Here is Thomas Torrance commenting on rationalist thinking in regards to trying to articulate issues particular to the extent of the atonement. And then we have Torrance commenting on the inescapable reality of the universal range of the atonement, but not the universal salvation that a rationalist approach must reduce to; which Torrance is, of course, as am I, against! Torrance says:
The rationalism of both universalism and limited atonement
Here we see that man’s proud reason insists in pushing through its own partial insight into the death of the cross to its logical conclusion, and so the great mystery of the atonement is subjected to the rationalism of human thought. That is just as true of the universalist as it is of those who hold limited atonement for in both cases they have not yet bowed their reason before the cross of Christ. (Atonement, 187-88)
This was his concluding remark, he had just finished, previous to this, effectively arguing against both limited atonement and universalism (whether that be of Classic Calvinist or Arminian [or even Barthian] varieties). Now we get into his initial thoughts on the fact that Christ’s death had to be for all; according to both Scripture’s witness, and the ‘inner-logic’ scripture presupposes upon:
(i) Christ’s death for all is an inescapable reality
We must affirm resolutely that Christ died for all humanity — that is a fact that cannot be undone. All men and women were represented by Christ in life and death, in his advocacy and substitution in their place. That is a finished work and not a mere possibility. It is an accomplished reality, for in Christ, in the incarnation and in his death on the cross, God has once and for all poured himself out in love for all mankind, has taken the cause of all mankind therefore upon himself. And that love has once and for all been enacted in the substitutionary work on the cross, and has become fact — nothing can undo it. That means that God has taken the great positive decision for man, the decision of love translated into fact. But because the work and the person of Christ are one, that finished work is identical with the self-giving of God to all humanity which he extends to everyone in the living Christ. God does not withhold himself from any one, but he gives himself to all whether they will or not — even if they will not have him, he gives himself to them, for he has once and for all given himself, and therefore the giving of himself in the cross when opposed by the will of man inevitably opposes that will of man and is its judgement. As we saw, it is the positive will of God in loving humanity that becomes humanity’s judgement when they refuse it. (Thomas F. Torrance, Atonement, 188-89)
It is really hard for people to cope with what Torrance is saying, I think. It kicks against the way that we have been “trained” and “conditioned” to think. All I can say, is that folks should try to imagine a world where doing math for Theology does not exist; and then we’ll all be fine 😉 .