Home > History > Jerry Falwell: Limited Atonement is Heresy

Jerry Falwell: Limited Atonement is Heresy

This is the relatively heavily-watched clip where Jerry Falwell says Liberty believes in doctrine of “Substitutionary Atonement of Christ for All Men,” as opposed to the heresy of “Limited Atonement.”

The clip was posted from James White’s account on April 16, 2007; the description says it’s from Liberty Convocation April 13, 2007, just three days earlier. I’d love to know how White got this; it looks like it was recorded off a television rather than ripped from a DVD, but I didn’t know Liberty Convocation was available online. As per usual I’d like to see the original complete source, just to see what else Jerry had to say.

I’m not going to try to untangle all the different doctrinal threads here: White says the clip indicates Jerry calling Calvinism heresy, but Jerry doesn’t mention Calvinism. I’ve had this cited as proof that Jerry was an Arminian; Jerry doesn’t actually mention Arminius or Arminianism. Moreover, Jerry kinds of stumbles through his comments, so while it’s clear he’s aiming for a firm doctrinal position I’m not sure he gets there. And as with a lot of things Jerry said, I’m tempted to argue that what he said is less definitive that it appears to be. The school’s Doctrinal Statement includes the following language:

We affirm that Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice by the appointment of the Father. He fulfilled the demands of God by His obedient life, died on the cross in full substitution and payment for the sins of all, was buried, and on the third day He arose physically and bodily from the dead. He ascended into heaven where He now intercedes for all believers.

We affirm that each person can be saved only through the work of Jesus Christ, through repentance of sin and by faith alone in Him as Savior. The believer is declared righteous, born again by the Holy Spirit, turned from sin, and assured of heaven.

This language is consistent with the first part of Jerry’s statement in the clip, but doesn’t deal with any points regarding universalism, election, or limited atonement.

So I guess what I’d have to distinguish between what Jerry says Liberty believes and what the school officially believes. I really have no idea how representative this statement is of the actual doctrinal positions of the administration, faculty, students, etc. When I was there I occasionally heard whispers that so-and-so was a “hyper-Calvinist” or that there were so many Calvinists on the faculty of the School of Religion, or whatever; and while I occasionally heard of a faculty member not being renewed because of some position they’d taken on a social or cultural issue I don’t recall anyone being run off campus for affirming the doctrine of election.

It’s worth noting that if this clip is correctly dated it’s from about a month before Jerry died. I have no idea whether any of Jerry’s pronouncements of this sort have been revisited or reconsidered since his death, or if like Bart Giamatti his every decision was fixed in stone by his death, whether he meant to do so or  not.

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  1. August 4, 2010 at 10:24 am

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