I wrote a previous post on Horton's attempts to show TULIP in the church fathers. Someone recently asked me to comment on a list of patristic citations that are supposed to show the Limited Atonement in the church fathers provided by Tur8in fan. Unlike Horton's list, this list provides citations which makes tracking them down easier. The list is also prefaced by the statement:
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it is not intended to be a representative list. There are a lot of odd statements by the church fathers on the atonement, and a lot of strange theories that some of them adopted. Also, just because they adopted a view of limited atonement (in the sense of understanding that Christ was offered to bear the sins of the elect or in that he redeemed the elect in particular) does not mean that they held to a thoroughly "Calvinist" (what an anachronism to call it that!) understanding of TULIP. This, therefore, provides some patristic views of the atonement.
On the one hand, I applaud the honesty. On the other hand, the parameters of what is trying to show aren't very helpful. I think both Calvinists and non-Calvinists would agree that the Scriptures speak at times in more restricted terms about the atonement and speak of Christ dying in relationship to the church that ultimately receives the benefits of the atonement. So proving that the church fathers sometimes speak this way isn't very beneficial. It's already agreed upon by both parties in the debate. The debate is really over whether or not Christ died for those who are not elect. And really to show that the church fathers taught a limited atonement in the same way that the Calvinists teach a limited atonement you really do have to show that they taught the rest of TULIP because the Limited Atonement as Calvinists understand it, is the logical outcome of the rest of their system. In fact, if somebody denies the other teachings of TULIP but uses language that sounds as if they might be speaking of a limited atonement then you would probably have to conclude that they don't mean the same thing in their exclusive language as the Calvinists believe. At the very least it is required for the church father to teach that if a person falls away from the faith that person never really had faith to begin with. Otherwise, if the church father teaches that Christ died for believers that number would at the very least be greater than the "elect" in the Calvinist system and include those who will not inherit eternal life. This will become more apparent as we look at the concrete examples. The article begins with two quotes from Ambrose.
Ambrose (c. 339-97): Although Christ suffered for all, yet He suffered for us particularly, because He suffered for the Church. Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book VI, §25, p. 201.The first quote teaches that Christ did in fact suffer for all but suffered for the church particularly. This seems similar to what 1 Timothy 4:10 teaches. Ambrose doesn't say in the first quote that Christ only suffered for the church but points to those who eventually receive all the benefits of Christ dying for them.
Latin Text: Et si Christus pro omnibus passus est, pro nobis tamen specialiter passus est; quia pro Ecclesia passus est. Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 6.25, PL 15:1675.
Ambrose (c. 339-97): Great, therefore, is the mystery of Christ, before which even angels stood amazed and bewildered. For this cause, then, it is thy duty to worship Him, and, being a servant, thou oughtest not to detract from thy Lord. Ignorance thou mayest not plead, for to this end He came down, that thou mayest believe; if thou believest not, He has not come down for thee, has not suffered for thee. "If I had not come," saith the Scripture, "and spoken with them, they would have no sin: but now have they no excuse for their sin. He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also." Who, then, hates Christ, if not he who speaks to His dishonor? -- for as it is love's part to render, so it is hate's to withdraw honor. He who hates, calls in question; he who loves, pays reverence. NPNF2: Vol.: Volume X, Of the Christian Faith, Book IV, Chapter 2, §27.
The second quote, I think can be understood in a similar way to the first quote. As long as you remain in unbelief Christ is of no benefit to you. It should also be kept in mind that Ambrose held to the historic doctrines concerning the sacraments. Ambrose taught that baptism regenerates and gives faith and did not deny that some people end up walking away from the faith. Understood in this context, the person who has faith at any point in time has Christ as their savior and does not have Christ as their savior if they depart from the faith. You can find a pretty extensive list of quotations from Ambrose on the atonement here. The next quotation is from Ambrosiaster cited second hand from John Owen:
Ambrosiaster: The people of God hath its own fulness. In the elect and foreknown, distinguished from the generality of all, there is accounted a certain special universality; so that the whole world seems to be delivered from the whole world, and all men to be taken out of all men. See Works of John Owen, Vol. 10, p. 423.First it should be noted that Ambrosiaster is not an actual person. There was a period of time in which this work and others were believed to be the work of Ambrose. When it was discovered that these were not the works of Ambrose the name "Ambrosiaster" was given to them. However, now this work in particular is believed to be the work of Prosper of Aquitaine and has been published in English as The Call of the Nations. Owen seems to have left out a sentence from the original text:
Latin text: Habet ergo populus Dei plenitudinem suam, et quamvis magna pars hominum, salvantis gratiam aut repellat aut negligat, in electis tamen et praescitis, atque ab omnium generalitate discretis, specialis quaedam censetur universitas, ut de toto mundo totus mundus liberatus, et de omnibus hominibus omnes homines videantur assumpti: De Vocatione Gentium, Liber Primus, Caput III, PL 17:1084.
