April 30, 2007

R. L. Dabney on the Nature of Christ's Sacrifice

The following quote is from R. L. Dabney's Systematic Theology in Chapter 35 that deals with the nature of Christ's sacrifice. I wish to comment on the highlighted sections:
(3). God’s Design and Result Exactly Co Extensive.

There is no safer clue for the student through this perplexed subject, than, to take this proposition; which, to every Calvinist, is nearly as indisputable as a truism; Christ’s design in His vicarious work was to effectuate exactly what it does effectuate, and all that it effectuates, in its subsequent proclamation. This is but saying that Christ’s purpose is unchangeable and omnipotent. Now, what does it actually effectuate? "We know only in part," but so much is certain.

(a.) The purchase of the full and assured redemption of all the elect, or of all believers.

(b.) A reprieve of doom for every sinner of Adam’s race who does not die at his birth (For these we believe it has purchased heaven). And this reprieve gains for all, many substantial, though temporal benefits, such as unbelievers, of all men, will be the last to account no benefits. Among these are postponement of death and perdition, secular well being, and the bounties of life.

(c.) A manifestation of God’s mercy to many of the non elect, to all those, namely, who live under the Gospel, in sincere offers of a salvation on terms of faith. And a sincere offer is a real and not a delusive benefaction; because it is only the recipients contumacy which disappoints it.

(d.) A justly enhanced condemnation of those who reject the Gospel, and thereby a clearer display of God’s righteousness and reasonableness in condemning, to all the worlds.

(e.) A disclosure of the infinite tenderness and glory of God’s compassion, with purity, truth and justice, to all rational creatures.

Had there been no mediation of Christ, we have not a particle of reason to suppose that the doom of our sinning race would have been delayed one hour longer than that of the fallen angels. Hence, it follows, that it is Christ who procures for non elect sinners all that they temporarily enjoy, which is more than their personal deserts, including the sincere offer of mercy. In view of this fact, the scorn which Dr. William Cunningham heaps on the distinction of a special, and general design in Christ’s satisfaction, is thoroughly shortsighted. All wise beings (unless God be the exception), at times frame their plans so as to secure a combination of results from the same means. This is the very way they display their ability and wisdom. Why should God be supposed incapable of this wise and fruitful acting? I repeat, the design of Christ’s sacrifice must have been to effectuate just what it does effectuate. And we see, that, along with the actual redemption of the elect, it works out several other subordinate ends. There is then a sense, in which Christ "died for" all those ends, and for the persons affected by them.
I would like to point out the significance of several things that Dabney says above. He clearly wants to underline the fact that everything that the Godhead "designed" or "purposed" (he's referencing the decretal will by these terms) by the cross eventually has its result. The Calvinists who read the quote will quickly eyeball those sections. However, one needs to also realize the areas where he points out other revealed or general aspects to Christ's work on the cross.

First, he relates common grace to Christ's sacrifice. He says "the temporal benefits," "a reprieve of doom" or "postponement of death and perdition," "secular well-being," "the bounties of life," "a manifestation of God's mercies" such as the "sincere offers of salvation," and "a disclosure of the infinite tenderness" or "compassion of God" are related to the "general design" of Christ's death. These "general designs" are part of what Christ "died for." In other words, there must be a revealed will aspect to Christ's death, otherwise the benefits of common grace and the sincere offers of mercy make no sense.

Secondly, for the above reasons, the non-elect who spurn the sincere offers of mercy have an "enhanced condemnation" because of it. In other words, divine wrath is aggravated because they spurned the well-meant goodness involved in the "general design" of what Christ "died for." However, this does not nullify what God designed by his display of general tenderness, because the rejection of it by the non-elect ultimately redounds to the glory of God's compassion, truth, justice and purity "to all rational creatures."

