If I understand the Universal [Atonement] folks then they would say that it's a question of fairness. To them in order for the offer to be genuine then God had to have provided salvation for all or else it is a [hollow] offer. It would be like offering $1,000,000 from a bank account, but the $1,000,000 not being in the bank. It always goes to fairness with the ones I have spoken [to].
I have heard something like this before.
The syllogism for this counter-objection to Limited Atonement seems to be:
1. God says: "Anyone who repents and believes will be saved."
2. If Limited Atonement is true, then (1) would not be true in a hypothetical world in which a person for whom Christ did not die repented and believed.
3. Therefore, the statement "anyone" is not genuine/sincere/well-meant/honest/etc.
The analogy to support this is something like the following:
A man builds an ice cream store and, to drum up business, puts a big sign outside that says: "one free scoop of Bubble Gum Ice Cream to anyone who comes in and asks for it." However, the man secretly has a list of people to whom the man plans to give ice cream, and he plans only to give it to those people, and to no one else.
Our intuition would seem to tell us that this offer is not particularly sincere. If a person on that list walks through the door, they get the scoop, but if a person not on the list walks through the door, they would not get the scoop. Thus, a priori (without considering who actually ends up walking through the door) the offer seems to have been presented in a dishonest fashion.
This is basically - I think - the same kind of analogy as the "free million to whoever asks" when in fact there are insufficient funds in the bank to cover the hypothetical situation of everyone asking.
Magnus wrote his comment as though he was not part of the "Universal [Atonement]" crowd, and I certainly am not part of that crowd either. Nevertheless, I hope that those who read will agree that I gave a fair presentation of the syllogism and analogy that is typically used for this counter-objection.
Now allow me to rebut:
1. As to the syllogism, item (2) is a non-existent thing. In other words, there is no hypothetical world in which a reprobate person would repent and believe. You see, the Holy Spirit decides who comes and who does not come. All that the Father gives to the Son are enabled and persuaded by the Holy Spirit to respond to the gospel call. All the others continue along the path to destruction. The only way (2) could occur would be if the Holy Spirit contradicted the Father and the Son, which is - of course - impossible.
2. As to the analogy, the flaw is similar. The ice cream man has no causal connection with people on his list coming through the door. For the ice cream man, the list is a filter, designed to cover the scenario where an unwanted customer asks for the freebie. Not so with the Lamb's Book of Life. The list of the elect is not a filter, to screen out those who are undesired, but a net to catch those who are desired! Those who God loved (in a particular, enormous way) before the foundation of the earth are on the list, not just to be given eternal life, but to be enabled and persauded to embrace the gospel. The analogy breaks down, because the Spirit does not just put the gospel "offer" out there, he changes hearts: making those who had no interest in repentance and faith, repent and believe!
The gospel has been designed in such a way that it is unappealling to natural man, yet powerfully and irresistably persuasive to the regenerated man. To the natural man what greater foolishness could there be than to sacrifice the life we know we have for hope of a future life that cannot be proven?! To the regenerate man, what greater foolishness could there be than to sacrifice eternal glory in favor of eternal punishment to enjoy the transient and ethereal pleasures of this life?!
You see, the offer is true/sincere/etc. Anyone who comes to God will not be cast out. On the other hand, that does not mean that God leaves it "up to man" to come. God calls and God draws. God offers and God brings. God ensures that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. No one could come who did not want to, no one would want to who was not drawn, and no one is drawn but those elected by the Father from all eternity to be the object of the Son's work on the cross, and the Spirit's work in the heart.
Praise be to our glorious God!