God's people, therefore, has a completeness all its own. It is true that a great part of mankind refuse or neglect the grace of their Saviour. In the elect, however, and the foreknown who were set apart from the generality of mankind, we have a specified totality. Thus the whole world is spoken of as though the whole of it had been liberated, and all mankind as though all men had been chosen. (p. 46)As the quotation indicates and as is made clearer if you read the rest of the section, Prosper is not speaking of the atonement but of election. And it's not as if Prosper doesn't comment on the atonement. He deals with the extent of the atonement on pages 118ff. in the same work. The whole section is worth reading but I'll just quote the beginning of it:
There can, therefore, be no reason to doubt that Jesus Christ our Lord died for the unbelievers and the sinners. If there had been any one who did not belong to these, then Christ would not have died for all. But He did die for all men without exception.To say that Prosper taught a limited atonement in this work is extremely dishonest. Prosper actually sounds very Lutheran in both his approach to predestination and the atonement. On to the next quote.
Hilary of Arles (c. 401-449) commenting on 1 John 2:2: When John says that Christ died for the sins of the "whole world," what he means is that he died for the whole church. Introductory Commentary on 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177. Latin text: et non pro nostris tantum. set etiam pro totius mundi peccatis; Aecclesiam mundi nomine appellat. Expositio In Epistolas Catholiicas, Incipit Epistola Sancti Iohannis Apostoli, Cap. II, v. 2, PL Supp. 3:118.This quote doesn't really prove anything. This is Hilary of Arles commenting on one specific text and following a specific tradition of interpreting a specific passage. What needs to be proved is that Hilary taught that Christ only died for the elect, not that when commenting on a specific passage Hilary believed it only applied to the elect.
Augustine (354-430): 2. But alongside of this love we ought also patiently to endure the hatred of the world. For it must of necessity hate those whom it perceives recoiling from that which is loved by itself. But the Lord supplies us with special consolation from His own case, when, after saying, "These things I command you, that ye love one another," He added, "If the world hate you, know that it hated me before [it hated] you." Why then should the member exalt itself above the head? Thou refusest to be in the body if thou art unwilling to endure the hatred of the world along with the Head. "If ye were of the world," He says, "the world would love its own." He says this, of course, of the whole Church, which, by itself, He frequently also calls by the name of the world: as when it is said, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." And this also: "The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." And John says in his epistle: "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also [for those] of the whole world." The whole world then is the Church, and yet the whole world hateth the Church. The world therefore hateth the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the condemned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed. 3. But that world which God is in Christ reconciling unto Himself, which is saved by Christ, and has all its sins freely pardoned by Christ, has been chosen out of the world that is hostile, condemned, and defiled. For out of that mass, which has all perished in Adam, are formed the vessels of mercy, whereof that world of reconciliation is composed, that is hated by the world which belongeth to the vessels of wrath that are formed out of the same mass and fitted to destruction. Finally, after saying, "If ye were of the world, the world would love its own," He immediately added, "But because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." And so these men were themselves also of that world, and, that they might no longer be of it, were chosen out of it, through no merit of their own, for no good works of theirs had preceded; and not by nature, which through free-will had become totally corrupted at its source: but gratuitously, that is, of actual grace. For He who chose the world out of the world, effected for Himself, instead of finding, what He should choose: for "there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. And if by grace," he adds, "then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace." NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate LXXXVII, §2-3, John 15:17-19.
