May 14, 2007

Norman F. Douty (1899–1993) on Christ's Sufficiency

If God designed that Christ die only for the elect, how can the infinite worth of His death, by itself, afford ground for offering salvation to all men? However valuable His sacrifice, it cannot furnish salvation for the non-elect, if it was designed exclusively for the elect. If a multi-millionaire were to move to my street, he would doubtless have more than enough to cover the debts of all his neighbors, but his wealth would bring them no relief if he had already stipulated that it was only for the use of his friends in another town.

When Limited Atonement men repeat the dictum of the Schoolmen of the Middle Ages (that "Christ died for all sufficiently, for the elect effectually"), they do not mean what those divines meant. They only mean that His death, in its intrinsic value, was sufficient for all; they deny that Christ intended to suffer it for all. Davenant says that "it never occurred to the Schoolmen to defend this sufficiency only, and to deny absolutely that Christ died for all." This transferring of the term "sufficiency" from the intention of dying to the mere intrinsic value of Christ's death per se, is something novel. The British theologian declares: "Common sense refuses that it should be granted that he died sufficiently for all, Who is denied to have died . . . for some." Surely, we cannot be authorized to offer salvation to every sinner, if Christ did not die for every one.

The Limited Atonement concept represents the great God of measureless kindness and generosity to be like another rich man who provides abundantly for his whole starving community, and then limits the applicability of his provision to a fraction of the citizens. Such a man would hardly be praised for his largeness of spirit. Then can God, thus conceived of, be praised for His? We maintain, therefore, that it was not that God, by a sovereign decree, set a limit to the applicability of Christ's atoning death; but that men, by their stubbornness, have set a limit to its application. They are the limiters, not He. As Shedd says: "The author of impenitence and unbelief is the author of limited redemption."
Norman F. Douty, Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1998), 40–41.

In this quote, one can see the way Douty is connecting a unlimited imputation of to Christ and an ordained (or intended) sufficiency for all, which grounds the free offer of the gospel. Without an unlimited imputation of sin to Christ, an unlimited sufficiency makes no sense. And, if there is no unlimited sufficiency, then there's no reasonable ground for free gospel offers. This is why Bunyan says, "for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God’s allowance, be offered any further than the death of Jesus Christ doth go; because if that be taken away, there is indeed no gospel, nor grace to be extended." If Christ's death is not sufficient to save the non-elect, then there is nothing offered to them for the taking. It would be like God offering the hollow of a donut to your non-elect neighbor through your gospel preaching.

Furthermore, election does not create natural impossibilities so that the non-elect cannot be saved. God not only gives them the necessary faculties with which to believe (a will, a mind and a heart), but he offers a remedy to them that is suitable and applicable for them. There is no natural impossiblity created in Christ's satisfaction any more than there is a natural impossibility created in the sinner himself according to election. Election involves God's purpose to give some the moral ability to believe (i.e. to use their faculties rightly and cease from their aversion to the gospel), and His non-granting of moral ability to others. Thus, election is concerned with moral impossibilities and not with natural impossibilities. Charles Hodge was surely correct, then, to echo the sense of Dort: "no one dies for want of an atonement." If they perish, it is "solely to be imputed to themselves."

No comments: