April 27, 2007

The Sincerity of the Gospel Offer: Consistent with Limited Imputation?

OUTLINE

I. PRELIMINARY COMMENTS
II. THE COMPARISON OF (P) AND (Q) CONSIDERED
III. THE PROPOSITION (P) CONSIDERED

1. Preliminary Remarks
2. Scriptural Connections
3. Confessional and Historical Connections

IV. CONCLUSION


PRELIMINARY REMARKS:

In a previous post, I sought to address an issue that Dr. Greg Welty raised regarding the compatibility of a sincere gospel offer with unconditional election. In that blog entry, I argued that one who believes the scriptures must admit that, while it's the case that God has foreordained the eternal salvation of the elect alone, it's still true that there is a sense in which He desires/wills/wants all to be saved. In other words, the existence of the secret will of God cannot be used to negate the existence of the revealed will of God. Dr. Welty quoted me as follows:


Tony says:

"Just because there is a divine purpose to leave the non-elect in their sins everlastingly, it doesn't follow that God never, at any point, wanted their compliance to what he commanded."

And:

"He is not insincere in giving His gospel offer to the non-elect because it's still true that He wills their life, according to the revealed or preceptive will of God."

And:

"... the existence of a secret will does not diminish the existence of the revealed will."

Dr. Welty concurred by saying:


"I entirely agree with all of this."

However, He also added these comments for consideration:


"...this is the issue you're going to have to mull over in your forthcoming reply...

...notice that what ensures the sincerity of the free offer is, for you, the same in all three assertions above. As long as God "wants compliance to what he commanded" -- that is, as long as we affirm "the revealed or preceptive will of God" -- then that is sufficient for sincerity.

But, presumably, the advocate of Owenic limited atonement can believe in this divine "want" or "revealed will" as well. There's nothing in the Owenic version of limited atonement that excludes it (as far as I can tell). So what's sufficient grounding for you is sufficient grounding for them. Thus, if this particular grounding of the free offer works, it works for all.

So I think the task you have cut out for you in the second part of your series is giving a good argument for the view that those who believe in Owenic limited atonement can have no place for the revealed will of God. A tall order, I say :-)"

I want to make a clarifying comment regarding his last sentence before I move on to unpack and deal with the argument(s) in further detail. I am not saying that those who hold to an Owenic limited atonement "have no place for the revealed will of God." Rather, I am saying that they have no place for the revealed will of God in the sacrifice of Christ itself with respect to the non-elect who hear the gospel call. Owenists surely make a distinction between the revealed and secret will of God (thus they maintain or affirm both), but God's will that all men be saved is not related to what Christ accomplished on the cross. That is what gives issue to some of my criticisms.

If I am reading Dr. Welty correctly above, he seemed to agree that there is a sense in which God desires (or wills) the salvation of all men, and even sees that as a basis for why the secret will is not incompatible with a sincere gospel offer. If it were the case that God in no sense desires, wills or wants the salvation of all men, then a sincere gospel offer is undermined, I would argue. In fact, that is one of the things I pressed in my first post, and it seems that Greg concurred. I hope that I am not reading more into his "exact agreement" than is really the case. I don't think any Calvinist should ever waver on the notion that God really wills all men to be saved, in his revealed will, given the plain testimony of scripture to that fact. So, it seems we have agreement up to a point.

Since I have spoken with Owenists (like Dr. Tom Ascol for instance) who grant that point (i.e. that God wills or desires the salvation of all), I do not say that they "have no place for the revealed will of God." To clarify, I am saying that they have no place for the revealed will of God (that he wills all to be saved) in the expiatory work of Christ on the cross. This point, I maintain, is inconsistent with a sincere gospel offer, and I will seek to set forth my reasons for thinking that's the case in what follows.

Let me also add that I am glad that Dr. Welty brought up these specific issues for theological consideration and contemplation. All Christians should try to make as much sense as they can of God's nature according to the scriptures, and how that nature is expressed in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Given what the bible says on these subjects, I don't think it is as difficult to falsify a strictly limited atonement view as Dr. Welty seems to think. While I do think that unpacking the shortcomings of Owenism gets conceptually tricky, I don't think that falsifying it amounts to a "tall order" :-)

THE COMPARISON BETWEEN (P) AND (Q) CONSIDERED:

Returning again to my previous post, here again is the argument:


Dr. Welty asked:
"I wonder: do you believe that unconditional election undermines the free offer, and if not, why not? After all, if unconditional election is true, then certain matters have been settled salvifically by the time the gospel ever gets preached to anyone. Matters of eternal consequence, you might say. So why wouldn't that undermine the free offer just as much as Owenic limited atonement?"

The above question amounts to asking this:

If it's the case that a strictly limited atonement undermines the well-meant nature of the gospel offer/invitation, then why is that not also the case by the very existence of an unconditional decree to save the elect alone? After all, by the time that the gospel reaches the hearing of a non-elect human being, their eternal destiny has already been foreordained.

The logical thrust of the point seems to be this:

(P) If a SAV (a Strict Atonement View) implies an IGO (an Insincere Gospel Offer),

then it seems that

(Q) the fact of UE (an Unconditional Election) implies an IGO (an Insincere Gospel Offer).

Since UE does not imply an IGO, then a SAV does not imply an IGO either. If (P), then (Q). It's not the case that (Q) is true [according to Tony's own presuppositions], so it's not the case that (P) is true either. It's a Modus Tollens (P > Q. ~ Q, therefore ~P) argument. If Tony wants to say (P) is the case, then is he also obligated, by the logical necessity of his own system, to say that (Q) is also the case?

In my first post on this subject, I sought to show why proposition (Q) (i.e. that unconditional election undermines the sincere gospel offer) does not follow. Dr. Welty agreed that (Q) is not the case for the reasons I set forth, but still goes on to draw a parallel between (Q) and (P). Since (Q) is not the case, neither is it the case that (P) is a valid argument, based on the analogy. What I would like to do in this section, now that I have established reasons for the falsity of (Q), is to show why the comparison between (P) and (Q) is an invalid analogy in the first place. Then, in the next section, I would like to establish a case for why I think (P) (i.e. that a limited imputation of sin to Christ undermines a sincere gospel offer) is still true.

Consider (Q) again for a moment. Proposition (Q) compares and questions the consistency between the secret will (the fact of an unconditional election) with the revealed will (that God's offer is sincere because he wills all to be saved). This is a crucial point. Two distinct theological categories are being considered: the secret and revealed will. Is this what is being compared in proposition (P)? In order for Dr. Welty's comparison to hold, he would have to assume that the intent and nature of Christ's death only has a relationship to the secret will of God. (P), again, asserts that a SAV [a Strict Atonement View] implies an IGO [an Insincere Gospel Offer]. Thus, the very nature of Christ's sacrifice is being compared with the revealed will of the gospel. (Q), again, asserts that an UE [an Unconditional Election] implies an IGO [an Insincere Gospel Offer]. Thus, the fact of the secret will is being compared to the revealed will. In order for Dr. Welty's analogy to work, the very nature of Christ's sacrifice must be associated with secret will of God alone. This seems like a manifest category mistake and reductionism.

It's a category mistake and reductionism because Christ's death does not have exclusive reference to the secret will of God. We do not deny that there is a dimension to his work that is indexed to his secret will, because scripture manifestly argues that the persons of the Godhead have appointed the elect alone unto an eternal salvation, and Christ acted in accord with that fact. Neither do we pose a false either/or dilemma and say that his work is exclusively indexed to the revealed will of God. I, along with many other Calvinists, see both dimensions (the secret and revealed will) involved in his incarnation and expiatory sacrifice, hence we are called dualists.

If one follows Dr. Welty's comparison between (P) and (Q), Christ's cross-work is associated with unconditional election. The gospel, however, wherein Christ and all that he accomplished is offered on condition of faith, directs men to the revealed will of God. The lost are not commanded to believe in the secret will of God (i.e. that Christ died for them as one of the elect), or in his unconditional election of some to eternal life. I trust that Dr. Welty agrees with this. Also, in the external gospel call, men are not merely told to believe and repent. It's not as if they are given bare commands without looking to something or someone. Sinners are directed to "believe ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST" (i.e. that he died for sinners). They are to look to the lifted up Son of Man, just as the snake-bitten sinners in Israel were commanded to look to the lifted up serpent (see John 3:14). The revealed commands of the gospel point to Him. Thus, his cross-work is, in some way, necessarily associated with the revealed will of God, and not exclusively with the secret will of God.