Thirdly, he takes an occasion to rebuke Dr. William Cunningham for the "scorn" (derisive or contemptuous action or speech, to mock, to jeer, to ridicule or deride, to scoff at, to look down on with disdain, etc.) with which he shows with regard to the distinction between a "special and general design in Christ's satisfaction." Dabney even calls him "thoroughly shortsighted" because of that. Dr. Cunningham held to a strictly limited atonement view, and even separated the well-meant gospel offer from Christ's sufficiency. One may check his Historical Theology [(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996), 2:343–370] to see that fact. So, the excellent Reformed theologian R. L. Dabney took him to task in his own Systematic Theology. Too bad some of American Calvinism has forgotten these important issues. Some of them heap the same "scorn" on the "general designs" of Christ's death as Cunningham did. What a shame. We may also call them "thoroughly shortsighted." If they were consistent, they would not only reject well-meant gospel offers, but also common grace, since they are both ultimately rooted in the general accomplishment or revealed will aspect of Christ's death, at least according to Dabney.

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 propitiatory 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 indiscriminate 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 indiscriminately 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 hypocrite. 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 satisfaction itself. The unlimited legal satisfaction (by "Christ's righteousness" he means His active and passive obedience) grounds the indiscriminate 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.

April 21, 2007

Frozen in a Perfect Pose?

Monergism.com has several lectures by J .I. Packer available on the subject of the attributes of God. Last night at work I listend to the lecture on immutability and impassibility on my mp3 player. He used an interesting expression and said that we should not think of God as "frozen in a perfect pose." It's possible to push those doctrines so far that God seems more like a distant and cold metaphysical iceberg, rather than personal.

Augustine (via Aquinas) on Christ's Scars

Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, wrote the following:
Augustine says (De Symb. ii): "Christ knew why He kept the scars in His body. For, as He showed them to Thomas who would not believe except he handled and saw them, so will He show His wounds to His enemies, so that He who is the Truth may convict them, saying: 'Behold the man whom you crucified; see the wounds you inflicted; recognize the side you pierced, since it was opened by you and for you, yet you would not enter.'"
This same passage in Augustine is referred to by Richard Baxter in a side note in Catholick Theologie (London: Printed by Robert White, for Nevill Simmons at the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church-yard,), II.67. The reference he gives is de Symb. ad Catech. l.2.c.8. This may be psuedo-Augustine.

This is an interesting idea. I've meditated on the idea of how Christ willed to keep his scars in His glorified body for the benefit of His people (they will rejoice in the grace of God forever because of his suffering), but it may be the case that it will also be a way of convicting the wicked at the day of judgment, since they spurned the way of forgiveness opened for them through Christ's death. Imagine having the memory of his scars in your conscience while in everlasting torment. The same symbol in the conscience of the redeemed will be a source for joy, but it will be a source for increased sorrow for the damned. Cursed are the impure in heart, for they shall also see God, but not in the same way the blessed shall behold him.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) on 'Did Christ Shed His Blood in Vain?'

Richard Baxter, in treating the issue of common and special redemption, states the first crimination as follows:
"They make Christ to have shed his blood in vain; even for them that he knew were to perish for ever."
Baxter then replies:
How prove you it to be in vain? and that God can have no end in it, but actual salvation de eventu to each person for whom Christ died?

When the Scripture most clearly tells us de facto, that Christ died for all, even for them that perish, and that he bought them that denied him; be afraid of blaspheming God, by telling him, [If Christ died for any that perish, he died in vain.] I accuse you not, but ex natura rei warn you. I dare not tell God so.

God made man in Adam capable of salvation, as the very perfection and end of his faculties and nature, and put him under a conditional covenant accordingly. And will you say that God made Adam in vain in this capacity, and made the first Promise of Life, and the Tree of Life also, in vain; because Adam, and all of us in him, did sin, and come short of the Glory of God? Nay, God made not the Devils in vain in a state of blessedness, or the way thereto, though he knew that they would forsake that state and perish. It is dangerous reproaching the Counsels and unsearchable Works of God.

By your own reckoning it is not in vain: for you say that God's justice is glorified on unbelievers, and that this is his end. And what is that justice, but the punishing of men for rejecting a Christ that died for them, and grace that was procured and tendered to them?

But if you add all the other benefits and ends, you will see that it was not in vain. God demonstrated and so glorified his love and mercy to lost mankind, in the very greatness of the gift (of Christ, pardon and glory,) which the impenitent do refuse. And mercy is glorified not withstanding the refusal. God gives the Covenant aforesaid, or the conditional grant of pardon and life to the world. He reprieved them, and gave them time of repentance, and exercised patience toward them to that end, Rom. 2: 3, 4, 5, 6; Acts 17; Rom. 1: 19, 20, 21; John 3:16, 18, 19. He governs the world on terms of grace. He gives all men abundance of mercies and means of recovery and life. He keeps the world in order hereby; and makes the wicked serviceable to the salvation of believers. In a word, he will lose nothing by any mans sin against nature or grace. Where then is the vanity of the death of Christ, if in a common degree it be for all?
Richard Baxter, Catholick Theologie (London: Printed by Robert White, for Nevill Simmons at the Princes Arms in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1675), 2:66-67. Some of the English has been updated.

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Wasted Suffering?

"All that Christ did for one sinner, was all that was necessary for two sinners. Right? All that Christ did for two sinners was all that was necessary for three sinners? Right? Who can deny that? So there can be no wasted suffering. Often you will hear that nonsense rejoinder from some Reformed camps. The idea of a wasted suffering only works on pecuniary terms. For example, I either don’t pay enough, and fail to obtain the commodity, or I have paid too much. The commodity was $1.20 but I paid $1.50 (and I am not talking about tip here). The expiation never works like that. Thus, if you ever hear this being tabled as an objection, in any context, it just will not work, it does not work. The very attempt to posit such a rejoinder shows that the proponent has perverted the doctrine of the expiation, converting the penal categories into crass commercial categories. And remember C Hodge, when the Bible uses pecuniary language its as metaphor to speak of possession and/or deliverance. It does not use pecuniary language to imply a literal transfer of currency. All that Christ suffered to satisfy the law against any given man, was all that was necessary to satisfy that same law against another given man, and so one; without limitation, indefinitely."

April 18, 2007

The Sincerity of the Gospel Offer: Consistent with an Unconditional Election?

The following post is a result of an on going conversation that was taking place at Dr. Ascol's Founders Blog in light of Falwell's latest charge. I raised the question of how Owenists, or strict atonement advocates, can make sense of the well-meant gospel offer. As a result, Dr. Greg Welty raised a question about the consistency of an affirmation of both an unconditional election and a sincere gospel invitation. Here is the first part of my reply.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS:

Hi Dr. Greg Welty,

Here is my reply to questions and comments that you made. I hope that they stimulate others to prayerfully meditate upon and study these things further, even if they end up disagreeing with me.

Dr. Welty said:
"BTW, you seemed to imply in earlier comments here that you thought the Owenic view undermined the free offer of the gospel."

To be exact, I raised the question about how they would argue for a well-meant gospel offer when Christ, in their view, didn't suffer sufficiently for the non-elect (didn't bear their guilt in the death he died). While you and I both know that I think there is an actual inconsistency there, I didn't make that charge above. I said I "wondered" about it in order to stimulate people to reflect upon and to study the matter further. It was also an invitation for any of my higher Calvinistic brethren to type a brief reply to show the consistency between a limited imputation of sin to Christ and a sincere gospel offer. Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that.

THE CRUCIAL QUESTION CONSIDERED:

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?

The form seems valid, but is it also sound?

THE CONSEQUENT (Q) CONSIDERED LOGICALLY AND SCRIPTURALLY:

Let's take a look at (Q) first. Does the existence of an unconditional election mean that the gospel offer (given by God through His people) is insincere or well-meant? By "sincere" or "well-meant", we're considering the notion of whether God really wants or wills them to have life when He has determined not to grant them life. Light can be thrown on this subject by considering the problem of evil. When God has determined to give us over to sin in a particular instance, does He really want us to comply with his commandments? Just because God has foreordained that evil exist by permitting His creatures to fall, does it therefore follow that He never really wanted them to comply with his revealed will as expressed in His commandments? I would say that the existence of a decretal will in God does not negate the existence of a revealed will as well. In other words, even though God determined men [the exact men who actually did it] to kill his Son, it's still true that he did not wish for them to break his commandment(s). God, as it were, willed (decreed) what was against his will (commandments). Therein is the conceptual tension that is difficult for many to accept.

As I read scripture, God not only commanded men not to murder, he warns them, convicts them and sends messengers to stay the hands of murderers. He may also send a dream to the wife of a murderer in order that he not put the Lord of Life to death. So, not only did God express a disapproval of murder in giving a commandment to men, He also was moved to plead with men not to murder his Son. That movement is expressive of a real intention or will. The revealed will of God is just that, a will. Intentionality is not only associated with God's decree, but with his precepts as well. He doesn't issue signs (commandments) without also wishing compliance to those signs that are consistent with His nature. That's the testimony of scripture.

What do we have then concerning the problem of evil? We have an example of how the decretal will of God does not negate the revealed will of God. Just because God determined in His decretal will that men should sin, it doesn't follow that he really doesn't want them to obey. When we take this example to the domain of the gospel commandments, it's not the case that God's unconditional decree that some men die means that He in no sense wills that they should live. Passages in Ezekiel underline that point, I think, as well as other scriptures. God wills not the death of the sinner in His revealed will, even though it's the case that He wills their death by decree. Whoever wants to take one half of the truth to negate the other half falls prey to the theological absurdity that R. L. Dabney points out:
"Say that God has no secret decretive will, and He wishes just what He commands and nothing more, and we represent Him as a Being whose desires are perpetually crossed and baffled: yeah, trampled on; the most harassed, embarrassed, and impotent Being in the universe. Deny the other part of our distinction (Tony: he means the preceptive will here), and you represent God as acquiescing in all the iniquities done on earth and in hell."

If we use the preceptive will to negate the decretal, then we have a diminished finite deity unworthy of the title "God." If we do the reverse, and virtually negate the preceptive will by means of an affirmation of the decretal, then we slip into blasphemy, whether we realize it or not. Scripture, our ultimate authority, underlines the fact that God wishes or wills what He commands. He is not a hypocritical commander who doesn't really want compliance to His expressed commands. When He tells the sinner to repent, He wills/wants/desires/wishes compliance, just as when He commands them to do other things consistent with the holy nature of God.

Coming back to the consequent (Q) explicitly, what we have is God with a decree which does not impart life to the non-elect, but also wishing for them to have life through his righteously ordained means, i.e. faith and repentance. Just because God doesn't will to grant a sinner the moral ability to obey him, it doesn't follow that God doesn't really want that sinner to obey him. 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. He sought their well-being in this life, according to scripture. Therefore, I would say, 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. If there was no sense in which God willed the life of the non-elect (if the decretal will negated the preceptive), then God would be insincere, or not really well-meaning, when He stretches out his seemingly compassionate hands to them all day long. Instead of having compassionate, outstretched arms towards the non-elect at times in this life, there would only be, in reality, a stiff-arming move towards them at all times. The tender gospel appeals by Christ to the world would then be a sham in the case of the non-elect. Because the revealed will of God exists side-by-side with the decretal will of God in scripture, I can only conclude that an unconditional election is consistent with a sincere gospel offer. Also, the consequent (Q) makes a category error. The gospel concerns the revealed will of God, not the secret will of God.

I don't see how (Q) can be used a a defeater for my view that (P) is the case, since the existence of a secret will does not diminish the existence of the revealed will. Let me also add that I do not think (P), or that the SV results in an IGO, is true because I think (Q) cannot defeat (P). A positive case for (P) needs to be made. It's also true that Dr. Welty hasn't absolved himself from the charge that the Owenic view entails an insincere gospel offer by an appeal to this (Q) defeater. The problem is not deflected.

We shall consider (P) in my next post: The Sincerity of the Gospel Offer: Consistent with Limited Imputation?

April 17, 2007

"Common Grace"?

For some reason, there are Christians that have a problem with labeling God's universal love, mercy, kindness, benevolence, or long-suffering as common "grace." Instead of dealing with their underlying conceptual problem that God can have a benevolent or loving disposition toward the non-elect, they quibble over the use of the term "grace" to describe it. If grace is at least, in some instances, God's favor shown to the ill-deserving, then it seems easy, on systematic theological grounds, to call his universal love common "grace." However, you know how the just-give-me-a-verse crowd is, so here are a couple for them:

NKJ Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.

NKJ Nehemiah 9:31 Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful.

In other words, God was gracious or favorable towards these disobedient people, some of which, no doubt, were made up of the non-elect.

One might also use this verse:

NKJ Jeremiah 16:13 'Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.'

The term "favor" is the same term used in the Hebrew for God's gracious disposition [see the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Zondervan, 1997), 2:203-206.]. So, whereas the Israelites formerly had God's "favor" in their land, they will be cast out for their disobedience and no longer be shown favor (i.e. grace).

UPDATE:

Here are more verses:

NKJ Isaiah 26:10 Let grace be shown to the wicked, Yet he will not learn righteousness; In the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, And will not behold the majesty of the LORD.

God showed favor/lovingkindness/mercy and love to all of Israel, not just to the elect within Israel.

NKJ Psalm 85:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Lord, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.

NKJ Isaiah 60:10 " The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, And their kings shall minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, But in My favor I have had mercy on you.

NKJ Jeremiah 16:5 For thus says the LORD: "Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people," says the LORD, "lovingkindness and mercies.

NKJ Jude 1:4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

NKJ Hebrews 10:29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 

April 16, 2007

How Some People View Me


I would say that my "one-string banjo" plays an essential cord or note of scripture concerning God's goodness as revealed in the gospel, which apparently some people despise and want to evade, hence the accusation.

(HT: MacoMan)

April 15, 2007

Yet More From Calvin on Redeemed Souls Perishing

"For the faithless have no profit at all by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather are so much the more damnable, because they reject the mean that God had ordained: and their unthankfulness shall be so much the more grievously punished, because they have trodden under foot the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was the ransom for their souls." Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 2, 1:3-5, p., 39/27

When we show mercy to those who have erred, we must never indulge them by outright flattery, nor ignore their wrongdoings so that it grows even worse. We should show pity when we see that our neighbours are still subject to many weaknesses, and we should be patient with them, not in order to imitate them but to rebuke them with kindness. We should never gloat as many do who laugh and smirk over someone else's misfortune. Instead, we should mourn and say, 'How sad, that poor man has given offence to God.' It should distress us to see someone perishing who has been so dearly redeemed by Christ's precious blood; it should distress us to see God's righteousness and his glory diminished. Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, Sermon 3, Matt. 5:5-7 and Luke 6:20-21a, p., 46.

Imagine someone who takes care not to stir up trouble or annoy anybody, and who instead tries to please everyone: whether he is given a hard time or not; he will gently put up with many wrongs rather than make a fuss. Even so, we are bound to follow our Lord's precept here, and strive for peace in every place. So it is not enough to refrain from violence, ill-will or injury to others: when someone is in the wrong, we must resist; when innocent people suffer affliction, we should support them as much as we can, bring them help and relief. When we see two people at odds with each other, we should feel pity for two souls redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who are in danger of perdition. We should grieve when victory goes to the devil, who is the prince of discord, and when God, who is the author of peace, is shut out. That thought should make us want to put an end to quarreling. That is also why, God curses all who stir up dissension and conflict among men. They are like firebrands, who by their gossip incite former friends to hate each other; and when mutual suspicion is aroused, they sneak in and fan the flames. It is as if there were an open wound, and someone were to come and, instead of applying good ointment, rubbed in poison or venom, making it flare up even worse. Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, Sermon 4, Matt. 5:8-10 and Luke 6:22-23, p., 54-55.

“The only Lord God,” or, God who alone is Lord. Some old copies have, "Christ, who alone is God and Lord." And, indeed, in the Second Epistle of Peter, Christ alone is mentioned, and there he is called Lord. But He means that Christ is denied, when they who had been redeemed by his blood, become again the vassals of the Devil, and thus render void as far as they can that incomparable price." Calvin on Jude 4.


For more like the above, see the following posts:





After seeing all of this primary source information, I never fail to be astonished at all the fudging on Calvin, as if there's no discontinuity between his view of Christ's death and John Owen's view. Nothing can be more plain than the discontinuity between these two men. If I held to a strictly limited atonement view, I would just say Calvin was wrong, rather than try to say that he held to my perspective. Agreeing with Calvin does not necessarily make one biblically correct, but we should be honest with the historical data when it's presented to us. We should not only strive to be biblically honest, but we should also strive to be historically honest. Some, like Dr. R. Scott Clark (a professor of historical theology, of all things) on the Puritan Board, are so bold(?) as to declare the historical debate between "Calvin and the Calvinists" to be "dead", as if there's continuity between Calvin and Owen on the point. Rather than dealing with the quotes listed above, we seem to only hear the condescending retort, "just read Trueman," "just read Muller," "just read Nicole," or, more popularly, "just read Helm". I have read Helm and Nicole and, frankly, they are not persuasive. What would I say? Just read Calvin himself :-) He's plain enough. If you disagree with him, just say so. That's the honest thing to do.

