I am still reading David Gibson’s and Johnathan Gibson’s just recently released book on ‘Definite Atonement’ (aka Limited Atonement) From Heaven He Came and Sought Her. I am at chapter 8, but skipped ahead and skimmed Jonny Gibson’s first (of two) chapter, which attempts to deal with the particularistic texts as well as the universalistic texts offered by Scripture. I am not going to review what he has written, yet (because I haven’t finished his chapters in full, yet). I will say, though, that my general impression is (and unsurprisingly) that Gibson’s theological assumptions are largely framing his way into his exegesis of said passages, and thus his exegetical conclusions—although to be fair he takes a less triumphalistic approach, and simply argues from a more minimalist (and easier) thesis, which is that even if he can’t definitively prove that definite atonement is present in the universalistic passages, that at least in a complementary way, these passages can be read together with the particularistic passages in a way that, at least, demonstrates that they are open to the more definitive particularistic passages (which is where Gibson’s theology comes in again; i.e. his privileging of ‘definite atonement’ theology, which becomes the frame for him).
Anyway, this is as far as I am going to get into commenting on his chapter at this point. In lieu of further commentary on the aforementioned book, and to make this post even more disjointed (even if thematically it is coherent); let me share something I posted on my Facebook wall last night off the top (as a quick reflection on the topic of limited atonement as it related to my Scripture reading last night, and in particular involving Galatians 3:16). Here is what I wrote:
Limited atonement/particular redemption/definite atonement; my view in summary:
“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, He does not say, And to seeds, as referring to many, but rather to one, And to your seed, that is, Christ.” Galatians 3:16
Atonement is limited to Christ’s life, not to the many. Atonement, the resurrection life that is produced by dying, going into the ground, and rising up as the first fruits of the harvest, the firstborn from the dead is the One particular Person who reconciles all into the Father by His shed blood. Atonement is definitely limited to Christ alone, and Christ is for all without exception, or He is for none. The Father’s choice was limited to His Son, and His Son’s choice was for humanity; His assumed, and in His assumed, ours.
My way into this discussion, then, in contrast to Jonny Gibson’s way in, is going to start with Christ as the ‘analogy of faith’ by which I order and regulate my reading of Scripture. Some might argue that this is a dogmatic/systematic theological imposition and thus eisogetical approach toward engagement with the text of Scripture. But I would counter by agreeing that, indeed, it is a kind of dogmatic or confessional engagement with the Text, but then, so is everyone’s engagement with the Text. And for my money, if engagement with the Text of Scripture is necessarily Dogmatic (as it is, indeed: even reading Scripture as Scripture admits and presupposes that we are starting from a necessarily Dogmatic or Confessional frame with a our respective doctrines of Scripture), then it is best to be intentional about that, and to be as Christianly Dogmatic about such things—while honoring the integrity and contours of the Text—as we can. It seems better to me, then, to start things out (when approaching Scripture), with a doctrine of God, which leads to and from (dialectically) a doctrine of Christ, which leads then to a doctrine of creation, which leads then to a doctrine of theo-anthropology, which leads then to a doctrine of Scripture, etc. In other words, lets be very up front about what informs our Confessionalism (and Gibson is, really), and proceed from there. It just happens, then, that if we follow the theology of Jonny Gibson’s Dogmatic theology out to its conclusion, that there is a major flaw (one that Thomas Torrance and Karl Barth never tire of calling out); viz. (for Gibson’s approach) that creation predicates God’s grace instead of vice versa (I would have to argue for this later, and have done so suggestively in other posts ad infinitum).
So I digressed. What I put up on Facebook was simply to note that God’s choice in election (to use the classical language), has to do with His choice of His Son, and both of their choice for the Son to elect humanity for Himself. This is where the “tension” of Scripture finds repose and resonance, and this is where this discussion ought to stay; in Christ. I’ll leave this here for now.