NKJ Acts 16:31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

NKJ Hebrews 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

The law (the preceptive will) directs our attention to the need for forgiveness through the shedding of blood, since we are sinners. The fact that God secretly wills to apply the sacrificial blood efficaciously to an appointed people (the elect) does not negate the fact that all men are commanded to come to Him through the blood, or on the basis of the sacrifice made. Gospel commands and gospel provisions are inseparable. God is no Pharaoh who commands men to make bricks without providing straw. If men fail to obediently make bricks, it is due to their own moral depravity and stubbornness, and not for want of a gracious provision in Christ. But more on this in the next section.

My complaint that Owenism entails an insincere gospel offer does not involve a complaint about the incompatibility between the secret and revealed will of God. On the contrary, my criticisms involve the idea that, within the Owenic view of the nature of Christ's sacrifice (a limited imputation of the guilt of the elect to Him), there is an inconsistency or contradiction within the revealed will of God itself. My complaint stays within the realm of the revealed will of God, since the gospel, according to the testimony of scripture, points men to the Son of Man as lifted up on the cross. It says, "believe in HIM! Look to HIM! Flee to the blood! Wash yourselves clean by means of the blood sacrifice!" There is a necessary association between the gospel commands, offers, invitations, and the promises made and the sacrifice itself. One cannot exclusively compare Christ's sacrifice to the secret will, or to unconditional election. But, as I have already said, in order for Dr. Welty's comparison or analogy between (P) and (Q) to follow, the reductionistic association must be made. His sacrifice must be filtered through an exclusively decretal lense.

Again, I am not complaining about an incompatibility between the secret and revealed will of God when I am critical of Owenism. I am seeing an inconsistency in the category of the revealed will of God itself. If an Owenic view, or a strictly limited view, is correct, then what are the sincere commands directing men to? Is there anything really available for them in the nature of Christ's work? This issue involves the internal consistency of one's conception of the revealed will of God itself, and not a comparison between the secret and revealed will of God. Thus, I do not think that Dr. Welty's analogy is a proper comparison in the first place. Much less do I think that it can be used as a defeater for those who assert that (P) is the case, i.e. that a SAV implies an IGO. The analogy itself is flawed and also begs the question, i.e. that Christ's atoning sacrifice has exclusive reference to the secret will of God alone.

Since I am complaining about the internal consistency of the Owenic conception of God's revealed will as associated with Christ's propitiatory sacrifice, I will move on to develop why I think (P) is still the case, i.e. why a SAV implies an IGO.

THE PROPOSITION (P) CONSIDERED:

Preliminary Remarks

Is it really true that a strictly limited atonement view undermines the sincerity or well-meant aspect of the gospel offer? By a strictly limited atonement view, I am referring to the idea that the guilt of the sin of the elect alone was imputed to Christ when he died. He didn't suffer in the stead or substitute for of any of the non-elect. This view goes further than saying that His death had limited aspects in terms of his special intent and the special application resulting therefrom. It even sees a limit in the guilt imputed the Son. Double Jeopardy or Double Payment arguments are commonly used to buttress this position. If, after all, he bore the guilt of anyone other than the elect, their salvation would necessarily have to result, it is argued. Dr. Welty is very familiar with these issues, but I bring them up to remind the readers of the theological issues at stake. I am not one who rejects any version of limited atonement. I just see a limit in the special intent involved in Christ's death that results in a special application to the elect alone, but no where else. I reject the idea that he had an exclusively decretal intent in dying, and I further reject the notion that the imputation of guilt to him was also limited. I reject such things because I do not think they are compatible with texts that suggest that he dies for the salvation of the world (John 3:16), that he takes away (bears the guilt of) the sin of the world (John 1:29), or suffers as a propiatory sacrifice for the world (1 John 2:2). I also reject a limited imputation because it doesn't comport with a sincere gospel offer. Consequently, I think a limited imputation view negates scriptural teaching and besmirches the character of God (by undermining His sincerity), even if that is not at all the intention of the Owenic advocate (I don't say that it is their intent). Such a charge is no small matter, so I don't take it lightly. With that said, let's consider the issue of the nature of Christ's death and the sincerity of God's gospel offer.

Scriptural Connections

As I already mentioned, the command to repent and believe, in the New Testament, directs the sinners attention to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. We do not have bare commands to repent and believe, but it says we should repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. I trust that I do not have to provide the many passages for my Christian brothers and sisters to prove that's true. "Believe on Jesus Christ" is a precept. In other words, it concerns the revealed will of God. Again, the eyes of lost sinners are not directed to the secret things of God, but to the revealed will of God. Therefore, when the scripture points to Christ's satisfaction as something to be trusted or relied upon, it's underlining the fact that his cross-work is not in the exclusive domain of the secret will. There is a revealed will aspect as well.

What is the sinner to believe regarding Christ? Isn't it true that they must believe that God wills to save them through the death of the Son? Dr. Welty grants that it is true, according to the revealed will, that God wills to save all men. I gather that from his "entire agreement" to what I first posted. If that's true, then sinners are called to believe that God wills their salvation through the gospel call. But, according to scripture, it's also true that God beckons men to come to Him through a blood sacrifice and no other way. He who seeks to come to God some other way, other than through the Son, is a thief and a robber.

NKJ John 10:1 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

Christ is that door through which men are called to enter. Since there is no forgiveness apart from the shedding of blood, sinners must come to God by means of faith in the blood. All of the lost who hear the gospel are called to trust in the blood as a fitting means for their forgiveness. Christ's death, by virtue of the indescriminate offers given in scripture, must be an applicable and/or suitable means whereby any man who hears the call may be forgiven or healed. Therefore, Christ makes an analogy between Himself and the lifted up serpent in the OT:

NKJ John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

In the OT account, the eyes of the perishing were to be directed, according to the command of God, to the lifted up serpent as a suitable remedy to heal them. Those who did perish did not perish for want of a remedy. They perished for failing to obey (to believe) and look to the God appointed means for healing. Christ and His work is the reality of all the types. What he has done is sufficient, suitable and applicable to all. When Christ draws an analogy between the gospel call and His work, he discusses a great King indescriminately inviting men to a great feast:

NKJ Matthew 22:4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding." '
On the basis of the King's own generosity, he had "prepared" a dinner, and therefore (on the basis of the preparation) told his servants to go out and invite men to come to the feast. There is a connection between the sufficiency of his feast to feed the invited and his invitation. "Since all things are ready," he says "Come to the wedding." It seems obvious to us that the servants (and us) would view the King to be insincere if he 1) had no intention on feeding those invited and 2) he didn't make sufficient preparations to feed those invited. If I invited people to my house for a dinner without any intention to feed them, or without making adequate preparations to feed them, I would be viewed as an insincere hypocrit. Quite frankly, I would be viewed as confused, or, more likely, as a moron.

God is not that way at all. He has prepared a feast in Christ's flesh, and therefore bids men to come. He says "Taste and See that the Lord is good." There is refreshment available in the bleeding Christ, and therefore He bids men to drink. There is a door opened for all in and through the Shepherd, therefore he bids men to walk through him. He shines through the Sun, and therefore calls men to open their eyes and see. He calls men to believe, and therefore gives them the appropriate faculties for it. He supplies rest in the Son, and therefore invites the burdened and heavy laden to rest in Him. When he calls soil to bring forth fruit, he supplies a suitable seed. Weary men are directed to come to the Water of Life to freely drink because it's sufficient to satisfy their true spiritual thirst.

One can go on and on with the scriptural analogies between the suitability of the Son of Man to save all that hear the invitations to believe in His sacrifice. These analogies presuppose a sufficiency in his legal satisfaction to atone for all that hear the external gospel call, which is why the church has always affirmed that His death is sufficient for all, but not to the negation of the fact that it is only efficacious for the elect. Owen's hypothetical sufficiency is novel (not that it's false on that basis), and he knew it. Because he deemed the older version to be inadequate, he changed the language so that the death of the Son "could have been" sufficient for all; that is to say, in another logically possible world that God could have ordained. The gospel call does not direct the eyes of the lost to an inadequate or inapplicable remedy. It directs them to a remedy that is ABLE TO BE APPLIED through the instrumentality of faith. This "able to be applied" is the idea of a real sufficiency. If he didn't suffer for all, then the virtue of his obedience cannot be applied to all. If it cannot be applied to all, even to the non-elect who hear, then it seems that, in their case, he is inviting them to an empty table or to an empty cistern. In their case, "all things are" NOT "prepared." Not only do the servants (us) come across as insincere hypocrits, but so does the great King himself!

Confessional and Historical Connections

Consider these statements by Reformed/Calvinistic thinkers:
ARTICLE 3. The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

ARTICLE 5. Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

ARTICLE 6. And, whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.

