Is Limited Atonement Consistent With a Bona Fide Invitation of the Gospel?

I’ve spent the last couple of posts addressing typical Calvinist interpretations of 1 John 2:2, particularly John Piper’s, so I might as well move on to address a different issue within the debate on the atonement: Can adherents of limited atonement justifiably hold that they can give genuine invitations to everyone for salvation?

Piper believes so.  In fact, he doesn’t see the non-Calvinist/Arminian formulation of the atonement as contradictory to limited atonement; he simply believes that Calvinists think that the atonement did more.  In his lecture, he wholeheartedly agrees with non-Calvinists that the Gospel makes salvation possible for all if only they believe.  In this manner, he agrees that there is some universal benefit for the atonement.  However, he thinks that Calvinists simply add on to this by stating that the atonement actually purchased faith for the elect.  Thus, he thinks that Calvinists can give a bona fide invitation to everyone: Whoever believes will be saved.

Before I interact with his position, let me make this clear: I am not questioning Piper’s or any other Calvinist’s heart when it comes to evangelism.  I have no doubt that Piper and others share the Gospel with a genuine spirit, and I thank God for men like him who do so.  Even John MacArthur admitted to feeling tension between evangelism and limited atonement but simply holds that we are to share the Gospel freely because Scripture commands it, and I don’t doubt his heart to obey God either.  This is not a question of the genuineness of their actions or character; it’s a question of consistency.

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