In a recent post on “hypothetical universalism”, Mark Jones does a question and answer, and tell us how good his questions are.
Jones—“As Richard Muller has often noted, there are clear versions of hypothetical universalism found in Musculus, Ursinus, Zanchi, Bullinger, et al. … the Lombardian Formula was routinely reinterpreted, revised, or downright denied by a whole host of Reformed theologians. The hypothetical universalists were typically quite accepting of the formula, while those who emphasized the particularity to the exclusion of the universality of Christ’s death were more uncomfortable with the formula as time progressed….the advocates of hypothetical universalism affirmed a special design in the death of Christ for the elect alone. … According to Calamy’s hypothetical universalism, however, Christ did purchase the efficacious APPLICATION OF Christ’s death (i.e., impetration) for the elect alone.”
For Andrew Fuller and many others, Christ’s death is specific only because of God’s sovereignty and NOT because of God’s justice, and not because of the nature of the atonement. Andrew Fuller denies that God imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ.
But unless we believe in eternal justification, don’t we all make a distinction between the atonement and its legal application? Yes, there is a time gap, but the question remains about the imputation of specific sins to Christ and the nature of the justice of Christ’s death at the cross.
This is a very common way of having a “Reformed reputation” of “affirming limited atonement” but at the same time teaching an “universal sufficient atonement”
DA Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 76—-“If one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, both sets of texts and concerns are accommodatated.”
Richard A. Muller—Note that the statement “Christ died for the elect only,” if understood as referencing the efficacy of his satisfaction, could be confessed equally by Calvin, Beza, Amyraut, and Arminius, while the meaning of statement that his “death was not intended to atone for the sins of all mankind” depends entirely on whether atonement is understood in terms of its objective accomplishment (expiatio, impetratio) or its application (applicatio) and whether the “intention” references an effective divine willing or a revealed, preceptive divine willing. [ Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: On the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 73n11.]
J. P. Boyce in his excellent Abstract of Systematic Theology calls Fuller’s ‘Universalism’.Because Fuller sees the atonement as a symbol indicating sufficiency for all, he presents salvation as being there as a free-for-all. The purpose of the gospel and the evidence of nature is merely to prepare the above-mentioned feast. The food on the table is more than sufficient for those who have the appetite (will) to enjoy it. Fuller,in his The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptance, believes that man is naturally capable of keeping the Law and that the Gospel is merely a kind of law to be obeyed. He therefore teaches that though Christ died symbolically for everybody’s sin, it is efficacious where man’s agency is involved in following law which points to Christ. In this way, Fuller dodges the issue of whether Christ actually died for His elect only or for all sinners
Imprecise “union” talk can be very dangerous. SOME theologians (Kevin Dixon Kennedy, Torrance) are using the concept of “union” to say that the atonement which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. Therefore, no double jeopardy, they say, unless somebody for whom Christ died has been “united to Christ.” In other words, SOME OF THEM TEACH THAT CHRIST DIED ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL PERISH.
It’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.
.Some “unionists” locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to unite people with that propitiation. This is their argument: “you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”
But otherwise, it is claimed, you can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to them, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. So, again according to them, it’s the “union” which designates for whose sins Christ died.