"The Canons of the Synod of Dort" (1619), in Philip Schaff (ed.), The Creeds of Christendom (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 3:586.

It affirms an "abundant sufficiency" and states that the gospel points to Christ crucified (i.e. there is a revealed will dimension to his cross-work). It also says, in Article 6, that those who hear the external call of the gospel and perish do so because of something "wholly imputed to themselves." They deny that anyone perishes for any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross. The nature of their own evil hearts hinders their salvation, and not the cross-work of Christ (i.e. the nature of what he did). However, if Owenism is true, the non-elect who hear the call perish for both reasons, and not merely because of their own evil hearts. There is a lack of a sufficiency "in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross," because he did not satisfy for their sins. Dortian sufficiency, in Article 6, directs our attention to the "sacrifice offered", and not merely to the infinite intrinsic worth of the God the Son.

I think Charles Hodge views the nature of Christ's death in a way that is very much in sync with what is stated above by Dort. He says:
"What was demanded for the salvation of one was demanded for the salvation of all. Every man is required to satisfy the demands of the law. No man is required to do either more or less. If those demands are satisfied by a representative or substitute, his work is equally available for all. The secret purpose of God in providing such a substitute for man, has nothing to do with the nature of his work, or with its appropriateness. The righteousness of Christ (Tony: He means his active and passive obedience) being of infinite value or merit, and being in its nature precisely what all men need, may be offered to all men. It is thus offered to the elect and to the non-elect; and it is offered to both classes conditionally. That condition is a cordial acceptance of it as the only ground of justification. If any of the elect (being adults) fail thus to accept of it, they perish. If any of the non-elect should believe, they would be saved. What more does any Anti-Augustinian scheme provide? The advocates of such schemes say, that the design of the work of Christ was to render the salvation of all men possible. All they can mean by this is, that if any man (elect or non-elect) believes, he shall, on the ground of what Christ has done, be certainly saved. But Augustinians say the same thing. Their doctrine provides for this universal offer of salvation, as well as any other scheme. It teaches that God in effecting the salvation of his own people, did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men, and therefore to all the offer may be, and in fact is made in the gospel. If a ship containing the wife and children of a man standing on the shore is wrecked, he may seize a boat and hasten to their rescue. His motive is love to his family; his purpose is to save them. But the boat which he has provided may be large enough to receive the whole of the ship’s company. Would there be any inconsistency in his offering them the opportunity to escape? Or, would this offer prove that he had no special love to his own family and no special design to secure their safety? And if any or all of those to whom the offer was made, should refuse to accept it, some from one reason, some from another; some because they did not duly appreciate their danger; some because they thought they could save themselves; and some from enmity to the man from whom the offer came, their guilt and folly would be just as great as though the man had no special regard to his own family, and no special purpose to effect their deliverance. Or, if a man’s family were with others held in captivity, and from love to them and with the purpose of their redemption, a ransom should be offered sufficient for the delivery of the whole body of captives, it is plain that the offer of deliverance might be extended to all on the ground of that ransom, although specially intended only for a part of their number. Or, a man may make a feast for his own friends, and the provision be so abundant that he may throw open his doors to all who are willing to come. This is precisely what God, according to the Augustinian doctrine, has actually done. Out of special love to his people, and with the design of securing their salvation, He has sent his Son to do what justifies the offer of salvation to all who choose to accept of it. Christ, therefore, did not die equally for all men. He laid down his life for his sheep; He gave Himself for his Church. But in perfect consistency with all this, He did all that was necessary, so far as a satisfaction to justice is concerned, all that is required for the salvation of all men. So that all Augustinians can join with the Synod of Dort in saying, “No man perishes for want of an atonement.”

I don't merely assert that Hodge's view is compatible with Dort. He himself states that he thinks that it is, and rightly so. Notice what he says with regard to the nature of Christ's satisfaction itself (as distinguished from his special intent). He says that the law condemns all men, and that a representative or substitute (Christ) has satisfied what the law requires of every man, therefore it is equally available for all. Hodge also states that the secret purpose of God "has nothing to do with the nature of his (Christ's work)." In other words, the secret purpose of God does not limit the intrinsic legal sastifaction itself. The unlimited legal satisfaction (by "Christ's righteousness" he means His active and passive obedience) grounds the indescriminate gospel offer, which concerns the revealed will of God. Dr. Hodge also states that Augustinian Calvinists can affirm that the salvation of all men is "possible" based on what Christ's death accomplishes, i.e. a complete legal satisfaction for all sinners comprehended under the condemnation or penalty of the covenant of works. To sum up, Hodge rightly states that the Father sent the Son "to do what justifies the offer of salvation to all" if they would but choose to accept it. Christ does all that was necessary for the salvation of all men, and therefore Augustinians can concur with Dort in saying, "No man perishes for want of an atonement." If any man who hears the external call perishes, it is, as Dort says, "wholly to be imputed to themselves".

The Reformed theologian W. G. T. Shedd is another man who discerns the Dortian connection between the sincere gospel offer and the unlimited nature of Christ's satisfaction, i.e. it's sufficiency. He writes:
"The universal offer of the gospel is consistent with the divine purpose of predestination because (1) Christ's atonement is a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all men and (2) God sincerely desires that every man to whom the atonement is offered would trust in it. His sincerity is evinced by the fact that, in addition to his offer, he encourages and assists man to believe by the aids of his providence - such as the written and spoken word, parental teaching and example, favoring social influences, etc. - and by the operation of the common grace of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God does not in the case of the nonelect bestow special grace to overcome the resisting self-will that renders the gifts of providence and common grace ineffectual does not prove that he is insincere in his desire that man would believe under the influence of common grace any more than the fact that a benevolent man declines to double the amount of his gift, after the gift already offered has been spurned, proves that he did not sincerely desire that the person would take the sum first offered."

W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003), p. 349.

In the first sentence alone, Shedd has argued my exact points. First, he says that the existence of a universal offer is consistent with the divine purpose of election because it's still true that "God sincerely desires that every man to whom the atonement is offered would trust in it." That was the point of my first post. But, Shedd further argues that the universal offer is grounded in the fact that "Christ's atonement is a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all men." The same point is articulated in his Calvinism: Pure & Mixed (Banner of Truth, 1986), wherein he expounds the doctrine of the Westminster Standards.

One of the Three Forms of Unity even says this:
Heidelberg Catechism:

Q37: What do you understand by the word "suffered"?

A37: That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race; in order that by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness and eternal life [Be sure to check out the original commentary on this by Ursinus and Paraeus].

If the meaning of this confession be doubted, let be noted that John Davenant reports the view of Pareus as follows:
"...the testimony of the Reverend Heidelberg Divine Pareus, who freely confesses in his judgment exhibited at the Synod of Dort, The cause and matter of the passion of Christ was a feeling or sustaining of the wrath of God, incensed by the sin, not of some men, but of the whole human race. A little afterwards, The whole of sin and of the wrath of God against it, is affirmed to have been borne by Christ."

These men and confessions, it seems to me, rightly understand the Articles of the Synod of Dort. They do not divorce the real sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction from the sincere gospel offer. On the contrary, the offer of the gospel to all is grounded or indexed to the fact that Christ bore the wrath against the sin of the whole human race. Because He did that, all men may be saved if they come to God through him. That's what we (as well as God) offer and promise to those we command to obey the gospel. Both the scriptural and confessional witnesses testify to an unlimited legal satisfaction accomplished by Christ, and associate the indescriminate gospel call to that fact.

CONCLUSION:

In my first post, I sought to show that (Q) is internally flawed. Now, in the above sections of this post, I have sought to argue that 1) the comparison between (P) and (Q) is also flawed, and cannot be used as a defeater for proposition (P). I then 2) moved to demonstrate that (P) is still the case because there is no real remedy available for the non-elect in Christ's sacrifice given Owenism. He satisfies the righteous requirements of the law in the stead of the elect alone, and therefore his blood cannot atone for any non-elect person. The non-elect are not merely hindered from salvation by the moral stubbornness of their own unbelief, but they are also blocked from the possibility of salvation by the very nature of Christ's satisfaction itself. God, in this Owenic scheme, is inviting men to an empty banquet, an empty vessel, or to a remedy that cannot heal them. The nature of the sacrifice itself would have to change in order for their salvation to be possible, which is why Owen states his conception of sufficiency in terms of possible worlds logic, or modal logic. Therefore, Christ's death could have been sufficient for them in another logically possible world, but it is not so in this actual world. The scriptures, on the other hand, hold out Christ's sacrifice as really able to save to the uttermost all sinners, on condition of faith. His death is applicable to all sinners because he bears the guilt of the world in his legal satisfaction. Everyone condemned by the law can be saved from the curse of it because Christ bore the entire penalty of the law in the one death he died. The condemned human race are commanded to appropriate a remedy that is really able to heal them, i.e. to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The fact of Christ's scars will torment the damned who heard the gospel call because they will know that they could have been saved had they appropriated the all-sufficient sacrifice as revealed in the gospel, just as Augustine and Aquinas maintain. Heightened damnation as a result of rejecting gospel proposals of mercy points to the fact of a divine aggravation resulting from a real remedy spurned. Such an aggravation could not be the case if there is not a real sufficiency in Christ's blood. Real sufficiency cannot co-exist with an Owenic limited imputation of guilt to Christ, therefore I can only conclude that (P) still holds true. Without a real sufficiency, the gospel offers nothing to the non-elect. In their case, it's a deceptive cloud without water. It merely commands them to look to what amounts to an insufficient provision, thus undermining the sincerity of God in issuing such proposals.

