I am thoroughly amazed as to how popular John Owen happens to be amongst popular American Calvinists. Owen was a thoroughly going Limited Atonement guy. For example, he is the beloved guru of Dr. John Piper who hails him and Dr. J. I. Packer who is a great fan.
Owen thoroughly denies that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and by "world" it is as we usually mean and the Bible means[hang on a minute before you dump me your exegesis] -- all people of the world. It is a speculation that leaves no room for speculation either.
Let me give you a taste of Owen's logic:
It is best demonstrated in line with the question: why are some people not in heaven? We would answer this by saying : because of their unbelief. He responds by saying: Well, if Jesus died for the sins of the world, and people who dis-believe are in hell, that means there are sins that Jesus did not die for, since clearly - the sin of unbelief is that sin. He then retorts: since people who dis-believe wind up in perdition, Jesus did not suffer for the sin of unbelief of these people, because had he did, they would be in heaven. See further here.
Can you see the tightness of this syllogism? Can you see his consistency with his foundational theology - Sovereignty of God?
Firstly, this transfers a doctrine of atonement in the reverse. In other words, he looks at the end point and reason backwards. The fact that people are not in heaven, means Jesus did not die for these people, since they never came to faith (I guess this is how to paraphrase Owen's logic). If we have no Biblical passages like 1 John 2:1-2, or Mk 16:16 then Owen's logic is impenetrable. Atonement and faith are lumped together in this reasoning whereas in the Bible these are two categories or concepts though related are not the same thing. Owen collapses these concepts and makes conclusions and to be honest, if you are Owenian, you can not help but slip down to the side effect of his logic ---believe that God purposely damns people i.e. He is the author of damnation and salvation of people.
You know when I was toying with Calvinism, I am often get spin-out how Calvinists promote that Calvin was a Calvinist. I have not read a lot of Calvin but I read his exegesis on these atonement passages and I walk away convinced that he did not believe in Limited Atonement. You will find it hard to convince me that Calvin was a TULIP-ian. Yes, Calvin was quite confusing at times - he is not as deep as Luther, but there are more passages that I think Calvin can not have possibly meant limited atonement but rather asserts general atonement instead. I have met TULIPians in the Internet who even call Calvin a heretic for not being a thorough going TULIPian.
The thing is that Calvinists today are Owenian, they are not really Calvinian in regards to Limited Atonement. Why do I say that? Because there are Calvinists writers who dis-believe in Owenian Limited Atonement, but they do not get an air play. Politics in the realm of theology does happen. Guess what, when a Calvinist starts bucking at this LA deal, you know what they will be called? They will be called Arminians, if not suspected of being one... boy are they in trouble. Horrors! That is like being treated like you have STD [of course in Lutheran circles we have leper labels too - I will let you guess what that label is, let me know if you get stuck].
Thankfully, my suspicion that Calvin was not a Calvinist (in the sense not TULIPian, 5-Point Calvinist) found support and relief one day. I found this blog called Calvin and Calvinism blog which is dedicated to giving you quotes related to Reformed idea of the Atonement; and if you are Owenian, you deserve to hear the truth so for truth's sake go there.
There are still quite a lot of aspects in Calvin that I think are over shots but that is another blog post meant for another day.
The moral of the story is that - not all self identifying Calvinist are Owenian, I call them Calvinians. A Calvinian should quote Doorman-Priest who said "these are the people that give people like me, a bad name"[incidentally, Jesus could say the same for Christians too].
These Calvinians are out there and I would not mind meeting these inconsistent Calvinists as friends and discuss some of our common points as well as differences in the spirit of Christian conversation.
Just letting you know.