The Verdict of Scripture
This chapter examines scriptural evidence with a view to reaching an authoritative verdict regarding atonement. By comparing the textual comments of John Owen, John Wesley, and Richard Baxter, it attempts to evaluate their respective claims truly to represent the teaching of the Bible. It argues that Owen cannot justify his particularist thesis exegetically. Without minimizing Wesley's deficiencies with regard to the ultimate success of the gospel, his exegesis of the disputed texts has more affinity with Reformation Calvinism than Owen's does. Only by imposing a preconceived theological strait-jacket on the textual data, and flying in the face of the criterion of perspicuity, can Owen's case appear credible. Without pretending that Baxter's overall presentation is flawless, his fundamental view of the atonement — a via media between Owen's particularism and Wesley's universalism — must surely commend itself as a valid biblical alternative. Notwithstanding minor exegetical variations, Baxter's position may now be seen as a basic reaffirmation of Calvin's soteriology.
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