15 comments:

jeromus said...

Hi Tony,

I got mixed up with the Ps and Qs, but one question that immediately came to mind as I read your post is, if in the end the non-elect perish, what REAL difference does it make if your point about the atonement is correct? What is the real substantial difference your position makes? It may change the way you word your evangelistic endeavors, but beyond that I don't see a huge difference between the two positions represented by you and Dr. Welty. Are non-believers more culpable under the paradigm you subscribe to than the Owenic one? It seems to me both are condemned in the end. I'm a little confused I guess...

Steve said...

Very good, Tony. Brilliant as always. I hope Dr. Welty takes a stab at answering.
Steve.

YnottonY said...

Hi Jeromus,

The real or substantial difference between my view and Owenism is that I believe my view comports with the goodness of God as revealed in the gospel offer. Insincerity is incompatible with the scriptural presentation of God. If what I am saying is true, the Owenic model erodes God's sincerity in the revealed will of God. If you don't understand what that means, I am saying that the Owenic view entails that God is hypocritical in His gospel offers. If the non-elect who hear the call perish, it is not because there is anything lacking in the nature of Christ's provision for sinners. It's not merely the case that it makes a change in my evangelistic endeavors. It impacts how one conceives of God's goodness to mankind, and how His word testifies to His overwhelming generosity. Furthermore, if the rejection of a sufficient savior increases hell torment, I think the non-elect who have died think there is a difference! You ask, "Are non-believers more culpable under the paradigm you subscribe to than the Owenic one?" Yes. Even though it's still the case that the non-elect are condemned in the end in my view, they are more culpable for despising So Great a Salvation, since Christ voluntarily bore the guilt for their sin. My emphasis, however, is on the goodness and sincerity of God. Can His sincerity in the revealed will be maintained given a limited imputation of sin to Christ? I think not, and I have argued that above. If that is not clear yet, re-read it and meditate on it further. Since I am not familiar with your background and viewpoint on these matters, I feel inadequate to clarify things for you, at least at this time.

Since I have typed alot in this post, I am expecting alot from my readers. I am expecting them to take time to meditate on the subject and study further before speedily asking questions or dismissing the point(s) as something trivial. I would encourage you to reflect upon these matters further if you still feel confused. Also, I don't want to discourage you from asking relevant questions. Your questions have been relevant. I am just demanding more from my readers since I spent a good deal of time typing this lengthy post. I hardly thinks it amounts to no real or substantial difference :-)

Grace to you,
Tony

YnottonY said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the compliment. I also hope that Dr. Welty reads and interacts with the arguments since he's well-trained in systematic and philosophical theology. Since he is well-trained, I trust that he will "take a stab" at the arguments presented rather than "taking a stab" at me, unlike others we have encountered :-)

jeromus said...

All right Tony, I'll meditate on this some more. Thanks for responding...

Greg Welty said...

First, let's lay some groundwork. We both believe the gospel is to be promiscuously preached to all without exception. We both believe that God sincerely offers salvation to all without exception in the gospel. We both believe that it is the duty of all without exception to repent and believe the gospel, whenever and wherever that gospel is preached to them. We both believe that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. We both believe that God loves all without exception (not mere charity or benevolence, but love). I have preached this in the past, and I shall continue to preach it in the future. (Indeed, hopefully this coming Sunday!)

Our disagreement is *in the context of* these basic, shared commitments. I say this not to inform you of anything you didn't already know, but to inform any readers who stop by as to my basic commitments in these matters. Whether I'm *consistent* in maintaining these commitments in light of other beliefs is another matter :-) but as a matter of fundamental confession, here I stand. You'll get no defense of hyper-Calvinism from me.

The question before us is whether a particular understanding of the atonement -- namely, Owenic limited atonement -- is compatible with the free and sincere offer of the gospel to all without exception.

What you're trying to do here is set up an asymmetry between the implications of unconditional election and the implications of Owenic atonement. You've got to say, "Although the fact of election doesn't preclude sincerity, the fact of Owenic atonement *does* preclude sincerity." And here's where things go awry. If I understand you correctly, then it seems to me that the very thing about Owenic atonement that (allegedly) precludes sincerity, is the very thing already present in unconditional election, namely, a divine intention or purpose to give full and final salvation to the elect alone. So by your own standards of what is required for sincerity, election precludes it.

Clearly, you think I've overlooked something in the above response. In particular, I've allegedly overlooked the fact that the revealed will of God in the gospel offer needs to have an adequate *ground*, and that ground is to be found in the provision of non-Owenic atonement. You might put it this way: "Election doesn't undermine sincerity, but it is compatible with it, as long as I have something *else* in my theology that grounds the sincerity of the gospel offer. And non-Owenic atonement is it. By way of contrast, the Owenic atonement advocate -- in virtue of being an Owenic atonement advocate -- has deprived himself of the only possible grounds for sincerity in the gospel offer. So while I agree that his mere advocacy of unconditional election doesn't preclude sincerity, I affirm that his continued insistence on Owenic atonement removes the only possible grounds for sincerity that there could be. In short, the revealed will of God must have grounds, or it is hypocritical. Election plus Owenic atonement doesn't get you those grounds, but election plus non-Owenic atonement does. So clearly it is the latter package of doctrines, and not the former, which preserves sincerity, because it provides grounds for that sincerity."

Let's get to the details of forming a response.

You say:

[begin quote]
The gospel, however, wherein Christ and all that he accomplished is offered on condition of faith, directs men to the revealed will of God. The lost are not commanded to believe in the secret will of God (i.e. that Christ died for them as one of the elect), or in his unconditional election of some to eternal life. I trust that Dr. Welty agrees with this.
[end quote]

Yes, I do agree. And now I have a question for you: are the lost ever commanded to believe that Christ died for them in particular?

You see, this question is important, because your argument here about the nature of the gospel and its relation to the revealed will of God has at least a quasi-biblical component. You are seeking to allow *the Scriptures* to inform your understanding of God's revealed will in the gospel. This is wonderful, and I applaud it. Thus you cite Jn 3:14, Ac 16:31, Heb 9:22. But none of these texts ask anyone to believe that Christ died for them in particular.

If -- in the Scriptures -- the lost are never commanded to believe that Christ died for them in particular, then why are you incorporating *that* into your understanding of the revealed will of God? That is, why are you adding a duty to have that belief? Is it not ironic that, in the name of pressing upon me the importance of the revealed will of God, you may have added to that revealed will?

As you are well aware, advocates of Owenic atonement have an alternative on offer: Jesus Christ is sufficient to save all that believe on him. Indeed, he will save *to the uttermost* those who come to God by faith in him. To revert to one of your prooftexts, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved" (Ac 16:31). This is indeed a promise of salvation held out to all without exception, but it is a promise for the salvation *of believers*, and of no one else. Notice that this Owenic alternative is eminently Scriptural, because it does not go beyond the testimony of the Scriptures themselves. In Scripture preaching, men *are* indiscriminately promised salvation, but they are promised salvation only *if* they trust in Christ. And this is precisely what is secured by an Owenic atonement: salvation on the occasion of belief.

What say you to this? It looks to me as if the advocate of Owenic atonement has a more Scriptural understanding of "the revealed will of God" than your alternative. And his distinctive view of atonement provides a perfect grounds for the revealed will of God in the gospel. The atonement is such that it provides redemption *for anyone who believes*. The revealed will of God in the gospel is that full and final salvation shall be given *to anyone who believes*. There is then a perfect match between Owenic atonement and the revealed will of God.

