everyone. Why? Because God desires to save the reprobate? That’s nowhere stated or implied.

    clark back to brandon


    No, my views are no more contradictory than the doctrine of God is contradictory. Read any classic doctrine of God — of which Hoeksema is not a good example — and you will find them saying the same things that I say in the Strimple essay. There is always a certain degree of falsehood in our speech about God. He has accommodated himself to our weakness. We learned that from Calvin. All revelation is accommodated. This accommodation creates tension between the way God is, in himself, and the way we must speak about him. For example, in God, there are not “attributes” and yet we must speak of “attributes” in the plural in order to say anything about God. Our theologians have said this since the mid-16th century.

    Because Hoeksema and Clark rejected this basic truth, the fundamental distinction between the Creator and the creature, they were unable to grasp the doctrine of the free offer.

    Brandon, you’re frustrated with me, but I’m frustrated with folks trying to revise Reformed theology in their own image! Your post is a terrific example of what I call, in RRC, “Reformed Narcissism.” You’ve imputed your rationalism to Reformed theology and then demanded that we all follow you off the cliff!

    Gerety vs Scott Clark

    The wonderful irony of seeing Phil Johnson’s awful and shoddy Primer on Hyper-Calvinism being correctly employed by neo-Amyraldians like Tony Byrne and David Ponter — men who openly deny limited or particular atonement — and the rest of the John 3:16 crowd to slander Johnson’s personal friend James White. Like you, instead of admitting his error and correcting (repenting) of his misleading and false definition of “hyper-Calvinism,” Johnson instead prattles on incoherently merely asserting that the views of James White are not what he had in mind. Yeah, right. White’s views as he has publicly stated in his own defense and in direct response to the John 3:16 attack does not differ in the slightest from the position of Gordon Clark, John Robbins, Robert Reymond, Herman Hoeksema, those who wrote the OPC minority report in answer to Murray, and all of your detractors above, yet somehow magically James White gets a pass and does not deserve to be labeled a “Hyper” as Phil and you have define it. Oh, the things you can do when truth is analogical and Scripture is a morass of paradoxical, mysterious, and apparently contradictory propositions.

    Also, let me just add, you wrote: “Those predestinarians who deny the free offer usually do so because of some form of rationalism.” This is false. Predestinarians like Robert Reymond who deny Murray’s free offer do so because it rests on faulty exegesis of key passages of Scripture, and, as a result, imputes irrationality to God, and, I might add, to Scripture itself. This is anything but “rationalism.” You might have noticed, even if Phil Johnson ignored it, James White used Reymond’s argument against John Murray in his own defense in light of the John 3:16 attack. you, Johnson and the neo-Amyrauldians Tony Byrne and David Ponter deserve each other.

    But, you are right about one thing, those who oppose you do operate on an “a priori about the way things “must be”, and that is the unwavering belief that God does not lie, does not contradict himself, and that His Word does not end in insoluble paradoxes which are nothing more than contradictions in the minds of men, who, we are told (in the words of John Frame), are to have faith that there are no contradictions for God. We believe that the Scriptures present to the mind a consent of all and not just some of the parts and therefore God does not both desire and not desire the salvation of the reprobate even through the preaching of the Gospel. We operate on the a priori belief that if our understanding of Scripture ends in paradox, we know that the error lies in our understanding and that our interpretation must be, and not may be, wrong and we are without warrant to simply chalk up our own exegetical dissonance to Scripture (as many Vantilians surreptitiously do) . We believe truth is, by definition, non-contradictory. Therefore, the truths of Scripture are necessarily non-contradictory and this is, as the WCF states, one of the central evidences that the Scripture are in fact the Word of God. We believe, despite years of hearing the same Vantilian double-talk, especially by those God has place over us in positions of power and influence, that a paradox of Scripture that cannot be harmonized at the bar of human reason isn’t a paradox, but is a contradiction (despite the Vantilian’s faith in faith that there is no contradictions for God — something they cannot know based on their own professed doctrine of Scripture). As Robert Reymond points out, the interpretive framework that Murray used to build his case for his Free Offer doctrine have been understood by other Reformed exegetes in a way that does not end in paradox and “mystery.” We believe that the apparent contradictions of Scripture are signposts informing us that either more work needs to be done and/or that we need to recheck our exegetical premises. Herman Hoeksema put the problem his way in his book, The Clark-Van Til Controversy:

    We may limit the controversy to this question: What must the preacher of the Gospel say of God’s intention with respect to the reprobate…? The answer to this question defines the differences between Gordon Clark and the complainants sharply and precisely.

