A rapper known by the name FLAME recently recanted his Calvinism and joined the Lutheran church. He made waves in the Reformed world by also releasing an album explaining his denunciation of his former disposition. Under most circumstances something like this wouldn’t merit a blog. However, as he is now using his platform for anti-calvinist polemics, I decided one of his most recent tweets on Limited Atonement serves as a helpful teaching lesson.
The logic of this tweet is so skewed it not only refutes itself, but inevitably leads to Universalism.
The argument of the tweet is that, since Adam accomplished death for everyone, but Christ only died for some, Adam becomes more effective than Jesus. The problem is that even from the non-Calvinistic perspective the argument could still be made. Even if it is assumed that Christ died for every person, the problem raised in this tweet stills stands.
Adam sinned for everyone, and all died. Christ died for everyone, but only some live. That is the non-Calvinistic understanding; how is this any different? How does this evade the problem? Even in this scenario, Adam accomplishes death for all to whom his work is applied; yet, we do not see Christ accomplishing life to all whom His work is applied. One could still argue that Adam is more effective than Christ. The numbers are still on Adam’s side. The accomplished works are still in Adam’s favor.
This is why the logic of this tweet ultimately leads to Universalism, the idea that every single person who has ever lived will be saved. If the goal is to make Christ compete with Adam on a numbers scale, then He must give life to every single human being. In other words, if it is true that “the extant of the atonement is as cosmic in dimensions as Adam’s sin” then all must be saved. Otherwise, as said above, Adam’s sin is still more effective than the atonement.
The last two responses have been “negative,” meaning I have exposed the problem FLAME created for himself. However, I think it would still be helpful to give a positive response to the argument. Thomas Boston argued against this position long ago,
But say not, that this disparageth the federal representation of the second Adam, that he represented only some of mankind, whereas the fist Adam represented all mankind. For as it is more to be a surety for a vast sum, for one man who neither hath, nor can give any thing at all wherewithal to pay his debt, than to be surety for a hundred such as have abundance of their own; so it was more for Jesus Christ to contract with and undertake one sinner, than for Adam to contract for a righteous world.
But we cannot rely solely on Boston given FLAME’s specific argument. Flame is addressing the effectiveness of the federal heads. While Boston’s point needs to be noted, we need to develop the answer.
When one looks at how Romans compares death in Adam with life in Christ the way it’s presented covenantally, the issue evaporates. Romans presents Adam as a covenant head. This is what theologians mean by “Federal Headship.” Adam was in covenant with God, and broke that covenant. Adam became a covenant breaker. All born in his lineage are then born into his broken covenant status. They are born covenant breakers. Thus, Adam successfully imputes to all those united to him what only he could give them: sin and death.
Christ, the new Adam, is also a covenant head. Everyone united to Christ likewise receives what their covenant head can impute; namely, righteousness and life. Adam then gives to all who are united to him death, while Christ gives to all who are united to Him life.
It is now apparent that the Calvinist has in no way made Adam “more effective” in bringing about sin and death than Christ is in bringing about righteousness and life. Rather, they are both perfectly imputing what they offer to everyone in their respective covenants.
In a very real sense, Limited Atonement is entirely irrelevant to this conversation. FLAME’s argument is in fact a category error. We cannot compare Adam’s effectiveness and Christ’s effectiveness by counting numbers. We cannot compare the intent of Christ’s work to Adam’s which had no intent at all. Rather, when viewed covenantally there is a direct correlation. 100% of those under the headship of Adam received death. 100% of all those under the headship of Christ receive life and righteousness.
Adam and Christ’s effectiveness have nothing to do with who had more people in their covenants, and even less to do than comparing who Christ died for with who was born into Adam’s covenant. It simply means both federal heads will perfectly supply what they can give. So choose this day to serve Christ. Come under His headship, come into His covenant, and be saved through Him. If not, you shall die in Adam, and be judged accordingly.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.