March 7, 2008

Sufficiency Analogies

Update on 9-21-11:
The reader will want to check these sources (click) to get an idea of how the sufficiency of Christ's death has been differently understood.


On a discussion board awhile back, I wrote a few analogies on the subject of sufficiency so that they might see the distinction between an actual sufficiency position and a hypothetical sufficiency position regarding the nature and extent of Christ's death. I also made a few historical observations at the end. Here is a revised version of it:

Scenario #1: An Ordained or Actual Sufficiency

Suppose 5 men are in jail for offending a great and wealthy King. They are each fined a million dollars and put in jail. Without the fine being paid, they cannot be freed by anyone. The King is compassionate and forgiving, so He decides to send His Son to pay the fine of each of them: the sum of 5 million. Nevertheless, he adds conditions for their release, since He is the one paying their fine through His Son. They each must acknowledge their guilt and agree to join the King's army. Two of the men in jail are convicted of their guilt (especially because of the King's manifest compassion and generosity), acknowledge it and agree to join the King's army. Consequently, they are set free, but the others remain in jail.

Observe: With respect to each of the 5 men in jail, the King's payment is actually sufficient to set each of them free, but each of them must meet the terms in order to be released. The great King is infinitely wealthy himself, so he could have, hypothetically speaking, paid the fine of 10000000+ more men in that kind of a situation. In this first scenario, the King bears an ordained or actual sufficiency with respect to each of the 5 men, since he actually paid the fine of each, i.e., the sum of 5 million. If any of them remain in jail, it is not because they lack a sufficient payment of their fine, or the faculties necessary to comply (natural barriers). It is only because they fail to meet the King's terms of release: confession and agreement to join the army (moral barriers).

Scenario #2: A Hypothetical Sufficiency

Suppose the same 5 men are in jail under the same circumstances as described above. They are each fined a million dollars and put in jail. Without the fine being paid, they cannot be freed by anyone. In this scenario, however, the great and wealthy King decides to send His Son to pay the fine of 2 of the 5 men: the sum of 2 million dollars. The same terms are declared for release, i.e., in order for them to be freed, they must confess their guilt and agree to join the King's army. Two of the men in jail are convicted of their guilt (especially because of the King's manifest compassion and generosity), acknowledge it and agree to join the King's army. Consequently, they are set free, but the others remain in jail.

Observe: With respect to 2 of the men in the jail, the King's payment is actually sufficient to set them free, but they experience their freedom when the terms are met. The great King is infinitely wealthy himself, so he could have, hypothetically speaking, paid the fine of the other 3 (and 10000000+ more men besides in such a situation). With respect to 3 of the 5 men in jail, the King is hypothetically sufficient to have paid their debt, since he is intrinsically wealthy enough to do so, but he did not actually do so. The King is in the situation of an actual sufficiency for 2 of them, and in a situation of a mere hypothetical sufficiency for 3 of them.

N.B.: In Scenario #2, only 2 of the men can possibly go free (so long as they meet the aforementioned terms), since their fine is actually paid. As it was said above, without the fine being paid, they cannot be freed by anyone. It does not matter if the other 3 confess their guilt and agree to join the King's army. Their fine is not paid, so they cannot possibly go free. They not only have the moral barrier of their own stubborness (if they didn't acknowledge their guilt) in the way, but they also have a natural barrier as well, since their fine is not paid.

In conclusion, this is the distinction between an ordained or actual sufficiency vs. a hypothetical sufficiency. My own view is depicted in Scenario #1. I think that Jesus actually suffered sufficiently for the guilt of the entire human race, since he took their flesh and satisfied the curse of the law on their behalf, as the last Adam. That's classical Christology. The view of the strict particularists, such as John Owen, is depicted in Scenario #2. They think that Jesus only actually suffered for the guilt of the elect alone. He only satisfied the curse of the law on their behalf (the elect). That view did not exist until the time of Theodore Beza (with the possible exception of Gottschalk of Orbais) in the mid to late 1500's, with the rise of High Federalist theology. The formula "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect" (sufficientur pro omnibus, efficator pro electis) is very old. The phrase explicitly goes back to the time of Peter Lombard in the middle ages (in the time of the "schoolmen"), but the concept is implicitly found in the church fathers, such as Ambrose. The Lombardian formula, if we may call it that, was altered with the rise of a strict particularist view of Christ's death. Instead of saying that "Christ suffered sufficiently for all" (an expression found in Calvin and acknowledged as true in his writings), the idea changed to "Christ could have suffered sufficiently for all." That's no mere speculation. Owen was conscious of the fact that he was differently viewing and changing the classic formula.

Later theologians acknowledge the switch and talk of an extrinsic sufficiency vs. an intrinsic sufficiency. The former (extrinsic sufficiency) was the classical conception of Christ's death as it relates to all mankind, but the latter (intrinsic sufficiency) was the Owenic/Bezan model, as it relates to the non-elect. For "extrinsic" is meant an actual sufficiency ordained by God for all, and the latter is meant a hypothetical sufficiency, that is, in the case of the non-elect. In the Owenic/Bezan model, actual sufficiency collapses into efficiency, with the result that Christ's death is only actually sufficient for the elect (but hypothetically sufficient for the non-elect) and efficient for the elect. In fact, on that model, if it is actually sufficient for anyone, it must necessarily be efficient for them as well, i.e., if Christ died for someone, they cannot fail but to be freed from guilt and pardoned, so they (Beza, Owen, Turretin, etc.) think. The classic Lombardian model, on the other hand, has the actual sufficiency of His death being adequate for all (but distinguishes Christ's motives or will in making that accomplishment), and not just the elect. The efficiency, or the effectual application of Christ's death, was thought to involve the necessary work of the Holy Spirit working through a sovereign regenerating act and the instrumentality of faith. In other words, Christ's death, taken by itself, does not ipso facto release anyone from their sin debt. Faith (as an instrument) appropriates the benefit, and only the elect obtain it because of the Spirit quickening them in order that they may have the moral liberty (removal of the moral barrier) to do so. The rest do not obtain it because of their own remaining moral depravity, i.e., they have only themselves to blame. There are no physical or natural barriers in the way of the non-elect that blocks their pardon. Only their own stubborness is the barrier. As the Synod Dort says:
"However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient [there are no natural barriers in the way], but because they themselves are at fault [their own moral barrier remains]."

5 comments:

langskip said...

Gottschalk of Orbais certainly believed that Christ suffered for the elect alone, as attest his original Latin writings available on The Gottschalk Homepage.

YnottonY said...

Hi langskip,

I believe that is correct about Gottschalk, which shows why he was not the true Augustinian on that point. He was basically forgotten, and the later theologians rightly looked to Prosper as the true representative of Augustine.

Anyway, if you have the exact references for Gottschalk, I would appreciate it. I don't know Latin, so translations on those references would also be helpful.

Thanks,
Tony

langskip said...

Hi Tony,

A quite complete collection of Gottschalk's texts in English will soon appear in print (as stated in the Translations section of the same site). However, this Introduction on Gottschalk may also prove to be of some relevance.

YnottonY said...

Thanks, langskip. I may blog your site in order to notify others of the upcoming translation. I appreciate the notice and links.

Grace to you,
Tony

langskip said...

I would appreciate that. The book is planned for publication in 2010 in a US university press.