|A field of tulips|
First, let me point out that the phrase "limited atonement" is a misnomer. It came into popular usage because the "L" fits the TULIP acronym. "Definite atonement" or "particular atonement" better reflect the actual meaning of the phrase. It is the understanding of the Reformed or Calvinists that the atonement in the blood of Christ was intended for the elect, not humanity in general. If anything, it is the Arminian who holds to a limited atonement: while the Calvinist insists that Jesus fully and effectually atoned for the sin of the elect, the Arminian holds that He actually only potentially atoned for the sins of all without distonction.
I am not going to address the biblical support for the Calvinist view of the atonement. That has been handled elsewhere better than I can do. I intend merely to address some logical issues that arise in my own mind.
For example, if Jesus atoned for the sins of all men, then that necessarily implies that there are some who are or will be in Hell for whom Jesus died (I'm passing over those who hold to universal salvation, which avoids this issue, but doesn't enter the biblical discussion). In addition to being a repugnant thought, it would also necessarily imply that the blood of Christ is insufficient for salvation. If that is so, then no one can have any hope of eternal life!
Also, consider the implications for the Person of Christ.
If the Second Person of the Trinity has died for some that the Father has not decreed His purpose to save, and that the Holy Spirit has not undertaken to regenerate, then we set up a war within the Trinity, an obvious impossibility! That would introduce a logical slippery slope to Arianism, depriving Christ of His essential divinity! This is why the Pelagians of the hardest core, the United Pentecostal Church on one hand and the Jehovah's Witnesses on the other, deny the doctrine of the Trinity. While their error is greater, one must at least acknowledge their logical consistency!
Logically speaking, I think that one who holds to a universal atonement must acknowledge that he makes either the atonement insufficient or the Person of Christ impotent, or both. No doubt someone reading this will say he believes no such thing(s), but rather that it depends on us. That response in itself concedes my point, as it cannot answer directly this accusation, but rather turns to man, which is my very objection! My salvation is in Christ alone, not myself, nor in any mere man!
I hold, as an accurate summary of what Scripture teaches, what the Westminster Confession of Faith III:6 says: "As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only."