The only way someone could generate a "contradiction" within the Owenic advocate's understanding of the revealed will of God, is to misconstrue what the Owenic advocate -- or the Scriptures -- say about the revealed will of God. But you don't want to do that, do you? :-)

As a matter of fact, it appears that you already believe all this. You say that I associate Christ's cross-work with unconditional election, and then say, "The gospel, however, wherein Christ and all that he accomplished is offered on condition of faith, directs men to the revealed will of God." This is exactly right. In the gospel, "Christ and all that he accomplished is offered," but is only offered "on condition of faith." This just is "the revealed will of God" to which men are "directed". I couldn't agree more. But how this is inconsistent with Owenic limited atonement, I can scarcely see. The promises of the gospel are restricted: they are only for those who believe. The redemption of Christ is restricted: it is only for those who are elect. And in the gospel offer, men are *not* to busy themselves with the latter (whether they are elect), but with the former (whether they believe). And why is this? Because God has openly *revealed* that his salvation only comes to those who trust in Christ for salvation.

BTW, the above comment summarizes my entire reply, basically. The rest is just footnotes.

You say:

[begin quote]
One cannot exclusively compare Christ's sacrifice to the secret will, or to unconditional election. But, as I have already said, in order for Dr. Welty's comparison or analogy between (P) and (Q) to follow, the reductionistic association must be made. His sacrifice must be filtered through an exclusively decretal lense
[end quote]

You've only asserted this "reductionism." Where's the argument? It is precisely *because* Christ's death is sufficient to save all who ever believe, that what gets *offered* in the gospel is the fullness of salvation to all who believe! The idea that advocates of Owenic atonement have no place for a connection between the death of Christ and God's revealed will is plainly false. This connection is intimate and explicit. Owen makes this point repeatedly in Bk. 4, Ch. 1 of _The Death of Death_. You say that on my view, "Christ's atoning sacrifice has exclusive reference to the secret will of God alone"? I say: Bah, humbug :-)

You say:

[begin quote]
If an Owenic view, or a strictly limited view, is correct, then what are the sincere commands directing men to? Is there anything really available for them in the nature of Christ's work?
[end quote]

The sincere commands are directing them to believe in the only hope *any* man has for salvation, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. And what is "available for them in the nature of Christ's work" is nothing less than full and final salvation, *if* they believe. What, would you give them more? Would you tell them that in Christ they can find full and final salvation if they *don't* believe? Obviously not. Since you already believe in this restricting condition -- no salvation apart from faith in Christ -- what is the fuss all about? There is *nothing* available for anyone in the death of Christ, *unless* they believe! Surely you agree with this.

[begin quote]
I just see a limit in the special intent involved in Christ's death that results in a special application to the elect alone, but no where else.
[end quote]

Your "special application" here is, presumably, actual salvation, right? But if so, have you not thereby undermined the sincerity of the gospel offer, given *your* conditions for sincerity? If, with respect to intending salvation, God only intends the salvation of the elect alone in the atonement of Christ, then -- to borrow your earlier words for a moment -- "What are the sincere commands directing men to?" I mean, "Is there anything really available for them in the nature of Christ's work," if that work was intended for the salvation of the elect alone? Forget other things it might be intended for, the fact of the matter is that on your view *salvific intent* in the atonement is restricted to the elect alone. That is "the special intent involved in Christ's death," in your words. So on your view, God intends in the atonement the salvation of the elect alone, but nevertheless in the atonement there is "available" for the non-elect a salvation which is not in fact intended for them in the atonement? Is this not a palpable contradiction? *As soon as you say* God's special intent in the atonement is for the salvation of the elect alone, then you are immediately saddled with all of the sincerity issues you are trying to pin on the advocate of Owenic limited atonement.

Sure, you go on to "reject the idea that he had an *exclusively* decretal intent in dying," but as long as these other intentions do not include actual salvation, the problem remains. And if you say that God did intend the actual salvation of the non-elect in the atonement, then your "special intent" isn't special at all. It's common, to all without exception. In which case, come clean and drop the "special" language :-)

[begin quote]
Therefore, when the scripture points to Christ's satisfaction as something to be trusted or relied upon, it's underlining the fact that his cross-work is not in the exclusive domain of the secret will. There is a revealed will aspect as well.
[end quote]

Correct. So here's how the Owenic atonement advocate would put it. The cross of Christ is most assuredly the basis for God's revealed will in the gospel. It is because Christ died that salvation can be genuinely offered to all mankind. Not a half-salvation, but full and final salvation. But this salvation only comes to those who believe. Therefore, the only hope that anyone (without exception) has for salvation, is through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, believe! It is your *only* hope! The fact that belief in Christ is your only hope only *increases* the urgency of the gospel call, rather than lessening it. The sacrifice of Christ brings salvation only to believers, so believe!

Why in the world is Owenic hypothetical sufficiency an inadequate basis for this revealed will of God in the gospel? It appears perfectly suited to it.

[begin quote]
Christ's death, by virtue of the indescriminate [sp] offers given in scripture, must be an *applicable* and/or *suitable* means whereby any man who hears the call may be forgiven or healed.
[end quote]

No, it's only "applicable" if there is faith. The mere fact that a man "hears the call" does not ensure that he will "be forgiven or healed." Christ's death *will* save them, *if* they have faith.

[begin quote]
What he has done is sufficient, suitable and applicable to all.
[end quote]

*If* they believe. And, of course, the way the Owenic atonement advocate conceives of this is that only the elect will believe, and God intends the salvation of the elect in the cross. (They won't make this claim about the elect to be part of the revealed will in the gospel, of course.) Now let's look at the alternative. On your view, the only people for whom God *intended* -- by way of the atonement -- full and final salvation, are the elect alone. This is God's "special intent" in the cross, which results in a "special application" to them (i.e., salvation). Given this, in what sense is Christ's work "applicable to all," as you put it? On your view, (i) in election, God does not intend salvation for the non-elect, and (ii) in the atonement, God does not intend salvation for the non-elect. So not only is the cross not applied to them in fact, it's not applicable to them, given (i) and (ii).

So what you need to do is cash out what you mean by "applicable to all". I have a feeling that when the dust settles, you'll be saying something that the Owenic atonement advocate can easily endorse as well.

[begin quote]
It seems obvious to us that the servants (and us) would view the King to be insincere if he 1) had no intention on feeding those invited and 2) he didn't make sufficient preparations to feed those invited. If I invited people to my house for a dinner without any intention to feed them, or without making adequate preparations to feed them, I would be viewed as an insincere hypocrit [sp]. Quite frankly, I would be viewed as confused, or, more likely, as a moron.
[end quote]

Surely you understand the Owenic view better than this! Re: your point (1), since you already accept unconditional election, you already believe that God has elected the elect alone to salvation. Is it your position that, given this, God has an intention to save those whom he has not elected to salvation? I'm not speaking of desire or pleasure here. I'm speaking of intention, of purpose. Surely it would be "moronic" of me -- or at least "confused" -- to intend that Kerry win but then vote for Bush, when it was entirely within my power to vote for Kerry. Or do you disagree? What does it mean to say, "I really intend/purpose for you to get the salvation/feast, but I'm not going to select you for it ahead of time, even though I could?"

I don't know how you get out of this conundrum. But whatever solution you offer, it's easily available to me as well. And that's the problem with your attempt to cite Mt 22:4 against me. We're doing systematic theology here. We're both committed to unconditional election. There are plenty of Arminian critics of Calvinism who *would* say that unconditional election is moronic and confused, in light of Mt 22:4. What are you going to say? Do particular Bible truths blink on and off, depending on which verse we're reading? ;-)

Re: your point (2), the Owenic view is that the preparations would be sufficient for all *if God had so intended*. There is nothing *in the death of Christ* which makes it insufficient for the salvation of all without exception, and for many more worlds besides. Owen makes that clear in the chapter noted above. The limitation comes in with respect to God's intention *in* that cross-work, but that limitation is not intrinsic to the cross-work itself.

The problem here, is that by pressing the feast analogy in terms of "sufficient preparations," it is ironically the *critic* of Owenic atonement who is falling into an overly quantitative conception of the atonement ;-) The atonement is not a hundred plates of food put together rather than a thousand plates. The very idea is absurd. It is the death of the God-man upon the cross. But if you want to measure "sufficiency" by the number of plates of food provided, be my guest! ;-)

Again, we're doing systematic theology here, and we're looking for a view that is (i) consistent with the Scriptures, and (ii) consistent with itself. That's why we're talking about stuff like the secret and revealed will of God. For the purposes of systematic theology, *it matters* whether we end up contradicting ourselves. And I just don't see how you've escaped the original charge of inconsistency, given *your* standards for sincerity. Your reference to the feast of Mt 22:4 only presses home this point all the more. We both believe in unconditional election. So (as I put it to a friend recently), let's say you spread out the most sumptuous feast at your house, but then bolt the doors with titanium locks, and hand out keys to a select few, and I'm not one of them. "Come on over to my place for lunch," you say. Is this a sincere offer, given the fact that you never gave me a key, and never will give me a key? Does the mere fact that an actual meal is sitting on the table mean that the offer is sincere? How could that be, given that *the locks are on the doors*? At this point, of what relevance *at all* is your point (2) above? Let's say you *did* "make sufficient preparations to feed those invited," including more than enough plates for me. How would that rescue the sincerity of the invitation, given that *the locks are on the doors*?

