Unlimited Atonement

The Arminian belief that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for the entire world making all of mankind savable.  The atonement is effective only for those who believe but is available to all.

While this sounds like the most basic understanding of John 3:16 as well as various other scripture passages, limited atonement contends that “the world” does not mean every person in the world.  Instead, limited atonement contends that Christ only died for the “elect” world, the ones that God had already chosen to save unconditionally.

Unlimited atonement is in direct opposition to the Calvinist point of limited atonement and is supported by more than a few people who are otherwise Calvinistic in their beliefs.  Calvinists who hold to this view but the other four points of Calvinism are known as four point Calvinists.

Limited Atonement

A belief of Calvinism that Christ did not provide atonement for all but only those whom God elected.  The reasoning behind this is that God would not cause Christ to suffer for the sins of those who He knew would not accept Him.  If Christ really did provide atonement for all the sins of the world, the entire world would be saved regardless of the volition of man.

This is the most controversial of the five points of Calvinism and probably the most confusing.  Critics immediately point out John 3:16 says that Christ came for the entire world while defenders insist that “world” does not literally mean every person but rather people all over the world that will be saved.

Because of the controversy with this point of Calvinism, some Calvinists consider themselves to be four point Calvinists while others who do not accept another tenet of Calvinism may even consider themselves to be three point Calvinists.