top of page

Augustine's Writings on Limited Atonement: Origins of Calvinism and Islam

In Calvinism, the doctrine of Limited Atonement rightfully causes the most controversy because it most obviously teaches a different gospel and another Jesus. While the biblical Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world, Calvinists teach a different Jesus, who they believe didn't die for everybody. This doctrine, penned by Augustine, states that only a set number of predestined people will ever come to faith, and that this group of people cannot be added to or taken away from. A similar concept of God not offering his mercy to everyone is also found in Islam, though it does not mention faith in Christ to obtain salvation.

Augustine of Hippo's Views on Limited Atonement and then Refuted

Augustine (354 - 430 A.D.) wrote in a few places about how he mistakenly believed that God does not draw everyone to Him and that God does not give everyone the "gift of faith."

(Augustine) On Rebuke and Grace Ch.39 The Number of the Predestinated is Certain and Defined: "I speak thus of those who are predestinated to the kingdom of God, whose number is so certain that one can neither be added to them nor taken from them; not of those who, when He had announced and spoken, were multiplied beyond number. For they may be said to be called but not chosen, because they are not called according to the purpose. But that the number of the elect is certain, and neither to be increased nor diminished"

In chapter 39 of On Rebuke and Grace, Augustine also referenced Matthew 3:8-9 and Revelation 3:11. His referencing of those verses to prove his point is absolutely beyond me, since there is no context involving predestination or limited atonement in either of those verses. This is simply him grasping at straws in trying to prove his predestination doctrine. We can see from these three passages that God is actively trying to get everyone saved by making salvation so easy.

(True Christianity) John 3:16 King James Version: "16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

(True Christianity) 1 John 2:1-2 King James Version: "1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

(True Christianity) 1 Timothy 2:5-6 King James Version: "5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

(Augustine) On Predestination and the Saints Book 1 Ch.11 That Some Men are Elected is of God's Mercy: "But since in some the will is prepared by the Lord, in others it is not prepared, we must assuredly be able to distinguish what comes from God's mercy, and what from His judgment. 'What Israel sought for,' says the apostle, 'he has not obtained, but the election has obtained it; and the rest were blinded, as it is written, God gave to them the spirit of compunction—eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, even to this day. And David said, Let their table be made a snare, a retribution, and a stumblingblock to them; let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see; and bow down their back always.'(Romans 11:7-9) Here is mercy and judgment,— mercy towards the election which has obtained the righteousness of God, but judgment to the rest which have been blinded.

Augustine's reference to Romans 11 to show that God blinds people is not 100% correct when talking about limited atonement. Romans 11 is speaking about how some Jews had rejected Christ and that God blinded them after they had made their decision, therefore locking them into their decision to reject the only begotten Son of God. Jesus Christ still paid the price for all of their sins, but they chose to not believe in Him as the Messiah. They are not saved because of their rejection of Christ, not because God forced them to not believe without giving them a chance.

If we go back to Romans 11:1-6, we will see how God still gave the Jews who believed on Christ the same gift as the Gentiles: eternal life.

(True Christianity) Romans 11:1-6 King James Version: "1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."

Similarities With Calvinism and Islam

In modern Calvinism, the term Limited Atonement has received a bad reputation in some circles. It has now been replaced with Definite Atonement among some Calvinists because it is slightly more palatable for non-Calvinists. We can see in some sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith that the same language is used. Notice how chapter 3 section 3 blends right in with Quran 7:179 and how chapter 3 section 4 blends with chapter 39 of On Rebuke and Grace.

(Calvinism) The Westminster Confession of Faith Ch.3 Sec.3: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death."

(Calvinism) The Westminster Confession of Faith Ch.3 Sec.4: "These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished."

Islam, however, does not show any shame when speaking of God predestinating some people to Hell, but rather goes out and says it as clearly as possible.

(Islam) Quran 11:118-119 Abdel Haleem Translation: "118 If your Lord had pleased, He would have made all people a single community, but they continue to have their differences- 119 except those on whom your Lord has mercy- for He created them to be this way, and the word of your Lord is final, 'I shall definitely fill Hell with both jinn and men.'"

(Islam) Quran 7:179 Abdel Haleem Translation: "179 We have created many jinn and people who are destined for Hell, with hearts they do not use for comprehension, eyes they do not use for sight, ears they do not use for hearing. They are like cattle, no, even further astray: these are the ones who are entirely heedless."

(Islam) Quran 10:99-100 Abdel Haleem Translation: "99 Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [Prophet] compel them to believe? 100 No soul can believe except by God's will, and he brings disgrace on those who do not use their reason."

While those who practice Calvinism and Islam may say that they practice different religions, when one studies both religions and the history behind them, it becomes clear that their religions are the same, with the same source.

This post is part of the series The Hard Truth About Calvinism and Islam under The Catholic Origins of Calvinism and Islam

45 views0 comments


bottom of page