November 6, 2006

The Heidelberg Catechism and Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583) on Christ's Death and the Will of God

37. Q. What do you confess when you say that He suffered?

A. During all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end, Christ bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. Thus, by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice, He has redeemed our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtained for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.

Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583), in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, says:
Question: “If Christ made a satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. But all are not saved. Therefore he did not make a perfect satisfaction.”
Answer: "Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he hath made, but not as it respects the application thereof.” (HC commentary, p. 215.)

Here are a few more quotes from Ursinus:
"God willeth that all be saved, as he is delighted with the salvation of all...[and] inasmuch as he inviteth all to repentance: but he will not have all saved, in respect of the force and efficacy of calling." Ursinus, The Summe, p. 353. Quoted in G. Michael Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement (Paternoster, 1997), p. 110.
"He satisfied for all regarding satisfaction, but not with respect to application." The Summe, pp. 131-132. Quoted in Thomas' The Extent of the Atonement, p. 111.
"The cause why all are not saved by Christ, is not the insufficiency of the merit and grace of Christ (for Christ is the full propitiatory sacrifice for the sinnes of the whole world, as concerning the worth and sufficiency of the ransome and price which he paid) but it is the infidelity of men, whereby they refuse the benefits of Christ offered in the Gospel..." Quoted in Thomas' The Extent of the Atonement, p. 111.
"Christ was ordained by God the Father...to offer himself a sacrifice propitiatory for the sins of all mankinde...and lastly to apply effectually his sacrifice unto us...by enlightening and moving the elect." The Summe, pp. 116-117. Quoted in Thomas' The Extent of the Atonement, p. 111.
Thomas comments on Ursinus:
"Ursinus' double-sided doctrine of the extent of the atonement resembles Bullinger's position, as does his use of the conditional covenant theme. It also bears a strong resemblance to that of the Bernese theologian Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563)." Thomas' The Extent of the Atonement, p. 112.

3 comments:

Tim said...

This is very interesting. There is a lot of good stuff on this blog. I have struggled with limited atonement (as Owen seems to have it, and as most Calvinists assume it today) for almost as long as I have been a Calvinist. It is good to see that there is a bit of diversity amongst Calvinists on this issue, and it is good to see that I'm not the only one who sees some serious problems for the gospel when paired with Owen's view of limited atonement.

Question: Is this kind of sufficiency-efficiency formula necessarily the same (or at least on the same page) as the view of men like Andrew Fuller or Dabney, which sought to describe limited atonement in terms of moral justice rather than commerce and the "limitation" in the sovereign application? If not, what would the differences be? Are there some who truly held to the sufficiency-effiency formulation but also held to a more commercial view, without having to jump to a kind of "hypothetical sufficiency?"

Thanks!

Tim

Tim said...

Just to clarify...

I said... "and the limitation in the sovereign application..." referring to Fuller, &c. as opposed to the commercial view which seems to say the limitation was intrinsic to the act or offering itself. :)

YnottonY said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for the compliments. As you say, there are diverse streams within Calvinistic theology that are not very well known. My friends and I are trying to discuss and document these differences.

Now to your questions:

1) Is this kind of sufficiency-efficiency formula necessarily the same (or at least on the same page) as the view of men like Andrew Fuller or Dabney, which sought to describe limited atonement in terms of moral justice rather than commerce and the "limitation" in the sovereign application?
As for Dabney, I would say yes. He held that Christ suffered for the sins of all humanity, and criticizes the double payment arguments that Owen and others use to sustain the view that only the guilt of the sin of the elect were imputed to Christ. By "sufficiency," men like Dabney did not mean a bare internal sufficiency or infinite intrinsic value to what Christ did on the cross. He, like Ursinus, views Christ's sufficiency as 1) ordained of God for all and 2) he bore the guilt of the sin of the entire human race. I would say that Fuller was moving in this direction as well, as he was influenced by Edwardsian categories, but I need to study him alot more for documentation.

2) If not, what would the differences be?

I am sure that Dabney is conceptually in line with the Heidelberg school of thought as found in Ursinus, Paraeus (2) and Kimedonicus, but he uses different language to describe his categories. I can't speak with as much confidence in Fuller's case. He was undergoing changes in these areas throughout his life.

3) Are there some who truly held to the sufficiency-effiency formulation but also held to a more commercial view, without having to jump to a kind of "hypothetical sufficiency?"

What can be seen is that some men who held to an ordained sufficiency (not a bare sufficiency) for all but used commercial LANGUAGE, without jumping into a commercial VIEW. Classical Calvinists can speak of Christ "purchasing things" for all men, but not in the sense of a literal sense of payment or quid pro quo contractualism. For example, notice Calvin's own commercial language along with a universal redemption view:

"As for example, behold the Turks, which cast away the grace which was purchased for all the world by Jesus Christ: the Jews do the like: the Papists, although they say not so openly, they show it in effect. And all they are as well shut out, and banished from the redemption which was purchased for us, as if Jesus Christ had never come into the world. And why so? For they have not this witness, That Jesus Christ is their redeemer: and although they have some little taste, yet they remain always starved, and if they hear but this word, Redeemer, it brings them no substance, neither get they any profit by that which is contained in the Gospel. And thus we see now, how men are not partakers of this benefit, which was purchased them by our Lord Jesus Christ. And why so? For they receive not the witness... So then let us mark, that in this Saint Paul’s handling of the matter, we have set out unto us, that the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ were unprofitable to us, unless it were witnessed to us by the Gospel. For it is faith that puts us in possession of this salvation: although we find it not but in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ shall be (as it were) strange to us, and all that he has suffered, shall not profit us one whit, as indeed, it belongs not to us. This is a profitable doctrine: for there is no man but confesses, that it is the greatest benefit which Jesus Christ has brought us, but there are a very few that take the right way... Therefore we must weigh that that Saint Paul says here, so much the more, to wit, that then we enjoy the redemption purchased by the death of Jesus Christ, when God bears witness that he is with us: when such a benefit is presented to us: and we can receive it by faith, thus we enjoy it. And this is the reason, why there are so few nowadays, that are reconciled to God, by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we see how a great part of the world deprives itself of this witness, and we see how other[s] cast it away, or at the least, profit so little by it, that Jesus Christ dwells not in them by faith, to make them partakers of all his benefits. Calvin, Sermons on Timothy, Sermon 15, 1Tim 2:5-6, p., 177 and 178.