Most Damaging Doctrine.

Brian LePort from Near Emmaus has recently asked what people consider the most damaging doctrines. After some thought I have to say that the most damaging doctrine is those that limit and distort the love and grace of God.

And within that framework Limited Atonement must top that list. For it diminishes, distorts and restricts the love of God in so many ways. For the Apostle John wrote – For God so loved the world, he gave his only son, so that whosoever shall believe in him shall inherit eternal life….

You just can’t get any more inclusive than that.

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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25 Responses to Most Damaging Doctrine.

  1. Vern says:

    What did Yeshua say would cause Him to say, ” I never knew you”?

  2. Brian Sleeman says:

    All those whom the FATHER sends, the Bridegroom determines the guests at the wedding feast etc. etc., God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, their eyes where kept from seeing. Doesn’t sound like a totally open invite to me. If we are dead in sin, how can we do anything – we are dead, the sinful seek the darkness, how then do we step into the light? We cannot believe in what we do not know, how do we come to know Christ to believe in Him if the Spirit is not sent to open our hearts, and who sends the Spirit? So then, who determines to whom the Spirit will be sent?

    • Craig Benno says:

      Hi Brian.

      There are a few hermeneutical issues to work through here about how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and what that means for us…if your using Romans as an example here – remember the rhetorical shock factor that Paul is using to shock his Jewish hearers in that they are not saved because they are Jews.

      The way God hardens the Jewish hearts is through the cross – for it is the stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. However, Scripture says that the Spirit of God works through all things, over all things and within all things and that has to mean just what it says – ALL things.

      Its a strange hermeneutic to use John and say that God didn’t really mean “World” when John says that God loved the world…. its also a strange hermeneutic that denies Paul didn’t really mean ALL men to be saved …. when Paul said that God doesn’t desire the death of any….

  3. Mick Porter says:

    And you’ll know who your Reformed friends were – everyone who just unfriended you today 🙂

    • Craig Benno says:

      🙂 Mick – over here in Australia we seem to be much more relaxed about this then what it is in America – 😉

      • Mick Porter says:

        Craig, yeah, I was just having a laugh at what sounded like a provocative post, although I have indeed run into some intense heat here in Brisbane for raising discussion on something that turned out to be a hot topic – we had to bail from a Presby church in the end.

        In an attempt to add some actual value to the discussion: the really damaging doctrines I’ve experienced have been more concrete – leadership demanding obedience, damning other beliefs etc. I think these kinds of thing caused people major trauma. I suspect Limited Atonement has little impact on most Christians’ actual lives and my friends on either side of that ‘fence’ seem to live out their faith quite similarly.

  4. Brian Sleeman says:

    Ah yes Craig, but the WORLD could be ‘creation’ as a whole – so all of creation being restored to God, just as Adams failure caused all of creation to fall. If God’s WILL desires all men to be saved, surely God’s WILL must cause all men to be saved – otherwise God is then powerless to enforce any of his WILL – Could not Paul’s ALL mean that every nation, race, gender etc. be exposed to the (saving power of the) gospel? Don’t forget there is God’s revealed will and His hidden will – He chooses which clay will be for formed to what task. I am not versed in Greek or Hebrew, so ALL in translation maybe as you describe – but then again ALL doesn’t necessarily mean every individual.

    @Mick: I’m one of Craig s ‘Reformed’ friends, but I grew up in the baptist denomination – I’m always up for discussing these theological issues because I believe we are (should be) Christian first – denominational somewhere much further down the list – and we should know, at least as best as possible, if we are acting under God’s direction or mans tradition / beliefs etc. Any one who drops you off their friend list for something like this would seem to me to be either overtly arrogant or of very uncertain faith. (it does appear you were being tongue in cheek)

    • Craig Benno says:

      A thoughtful reply as always Brian. I don’t think the context of John will allow your proposition here though. The contextual meaning of the world has to be the present creation and therefore all of it…past, present and future up until the time of recreation.

      John was a fairly precise writer – he starts of with a broad presentation – “world” and then narrows it down to being those who believe will be the ones saved from the world.

      Otherwise he would have said, “God loves those within the world whom he will save.”

    • Mick Porter says:

      Brian,definitely tongue-in-cheek, and I’m with you on that regarding openness to discussion.

