Unconscious Participation

Baptist theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836-1921), a popular and influential heretic in his day, writes the following (underlining and ALL CAPS mine):

Unconscious participation in the atonement of Christ, by virtue of our common humanity in him, makes us the heirs of much temporal blessing.  Conscious participation in the atonement of Christ, by virtue of our faith in him and his work for us, gives us justification and eternal life.  Matthew Henry said that the Atonement is ‘sufficient for all; effectual for many.’  J. M. Whiton, in The Outlook, Sept. 25, 1897 — ‘It was Samuel Hopkins of Rhode Island (1721-1803) who first declared that Christ had made atonement for all men, not for the elect part alone, as Calvinists affirmed.’ We should say as SOME Calvinists affirmed; for, as we shall see, John Calvin himself declared that ‘Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world.’  Alfred Tennyson once asked an old Methodist woman what was the news. ‘Why, Mr. Tennyson, there’s only one piece of news that I know, that Christ died for all men.’ And he said to her: ‘That is old news, and good news, and new news'” (Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium).

Strong’s “unconscious participation” of “much temporal blessing” appears to be a damnable enunciation of, or allusion to, a supposed “common” or “universal grace” by virtue of Christ’s sharing and partaking of flesh and blood (cf. Hebrews 2:14).  Other Calvinists besides Strong have adulterated other texts, but Hebrews 2:14 is one commonly perverted in order to profane the precious and propitiatory blood of Jesus Christ.

Strong understands John Calvin to have held to a universal atonement.  That John Calvin held to the self-righteous and damnable doctrine of universal atonement does not follow from Strong’s apparent quotation of Calvin, but if further quotations of Calvin are gathered then it is quite clear that he did.  For instance, here is Calvin on Romans 5:18:

“He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him” (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans).

John Calvin is here saying that although Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, yet all do not receive Him. If he had just said, “Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world,” we could have considered the possibility that he could have meant “the whole world of the Jews and Gentiles” or “the whole world of the elect” and not everyone without exception. But he goes on to say that “all do not receive him,” which means that he believed that Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, INCLUDING all who do not receive him. Thus Calvin denied the very heart of the gospel, which is the efficacious atonement of Jesus Christ.

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