Look, you either believe in unconditional election or you do not. If you do, then you're going to have to bite the bullet here, and understand the sincerity of the gospel offer in a way that is compatible with God electing some and not all to salvation. It won't do a whit of good to say, "But Christ is actually sufficient for all, you see, so it doesn't matter if God doesn't intend to save the non-elect *by Christ*. Actual sufficiency guarantees sincerity." No, it doesn't. Not if certain background truths are in place.

God has only elected some to salvation. *Given this*, raising some sort of "sincerity" problem for advocates of Owenic limited atonement, while refusing to see that that same problem is generated for those who reject Owenic limited atonement, is misleading at best.

Here's another way to put it. We can look at this from the perspective of the secret will, or from the perspective of the revealed will. Re: the former, whatever account of sincerity we can come up with that is compatible with God's intention to save some and not all, is an account that you and I can both use. And it's an account that you and I both *need* to have, since we agree about the secret will of God. So no problem there, for either of us. Re: the latter (the revealed will of God), the sufficiency of Christ to save *all* who come to him by faith is all that is needed for sincerity in the revealed will of God in the gospel. In the gospel, God publishes his grand and gracious intention to save *all* who come to him by faith. In the gospel, God offers full and final salvation to *all* who come to him by faith. No problem with Owenic atonement here, because on that view the atonement *is* sufficient to save all who come to God by faith. The nature of the atonement grounds God's revealed will to all mankind, because that revealed will is not salvation *apart from* faith, but by means of faith. So either way we look at it, there's just no problem :-)

Here, however, is a problem for your view, and it is revealed in your use of Mt 22:4. You say that the conditions for sincerity in the gospel call are: (1) you have an intention on feeding those invited and (2) you made sufficient preparations to feed those invited.

Yikes! You've now defined an aspect of God's revealed will, in terms of his secret will. On your view, God's revealed will is not sincere unless God "has an intention" to save those who are invited to salvation. But, of course, you've already expressed your agreement with unconditional election. God intends full and final salvation for the elect alone.

Again, this is ironic, because it is you who is accusing me of not getting the secret will and the revealed will straight. It is you who is accusing me of not seeing a contradiction in my understanding of the revealed will of God. But, it seems to me, you have a more profound confusion in these matters. By defining God's revealed will in terms of his secret will, you've collapsed the distinction between the two. If, to be sincere, God's revealed will must rest upon God's actual intention to save so-and-so, then God's revealed will just is his secret will in disguise.

You have a way out here, of course. You could just say that by "intention" you simply meant God's desire, or pleasure, in the salvation of all, even if he hasn't elected them. Well, as I already pointed out in an earlier comment at this site, the Owenic advocate could easily accommodate that claim. So you've either contradicted yourself (by distinguishing and then collapsing the distinction between the secret and revealed wills), or you haven't raised a problem for the Owenic view. Clarify as you see fit :-)

[begin quote]
There is a door opened for all in and through the Shepherd, therefore he bids men to walk through him.
[end quote]

Yes, all these sentences in this paragraph are very nice, and preach well, but it's their vagueness that prevents them from actually settling anything between us. That's no reflection on the Scriptures, of course, just an admission that the Scriptures are not as precise as we would like them to be, for the purpose of settling certain theological debates. OK, there is a door opened "for all". What does this "for all" mean? Does it mean: for all, irrespective of whether they have faith? Or does it mean: for all who enter through that door by faith? The language is compatible with either. Thus, simple citations of or allusions to Jn 10 won't settle this. They are polemically inert, as it were.

[begin quote]
The gospel call does not direct the eyes of the lost to an inadequate or inapplicable remedy. It directs them to a remedy that is ABLE TO BE APPLIED through the instrumentality of faith.
[end quote]

I wonder if you realize that I can all-caps some other words in this? "It directs them to a remedy that is able to be applied THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF FAITH." You can't neglect this restriction, which is not only God-ordained but God-revealed. In other words, the death of Christ is not so sufficient that it can save apart from faith. So it's not sufficient to save those who never come to faith. Or do you disagree with this? If you don't, then once again I don't see how a problem has been raised for Owenic atonement.

[begin quote]
If he didn't suffer for all, then the virtue of his obedience cannot be applied to all. If it cannot be applied to all, even to the non-elect who hear, then it seems that, in their case, he is inviting them to an empty table or to an empty cistern. In their case, "all things are" NOT "prepared." Not only do the servants (us) come across as insincere hypocrits, but so does the great King himself!
[end quote]

Again, this preaches well. But the problem is that you are forgetting unconditional election. That is a theological reality that you either agree with or don't. You've said you agree with it. But then we can easily offer a paraphrase of the above argument, directed not to me but to you: "If God didn't elect all -- that is, purpose the full and final salvation of all -- then his salvation cannot be applied to all. [What sense would it make to say that God's salvation can be applied to those whom he never chose for salvation? What's the sense of 'can' here? God 'can' contradict himself? Perish the thought!] If it cannot be applied to all, even to the non-elect who hear, then it seems that, in their case, he is inviting them to an empty table or to an empty cistern, etc."

Again, you gave an answer to this last time. You drew a distinction between God's revealed will and his secret will. Good. But unfortunately, with this second post, what you gave with one hand you took away with the other. Whereas in post one you clearly drew a distinction between God's revealed will and his secret will, in post two you end up defining God's revealed will in terms of his secret will, so that the distinction collapses. On your view, it would not "really" be God's revealed will that all come to Christ for salvation by the gospel unless God intends that they come. But God's purpose as to who shall and shall not be saved has already been settled, correct? Unconditional election *just is* the intention of God with respect to salvation.

The upshot is that you distinguished the two wills in order to deal with the election problem, only to collapse the two wills in order to deal with the limited atonement problem. In order to defend the sincerity of the gospel offer, in the face of both unconditional election and limited atonement, you must both distinguish and not distinguish the two wills of God.

I have quite a bit to say on the historical and confessional material, but I think I'll just summarize here, as I'd like to keep this discussion as close to directly Scriptural considerations as possible. My general comment is that I don't think you've handled the Dordtian material well. The only way to make this material relevant to the question before us -- Owenic or non-Owenic atonement? -- is to arbitrarily introduce qualifiers that aren't there. Many of the passages you cite are *entirely* compatible with the Owenic view. They certainly don't exclude it. In addition, I'm already on record as arguing that the Canons of Dordt are inconsistent in their account of the sufficiency of Christ's death, but that's another discussion :-)

I find some of the Hodge material simply daft, although I have extraordinary respect for his systematic in many other points. First, you cite him but don't seem to see that his contrast is not with Owenic limited atonement, but with "Anti-Augustinian schemes":

[begin quote]
What more does any Anti-Augustinian scheme provide? The advocates of such schemes say, that the design of the work of Christ was to render the salvation of all men possible. All they can mean by this is, that if any man (elect or non-elect) believes, he shall, on the ground of what Christ has done, be certainly saved. *But Augustinians say the same thing*. Their doctrine provides for this universal offer of salvation, as well as any other scheme. [emphasis yours]
[end quote]

According to Hodge, when anti-Augustinians say that, "the design of the work of Christ was to render the salvation of all men possible," ***"all they can mean by this is"***, "if any man (elect or non-elect) believes, he shall, on the ground of what Christ has done, be certainly saved. But Augustinians say the same thing." Exactly right. And Owenic atonement advocates "say the same thing" as well. *If* any man believes, he shall on the ground of Christ's cross-work be certainly saved. If that's "all" anti-Augustinians and Augustinians mean by the salvation of all men being "possible," then I'm in good company, I think.