  5. Jon Hughes says:

    Even Calvinists agree that “all” means ALL in Romans 3:23 😉

    • Brian Sleeman says:

      But is that the same ALL? I understand there are different words in the original languages that are translatable to all? As I said above, I don’t know Greek or Hebrew, so I’m in no position to say categorically

      • Jon Hughes says:


        I’ve no idea whether it’s the same ALL, as I don’t know Greek either, and the dictionary at the back of my concordance doesn’t provide the Greek word(s) translated “all”!

        Presumably, Calvinists would argue that you have to look at each passage in context regarding the ALL and WORLD passages. But Romans 3:23 always amuses me, because you can apply impeccable Calvinist logic to it in order to get it entirely wrong. You see, it is not only Jews but also Gentiles in view – all categories of people – all men without distinction, but not all men without exception (this is the approach they usually take with 1 Timothy 2:4). Therefore the ALL who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God are the elect alone, and not every single person who has ever lived.

        Now this is plainly preposterous, but all I’ve done is apply their own logic to another ALL passage.

        (Of course, there is ONE exception to the “all” who have sinned passage in Romans 3:23!)

  6. Brian Sleeman says:

    Craig, that may be true (John 3:16-17 are my favourite verses btw) – but it doesn’t account for how the come to believe – as Mick said, to most Christians it’s probably not a big issue; once you believe the actual way you got there is of no real consequence – as there are verses that talk about predestining (those He for knew He also predestined etc.). As I mentioned before, if it is God’s Will for all to be saved – then all must be saved (or it presents real issues around God’s power to enforce His Will), and we know that not all are saved. One of the things I struggle with, is that the Bible was written (not talking about inspiration) by men, for man – so it sort of presents a view from our side of the fence on many things (how things appear to us – like do we choose God, rather than perhaps God choosing us – but it feels like we have chosen Him) – so I think it can be quite difficult, especially based on a limited set of verses to see the real order of things.

    As always Craig, I find your posts very thought provoking – and often on subjects that I’ve never really considered before.

  7. Brian Sleeman says:

    @Craig, further thought (see, I told you you cause me to think too much :-)) – does not the parable of the Lost Sheep show that God / Christ know who are His and He goes out and gets them and brings them into the fold. He doesn’t say that He goes out looking for just any sheep, nor does He wait for them to find Him. Or, do you consider that parable to be about ‘back sliders’?

    @Jon, thanks for the response. I’m no expert on Calvinism nor Arminianism, so I don’t know how all their doctrine / interpretation follows the scriptures (I know that Limited Atonement is considered to be Calvin, and that also there is some dispute about whether Calvin actually promoted / believed it himself) – but I certainly take the passage of ‘All sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ to be an inclusive all (with the exception of Christ as you rightly commented). As much as I would like to think that ALL (inclusive) are meant to be saved, I don’t see that the Bible actually teaches that – there are so many references to God being selective, ALL (inclusive) are subject to God’s judgement certainly.

    • Mick Porter says:

      Brian, the parable of the lost sheep (as well as the lost coin and lost son) is told in direct response to the questioning why Jesus eats with sinners. It’s not a parable about Calvinism, it’s a parable about Jesus – specifically about his ministry to those Jews-by-birth who were functioning outside of the Law and who were called “sinners”. The Pharisees wanted these people fully excluded as part of their program to see a purified Israel and the Kingdom arrive; God had promised many times to send a true shepherd for Israel and now one had come.

      The sheep are ‘lost’ because they’ve moved outside the margins of Israel – some by choice, others by sickness etc.

      IMO it’s a bit of a trap to assume parables spoken to Jews don’t hold a meaning primarily concerning Israel of that day.

      Cheers, Mick

      • Brian Sleeman says:

        Hi Mick,

        Thanks for your response – I certainly agree that Christ was telling those of the time something that should have had meaning to them (and was obviously not about Calvinism – at least at that point in time, but who knows if God was pre-seeding this discussion through this passage ;-)) . However, as we know, many of them were blind to the Truth (via choice or design). I will have to ponder more upon your explanation, It seems to me that much of the thrust of what He was saying was to point out that those who thought they were right with God by their (outward) deeds were far from being so i.e they didn’t know their Shepherds voice, or to put it another way, those sheep didn’t belong to Him and hence He was not bringing them into the fold. But, perhaps I am reading too much into these parables.

