Monday, July 16, 2007

Limited Atonement - How S. Lewis Johnson came to understand it better

Many of you will recognize the distinguished gentleman pictured in the middle above--S. Lewis Johnson. But, I'll bet that few will recognize the man on the left--Gary D. Long, ThD. I took this picture during the annual "Sovereign Grace Conference" (not associated with C.J. Mahaney's ministry) held in Salado, Texas in October 2000.

I've posted this picture, along with comments below by S. Lewis Johnson, in order to introduce you to Dr. Long. According to S. Lewis, he owes a "personal debt" to Gary for his clearer "understanding and acceptance of consistent soteriological Calvinism". That may be surprising to many people because S. Lewis was a "giant" in his own right! But, what may surprise you even more is the fact that while Gary was a student of S. Lewis' at DTS, God used Gary's theological studies and discussions to impact S. Lewis' understanding of definite atonement! What an amazing example of God's grace and mercy to use a student to "teach" the teacher, and grant such humility to both men as they followed their Savior together!

It is Gary Long's book, "Definite Atonement"--an expansion of his master's thesis at DTS (1965-1972) first published in 1976--that I will be using for further discussion and posts on the topic of Definite/Limited Atonement. Please understand that I do NOT claim to fully understand or grasp this detailed work! However, I do claim that it has helped me immensely as I sort through the various supports of and objections to the doctrine of definite atonement, I hope it will be of help to you, too!

I offer you the following quotes from S. Lewis Johnson who wrote the Foreword to the book:

"My long friendship with Dr. Long goes back to the years in which he was a student and I a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. In those days we had many conversations and times together...I look back upon those years as a time of further spiritual and theological growth for me."

"My own theological position at the time was what might be called Amyraldian, although not strictly true to historical Amyraldism, or hypothetical universalism. I frequently used the term, "four point Calvinist," to express my view...I really did believe in the bondage of the will and rejected the capital Arminian doctrine of free will, embraced by so many evangelicals calling themselves "Calvinists," or "mild Calvinists.""

"The personal debt that I owe to Dr. Long consists in the fact that, through our talks together and the further study of the question of particular redemption in the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which they fostered, I was brought to an understanding and acceptance of consistent soteriological Calvinism."

"I am, therefore, very indebted to Dr. Long and to the insights that he shared with me concerning the biblical doctrine of grace. He was a fine student in his work at the seminary, and I believe that this is evidenced in his book, which was originally a master's thesis presented to the seminary as part of the requirements for the degree of Th.M."

"The method of treatment of the issue that Dr. Long has followed is both theological and exegetical. The first part of the work is theological, and the author argues persuasively and quite thoroughly for the accomplishment of a definite atonement by our Lord in His death upon Calvary's cross. As an Appendix he has treated in exegetical detail the leading texts offered by Arminians in objection to the author's position. The texts dealt with are 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 2:2, and 2 Corinthians 5:19. Thus, there is both theology and exegesis in the defense."

"There are so many useful and helpful discussions of important aspects of the doctrine of God's grace in this book that I can only say, "Read it! Ponder it! And embrace the truth! It will be mind-clearing, heart-warming, and spiritually nourishing.""

"Perhaps I may be allowed to make one final comment. To my mind the concept of the universal and spiritually egalitarian love of God lies at the base of a great deal of the spiritual failure of our day. In fact, it is a doctrine that is eminently calculated to give comfort to the apathetic and indifferent among us, who seem to be dwelling in a spiritual coma."

"I heartily recommend Dr. Long's discussion of God's eternal love, immutable and distinguishing. It is surely a needed warning to the complacent and an antidote to evangelicalism's current superficiality in the preaching of divine grace."

Special thanks to my 'teacher' and best friend--my husband! When I first mentioned the discussion that had arisen and the passage in question he commented, "'s a good question and a difficult passage...don't forget Gary Long's book on the topic..."


Kristine said...

I've enjoyed these posts of yours, devoted to this often-neglected, and highly debated doctrine.

You have no idea how refreshing it is to read material written by my fellow Sisters in Christ, concerning these wieghty issues!

God Bless!

Connie said...

Kristine: Thanks for your encouragement! My greatest desire is to engage and "stir up" other Xian women--causing them to consider and THINK through their own theology. Blessings!