Augustine (354-430): Hence things that are lawful are not all good, but everything unlawful is not good. Just as everyone redeemed by Christ's blood is a human being, but human beings are not all redeemed by Christ's blood, so too everything that is unlawful is not good, but things that are not good are not all unlawful. As we learn from the testimony of the apostle, there are some things that are lawful but are not good. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Adulterous Marriages, Part 1, Vol. 9, trans. Ray Kearney, O.P., Book One, 15, 16 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 153.Augustine, like Ambrose speaks of redemption in terms of who receives the benefits of the atonement but he also would speak of Christ purchasing redemption for all men. In the example below he says Jesus redeemed Judas:
To suffer indeed He had come, and He punished him through whom He suffered. For Judas the traitor was punished, and Christ was crucified: but us He redeemed by His blood, and He punished him in the matter of his price. For he threw down the price of silver, for which by him the Lord had been sold; and he knew not the price wherewith he had himself by the Lord been redeemed. This thing was done in the case of Judas. “Exposition on the Book of the Psalms,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, 8:309.
Of this death the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore all are dead, and He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again.” Thus all, without one exception, were dead in sins, whether original or voluntary sins, sins of ignorance, or sins committed against knowledge; and for all the dead there died the one only person who lived, that is, who had no sin whatever, in order that they who live by the remission of their sins should live, not to themselves, but to Him who died for all, for our sins, and rose again for our justification, that we, believing in Him who justifies the ungodly, and being justified from ungodliness or quickened from death, may be able to attain to the first resurrection which now is. ,“The City of God and Christian Doctrine,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series. 2:245.
You can find a more extensive list of quotations from Augustine on the atonement here.
Chrysostom (349-407) on Hebrews 9:28. "So Christ was once offered.": By whom offered? evidently by Himself. Here he says that He is not Priest only, but Victim also, and what is sacrificed. On this account are [the words] "was offered." "Was once offered" (he says) "to bear the sins of many." Why "of many," and not "of all"? Because not all believed, For He died indeed for all, that is His part: for that death was a counterbalance against the destruction of all men. But He did not bear the sins of all men, because they were not willing. NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Epistle to the Hebrews, Homily 17.This is another extraordinarily dishonest quote because Chrysostom explains what he means by "did not bear the sins" in the very words that follow:
And what is [the meaning of] “He bare the sins”? Just as in the Oblation we bear up our sins and say, “Whether we have sinned voluntarily or involuntarily, do Thou forgive,” that is, we make mention of them first, and then ask for their forgiveness. So also was it done here. Where has Christ done this? Hear Himself saying, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself.” (John xvii.19.) Lo! He bore the sins. He took them from men, and bore them to the Father; not that He might determine anything against them [mankind], but that He might forgive them. “Unto them that look for Him shall He appear” (he says) “the second time without sin unto salvation.” What is “without sin”? it is as much as to say, He sinneth not. For neither did He die as owing the debt of death, nor yet because of sin. But how “shall He appear”? To punish, you say. He did not however say this, but what was cheering; “shall He appear unto them that look for Him, without sin unto salvation.” So that for the time to come they no longer need sacrifices to save themselves, but to do this by deeds. Chrysostom, “Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistles to the Hebrews,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 14:447-448.So Chrysostom explains himself as meaning that when he says "did not bear the sins" he means he does not forgive their sins because they do not have faith. He's not saying that Christ only died for the elect. You can find plenty of quotes here that show what Chrysostom believed about the extent of the atonement.
Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): He is not crucified with Christ who is not a member of the body of Christ. When, therefore, our Saviour is said to be crucified for the redemption of the whole world, because of his true assumption of the human nature, yet may he be said to be crucified only for them unto whom his death was profitable. . . . Diverse from these is their lot who are reckoned amongst them of whom is is said, 'the world knew him not.' Latin text: Non est autem crucifixus in Christo, qui non est membrum corporis Christi, nec est membrum corporis Christi, qui non per aquam et Spiritum sanctum induit Christum. Qui ideo in infirmitate nostra communionem subiit mortis, ut nos in virtute ejus haberemus consortium resurrectionis. Cum itaque rectissime dicatur Salvator pro totius mundi redemptione crucifixus, propter veram humanae naturae susceptionem, et propter communem in primo homine omnium perditionem: potest tamen dici pro his tantum crucifixus quibus mors ipsius profuit. . . . Diversa ergo ab istis sors eorum est qui inter illos censentur de quibus dicitur; Mundus eum non cognovit. Responsiones ad Capitula Gallorum, Capitulum IX, Responsio, PL 51:165.
Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): Doubtless the propriety of redemption is theirs from whom the prince of this world is cast out. The death of Christ is not to be so laid out for human-kind, that they also should belong unto his redemption who were not to be regenerated. Latin text: Redemptionis proprietas haud dubie penes illos est, de quibus princeps mundi missus est foras, et jam non vasa diaboli, sed membra sunt Christi. Cujus mors non ita impensa est humano generi, ut ad redemptionem ejus etiam qui regenerandi non erant pertinerint. Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Vincentianarum, Capitulum Primum, Responsio, PL 51:178.
I think Prosper of Aquitaine's position on the extent of the atonement has been dealt with sufficiently above in the "Ambrosiaster" section. But you can read more quotes from Prosper here.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466) commenting on Hebrews 9:27-28: As it is appointed for each human being to die once, and the one who accepts death's decree no longer sins but awaits the examination of what was done in life, so Christ the Lord, after being offered once for us and taking up our sins, will come to us again, with sin no longer in force, that is, with sin no longer occupying a place as far as human beings are concerned. He said himself, remember, when he still had a mortal body, "He committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth." It should be noted, of course, that he bore the sins of many, not of all: not all came to faith, so he removed the sins of the believers only. Robert Charles Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul, Vol. 2 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001), p. 175.
I think this is best understood in the same way that Chrysostom's statement is understood. He's not speaking of Christ only dying for the elect but of those who believe receiving forgiveness. As he writes elsewhere:
"By raising the flesh He has given the promise of resurrection to us all, after giving the resurrection of His own precious body as a worthy pledge of ours. So loved He men even when they hated Him that the mystery of the economy fails to obtain credence with some on account of the very bitterness of His sufferings, and it is enough to show the depths of His loving kindness that He is even yet day by day calling to men who do not believe. And He does so not as though He were in need of the service of men -- for of what is the Creator of the universe in want? -- but because He thirsts for the salvation of every man. Grasp then, my excellent friend, His gift; sing praises to the Giver, and procure for us a very great and right goodly feast." (Theodoret, Letter LXXVI To Uranius, Governor of Cyprus)Now on to the quotes from Bede:
Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:1: The Lord intercedes for us not by words but by his dying compassion, because he took upon himself the sins which he was unwilling to condemn his elect for. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177. Latin text: Interpellat ergo pro nobis Dominus, non voce, sed miseratione, quia quod damnare in electis noluit, suscipiendo servavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:89.
Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:2: In his humanity Christ pleads for our sins before the Father, but in his divinity he has propitiated them for us with the Father. Furthermore, he has not done this only for those who were alive at the time of his death, but also for the whole church which is scattered over the full compass of the world, and it will be valid for everyone, from the very first among the elect until the last one who will be born at the end of time. This verse is therefore a rebuke to the Donatists, who thought that the true church was to be found only in Africa. The Lord pleads for the sins of the whole world, because the church which he has bought with his blood exists in every corner of the globe. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 178. Latin text: Qui per humanitatem interpellat pro nobis apud Patrem, idem per divinitatem propitiatur nobis cum Patre. . . . Non pro illis solum propitiatio est Dominus, quibus tunc in carne viventibus scribebat Joannes, sed etiam pro omni Ecclesia quae per totam mundi latitudinem diffusa est, primo nimirum electo usque ad ultimum qui in fine mundi nasciturus est porrecta. Quibus verbis Donatistarum schisma reprobat, qui in Africae solum finibus Ecclesiam Christi esse dicebant inclusam. Pro totius ergo mundi peccatis interpellat Dominus, quia per totum mundum est Ecclesia, quam suo sanguine comparavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:90Bede is commenting on a specific text and pretty much doing what others have done with this specific text but it hardly proves a limited atonement. From all of this it seems to me that Gottschalk in the 9th Century was actually the first to hold to the limited atonement. He also held to a heretical teaching on the Trinity that amounted to a sort of Tritheism. But I'm just very disturbed by the dishonesty in the quotes above.