        Cheers Brian

    • Craig Benno says:

      The whole context of the parables is to show the religious leaders who were muttering about Jesus eating and drinking with the so called low of low, rat bags of society, the poor, the broken, the needy etc that they were part of the same fold. He wasn’t making a theological statement so much about whether or not he calls some and not others.

  8. Some great thoughts and replies Mick and Brian. I have just come back from a few days away celebrating our anniversary. I will give a more thoughtful reply to what you have said over the next day or two.

  9. Brian Sleeman says:

    Hi Craig, also ponder upon John 6? where he also says that no one can know Him other than that the Father makes aware – another case of God choosing whom He will call?

    Happy Anniversary too.

    • Craig Benno says:

      John 6 again needs to be taken into context of the rest of Scripture. If you take it out of context – yes its easy to make that conclusion. John also says Jesus was lifted up on the cross for all to see. Its the telling of the Gospel, the story of the cross that causes people to come closer or to withdraw… Jesus says that in the end times all will come to him – some will go to the left… some to the right. Tapping into what Jon was saying about ALL – it would seem that the gospel authors do intend the meaning of all to mean just that…ALL.

  10. Brian Sleeman says:

    Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.

    If we are dead in sin, we cannot bring our selves to God (or Christ). Only those thatGod brings (chooses) can do that. Christs sacrifice was total – for ALL, as in it didn’t need to be performed again again for each generation, or that there were different ‘entry’ options for others. It was for ALL that have been, are and will be – but that still does not mean that it is a free for all. Gods Grace is a gift and gift has to be given BEFORE it can be received, and as above, when we are dead in sin we cannot take it. We can only come to Christ once the Father calls us – why do you think there are so many ‘christians’ who fall away, they are doing it on their terms – they are not true Christians because God has not in-dwelled them with the Spirit – i.e. He has not chosen them.

    ALL will answer to Christ, and bow their knee and acknowledge Him as King – that is true. ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God – that is true. But as I’ve said before, our coming to God cannot be left to ‘chance’ – that goes against Gods Sovereignty.

    Do not confuse the notion that ‘limited atonement’ absolves our responsibility to preach and spread the Word – but similarly we are not to through pearls before the swine – we do not whom God has chosen and it is through our works and preaching that they whom He will call will be called. And that it is not what we do, but what He does that makes it happen – if He does not allow the Spirit to work in them, then they will never come to know Him.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Brian, its an Interesting concept about being dead in sins, which is something that Paul writes about in Colossians and Ephesians.

      We totally miss understand what being dead in sins actually means if we don’t look at it through a Jewish perspective and we find a link to this in the story of the prodigal son – whom was considered to be totally dead in sin. Further more, all Gentiles / other nations were considered to be dead in their sins and outside of the plans of God – for salvation was for the Jews (speaking within an OT position) Therefore when Paul says that they are saved through the gift of faith in Ephesians – he is saying faith in Christ for all is THE gift from God. – as Paul says in Galatians for there is neither Jew / Gentile, Slave / Free, Male / Female all are one in Christ.

      The convicting work of the Holy Spirit initially is a external work – then when one believes they receive the Holy Spirit – notice how there are examples within Scripture where people did believe, but received indwelling of the Holy Spirit after they believed. We see this happening with Peters first sermon, Samaria and Paul as a few examples…plus the other disciples on the road to Ephesus whom Paul asked if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed.

  11. Brian Sleeman says:

    Receiving the Holy the Spirit, is that the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit? If so, my (limited) understanding of the phrase apparently more accurately translates ‘being controlled (under the control of) the Holy Spirit’. That being the case, we still cannot believe until God opens our hearts (read eyes if you like) – Saul should have been able to Christ for who He was but didn’t, and we see a quite literal example of his eyes being opened by God. The followers who walked with Christ after His resurrection were ‘blind’ to Him until later on. So many other references to the same kind of ‘blind’ state UNTIL GOD allows them to see.

    Christ’s sacrifice is capable of reconciling ALL (every individual) to God, but we know not ALL will be – the point is, it’s not because they choose not to – but because God chooses not to. If God wants everyone to be redeemed, then they are – period, because He is God and His Will prevails.

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