But here's the daft part. Hodge says:

[begin quote]
It teaches that God in effecting the salvation of his own people, did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men, and therefore to all the offer may be, and in fact is made in the gospel.
[end quote]

This is just Hodge letting the doctrine of unconditional election (not to mention the doctrine of irresistible grace) go on holiday, so he can bat away those pesky anti-Augustinians. "In effecting the salvation of his own people," God "did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men." Is Hodge kidding? Let me get this straight. The cross alone did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men. Full-stop. Umm, isn't it the case, for the Calvinist Hodge, that no one can be saved unless God elects them for salvation? Nor can they be saved, unless God draws them to himself with special grace? What, does he mean to envision a situation in which God *doesn't* elect someone for salvation, and yet they get saved anyway? God *doesn't* draw them to himself, and yet they get saved anyway? What would that mean? *Of course*, on the Calvinist scheme, unconditional election to salvation is a necessary condition for salvation. And *of course* on the Calvinist scheme, God has not elected all. So *of course* God has not done "whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men." Ditto for irresistible grace.

What was Hodge thinking? Just restricting ourselves to necessary conditions for salvation (and leaving sufficient conditions aside), it's ludicrous to think that someone can be saved apart from election. Election is a necessary condition for salvation. Even Arminians agree with this, for goodness' sake! So either Hodge is a universalist, believing that all without exception will be saved because all without exception have been elected, or Hodge thinks one can be saved quite apart from divine election. Pick your poison. Ditto for prevenient grace. I can scarcely understand the view that neither election nor irresistible grace are necessary conditions for salvation. Surely they are, in the Calvinist scheme.

BTW, in my view, this is par for the course in most of the Presbyterian theologians that get cited for your side. I have no doubt that they believed what you say they believed. But I find their arguments atrocious on these points. The above argument for how the free offer gets grounded is just silly. It's Hodge forgetting some of his fundamental theological commitments, for the sake of making his Calvinism not look too harsh when compared with his anti-Calvinist critics of the day.

I agree with the first part of the Shedd quote, where he grounds the universality of the free offer. (Surprised?) I disagree with the second part of the quote, that is, with the way he defends the sincerity of the offer. (Obviously, I believe the offer is sincere.) Shedd says:

[begin quote]
The fact that God does not in the case of the nonelect bestow special grace to overcome the resisting self-will that renders the gifts of providence and common grace ineffectual does not prove that he is insincere in his desire that man would believe under the influence of common grace any more than the fact that a benevolent man declines to double the amount of his gift, after the gift already offered has been spurned, proves that he did not sincerely desire that the person would take the sum first offered.
[end quote]

Give me a break. On Shedd's view, God *knows* that common grace will *never* get a fallen man to believe the gospel. And *knowing the insufficiency of common grace*, God declines to give the special grace that is necessary to come to saving faith. And *knowing the insufficiency of common grace*, and *knowing that he has declined to give the special grace that is necessary for faith*, nevertheless God is not insincere in his desire that they believe. This is ridiculous. Shedd's got to come up with a better defense of sincerity than this, because he clearly isn't keeping his eye on the ball. What is wrong with these guys? It's like they shed their prior Calvinistic commitments when it becomes inconvenient, and hope no one notices. His analogy to "a benevolent man" is disanalogous at the precise point it needs to be analogous, in order to have any argumentative force. Yes, not giving special grace doesn't entail -- all by itself -- that God is insincere in wanting them to be converted by common grace. But God's got to be a "moron" (or perhaps "confused") if he really thinks his common grace is going to overcome total depravity. I don't know: can morons or confused people be sincere? I guess so. How this is a defense of *God*, I have no idea.

In your "Conclusion," you say that on the Owenic view, Christ:

[begin quote]
... satisfies the righteous requirements of the law in the stead of the elect *alone*, and therefore his blood cannot atone for any non-elect person.
[end quote]

Sure it can, *if God so intends*. This is explicit in Owen.

You say, on Owen's view:

[begin quote]
The non-elect are not merely hindered from salvation by the moral stubbornness of their own unbelief, but *they are also blocked from the possibility of salvation by the very nature of Christ's satisfaction itself*.
[end quote]

Would you not say that, given the reality of unconditional election, they are *already* blocked from the possibility of salvation? Or do you think it is possible to be saved even if God has not elected you to salvation? Again, even *Arminians* grasp this elementary point, about the necessity of election.

I'm frankly surprised you're not addressing this point. We seem to be right back at the beginning. You're raising issues for my theology which, if sound, would be problems for yours as well. "Possibility of salvation" is determined by God's secret will, is it not? Why is God's prior choice suddenly irrelevant to all of this?

You say that, on Owen's view:

[begin quote]
The nature of the sacrifice itself would have to change in order for their salvation to be possible.
[end quote]

No, the divine *intention* would have to change, that's all. Again, this is explicit in Owen. Christ's atonement would be sufficient for them, *if God had so intended*. Christ wouldn't have had to die another death, or a different death, or something like that.

[begin quote]
The scriptures, on the other hand, hold out Christ's sacrifice as really able to save to the uttermost all sinners, on condition of faith.
[end quote]

Argh! :-) As if the Owenic atonement advocate would disagree with this. It's the point I've been emphasizing all along: on condition of faith. If you want to abstract the sufficiency away from that condition, be my guest. But I think that move would be eminently unbiblical.

[begin quote]
Without a real sufficiency, the gospel offers nothing to the non-elect. In their case, it's a deceptive cloud without water. It merely commands them to look to what amounts to an insufficient provision, thus undermining the sincerity of God in issuing such proposal.
[end quote]

Look, either the sincerity of the gospel offer depends on the secret will of God, or it does not. If it doesn't, then we're both home free. If it does, then you're in big trouble, because unconditional election generates the issue you note above. To paraphrase: "Without electing the non-elect to salvation, the gospel offers nothing to the non-elect. In their case, it's a deceptive cloud without water. It merely commands them to look to what amounts to an insufficient provision [because a necessary condition of its provision, namely, election unto faith, is absent, and that by divine choice], thus undermining the sincerity of God in issuing such a proposal."

And yes, you can offer the following rejoinder: "But that's cheating. Figuring out who is and is not elect has *nothing* to do with the revealed will of God in the gospel! So that's irrelevant to undermining sincerity."

Bingo! And likewise, figuring out who are and who are not the people for whom Christ died has *nothing* to do with the revealed will of God in the gospel. So you invoking *that* issue is likewise irrelevant in undermining sincerity. No one in NT gospel preaching is ever asked to believe that Christ died for them specifically, even as no one in NT gospel preaching is ever asked to believe that the Father elected them specifically." *Neither* of these aspects of God's *secret* will have *any* place in constructing a doctrine of sincere, gospel offers. So, to conclude, I stand by my original parallel, and I think I do so on biblical grounds.

(BTW, my reply, believe it or not, is shorter than yours, by about a hundred words :-)

Terry W. said...

Dr Welty said:
[beginning of quote]
This is just Hodge letting the doctrine of unconditional election (not to mention the doctrine of irresistible grace) go on holiday, so he can bat away those pesky anti-Augustinians. "In effecting the salvation of his own people," God "did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men." Is Hodge kidding? Let me get this straight. The cross alone did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men. Full-stop. Umm, isn't it the case, for the Calvinist Hodge, that no one can be saved unless God elects them for salvation? Nor can they be saved, unless God draws them to himself with special grace? What, does he mean to envision a situation in which God *doesn't* elect someone for salvation, and yet they get saved anyway? God *doesn't* draw them to himself, and yet they get saved anyway? What would that mean? *Of course*, on the Calvinist scheme, unconditional election to salvation is a necessary condition for salvation. And *of course* on the Calvinist scheme, God has not elected all. So *of course* God has not done "whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men." Ditto for irresistible grace.
[end of quote]

Dr. Welty,
It is clear that in the context of Hodge's statement when he says, ""In effecting the salvation of his own people," God "did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men", he is speaking to the substitutionary satisfaction in Christ active and passive obediance. Here is Hodge earlier in the same quote Tony cited.

Hodge says:
"If those demands are satisfied by a representative or substitute, his work is equally available for all. The secret purpose of God in providing such a substitute for man, has nothing to do with the nature of his work, or with its appropriateness. The righteousness of Christ being of infinite value or merit, and being in its nature precisely what all men need, may be offered to all men."

So the accuse Hodge of somehow forgetting his "calvinism" is ridicules and does nothing to undermine the point that Hodge is concerned with.

I guess John Calvin himself forgot his "calvinism" as well when he said this:

"Luke goes still farther, showing that the salvation brought by
Christ is common to the whole human race, inasmuch as Christ, the author of salvation, is descended
from Adam, the common father of us all." (Institutes book 2, chapter 13, section 3)

The point is that we must biblically affirm a salvation/satisfaction that is truly common and sutible to every member of the human race. All that both Hodge and Calvin are doing is simply stating what is necessarily inherent in the work of Christ the God-man in regards to his active and passive substitutionary obedience.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

YnottonY said...

