The most obvious dissent F.H. Kerfoot recorded in his editorial work of James P. Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology seems to be his explicit rejection of strict Calvinism’s insistence upon the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Whatever other theological qualms Kerfoot possessed concerning what Boyce had absorbed and embraced while at Princeton, all of them appear to take second place to Kerfoot’s understanding of the atonement. So far as the future of Southern seminary and the seminary’s student body were concerned, Kerfoot seemed convictionally fixed on teaching what he deemed the Scripturally explicitly affirmed–a general atonement.
While there are several editorial comments scattered throughout the volume indicating the weight Kerfoot placed on the answer to whether Christ died for all or a chosen few, two are recorded below (the page numbers correspond to an uploaded pdf copy of the original for those interested; all emphasis original):
1Those who believe in a general atonement of any kind will object to this theory as thus stated, because On the last page of this chapter the author makes what seems to the reviser a far more satisfactory statement, there he recognizes that Christ in some sense “did actually die for the salvation of all ”; and that the atonement may be “contemplated as securing the means of reconciliation ”; and that “actual atonement for the elect is not inconsistent with the securing of a method of atonement for all.” Why may we not hold that for the elect he died as the actual personal substitute, while for the non-elect he secured the means, or opened up a way, for possible reconciliation? If it be asked, How could Christ’s death avail except by actual substitution for the individual? The answer is that it is fully as easy to explain this as it is to explain the idea of substitution for the individual. The whole thing is God’s plan, and in many respects it is incomprehensible to us. The simple question is, what do the Scriptures teach? And it may be confidently claimed that they teach that Christ died for all men, as certainly as that they that he died especially for the elect. Even in the Old Testament sacrifices we find that sacrifices were offered at times for the whole congregation, as truly as at other times for single individuals. Andrew Fuller, we think, has done good service in emphasizing this general feature of the atonement, which high Calvinists, up to this time, had failed to do in their earnest insistence upon the limitations according to election. (page 274)
1Those who believe in a general atonement of any kind will object to this theory as thus stated, because it seems to ignore those passages of Scripture which teach certain universal bearings of the atonement. The author says, indeed, that such passages will he noticed in considering the “Extent of the atonement.” But the question arises, “Why should not these passages be given their full weight in a statement of the doctrine?” It is felt that the constant tendency with strong Calvinists is to lay the emphasis too much on the limitations. The Scriptures lay emphasis not only the limitations according to election, but also on the provisions for the whole world. The reviser sympathizes with the idea that the atonement is both special and general. The passage, ‘‘the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe,” expresses the idea whether we may use it as a proof text or not. Feeling this, he has at several points in this chapter taken apparent issue with the author. The only point of real issue, however, is as to the emphasis that should be given to the passages which seem to teach a general atonement. The author recognizes these passages. He makes, the last page of this chapter, a summing up of the doctrine which is practically unobjectionable to one who believes in a general atonement. The reviser only feels that these facts as to the universal bearings of the atonement ought to be given their full weight alongside of the passages which show that the atonement was limited. He can but wish that a sixth point had been added to the five mentioned above, namely, that “a way was opened whereby all might be saved.” The statements made by the author on the last page of the chapter seem to make ample room for such a sixth point. (page 278)