July 14, 2012

Robert Letham on the Primacy of the Gospel over Election in Ludwig Crocius (1586/7–1653/5)

4.9.2 The primacy of the gospel

For Crocius, God's revealed will as it finds expression in the gospel promise has predominance over the doctrine of election. The mercy of God, which is the source of our salvation, is that by which God embraces the whole human race and so wishes all men to be saved. His grace is, consequently, not restricted to the elect alone but to the entire race.287 Yet this universal love of God does not oppose election. Nor does it follow that all men are elect.288 Therefore, while he holds to limited atonement he can stress with considerable emphasis the universal sufficiency of the atonement. Christ's sacrifice is of infinite value because of who he is and because of what his offering actually was.289 His atoning work is offered to all men and is effective for them upon repentance and faith.290 But its intention and efficacy is for the elect only.291

This primacy of the gospel over election is seen also in his moderate position on reprobation, which he sees as God's just judgment on the impenitent and so as essentially his reaction to their sin.292 It is seen in his adoption of infralapsarianism293 and in the close link he draws between election and soteriology.294 He also attempts a Christocentric formulation, although he does not allow the in Christo to function to the same extent as Martinius.295

Election serves as the basis for the doctrine of perseverance,296 although again the work of Christ in his atoning death,297 his continuing intercession for us298 and his omnipotent lordship at God's right hand299 is the real (soteriological not causal) support of perseverance. This objective, Christocentric ground of perseverance ensures that our certainty is rooted objectively in Christ and comes to us in the gospel.300
287. Crocius, Syntagma, pp. 960–963.
288. "Alterum vero est, quod haec dilectio Dei, qua totum mundum complectitur, non pugnet cum electione filiorum Dei, minimeque sequatur, si Deus totum mundum ita dilexerit, etiam totum propterea elegisse ad salutem."
Ibid., pp. 966–967.
Ibid., p. 1019.
290. "Nam mortuus est pro omnibus, phrasi scripturae, quantum ad perfectionem & sufficientiam meriti sui & satisfactionis, quia hanc gratiam, quae in Evangelio annunciatur, quod nempe per fidem remissionem peccatorum consequi debeant, pro omnibus hominibus in hoc mundo, imo si eorum & alter mundus esset, plenissime, sufficientissime & efficacissime per mortem suam impetravit, ita ut 1. omnibus communiter serio ac bona fide offeratur. 2. ab omnibus vera poenitentia ac fides haud simulate exigatur, & 3. omnibus simul serio propeter Christum remissio peccatorum & vita aeterna sub conditione fidei promittatur. Unde & 4. omnes obligati sunt ac tenentur resipiscere ac credere in Christum tanquam Messiam suam & Salvatorem, ut promissionem consequantur." Ibid., pp. 1013–1014. [Ludovici Crocie, Syntagma sacrae theologiae quatuor libris adornatum, Quo exhibetur idea Dogmatum Ecclesiasticorum, Pro conditione ecclesiae Sardensis (Bremae: Typis Bertholdi Villeriani, 1636), 1013–1014.]
291. "Christus non pro omnibus, sed pro solis credentibus mortuus sit, quantum ad actualem communicationem & applicationem meriti mortis ipsius, quia non omnibus actu pleno prodest, neque eius omnes homines sic reipsa participes fiunt, sed soli illi, qui vera fide amplectuntur."
Ibid., p. 1016. He cites Calvin in support, p. 1017, significantly in view of suggestions that Calvin taught universal atonement, see
Ibid., pp. 979–980.
293. "Nam hac secundum consilium & propositum suum Deus homnibus lapsis in Christo ab aeterno miseranter dispensare constituit hanc gratuitam lucem verbi & spiritus sui..."
Ibid., p. 977.
Ibid., p. 979.
Ibid., p. 977–979.
296. Crocius,
De perseverantia, p. 17.
Ibid., p. 16.
Ibid., p. 17.
Ibid. And, "Certitundo & perseverantia sanctorum in fide non nititur viribus eorum naturalibus, aut gratia adjustis, sed clare patefactio evangelii verbo..." Ibid., p. 16; Syntagma, p. 979.
Robert W. A. Letham, Saving Faith and Assurance in Reformed Theology: Zwingli to the Synod of Dort, 2 vols. (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1979), 2:124.


[Note: One should be careful with Letham's confused way of describing things. The modern interpreter may read Letham's statement that Crocius held to "limited atonement" (his modern label) and think Crocius did not believe Christ satisfied for all men. That is not the case. Even the Latin that Letham cites in footnote #290 reveals Crocius to be using the language of the moderate Calvinists at the Synod of Dort, such as Davenant and Martinius. Crocius' view of sufficiency does not read as a "bare sufficiency," but as an "ordained sufficiency" for all that properly grounds the serious, bona fide offer to all in the Gospel. Like all Calvinists, however, Crocius sees an effectual limitation in the application of Christ's death to the elect alone, which stems from Christ's effectual intent. When Crocius cites Calvin (ad Johann. cap. 3.17.) in support of his point concerning the effectual application to the elect alone, it is not as though he thinks Calvin did not teach that Christ satisfied for all men, as Letham seems to infer in footnote #291. To cite Calvin in support of an application that is effectual to the elect alone does not tell us anything about Crocius' opinion of Calvin's view of the satisfaction itself (i.e. whether it was for all men or not), contrary to Letham's inference.]

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