Can Calvinists Make a Meaningful Distinction Between the Sufficiency and Efficacy of the Atonement?

A while ago, I wrote about John Owen’s famous trilemma argument in favor of limited atonement and criticized its shortcomings.  I noted that it is reliant on a commercialist view of the atonement, which is faulty, and that it diminishes the importance of faith.  Philosophical arguments like that one are not out of bounds by nature and can guide interpretation, but it is not nearly strong enough to overturn better interpretations of passages such as 1 John 2:2 that speak against limited atonement.

Now, I want to discuss another problem for Calvinists who advocate the double payment argument.  Many of them insist that though there is a sense in which Christ did not die for everyone, there is another sense in which he did.  In other words, while Christ’s blood and sacrifice is sufficient for everyone, it is efficient only for the elect.  I think this, along with the double payment argument, leads to a contradiction.  Even for those few Calvinists who reject Owen’s argument, this distinction is meaningless and confused.

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