April 13, 2007

Envy and Jealousy Distinction

Envy, Envying

A. Noun.

phthonos, "envy," is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others; this evil sense always attaches to this word, Matt. 27:18; Mark 15:10; Rom. 1:29; Gal. 5:21; Phil. 1:15; 1 Tim. 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:1; so in Jas. 4:5, where the question is rhetorical and strongly remonstrative, signifying that the Spirit (or spirit) which God made to dwell in us was certainly not so bestowed that we should be guilty of "envy."

Note: Zelos, "zeal or jealousy," translated "envy" in the KJV, in Acts 13:45; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Cor. 12:20; Jas. 3:14, 16, is to be distinguished from phthonos, and, apart from the meanings "zeal" and "indignation," is always translated "jealousy" in the RV. The distinction lies in this, that "envy" desires to deprive another of what he has, "jealousy" desires to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself.

W. E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nelson, 1985), p. 204.

Basically, jealousy says "I want what you have" while envy says "If I can't have what you have, then I don't want you to have it either." Envy seems to be a more intense degree of covetousness. Now that you have this distinction in mind, you will be able to tell how much of what you're seeing reported on TV and elsewhere is grounded in the sin of envy.

If the disputed passages of Isa. 14 and Ezek. 28 have any typological reference to Satan, then it seems that he was initially moved by jealousy (wanted to have God's glory), but then he was overcome by envy (doesn't want God to have glory). His entire existence is now consumed with an envious desire to steal God's glory. Do we even think of envy as exceedingly sinful in our ourselves and in our culture anymore? One will certainly never see most politicians condemning the sin of envy without hypocrisy, for they seem chiefly guided by it, which is one of the reasons why eternal hell will be that much hotter for them. They not only envy themselves, but they encourage others to practice it via tax policies. How many quarrels within the church are due to envy? One is never more like Satan than when guided by envy.

It was envious hearts that delivered up Christ to be crucified.

NKJ Mark 15:10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.

These words by James are particuarly strong:

NKJ James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

April 11, 2007

Calvin on 1 John 2:2

Steve, at Controversial Calvinism, has posted an analysis of Calvin on 1 John 2:2 that is worth reading. Besides the Heshusius passage, this may be the only other place high Calvinists can go to attempt to prove their continuity with Calvin on "limited atonement". In addition to that, they just say "read Helm!" or "read Nicole!" or "read Trueman!" or "read Muller!" Then they accuse us of being "one-string banjos". That's about all they have in response.

Wardlaw (1779-1853) on Watering Down the Gospel

"There is imminent danger of divesting the gospel of some attribute as essential to it as its grace, in order to lessen the aversion of the carnal mind to its provisions; and, by soft and specious sentimentalism, stripping the Almighty of the awful in his character, to give effect to the more attractive; hiding his justice, to recommend his grace; instead of employing the "terrors of the Lord" to persuade men, keeping them out of sight; dwelling much on the love, and little on the light, of God's moral nature; and by - I know not what to call it - a kind of ultra tenderness, that would fain be more compassionate than He whose compassions are infinite - urging and almost cajoling poor sinners to the belief that God has already pardoned them, when the Bible testimony is, that "God is angry with them every day."
Ralph Wardlaw, Two Essays (Glasgow, 1830), p. 204.

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April 10, 2007

Ralph Wardlaw (1779–1853) on Sufficiency, Equivalentism and Commercialism

I have stated the general principle of atonement, as being a vindicatory manifestation of the righteousness of God, in order to the free and honourable exercise of his mercy.—In this view, I have no hesitation whatever in holding forth the atonement which has actually been made, and which is revealed in the gospel, as of unlimited sufficiency for all, and as bringing salvation near to all, presenting its blessings for their immediate acceptance. All may not be included in the secret purpose of God as to its ultimate efficaciousness. That is another matter. With such secret purposes we have nothing whatever to do, in addressing to sinners the calls and invitations of the gospel. The atonement is for all in its unbounded sufficiency, and in the unrestricted universality of the invitations and offers which, on the ground of this sufficiency, the message of mercy addresses to every sinner on the face of the earth to whose ear it comes. Such is my impression of its sufficiency, that were all the guilt of all the millions of mankind that have ever lived concentrated in my own person, I should see no reason, relying on that blood which "cleanseth from all sin," to indulge despair.—I profess myself decidedly hostile to every limitation of the atonement in this view—that is, either with regard to its sufficiency for all, or with regard to the warrant which all have, on the ground of it, to look for forgiveness and salvation.—I have ever entertained an irreconcilable aversion to the views of those expositors, who speak of the atonement as being for the elect in such a sense, as to have been an exact equivalent for the punishment due to the sins of the chosen number, and no more; so that if more had been to be saved, more must have been suffered by the Substitute, and if fewer, less. My objections to this view of the doctrine are such as these:

1. It appears to me utterly irreconcilable with any correct and consistent views of the infinite worth of the Redeemer's sacrifice.—The union of the Divine and human natures imparted to it this infinite worth; infinite, because divine. But every system which proceeds upon the principle of its rising or falling in its amount of value, according as the substitute suffers for more or for fewer—for a larger or a smaller aggregate guilt—is altogether at variance with this.—That cannot be unlimited in value, which is capable of increase or diminution.

2. If this pitiful process of commercial reckoning were admitted,—then the perdition or eternal sufferings of all mankind would have been a greater manifestation of the divine righteousness and abhorrence of sin, than the sufferings of the Son of God. For, it is evident, more would have been endured: and if the display of justice is to be calculated upon this principle,—to be estimated by the amount of actual suffering,—how can the inference be evaded? It will not repel it to remind me that Jesus was a divine person. It is most true. But it is also true, that if this consideration is taken into the account, it makes the value of his sacrifice unlimited, and therefore proves too much for the hypothesis of exact equivalent; a hypothesis, of which the principle is, a limited amount of suffering for a limited amount of sin; so that, in truth, the only intelligible use of the connection of the divine nature with the human, must have been, to enable the human to sustain the allotted quantum of suffering.

3. The hypothesis renders the salvation of any besides the elect a natural impossibility. We are accustomed to say, and we say truly and scripturally, to sinners of mankind, that if they are not saved, the fault is entirely their own, lying solely in their own unwillingness to have the salvation offered them, or to accept it on the terms on which it is presented. But on the supposition of limitation in the atonement, this is not the case. There is, indeed, indisposition on their part; and it is their sin. But if the atonement be limited in its sufficiency, it is, in the nature of the thing, absurd and contradictory so much as to imagine any, beyond the number to the amount of whose sins it is restricted, deriving any benefit from it. To call on any others to believe in Christ for salvation, is to call them, in as far as they are concerned, to believe in a non-entity. There would be nothing in the Saviour for them. They are excluded by the limitation of the remedy. For them to seek salvation would be to seek an impossibility. Were they ever so desirous of it, they could not obtain it; for the impossibility would, in this case, arise, not from their own impotence,—(their moral impotence, which is the same thing as their proud and unholy aversion, and constitutes their guilt,)—but from the very nature and constitution of the plan of redemption. If the atonement made has been equivalent to only a limited amount of sin, and if atonement be necessary to forgiveness,—then beyond the limited amount, no sin can possibly be forgiven. There is no provision for it.

4. This being the case, it will be difficult, on such a hypothesis, to vindicate, in any way, the sincerity of those divine addresses by which sinners universally are called upon to believe and be saved. If there do not exist, in the atonement or propitiation made, what has appropriately been termed an objective sufficiency for all—there really exists no ground on which sinners in general can be invited to trust. Such invitation becomes no better than a tantalizing of perishing creatures, with the offer of what has no existence. There is nothing which it is, in the nature of the thing, possible for them to receive, unless a new atonement were to be made. There is no fund from which their debts can be paid. They are invited to a feast; but there is no provision made for them. They are called to the wells of salvation; but to them they are "wells without water." An all-sufficient Saviour, becomes, in addressing sinners indiscriminately, a designation destitute of truth, a mere "great swelling word of vanity."

5. The hypothesis, in the view which it gives of the substitution and work of Christ, takes nothing into the account but the desert of the sinner. It balances a certain proportion of deserved punishment on the part of the transgressor, by a corresponding proportion of vicarious suffering on the part of the atoning substitute,—a proportion, which increases or diminishes, according to the number of sinners, and consequently according to the number and magnitude of sins, for which the substitute endures it. It appears to be entirely forgotten, that there is another party,—a party, whose claims are infinitely superior in importance to any interests of the sinning creature;—it appears to be forgotten, that the glory of God, violated by transgression, requires to be secured, and vindicated, and displayed, irrespectively of the mere numerical amount of sinners and of sins;—that this was, in truth the great end of substitution and atonement;—and that the question is not one of commutative or commercial justice,—what measure of suffering must be undergone, as an equivalent for the measure of sin to be forgiven,—how many drops of expiatory blood for so many trespasses to be remitted;—that it has no such principle in it of wretched mercantile calculation; that the chief part of it is, what was necessary to give such a manifestation of the united glories of the truth and love, the righteousness and mercy, of Jehovah, as that the honour of his character and government might be fully secured in forgiving and saving sinners?

I might, perhaps, have added with truth, that regarding the atonement as proceeding on the principle of commutative or commercial justice, or of the strict and proper payment of debt, can hardly be considered as leaving room for the subsequent exercise of grace, whatever there might be in its original appointment; inasmuch as the payment of a debt by a surety leaves no more claim, on the part of the creditor, than if it had been discharged by the debtor himself. The parallel, indeed, between the relation of a debtor to his creditor and that of a sinner to God, has, in this respect as well as in some others, been pressed too closely.—Forgiveness, according to the uniform statements of the word of God, is connected with atonement. But atonement and grace are not, by any means, incompatible. Many things, indeed, have been said about it, which were they true, would go so far, whether those who say them to be sensible of it or not, to destroy the gracious nature of the pardon bestowed on account of it. I have no objections, for example, to the customary phrase of divine justice being satisfied by the atonement; but still, the phrase requires to be scripturally explained. I fear there are not a few who, when they use this phrase, have in their minds too much of the principle of that particular kind of justice to which I have just alluded;—who regard the justice of God in the light of a rigid and inexorable creditor, demanding to the uttermost farthing the payment of what is due him; and consider the atonement as, literally and strictly, such a payment of debt on our behalf. They are not aware that by such a representation they do, in a great measure, exclude grace. For, on the principles of commercial justice, although there may be grace on the part of the Surety who comes forward to pay the debt, grace proportioned to its amount,—yet on the part of the creditor to whom the payment is made, there is and can be none. The act of payment, by whomsoever made, whether by the debtor himself or by his surety, cancels the obligation, and puts an end to grace.
Ralph Wardlaw, "On the Extent of the Atonement, and Universal Pardon," in Two Essays: I. On the Assurance of Faith: II. On the Extent of the Atonement, and Universal Pardon (Glasgow: Blackie, Fullarton, & Co. and Wardlaw & Co.; A Fullarton & Co. and John Wardlaw, Edinburgh; W. F. Wakeman, Dublin; and Hamilton & Adams, London, 1830), 191–197.

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April 8, 2007

Three Resurrection Quotes

"We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds." Thomas Watson

"Christ, like the sun eclipsed by the moon, got Himself out by His resurrection; and, as the sun by the moon, He was darkened by them to whom He gave light. His death did justify us, His resurrection did justify His death. He buried the law with Himself, and both with honour; He raised up the Gospel with Himself, and both with glory. His resurrection was the first stone of the foundation, "In Christ shall all be made alive," and the last stone of the roof, for God assures us that all come to judgment by this token, that He raised Him up from the dead (Acts 17:31). Satan danced on His grave for joy; when he had Him there once, he thought Him sure enough; but He rose again and trampled on the devil's throne with triumph. This is the faith peculiar to Christians. . . . His resurrection is not only the object of our faith, but the example of our hope." Thomas Adams

"The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in his resurrection (Rom. 1:4). Christ's sovereignty also depends on his resurrection (Rom. 14:9). Again, our justification hangs on Christ's resurrection (Rom. 4:25). Our very regeneration depends on his resurrection (1 Peter 1:3). And most certainly our ultimate resurrection rests here (Rom. 8:11). The silver thread of resurrection runs through all the blessings, from regeneration onward to our eternal glory, and binds them together." Charles Spurgeon