Many Christians hear the phrase limited atonement and just cringe. “What a repulsive idea! How could you even propose such an idea?” The term “limited atonement” within Calvinism is very misleading though. I instead prefer the term definite redemption, or definite atonement. First of all, many against Calvinism imply we are stating Christ’s death couldn’t have saved everyone, that we are “limiting” it’s power by making this assertion. This is just wrong. Christ’s blood possesses infinite value because He is God and He is infinite, eternal. His blood has infinite worth, able to cleanse trillions upon trillions, infinite numbers of sins and sinners. Could His death and resurrection have saved everyone? Absolutely! What are we talking about though in terms of the limit? It’s very simple. It’s not talking about the worth of Christ’s blood, but the scope of who it’s applied to. What was the intention of the cross? To make everyone savable (a possible salvation if the hearer adds a response of faith to the call of the Gospel (a faith produced by their unregenerated human nature)), or to render certain the salvation of specific people, namely His children, the chosen, the elect? Was it to cover all sins except unbelief or to cover all sins including unbelief (i.e. rendering certain faith and repentance)? IF our doctrine of Unconditional Election is true, stating that God, from eternity, from before the foundation of the world, chose specific individuals without regard to their future works, faith, repentance, looks, smartness, or any other thing (hence the word unconditional), but that He chose them simply because of His eternal love (to which we humbly, undeservingly, and contritely answer, “Praise God!”), then what was the intention of the death of Christ? To make salvation merely possible or to make it certain? That is what this doctrine is about. I believe John Piper is very helpful on this …
“The term ‘limited atonement’ addresses the question, ‘For whom did Christ die?’ But behind the question of the extent of the atonement lies the equally important question about the nature of the atonement. What did Christ actually achieve on the cross for those for whom he died? …
… Which of these statements is true?
1. Christ died for some of the sins of all men.
2. Christ died for all the sins of some men.
3. Christ died for all the sins of all men.
No one says that the first is true, for then all would be lost because of the sins that Christ did not die for. The only way to be saved from sin is for Christ to cover it with his blood.
The third statement is what the Arminians would say. Christ died for all the sins of all men. But then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus, or they must join us in affirming statement number two: Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect so that God’s punitive wrath is appeased toward them and his grace is free to draw them irresistibly out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
(Taken from “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism” – John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church Staff – This sums up what I believe pertaining to Calvinism as well)
11-Part MP3 Audio Series on Calvinism by John Piper