September 16, 2014

Henri Blocher on God's Universal Salvific Desire

Blocher is arguing for "definite atonement" in this chapter, and therefore does not think, as the Hypothetical Universalists do, that God's universal salvific will involves Christ substituting himself on behalf of all men. Nevertheless, he says this about the will of God:
Should we speak of a universal salvific will? And if we should, does it require a universal extent, pro omnibus et singulis, of the atonement? The love of God for all also refers to their ultimate salvation. Such statements as Ezekiel 18:32 and 2 Peter 3:9 (an implicit restriction to the elect is little likely) declare such a will. Yet other texts seem to say the opposite (1 Sam. 2:25 is an old book and 1 Pet. 2:8 in a foundational epistle). Since God, the auctor primarius, does not contradict himself, we must distinguish two senses of "will." I choose to speak of God's will of desire (which also generates his precepts), and God's will of decree. The inescapable teaching of Scripture is this: God "desires" that all enter Life, but he "decrees" that some will not. This decree is permissive: God (in whose hand is even the king's heart; Prov. 21:1) moves no creature to anti-God dispositions; the creature misuses created freedom against the fountain of all goodness, and bears the guilt; yet, God remains sovereign (Eph. 1:11), and therefore the creature's refusal to repent is (permissively) part of the divine design. 

"This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" The permissive character of the sovereign decision over the "vessels of wrath" makes it possible for it to coexist with the salvific "desire" and universal love.
Henri A. G. Blocher, "Jesus Christ the Man: Towards a Systematic Theology of Definite Atonement," in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, eds. David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2013), 564–565.

With respect to Augustine, Blocher said, "His emphasis on the divine desire that all should be saved is repetitious...," even though he thinks Augustine's theology lends itself to definite atonement. Ibid., 549.

Blocher also said:
Some of the Reformed, it seems, have denied the universal love of God. Though they could quote verses such as Psalm 5:5 and "Esau I have hated" (Mal. 1:3), their denial is so opposed to the drift of Scripture and the "analogy of faith" that I rule it out of court. The vast majority of definite atonement theologians have firmly held to the doctrine of the love of God extending to the non-elect, as a beautiful article by Andrew Swanson expounds (based on R. L. Dabney, W. T. Shedd, and John Howe).
Ibid., 564. He references Andrew Swanson, "The Love of God for the Non-Elect," Reformation Today 51 (May–June 1976): 2–13.

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