It would be impossible to improve on the author’s given outline:
The present author will provide a consistent and accurate biblical verse by verse exegetical commentary of Romans 5:12-21. Following this exegesis, several scriptural proof texts from both the Unlimited Atonement and Limited Atonement proponents will be presented and correctly interpreted within the light of Romans 5:12-21. Finally, in a summary conclusion, the present author will answer the following three fundamental questions and provide pragmatic implications with practical applications:
1. What is the nature of Atonement? Or in other words, for whom did Jesus die?
2. What is the efficacy of Jesus’ atonement? Or in other words, what effect does Jesus’ atonement have upon whom?
3. Monergism or Synergism? (sic) Or in other words, what cooperative or participatory role does mankind play in their own salvation (pp. xii-xiii)?
In this self-published work, R. J. Arthur (I do not know who he is or how to contact him, even though he invites questions and challenges to his position – pp. 131-132) is attempting to solve the extent of the atonement debate through the use of Romans 5:12-21. His exegesis of the text leads him to conclude that Christ’s death had a dual purpose (p. 86). First, it justifies all people of Adam’s original sin (pp. 8, 24-25, 31-38, 71, 74, 79, 82, 85-86). No one will stand before the Lord in the final judgment and give account for the sin of Adam; they will be judged for their personal sins (pp. 25, 31, 45). Secondly, Christ’s death results in the salvation of the elect from all their personal sins (p. 86).
With this interpretation as his basis, Arthur then examines the key passages used to support both limited and unlimited atonement. He demonstrates that, if Romans 5:12-21 is properly exegeted, his admittedly somewhat unorthodox view (p. 124) is superior to either of the commonly held positions. Whereas unlimited atonement adherents see Jesus’ death as making an atonement for everyone, but is only efficacious for those who believe, and limited atonement theologians believe Christ died only for the elect, Arthur believes that Christ’s death was efficacious for everyone in regard to original sin and was also efficacious for the elect in regard to personal sins (p. 112). Arthur summarizes his position as such:
Christ gave Himself for the Church; that is, the elect. This verse clearly proclaims Christ’s limited atonement for a select group of people called the elect. However, according to Romans 5:12-21, Christ’s atonement is also universal, or unlimited, for the imputed original sin of Adam that affected all men. Christ’s atonement is limited when pertaining to the personal sins of the elect but unlimited when pertaining to the imputed Adamic sin of all men (p. 105).
A few additional remarks are important. Arthur:
- Has a bias against seminaries and formal education because he believes they are more concerned to maintain a theological position rather than a biblical one (pp. 87, 113).
- Is a strong 4-point Calvinist (pp. 94, 99, 100).
- Is monergistic in regard to salvation (pp. 113-118, 129).
- Believes the Lord gives the elect faith but does not explain the response of faith on the part of the believer (pp. 118-120).
- Borders on fatalistic when it comes to the sovereignty of God (p. 120).
- Strangely, misrepresents the unlimited view, toward the end of the book as being an Arminian position (pp. 113, 122). With all he had written previously he surely knows that many Calvinists are unlimited.
Overall, Arthur’s middle ground understanding of the extent of the atonement, based on Romans 5:12-21, is well worth considering. He makes an excellent case for his interpretation, and it should not be dismissed because it is outside the bounds of most arguments on the subject. I would recommend a careful examination of For Whom Did Christ Die? for those interested in this on-going debate.
For Whom Did Christ Die? Reconciling Unlimited Atonement and Limited Atonement by R. J. Arthur (R. J. Arthur: 2018) 143 pp. + viii, paperback $6.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel