September 11, 2006

Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) Against Commercialism

If the atonement of Christ were considered as the literal payment of a debt - if the measure of his sufferings were according to the number of those for whom he died, and to the degree of their guilt, in such a manner as that if more had been saved, or if those who are saved had been more guilty, his sorrows must have been proportionately increased - it might, for aught I know, be inconsistent with indefinite invitations. But it would be equally inconsistent with the free forgiveness of sin, and with sinners being directed to reply for mercy as supplicants, rather than as claimants. I conclude therefore, that an hypothesis which in so many important points is manifestly inconsistent with the Scriptures cannot be true.

On the other hand, if the atonement of Christ proceed not on the principle of commercial, but of moral justice, or justice as it relates to crime - if its grand object were to express the divine displeasure against sin (Rom. 8:3) and so to render the exercise of mercy, in all the ways in which sovereign wisdom should determine to apply it, consistent with righteousness (Rom. 3:25) - if it be in itself equal to the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to embrace it - and if the peculiarity which attends it consist not in its insufficiency to save more than are saved, but in the sovereignty of its application - no such inconsistency can justly be ascribed to it...

There is no contradiction between this peculiarity of design in the death of Christ, and a universal obligation on those who hear the gospel to believe in him, or a universal invitation being addressed to them...If that which sinners are called upon to believe respected the particular design of Christ to save them, it would then be inconsistent; but they are neither exhorted nor invited to believe anything but what is revealed, and what will prove true, whether they believe it or not.
Owen Thomas, The Atonement Controversy in Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707–1841 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 132–133. Thomas' footnote #23 says Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, in Complete Works, Vol. 1 (London, 1831), pp. 65–66. The reference in the Sprinkle edition (1988) of Fuller's Works is this: Andrew Fuller, "The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation," in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, 3 vols., ed. J. Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 2:373–374.
The particularity of redemption consists in the sovereign pleasure of God with regard to the application of the atonement; that is with regard to the persons to whom it shall be applied.
Thomas, The Atonement Controversy, 133. Footnote #24 in Thomas says Ibid., Vol. II [of Fullers' Works], pp. 516, 520.



Anonymous said...

I think Fuller is wrong on this one, although I love his works in general...

Tony Byrne said...

Hi Nathan,

If you have the time, I would like to know WHY you think that "Fuller is wrong on this one." I am curious to see 1) what you think he is saying and 2) why you think he's wrong about what he's saying. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

1) He is denying that the atonement of Christ is a literal payment of a debt, that is, the measure of his sufferings were according to the number of those for whom He died.

2)Christ did not suffer for sins that were never paid for. God knows the individuals He elected, as well as their sins, and Christ died for those individuals and atoned for their sins on the cross. Did He die for sins not atoned for?


Tony Byrne said...

Nathan says:,

1) He is denying that the atonement of Christ is a literal payment of a debt, that is, the measure of his sufferings were according to the number of those for whom He died.

He is denying that Christ’s “atonement” is a literal COMMERCIAL payment, but not that it’s a literal MORAL payment. He’s arguing that Christ wasn’t whipped so many times for so many sins. It wasn’t a pound for pound type of thing, but a penal or moral equivalency, not a commercial equivalency. R. L. Dabney, the Reformed theologian puts it this way:

Satisfaction not Commercial.

The Reformed divines are also accustomed to make a distinction between penal and moral satisfaction, on the one hand, and pecuniary payment, on the other. In a mere pecuniary debt, the claim is on the money owed, not on the person owing. The amount is numerically estimated. Hence, the surety, in making vicarious payment, must pay the exact number of coins due. And when he has done that, he has, ipso facto, satisfied the debt. His offer of such payment in full is a legal tender which leaves the creditor no discretion of assent or refusal. If he refuses, his claim is canceled for once and all. But the legal claim on us for obedience and penalty is personal. It regards not only the quid solvatur , but the quis solvat . The satisfaction of Christ is not idem facere ; to do the identical thing required of the sinner, but satis facere ; to do enough to be a just moral equivalent for what is due from the sinner. Hence, two consequences. Christ’s satisfaction cannot be forced on the divine Creditor as a legal tender; it does not free us ipso facto. And God, the Creditor, has an optional discretion to decline the proffer, if He chooses (before He is bound by His own covenant), or to accept it. Hence, the extent to which, and the terms on which Christ’s vicarious actions shall actually satisfy the law, depend simply on the stipulations made between Father and Son, in the covenant of redemption.

For more on this see my post with material by Charles Hodge. Hodge and Dabney are arguing classical Augustinian/Calvinistic thought.

Also, what you may not realize is that Fuller is not saying that Christ died for more than the elect in this post. He’s just denying that Christ’s death for the elect was a commercial sort of payment. Fuller would say that there is a moral equivalency between Christ’s suffering and those for whom he died (Fuller means the elect in the post), but not that it was a commercial equivalency.

Where do you get the idea that Christ’s suffering is measurable? And, if it was measurable as you seem to imply, then doesn’t that suggest that the punishment deserved for sin is finite? Was the Godman really necessay to make such a finite satisfaction? Or was Anslem right in his answer to the question: Why the Godman (Cur Deus Homo)? Could a finite being, such as an angel, have made the satisfaction? If not, why not? Further, if the punishment deserved for sin is merely finite/measurable, then why are sinners in hell punished eternally for the sins they commited WHILE IN THIS WORLD?

I don’t ask you these questions to move you to write a dissertation in response. I ask them to encourage you to reflect on the implications of your measurable suffering view. However, if you wish to respond to the questions, then that’s fine as well.

Tony Byrne said...

Nathan said:

2)Christ did not suffer for sins that were never paid for.

I dealt with the "paid" idea in my comment above, so I won't comment further here.

This comment is the Double Jeopardy argument. See my post on that here: Double Jeopardy?

Nathan said:

God knows the individuals He elected, as well as their sins, and Christ died for those individuals and atoned for their sins on the cross.

God certainly does know the individuals he elected unto eternal salvation and their guilt before him. And, Christ certainly did die for those elected, but not MERELY or ONLY for those that are elected. That's one of your errors. You're thinking that he died ONLY for the elect. Also, you use the word "atone" in a common but unbiblical sense (see my post on Dabney and the "Atonement" Term). One should not confuse what takes place when Christ died and what takes at the point of faith. It's easy to confuse virtual and real union. One's sins are "atoned" for, according to scripture, when one believes and is in real union with Christ. A sufficient penal satisfaction was made when Christ died, but one is not forgiven ("atoned" for) and/or justified prior to faith.

Nathan said:

Did He die for sins not atoned for?

This repeats some mistakes you made above (your double jeopardy concept and your erroneous use of the term "atoned"). Did Christ die for some who finally perish and suffer for their own sins in hell? Sure he did. Even Calvin would say so.

If you convert Christ's penal satisfaction into a commercial transaction, then his death must ipso facto liberate those for whom it is made. This implies that you were justified prior to faith when Christ died. There is no basis for Nathan to be under God's wrath prior to faith. On what basis can any of the elect existing today be sincerely threatened with eternal hell fire in the gospel call? The scriptures say we were once children of wrath, even as the rest. If Christ died for all the sins of all the elect in 33AD, then on what legal grounds was Nathan (one claiming to be elect) under God's wrath and sincerely threatened by the gospel warnings (repent or perish)? If Christ literally paid for your sins in a commercial sense, then on what legal grounds is God coming after you in anger when you were in unbelief? Was it because of your unbelief? How can it be because of unbelief since that was a sin for which Christ died? Once Christ's satisfaction is converted into a commercial debt payment, the unbiblical justification prior to faith view seems to follow. In fact, that's how the classic antinomians and hypers arrived at their positions.

Here's an analogy:

Suppose Bilbo commits a certain crime (X). As a result, Bilbo deserves to suffer some penalty (P). Suppose Frodo is suspected and charged with committing Bilbo's crime (X) and suffers (P). Later, it's discovered that Bilbo actually committed the crime. Can Bilbo suffer P still even though Frodo has already suffered P? Of course he can. Why? Because it's a matter of PENAL justice.

Consider this other alternative:

Bilbo is in debt and owes the bank $1000. Bilbo runs and hides from the bank. Frodo, being Bilbo's friend, decides to go to the bank and pay the $1000. If the debt is paid, the bank no longer pursues Bilbo. He is ipso facto liberated from his commercial debt by the payment that Frodo made. The bank cannot charge Bilbo with another $1000 after Frodo has already paid it.

I hope these imperfect analogies can help to bring out the differences between penal and commercial justice.

Is there any truth then to the Double Payment issue? Yes. Here's what I mean. God has given Christ to suffer sufficiently for the whole world. However, to obtain the benefit of his penal satisfaction, God has added certain conditions. One must believe in order to be united to Christ and be forgiven. If one does not believe, then one suffers for their own sins because it's a matter of penal justice, not commercial justice. If one does believe into Christ, nothing can seperate them from the love of God in Christ. They will never have to suffer hellfire for the guilt of their sins (double jeopardy). Christ's righteousness (the meritorious cause of justification) is already reckoned to them through the instrumental cause of faith.