For those who are curious, I will eventually be replying to what Dr. Welty said above. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here is some material by R. L. Dabney that is relavent to the discussion:

Dabney on the Nature of Christ's Sacrifice

If Dr. Welty glances at these comments again, I was also curious what his thoughts were concerning the Heidelberg Cathecism quote. We can provide primary source documentation from Ursinus, but Richard Baxter cites David Pareus (student of Zacharias Ursinus), of the Heidelberg school, this way:

"And thus Pareus himself in his Irenicon saith, That the sins of all men lay on Christ; and so he died for all, that is, for all mens sins as the cause of his death: And you may tell any wicked man, Thy sins killed Christ (what-ever the deniers say to excuse them)."

Richard Baxter, Catholick Theologie (London, 1675), I.ii.53.

Have Ursinus, Paraus and the Heidelberg Catechism also forgotten their Calvinism? I suppose the same can be said of R. L. Dabney? I would grant that they have forgotten their Owenism, but not their Calvinism :-)

One quick comment concerning Charles Hodge. It's true that he is MAINLY involved with refuting anti-Augustinianism in that section, but, in so doing, he's also replying to them in a way that at least implicitly (one may even say explicitly) rejects Owenism, which is why Welty is critical of him. In refuting free will systems, Hodge is also navigating away from strictly limited positions that view an inherent limit in the nature of Christ's death itself. So, it's not as if I am overlooking the context of Hodges comments. Rather, I am viewing them in their fullness as also a refutation of Owenism :-)

jeromus said...

Tony,

Dr. Welty made a very clear refutation of your position. It is cogent, biblical, and convincing. I'm thankful that he took the time to respond because, quite frankly, upon further reading, your posts were confusing. His internal critique of your position shows that it's false. You are certainly an intelligent proponent of it, and articulate, but given your theological commitment to it (and a blog that specifically focuses on it) I doubt that you will seriously reconsider your views. Thanks for the interaction...

YnottonY said...

Jeromus,

Thanks for your assertions and compliments. Perhaps we could discuss sometime WHY you think his arguments are "cogent," "biblical" and/or "convincing."

As you continue to read, take a look at my forthcoming reply as well, when it is completed. I plan on posting one reply to Dr. Welty's reply and then allow him to reply, if he wants to. Then it seems best to drop the conversation for now. I have reasons for saying that which will be disclosed to Dr. Welty in a private email.

Also, even though I am theologically committed to my present view, I am willing to test it and put all the historical information on the table to sort things out. I once (for over 10 years) held to the views of Tom Nettles (one who may be even slightly higher in his views than Welty, since Nettles maintains an Equivalentist view, i.e. so much suffering for so much sin on the cross), so don't think I am not open to change. I have just come down from higher Calvinism, rather than viewing things as if I am looking up from a non-Calvinistic or moderate background.

Here's a notice for future commenters:

To further the conversation, let's stick to setting forth arguments rather than posting "Amen" posts to whomever we agree with. I am not just saying that to Jeromus and those who disagree with me. Steve also posted a virtual "Amen" post to me. There's nothing wrong with that either way (whether you disagree with my position or not), but it just doesn't aid the conversation. So, please present arguments to sustain various assertions in future comments. Thanks.

jeromus said...

Sorry Tony,

The most compelling part of his refutation is the internal critique. He asserted that the defense you offer for your position creates as much of a problem for you as it does the Owenist. Therefore, the defeaters for the Owenic position are equally in force with regard to your position. Once you assert election, you unravel your argument in my opinion. Election is God's "special intent", so to speak. Those holding to the Owenic position have an answer to your refutation, and that is outlined above quite ably by Dr. Welty. I thought his response to your "feast" analogy was excellent. If you invite everyone to your house for hospitality, then lock the doors and only give certain invitees the key, what difference does it make that you have a 1,000 place settings? None.

But I'll read your response to him, since I believe in giving everyone a fair hearing...

Thanks

YnottonY said...

Here is Pendleton's citation of Andrew Fuller, which is relevant to this issue:

"The sufficiency of the provisions of the atonement for the world’s salvation, is the only basis on which can consistently rest the universal invitations of the gospel. On this point I cannot express my views so well as Andrew Fuller has done in the following language:

“It is a fact that the Scriptures rest the general invitations of the gospel upon the atonement of Christ. But if there were not a sufficiency in the atonement for the salvation of sinners without distinction, how could the ambassadors of Christ beseech them to be reconciled to God, and that from the consideration of his having been made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might he made the righteousness of God in him? What would you think of the fallen angels being invited to he reconciled to God from the consideration of an atonement having been made for fallen men? You would say, It is inviting them to partake of a benefit which has no existence, the obtaining of which, therefore, is naturally impossible. Upon the supposition of the atonement being insufficient for the salvation of any more than are actually saved, the non-elect, however, with respect to a being reconciled to God through it, are in the same state as the fallen angels; that is, the thing is not only morally, but naturally impossible. But if there be an objective fulness in the atonement of Christ, sufficient for any number of sinners, were they to believe in him, there is no other impossibility in the way of any man’s salvation, to whom the gospel comes at least, than what arises from the state of his own mind. The intention of God not to remove this impossibility, and so not to save him, is a purpose to withhold not only that which he was not obliged to bestow, but that which is never represented in the Scriptures as necessary to the consistency of exhortations or invitations.

“I do not deny that there is difficulty in these statements, but it belongs to the general subject of reconciling the purposes of God with the agency of man; whereas in the other case God is represented as inviting sinners to partake of what has no existence, and which, therefore, is physically impossible. The one, while it ascribes the salvation of the believer in every stage of it to mere grace, renders the unbeliever inexcusable; which the other, I conceive, does not. In short, we must either acknowledge an objective fulness in Christ’s atonement or the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to believe in him, or, in opposition to Scripture and common sense, confine our invitations to believe to such persons as have believed already.” [Works, vol. ii pp 691, 692, American Baptist Publication society’s edition.]

This extract from the writings of Mr. Fuller is commended to candid and earnest consideration, especially that part of it which presents the absurdity of offering salvation to fallen angels because an atonement has been made for fallen men. The absurdity arises from the fact that the atonement has no reference to fallen angels; and if there are sinners of Adam’s race to whom it has no more reference than to fallen angels, the offer of salvation to those sinners would be a repetition of the absurdity."

James M. Pendleton, Christian Doctrines: A Compendium of Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1954), 242-244.

YnottonY said...

Ralph Wardlaw, like Fuller and Pendleton, addresses the distinction between moral and natural barriers in this post [click].

YnottonY said...

For Fuller's reply to Mr. B regarding the distinction between natural and moral barriers, see here:

Andrew Fuller, "Letters to Dr. Ryland: Letter III On Substitution," in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845), 708-709.

The objector asks Fuller, "how does the sufficiency of Christ's death afford ample ground for general invitations, if the design was confined to the elect people? If the benefits of his death were never intended for the non-elect, is it not just as inconsistent to invite them to partake of them as if there were a want of sufficiency? This explanation seems to be no other than shifting the difficulty."

Tony Byrne said...

David Ponter has recently written an excellent essay on "Limited Atonement and the Falsification of the Sincere Offer of the Gospel" that addresses Welty's (and other people's) arguments. Ponter wrote:

"2) The second objection approaches the defense of the conditional in the context of a limited satisfaction by again shifting the focus. This argument takes on a variety of forms, some of which are puerile to say the least.50 By way of reductio, the central idea is that, if a limited satisfaction for sin falsifies the conditional, then just as much election and preterition must falsify it. This is similar to the response James Anderson proposed, but with less finesse. The same answer given to my friend James still holds. Firstly, the particularism entailed in a limited satisfaction is of a different kind, such that it of necessity precludes a sincere offer, but election and reprobation do not. For in the former, it is an inability to apply forgiveness, while in the latter it is an unwillingness to apply forgiveness. However, the sincerity of the offer of forgiveness is directly indexed to the availability of the provision to forgive and to the revealed will. The sincerity (or insincerity) of the offer, nor the offer of forgiveness, itself, is indexed to election or preterition. Election and preterition do not put up road blocks, preventing belief, with regard to the NDF [non-died-for], whereas a limited satisfaction for the sins of the elect alone leaves an inexorable wall and barrier, thereby absolutely precluding any just means whereby God, for his part, may save the NDF, yet it is the very possibility of salvation which he purports to offer to them."

It is interesting that some men associated with the Founder's movement, such as Greg Welty, are actually using arguments *against* the very position that the later Andrew Fuller (one of their heroes) used to sustain sincere and well-meant gospel offers. Ponter, in the above quote, has actually argued Fuller's later position, contra Welty.