    The complainants answers: The preacher must say that God sincerely seeks the salvation of the reprobate through the preaching of the Gospel.

    Gordon Clark answers: That is not true; the preacher may never say that in the name of God. And, in light of Scripture, he should say: God seeks his own glory and justification in preparing the reprobate for their just damnation even through the preaching of the Gospel.

    In my opinion this isn’t merely a scholarly debate (as the John 3:16 fracas has again highlights) for the simple reason that those on your side have maliciously libeled and marginalized countless Reformed men as being outside the Reformed pale and are “hyper-Calvinists” on nothing more than your own Vantilian and irrationality

    So on what basis can you consistently, and based on your own belief in paradox and mystery, deny the FV men their own paradox and mystery when it comes to the doctrine of justification? You might recall that John Frame in his defense of Van Til (see “Van Til the Theologian”) stated years ago that the doctrine of justification is just as mysterious and paradoxical as those included in your list of “mystery of paradoxes.” What makes their paradox different from those on your list? It is similarly contradictory to the human existent. It is something that cannot be harmonized at the bar of human reason. Their arguments are as ambiguous and as misleading as any WMO advocate discussing the two wills of God by which they merely assert there is no contradiction in their contradictory doctrine


    • markmcculley Says:

      While the people on the Nicene side of things tell us that there are not three or two wills (some subordinate) in God the Trinity, many of them also tell us that, since we can’t know God’s will, we can and should also say that God wills the salvation of the non-elect

      Scott Clark—It is not that God has two wills, but that, given the archetypal/ectypal distinction, there is a distinction to be made in our understanding of his will….Because of this tension between God as he is in himself (in se) and as he is toward us (erga nos)…. http://rscottclark.org/2012/09/the-free-offer-of-the-gospel/But there is no tension between God’s will as command and God’s will as what God has decreed and predestined. The contradiction comes when you begin to speak of a “common grace” alongside of a “saving grace” and when you insist that this “common grace” includes God’s will to save the non-elect.

  6. When the clergy says that “the snow is for you”. we need to make distinctions. This is both true and not true . We will not say “it snowed for you” but we will say “the snow is for you”. Only rationalists reject this distinction and they reduce the God of Scripture to an idol. To really be rational about the need to “appropriate” the snow, we need to understand rightly that our sovereign God is also free to reveal himself as desiring certain things God has not willed in His decree.
    Because God has commanded in His law that we should obey all the law, this shows that God really really wished for Adam to obey the law and even gave Adam the ability to obey all the law for long enough, but God also in His decree did not will for this to happen. This is why we say that “the snow is for you” but do not say that “it snowed for everyone”. This is why we say that “the snow is promised to everyone in the covenant” but also say that those who do not believe in the snow will receive the curses of the covenant.
    Given the necessary chasm between God and the creature, God must accommodate himself to his creatures. This accommodated revelation of God’s mind and will is ectyptal theology. The gospel offer is based upon God’s self-understanding, but not identical with it. The revelation is true, but it is accommodated to human creature. All revelation is necessarily an accommodation. It is not as if we have direct, unmediated access to God. This is pilgrim theology, not -yet theology. Rationalists have explanations in a theology of glory. But in the theology of the cross the snow gets gray.
    If we were to say that “it snowed for you”, that would be too abstract and impersonal. But if we say that “the snow is for you”, that opens up space for an invitation and lets sinners know that they are responsible for their own history.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Tianqi Wu Arminians say God’s will is inefficacious but their wills are. How deluded! Arminians: God is willing but you are not willing, so you cannot be saved.

    By implication, they deny Christ can save you but believe your “faith” can accomplish what the cross of Christ cannot accomplish…
    Don’t make Christ’s death for you go to waste by your unbelief!

    The Arminians and the “two-wills” “Calvinists” say that God WISHES everyone without exception would come to repentance. This is the opposite of the gospel, which says “coming to repentance” is itself a mecessary part of salvation that is worked by God alone on sinners dead in their sins, promised by God in the new covenant established through the death of Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of God’s election.

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