J.C. Ryle once commented that “the absence of accurate definitions is the very life of religious controversy.” This is especially so when it comes to the doctrine of limited atonement. The adjective limited by its very name creates a problem. In redemptive history, Christ’s atonement is the climax of God’s long-anticipated salvation, so why would anyone want to limit it?
Of course, at one level, everyone limits Christ’s atonement: some limit its scope (it is for God’s elect only); others limit its efficacy (it does not save everyone for whom it was intended). Thus, it’s not whether one will limit Christ’s atonement; it’s just how. For this reason, I propose a more positive and less ambiguous term: definite atonement.